Alonso de Leon Expeditions

Texas Historical Marker - Alonso de Leon Expeditions

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This is a map of Matagorda Bay, Texas as of 1689. The map was drawn by Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora based on sketches compiled during the expedition of Alonso de Leon. The Spanish called the bay "Lago de San Bernardo". An F marks the spot of the French settlement, Fort Saint Louis, and "Navio Quebrado", or "broken ship", marks the spot where the French ship La Belle was grounded.

Spain's desire to colonize this area of the New World in the late 17th Century was spurred by the fear that French adventurer Rene La Salle, who had landed on the Texas coast in 1684, was claiming vast areas for its bitter rival, France.

In 1685 Spain's Mexican Viceroy directed Alonso de Leon to lead expeditions against French encroachment and protect Spain's claim by initiating the colonization of Texas.

De Leon's first expedition in 1686 followed the Rio San Juan to the mouth of the Rio Grande. In 1687 his second expedition crossed the