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Early Historic, 1542-1835

Map made in 1718 by Guillaume Delisle of the Caddo Homeland
This famous map made in 1718 by Guillaume Delisle map benefited from the latest accounts of French explorers and trading missions and is one of the first reasonably accurate maps of the physical and cultural geography of the Caddo Homeland. (Notice that depiction of the river courses gets more and more distorted to the west in Spanish territory where the French could not travel.)
metal trade goods
Metal trade goods from 18th- and 19th-century Caddo sites. Courtesy Tim Perttula.

The 1541-1543 Spanish entrada led by Hernando de Soto, and, following De Soto's death at the Mississippi River, by Luis de Moscoso, was the first European penetration into the interior of the Southeastern U.S. It was a long and often violent intrusion that left Native American societies in its wake in turmoil and resulted in uncounted casualties, some killed outright by the Spanish army and others gradually by inadvertently unleashed Old World diseases. The large Spanish army fed itself by demanding or simply confiscating food stores from native peoples as they moved from place to place attacking and usually defeating the towns and peoples who stood up to them.

The De Soto chronicles are the first written accounts describing Caddo peoples. One of the chroniclers, the Gentleman of Elvas, had this to say when the Spaniards reached the Caddo province of Naguatex on the Red River (the Great Bend area of southwestern Arkansas) in August of 1542:

arrow points
Arrow points from Allen phase, historic Caddo sites, about A.D. 1650-1800. TARL archives.

Click images to enlarge  


The cacique [of Naguatex], on beholding the damage that his land was receiving [from the Spanish forces], sent six of his principal men and three Indians with them as guides who knew the language of the region ahead where the governor [Moscoso] was about to go. He immediately left Naguatex and after marching three days reached a town of four or five houses, belonging to the cacique of that miserable province, called Nisohone. It was a poorly populated region and had little maize. Two days later, the guides who were guiding the governor, if they had to go toward the west, guided then toward the east, and sometimes they went through dense forests, wandering off the road. The governor ordered them hanged from a tree, and an Indian women, who had been captured at Nisohone, guided them, and he went back to look for the road.

(Robertson, 1993)

silver trade goods
Sliver trade goods from 18th and 19th century Caddo sites. Courtesy Tim Perttula.
pottery and trade wares
At historic Caddo sites, Caddo-made pottery is often found mixed with trade wares from Europe. Courtesy Tim Perttula.
1650 map
1650 French map by Nicolas Sanson D'Abbeville entitled "Amérique Septentrionale." Caddo groups including the Nacguatex are shown 400-500 miles east of their actual locations, reflecting the poor knowledge of North American geography at that time. Click to view larger image and a more detailed view.
1705 map
Attractive but very inaccurate 1705 French map by Nicolas de Fer entitled "Les Costes aux Environs de la Riviere de Misisipi." Click to view larger image and a more detailed view.
:17181 Delisle map
1718 map by Guillaume Delisle entitled "Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi." This map benefited from the latest accounts of French explorers and trading missions and fairly accurately shows the physical and cultural geography of the Caddo Homeland. Click to view larger image and a more detailed view.
1768 map
1768 Spanish map by Mexican-born cleric and leading scientist José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez entitled "Nuevo Mapa Geografico de la America Septentrional." This map shows relative placements of Caddo groups fairly well, but the rivers are not depicted accurately. French maps at the time were greatly superior. Click to view larger image and a more detailed view.
redrawn Teran map
Redrawn version of the Terán map of the Cadohadacho settlement (Upper Nasoni) on the Red River in 1691. Note features identified in the legend. From Sabo, 1992, courtesy Arkansas Archeological Survey.
Osage warrior
Osage warrior as depicted by the French artist Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin in the early 1800s. Well-armed by the French, the Osage were bitter enemies of the Cadohadacho groups.
Caddo-made earthenware bottles from Allen phase, historic Caddo sites, about A.D. 1650-1750. TARL archives.
Beginning in the 18th century, iron axe and hatchet heads made in Europe for North American trade were highly sought-after by the Caddo and other Indian groups. These examples were found by looters in historic Caddo graves in the vicinity of Titus County.
Like the ripples of skipped stones on a pond, spreading and deflecting off of one another, the impacts of Old World intruders reverberated all across North America.
Glendora bottle
Keno Trailed, Glendora variant bottle from the Cedar Grove site in southwest Arkansas, probably made between 1700-1750. Courtesy Picture of Records.
Lester Bend bowl
Natchitoches Engraved, Lester Bend variant, bowl from the Cedar Grove site in southwest Arkansas, made about 1650. Courtesy Picture of Records.
Kathleen Gilmore and R. King Harris
Archeologists Kathleen Gilmore and R. King Harris at the Roseborough Lake site.
metal artifacts
Metal artifacts of dating to the 18th- and 19th-centuries found at the Roseborough Lake site by King Harris. TARL archives.
Nacogdoches Engraved bottle
Tiny Nacogdoches Engraved bottle from Caddo burial at Rosenborough Lake excavated by King Harris. TARL archives.
Caddo pottery
Caddo pottery from Roseborough Lake found by King Harris. TARL archives.
Plan at Deshazo site
Schematic layout of the Allen phase Caddo hamlet at the Deshazo site. Most of the houses stood on either side of an open plaza. On the opposite side of the creek was a single "special structure" and a small cemetery. TARL archives.

In the last decade, Caddo archeologists and ethnohistorians have studied anew the contact between Europeans and Caddo peoples seeking to better understand how contact changed Caddo societies. Part of this renewed ethnohistoric and archeological interest has focused on reconstructing the precise routes of Spanish and French explorers and colonists, especially that of Hernando de Soto. At the same time, Caddo researchers have been reconsidering the socio-political character and ethnic identity of prehistoric and early historic Native American groups.

In June, 1542, the De Soto entrada, led by Luis de Moscoso, entered into the Caddo world and over the next seven months passed through Caddo lands in present-day Arkansas and Texas. Perhaps not far behind were the Old World epidemic diseases. While Europeans would not tread again on Caddo lands for 144 years, the Caddo world continued to feel the impact of the spreading European colonization. Like the ripples of skipped stones on a pond, spreading and deflecting off of one another, the impacts of Old World intruders reverberated all across North America.

Yet, despite close scrutiny of archeological, bioarcheological, and historical data, no real consensus as been reached on the precise effects of De Soto's first intrusion on the Caddo world. The interwoven and still unsettled questions include: How did Caddo populations change through time and across the homeland? When did epidemic diseases enter the Caddo area? When did post-contact population declines occur? And, what were the cultural impacts of those declines on Caddo societies and communities?

One thing is clear, the all-too-easily (and often) told story: "when the evil Spanish (and somewhat less evil French) came, the Caddo world was quickly ruined," is not true. The consequences of European colonization were ultimately catastrophic for Caddo peoples, but these unfolded in fits and starts over several centuries. Indeed, the story's twists and complications do not fit within a simple plot.

When La Salle's expedition arrived among the Hasinai groups in 1686, most Caddo peoples lived primarily in relatively small groups on the Red River and in East Texas. Over the next century and a half Europeans laid claim to their lands and loyalties, and the Caddo found themselves wedged between the outer edges of the French and Spanish empires. Epidemic upon epidemic ravaged Caddo populations—possibly by as much as 95 percentage between 1691 and 1816. Yet, European impact was not all disastrous. The Caddo were situated perfectly to participate in the French fur trade, and they traded guns, horses, and other essential items to Indian groups and Europeans. In the process they developed new trade and economic networks, and acquired new European goods and ornaments. The resulting economic symbiosis between the Caddo groups and Europeans was the key to the political success, resilience, and strength of the Caddo tribes through much of the colonial era.

Caddo Territory

Over a century passed after De Soto's failed entrada before the Spanish again took notice of the Caddo, This time the Spanish came from the opposite direction, the southwest. In the mid-1600s, Spanish priests learned about the Caddo at La Junta de los Ríos (the confluence of the Rio Grande and Rio Conchos), some 550 miles west of the nearest Caddo village. Jumano Indians, famed as long-distance travelers and traders, told the Spanish about the "Great Kingdom of the Tejas," a populous and well-governed people. The term "Tejas" referred mainly to the Hasinai groups of east Texas, but the characterization applied equally well to the greater Caddo world.

Before the initial European contact, in the early 1500s, the Hasinai Caddo groups lived in permanent communities throughout the upper Neches and Angelina river basins. They are represented archeologically by sites belonging to the Frankston phase (ca. 1400-1600) and Allen (ca. 1600-1800) phases of what archeologists call the Anderson Cluster. Although occasional Hasinai Caddo groups or bands lived west of the Neches and Trinity rivers in historic times, they usually did not go beyond that boundary, "unless going to war," according to Henrí Joutel, the chronicler of the La Salle expedition. The Hasinai groups continued to live in the upper Neches and Angelina river basins until they were driven out of East Texas by the leaders of the Republic of Texas after 1836.

European maps of the late 1500s to the mid-1600s located Caddo and Caddo-allied groups such as the Naguatex, Nisoone (Nasoni), Lacane, Ays, Xualatino (or Soacatino) and Guasco on a western tributary of a drainage labeled Rio de Leon or Rio de Spiritu (Espiritu) Santo, the Mississippi River, but it is clear from similarities between 1572 and 1656 maps that geographic knowledge of the territory of the interior-living Caddo and other Texas tribes had not changed over that period. It was not until Europeans (principally La Salle's group) ventured again into the Caddo area in the 1680s, that the territory of the various Caddo tribes, their non-Caddo allies, and their enemies became better understood.

Delisle's map of 1703 places a series of related Caddo groups along a considerable stretch of a western tributary of the Mississippi River, obviously the Red River. Beginning on the lower Red River with the Nachitoches [Natchitoches] and proceeding up river, other Caddo groups included the Nakasa (one of the enemies of the Kadohadacho in 1687, according to Joutel), Yatache [Yatasi], Natsoos [Nanatsoho], Cadodaquiro [Cadohadacho], the [upper] Nachitoches, and the Nassonis [upper Nasoni]. Upstream from them on the Red River were the Canouaouana and Chaquanhe tribes, apparently enemies of the Cadohadacho, again according to Joutel.

The westernmost Caddo groups were shown by Delisle (1703) living on and near the Rio aux Cenis (probably the Neches River), Cenis (or Senys) being the French name for the Hasinai Caddo. Other than the mistake of having the Rio aux Cenis running into the Red River, Delisle's map shows that the French had a good understanding of the locations of the various Hasinai Caddo groups, from the Inahe [Hainai] to the east (on the Angelina river), the Nadaco and Nassonis [lower Nasoni] to the north and west, and a series of Cenis (Hasinai) communities along the western boundaries of their territory. No Caddo communities are depicted west of the Trinity River (Rio Baho), with the closest non-Caddo communities living between the Trinity and Brazos (La Maligne R.) rivers. On the Brazos River lived the Canohatino tribe, one of the enemies of the Hasinai Caddo. That tribe felt the brunt of a French-Caddo attack in 1687 where more than 40 Canohatino were massacred by the joint armed forces.

By the 1750s, the Europeans (especially the French) possessed a much better perception of the location of the Hasinai Caddo groups and related Caddo tribes in east Texas and western Louisiana. This is not surprising considering that, reportedly, there was a French trader living at each of the major Caddo settlements, even those in the province of Texas (which was claimed by Spain). In a 1757 French map, Caddo groups are dispersed from east of the Sabine River (Rio Zavinas), near the Spanish presidio at Los Adaes, to just west of the Neches River (Rio de Nechas), with Spanish missions in their midst at Nacoudoches [Mission Nuestra Senora de los Nacogdoches] and de los Hays [Mission Nuestra Senora Dolores de Ais].

Between the 1750s and the 1780s, the Tawakoni, Yscani, and Kichai tribes, affiliated Wichita-speaking tribes, had moved south (from Kansas and Oklahoma) and settled in large villages along the margins of the Post Oak Savanna, in traditional Caddo hunting territory. The Hasinai Caddo tribes and the Wichita groups became strong allies, and the Caddo leaders were of great assistance in concluding formal and peaceful relations between the Wichita-speaking tribes and the Spanish in 1771-1772, and again between the Caddo, the Wichita-speaking tribes, and the Republic of Texas in 1843. The Bidai tribe, also allies to the Hasinai, lived to their south along the Trinity and Neches-Angelina rivers.

Because of the outbreak of epidemics at the Spanish settlement of Nacogdoches in the late 1770s to early 1780s, the Nadaco Caddo moved north along the Caddo Trace (a major trade path/road probably in existence for hundreds of years) to resettle on the Sabine River, where they remained until the establishment of the Republic of Texas. The Cadohadacho groups, with populations also diminished by epidemics, by this time had coalesced into one village for protection against the Osage, and relocated by 1795 along a small tributary feeding into Caddo Lake, a natural lake formed by the Great Raft along the Red River valley. Most of the Cadohadacho remained in the Caddo Lake area until 1842, while others had moved into Indian Territory (Oklahoma) shortly after 1836, or had settled in the upper Trinity River drainage.

The Hasinai Caddo groups—the Nacogdoche, the Hasinai, and Nabedache—remained in their east Texas homelands, living in the early 1800s outside of the Spanish settlement of Nacogdoches, west to the Neches River, and north of the El Camino Real. Anglo settlement had pushed immigrant Indians from the Southeastern U.S., including the Biloxi, Alabama, Coushatta, Choctaw, and Cherokee, into the Caddo Homeland. These groups began to settle within traditional Caddo territory, both north and south of Nacogdoches, as well as along the Red River north and east of Caddo Lake. The Alabama and Coushatta people asked for, and received, the permission of the Cadohadacho caddi to resettle along the Red River, and they became strong allies of the Caddo peoples. This was not the case with the Choctaw, as conflicts began between them and the Hasinai Caddo groups over hunting territories almost immediately after the Choctaw moved into East Texas. Later, however, the Choctaw allied with the Caddo peoples and the Cherokee in war parties against the Osage.

Between about 1836 and 1842, the Hasinai, Nadaco, and Cadohadacho tribes had all been forcibly pushed out of East Texas, some moving into Indian Territory, while others moved west into the upper Brazos River drainage. This was the final and bitter end to the Caddo settlement of their traditional homelands. Though the Caddo groups made a successful agricultural living for a few short years in the hard but seemingly fertile lands of the Brazos River valley, they were never secure from Anglo-American encroachments, even when settled on the Brazos Reserve in 1855. They were compelled in 1859, according to John R. Swanton, noted ethnologist at the Smithsonian Institution, "to abandon their homes, the fruit of their labors, and the graves of their kindred," and were removed to the Washita River valley in Indian Territory. Learn more about later Caddo history in Caddo Voices.

Interaction with Friends and Strangers

No Caddo community, town, or mound center was ever fortified, and there is little evidence in the archeological record for warfare or violent conflict between the Caddos and other peoples. That is, evidence of individuals dying from wounds inflicted from an arrowhead, scalping, or forms of mutilation after death are rare indeed, and seemingly very rare when compared to contemporaneous Indian groups in the Southern Plains and Southeast U.S. [Admittedly, the prevailing poor preservation of bone in the typically acidic soils of the Caddo Homeland lessens the chance that such evidence would be spotted.] The Caddo circumstance is also quite a contrast with the densely packed societies living in the Mississippi Valley and interior Southeast, where heavily populated towns were palisaded and where political and economic dominance was asserted through warfare. Prehistoric and historic Caddo settlement patterns are characteristically dispersed and lack any hint of a defensive posture.

This is not to say that Caddo peoples can be regarded as peaceful and non-aggressive. Indeed, French and Spanish documents of the 17th and 18th centuries clearly show that the Hasinai and the Cadohadacho had many enemies, some of long-standing like the Chickasaw, Lipan Apache, and Osage. Relations with many of their other enemies probably alternated over the years between alliances and hostility, depending upon the needs of the moment, particularly the willingness to trade and confront common enemies. All this was to change with the appearance and adoption of the horse and gun among the Caddo and their Southern Plains neighbors.

By the 1680s, non-agricultural groups (such as the various Apache bands) to the west and southwest of the Hasinai Caddo tribes had horses in numbers, but lacked guns, which the Caddo peoples began to obtain (if sometimes only periodically) in trade with the French fur traders. The Hasinai Caddo peoples also had horses obtained through trading with their allies on the prairies and plains of east-central and southern Texas (where herds of wild mustangs now roamed) and through raiding on their enemies. The Caddo groups were well placed at the juncture of the Horse Frontier and the Gun Frontier. As of about 1716, the Hasinai and the Cadohadacho territories marked, respectively, the frontier of horses moving eastward, and of muskets moving westward in trade.

Access to desirable goods such as guns and horses contributed strongly to the maintenance and expansion of Caddo social and political power relationships with their Native American neighbors, allies, and enemies. Horses and guns allowed the Caddos to increase their bison hunting in the prairies and plains well west and southwest of their territory. This probably exacerbated existing animosities with peoples to the west, but did not prevent Caddos from establishing new hunting territories and new settlements astride Indian and European trade routes. It also assured the Caddo peoples of continued trade with the Europeans and an active role in arranging political and economic measures between other Native Americans and the Europeans that directly affected their well-being.

Fighting between the Caddo and their enemies mainly consisted of hit-and-run raids upon an enemy, aimed at capturing or killing a few foe and snatching booty, rather than battles with large numbers of casualties on either side. This enmity did not prevent the Caddo peoples from hunting and trading regularly west of the Trinity River both before and after they had the horse. The Hasinai Caddo peoples were quite familiar with these regions, giving Fray Mazanet in 1691 their names for each of the streams from the Nabedache village on San Pedro Creek (just west of the Neches River) 200 miles to the southwest in the San Antonio area. Once they acquired horses, Caddo hunters expanded their forays into portions of north, central, and south Texas to obtain deer and bison hides for trade with the French.

For the Cadohadacho tribes, on the other hand, according to Joutel in 1687, "most of the hostile tribes are to the east...and have no horses; it is only those towards the west which have any." The hostile tribes to the east (especially the Osage) had plentiful supplies of guns obtained from both French and British sources, and they aggressively raided Caddo villages and seized Caddo slaves, horses, and furs.

This disparity in supplies of the coveted horses and guns led to a profitable trade for the Caddo peoples, either in direct exchange or acting as middlemen. But over the long-run, the trade bounty did not serve to better protect them against the Osage and Chickasaw, who ceaselessly raided the Caddo for slaves from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. Shortly thereafter, the Caddo became involved in the thriving traffic in Apache slaves, an outcome of the Southern Plains warfare between the Comanche and Apache that began in the early 1700s. The Caddo traded Apache children for European goods at the French and Spanish markets at Natchitoches and Los Adaes. By the 1760s, the Osage were expanding their hunting and trapping territory to obtain more furs, however, and their depredations against the Caddo changed to a war of conquest. Over a period of about 80 years, the Osage succeeded in reducing the Kadohadacho tribes from five villages to only one. This reduction forced the Cadohadacho, along with the Yatasi, to move far down the Red River, closer to the European post and fort at Natchitoches, abandoning the Great Bend area, in a desperate attempt to escape the aggressive expansion of the Osage tribe.

Caddo Responses

European epidemic diseases among the Caddo peoples resulted in regional population declines (certainly noticeable after 1691), group movements, and the eventual coming together of once-separate Caddo bands. It has been estimated that Caddo populations plummeted by as much as 75 percentage between 1687 and 1790 due to epidemics. Population declines and settlement changes appear to have been more substantial along the major rivers, as seen by the complete abandonment of the Ouachita and Little rivers by 1700, and the Arkansas River earlier in the 1600s, but there was no major abandonment of east Texas by the Hasinai Caddo in historic times. The view here is that the strong Kadohadacho, Hasinai, and Natchitoches alliances ("confederacies") that were formed in the early 1700s were a direct result of regional population decline, village abandonment, and group coalescence.

While the establishment of the Spanish missions in the southern part of the Caddo homeland failed to convert Caddo peoples into Christianity and to resettle Caddo communities around the missions, some Caddo apparently chose mission life rather than remain in east Texas. After the east Texas missions failed in the early 1730s, a few Tejas (Hasinai) individuals were enrolled at missions San Jose and Valero [also known as the Alamo] in San Antonio in the mid to late 1700s. The vast majority, however, stayed put in the homeland.

The Caddos' participation in the fur trade (mainly deer and buffalo hides) had important consequences for them, as well as for their European partners in the trading system. Through the fur trade, the Caddo acquired and accumulated large quantities of desirable European goods, which they in turn kept for their own use or exchanged with other Indian groups for furs and horses, all the while exploiting existing trade networks to their advantage. Trade success also allowed the Caddo to expand their hunting activities into new territories, and/or reoccupy abandoned river valleys (such as the upper Sabine River basin after about 1740) for the same purposes. The Caddo's participation in the European frontier economy was recognized and rewarded by the French and Spanish governments through programs of annual gifts and presents. Such programs reflect the existence of political and economic commitments between the Caddo peoples and the Europeans. These all had considerable economic, military, and social prestige to the Caddo peoples in their dealings with other Indian groups.

George Sabo's ethnohistorical studies of late 17th and early 18th century Caddo societies in East Texas have shown how the Caddo drew Europeans into their world by including them in sacred and secular rituals and ceremonies. This inclusion gave the Caddo the means to absorb and manipulate Europeans. In effect, the Caddo made foreigners in their midst part of the tribe and created intricate social relationships with them following the same basic principles that ordered and shaped Caddo societies. This helps explain why Caddo rituals and greetings seemed excessive to Europeans and why discussions of these exchanges seem to dominate much of the Spanish and French archival documents. Similar interactions are sadly missing from the observations and records of the Americans, strongly hinting that the Caddo by the 1810s were unable to exploit existing American trade and military relationships in the same way they had the Spanish and the French.

Even in the late 18th and early 19th century, Caddo political leaders were still recognized as politically astute and masterful mediators and alliance-builders between European and Anglo-American explorers and colonists, as well as with Native American groups such as the Comanche, Wichita, and Apache tribes. Among the most influential Caddo leaders were the caddices (or caddis) Tinhiouen (from ca. 1760-1789) and Dehahuit (from ca. 1800-1833) of the Kadohadacho, and Iesh or Jose Maria (from about 1842 to 1862) of the Anadarko or Nadaco tribe.

As their world was transformed from the outside, Caddo ritual beliefs and political practices changed on the inside as well. For instance, Father Gaspar Jose de Solís noted in 1768 among the Nabedache, the westernmost of the Hasinai Caddo tribes, that a Caddo women called Santa Adiva was the principal authority, instead of the xinesi and caddi, hereditary male leaders. Such a change was likely related to epidemics that had decimated Hasinai villages after the coming of the missionaries, as well as to the Spanish policy of presenting the staff of leadership to an elected leader, rather than following the then unbroken hereditary chain.

In the larger context of Caddo society, however, the hereditary chain of Caddo leadership—strong, peace- and alliance-building caddis—seems to have continued unbroken among the Hasinai and Kadohadacho; this ultimately was the source of their strength. From European and American accounts, it is clear that the Caddo political leaders played important and influential roles in shaping the major political decisions of the day to favor the Caddo peoples, decisions that affected other Native American groups and Europeans, and in arranging and bringing to fruition alliances (even though temporary) between the Caddo, powerful Native American groups like the Comanche and Wichita tribes, and European nations.

Waves of Anglo-American immigrants after about 1815 established permanent, ever-expanding settlements in the region. It was the Caddos' misfortune to have been living on choice and fertile farmlands desired by the Anglo-Americans. In a few short years, they were dispossessed of their traditional homelands by the U.S. and Texas governments, their lands and goods swindled from them by U.S. Federal Indian agents in the Caddo Treaty of 1835, and eventually they were forced in 1859 to relocate from the Brazos Reserve in Texas to the Wichita Agency in western Oklahoma (then Indian Territory). Shortly thereafter, they were caught up in the Union and Confederate struggle for the Indian Territory during the Civil War, and with little trust for either the rebel or federal governments, the Caddo tribe abandoned their lands in Indian Territory for lands in Kansas.

Historic Caddo Archeology

Finding, recognizing, and positively identifying Caddo archeological sites dating after A.D. 1680, even famous ones mentioned repeatedly in historical documents, has often proven hard to do. Most of the archeological research done on "historic-era" Caddo sites has involved sites and site components dating to the protohistoric era, that part of the Late Caddo period from 1542 to about 1680. Items of European manufacture are extremely rare in sites dating to this period, as could be expected because the Caddo did not have sustained contact with Europeans until after 1686. But it is surprising that early 18th-century Caddo sites may have little or no definitive evidence of European contact.

For instance, a well-studied Late Caddo farmstead called the Cedar Grove site in Lafayette County, Arkansas, is thought to date to A.D. 1650-1750 because of close matches between its Caddo pottery and that found elsewhere of known age (a technique known as "cross-dating"). Yet, apart from two bone "beads" found in a grave, there is not a single item from among the thousands of artifacts recovered at the site that could be of European manufacture. (A recent study suggested the bone "beads" were more likely to be children's toys by by the Caddo.) Still, the ceramic evidence strongly suggested the site dated to early historic times. To confirm their strong suspicions, the archeologists who analyzed the Cedar Grove site tried radiocarbon dating, archeomagnetic dating, and thermoluminescent dating. All three yielded frustratingly imprecise or inaccurate age estimates. Still, cross-dating the site's large ceramic collection shows pretty convincingly that the site spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Other historic Caddo sites have been located by matching up places mentioned in historic documents with archeological sites. But this too can be an exercise in frustration. Early maps and travel logs were imprecise, even in distinctive river valleys such as that of the Red River. The Red River has meandered throughout its history, carving new channels and abandoning old ones when major floods strike. Today the river continues to change its course from time to time despite the best efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Early maps can help identify where and when the river has changed, but topographically accurate maps were not made in the region prior to the late 19th century. And it is not just the river's swinging course. Historic and modern land use practices, especially farming, but also the construction of roads, bridges, and levees, have severely altered the lay of the land.

A good example of the challenge of precisely locating and identifying known sites important to Caddo history is case of the Roseborough Lake site in Bowie County, Texas. This site overlooks an oxbow lake (abandoned channel) in the Red River Valley about four miles upstream from the Hatchel-Mitchell-Moores site complex (the upper Nasoni village visited and depicted in the Terán map). The Roseborough Lake locality has long been known to contain abundant European artifacts dating to the early to mid-18th century (and later). Among them are items of earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware, as well as many kinds of metal artifacts (gun parts, knives, nails, etc.), glass beads, and glass bottle fragments. Historic documents indicated that Benard de La Harpe established a French trading/military post in the vicinity in 1719. Were La Harpe's post and the Roseborough Lake locality one and the same, as a study published in 1973 tentatively concluded? Or was Roseborough Lake instead the scene of the later Caddo Post established and run by Alexis Grappe and his family in the 1730s.

Historians and archeologists poured over old accounts, maps, and the many European artifacts from the site and debated these possibilities. There were other candidate localities, including the Moore's part of the upper Nasoni village. The matter was not decided conclusively until historical archeologist Kathleen Gilmore from North Texas State University brought her undergraduate students to Roseborough Lake in 1976 and carried out test excavations. Gilmore carefully compared what she found at the site (and that found by others) with statements in the many related documents, some of which were contradictory or at least ambiguous. Roseborough Lake, she concluded, must be the later Caddo Post of Alexis Grappe and not that of La Harpe. The timing of Gilmore's fieldwork was fortuitous. Only a few years later the property was sold to an international soybean company headquartered, ironically, in France. The company soon cleared the entire area and contoured it for commercial farming, rendering the Roseborough Lake site virtually unrecognizable.

glass trade beads
Glass trade beads from 18th- and 19th-century Caddo sites. Courtesy Tim Perttula.
route of De Soto
The route of the De Soto entrada in 1542 through the Caddo Homeland as reconstructed by Charles Hudson. From Sabo, 1992, courtesy Arkansas Archeological Survey.
redrawn 1656 map
Redrawn version of 1656 map by Nicolas Sanson entitled "Le Nouvea Mexique et la Floride." Note Caddo groups Naguatex, Nisoona, Lacane, Ayx, and Xualatino on a western tributary of R. de Spiritu Santo. From Perttula, 2001, courtesy Texas Archeological Society.
redrawn 1703 map
Redrawn version of 1703 map by Guillaume Delisle entitled "Carte de Canada et du Mississippi." Note Caddo groups on a western tributary (the Red River) of the Mississippi River, including the Nachitoches, Ouachita, Nakasa, Yatache, Natsoos, Cadodaquiro, Nassonis, and Nachitoches [upper], and another series of western Caddo groups (Inahe, Nadaco, Nassonis, Nouidiches, Cenis, Ayeche, Nacanne, and Xayecha) around R. aux Cenis. From Perttula, 2001, courtesy Texas Archeological Society.
redrawn 1757 map
Redrawn version of 1757 map entitled "La Province de Texas and Nueva Luciana." Note the western Caddo and Caddo-allied groups (Adais, Haysitos, Nacoudoches, Nechas, Nazones, and Texas) between the Presidio de los Adaes and the Rio de Nechas. From Perttula, 2001, courtesy Texas Archeological Society.
Late 18th century map
Late 18th-century Locations of the caddo or Kadohadacho and Hasinai Tribes on the Red River and in East Texas, the Wichita Tribes (Taovayas, Tawakoni, Yscani, and Kichai), the Bidai, and a band of Red River Comanche. From Carter, 1995.
redrawn 1801 map
Redrawn version of 1801 map by Father Puelles of the Provincia de Texas and Luisiana, showing Hasinai tribes between the Sabine and Trinity rivers, and the Kadohadacho or Caddo tribe west of the Red River and near Caddo Lake. From Perttula, 2001, courtesy Texas Archeological Society.
"Tuch-ee, Texas Cherokee" by George Catlin. The Cherokee were one of many immigrant Indian tribes from the Southeast that were pushed into Texas by Anglo settlement.
Patton Engraved pottery
Patton Engraved pottery from the historic Caddo Allen phase, about A.D. 1600-1800. TARL archives.
Early Historic sites
Location of some of the important and better known Caddo and European sites dating to the Early Historic period. Graphic by Dee Ann Story.
Phillips bowl
Keno Trailed, Phillips variant bowl from the Cedar Grove site in southwest Arkansas, probably made between 1700-1750. Courtesy Picture of Records.
Rosenberg Lake
Roseborough Lake, an oxbow lake (abandoned channel) in the Red River Valley about four miles upstream from the Hatchel-Mitchell-Moores site complex (the upper Nasoni village visited and depicted in the Terán map). Bowie County, Texas. TARL archives.
students excavating
Students from North Texas State University excavating at the Roseborough Lake site. The bricks you see date from later occupations at the site. TARL archives.
pottery fragments
European pottery fragments dating to the 18th- and 19th-centuries found at the Roseborough Lake site by King Harris. TARL archives.
site map
Map of the excavation units and structures in one area of the Deshazo site. TARL Archives.
house patterns
Two of the intersecting house patterns at the Deshazo site, showing that some of the houses were rebuilt in almost the same spots. Caddo houses probably lasted 10-15 years before the wood posts rotted and had to be replaced. TARL archives.
Those who excavate Caddo sites in the middle of summer like to start soon after dawn. Deshazo excavations in progress. TARL archives.
Deshazo site
Archeological work underway in 1975 at the Deshazo site, a probable Hasinai Caddo hamlet dating to the late 17th and early 18th century. The dam in the background was finished in 1976 and Lake Nacogdoches soon began filling. Its waves would soon destroy the last traces of the Caddo community. TARL archives.
hearth area
Intensively burned hearth area found with area where houses stood at the Deshazo site. TARL archives.
glass trade beads
These four small glass trade beads were the only items of European manufacture found in the Deshazo hamlet. Over 4600 beads were found in the cemetery. TARL archives.
ceramic pipes
Some of the ceramic pipe bowls and pottery sherds found at the Deshazo site. TARL archives.
Patton Engraved bowls
Patton Engraved bowls left as grave offerings in the Deshazo cemetery. TARL archives.

Archeological investigation of later Caddo history (and earlier as well) is often a race against "progress" as our final example will attest. In the early 1970s, archeologist Elton Prewitt of the University of Texas at Austin led a field crew that surveyed and evaluated archeological and historical sites that were to be covered by a planned water supply and recreation reservoir. The city of Nacogdoches contracted with the university to do the archeological work as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment required by the federal government prior to approval of a permit for the lake. Prewitt and crew did further work at the five sites they judged most important of the sixteen they had located. As is often the case, there was not money (or time) to fully investigate any of the sites and one site in particular seemed to be getting shorted.

In the late 1930s, amateur archeologists from Nacogdoches had excavated a very late Caddo cemetery dating mainly to the early 18th century at a locality that came to be known as the Deshazo site. Prewitt had located and extensively tested other parts of the site and had found tantalizing but sparse evidence of what he suspected was a small, well-preserved Caddo settlement whose occupants had probably been buried in the cemetery. With no money and time running out, he encouraged Dee Ann Story, professor of anthropology at the university, to hold her 1975 summer field school at the site. Dam construction delays allowed Story and her students to return for at second season in 1976 just before the reservoir began to fill. It was not until the final season that enough work had been done to piece together most of the story.

During the late 17th century and the early to mid-18th century, the Deshazo site was home to a small community of Caddos who were almost certainly members of one of the Hasinai groups in the Nacogdoches area who were known to Joutel in 1686 and to the Spanish in the early 1690s. Archeologically, the Deshazo site belongs to the Allen phase, the historic-era successor of the Frankston phase.

The Deshazo community consisted of perhaps 30-50 people who lived in three or four of the typical circular, grass-thatched Caddo houses about 9-12 meters (20-40 feet) in diameter. Most of the houses were on either side of an open plaza. One structure stood alone across a small spring-fed creek from the main hamlet and is thought to have been an assembly house or perhaps the residence of the community's priest or headman. Also on that side of the creek was the small cemetery where 11 adults were buried. The graves of three children were found beneath the floors of the houses across the creek.

Much more of interest was learned about the Caddo people who lived at the Deshazo site than can be told here, but one conclusion stands out. The lives of these Caddos remained little changed from those of their Late Caddo period ancestors (Frankston phase). They lived in the same kind of small community, built the same houses (and ramadas), made lots of Caddo pottery, dumped most of their trash in a community midden, had their own cemetery, buried their children who died young at home (literally), and offered their finest possessions as offerings in the graves of family members.

The people of the Deshazo community had relatively few items of European manufacture and almost all of those (some 4600 glass trade beads, two iron knives and a copper alloy handbell with a petrified wood clapper) were grave offerings buried with the adults. (The beads are tiny and were strung by the hundreds on a single strand of a multi-strand necklace.) In the vicinity of the houses the only definitive trade goods were four small trade beads. The absence of gun parts, which are increasingly common in later Caddo sites in the area, seems to hint that the Deshazo hamlet was occupied mainly before 1714 when the French established a trading post at Natchitoches, about 100 miles to the east. Or perhaps guns just did not trickle down to this small community. The trade beads suggest the site may have been occupied into the mid or even late 18th century.

Follow Caddo History

The Caddo people who lived at Deshazo apparently had a special fondness for this small adult dog who they carefully laid to rest within the midden. TARL archives.
bone and antler tools
Selection of bone and antler tools found at the Deshazo site. TARL archives.
iron knife blades
These iron knife blades were left as grave offerings in the small cemetery at the Deshazo site. TARL archives.
grave offerings
Grave offerings from Burial 4, that of an adult member of the Deshazo community, included a Patton Engraved Jar, numerous gravels (from a rattle?), and several stone tools.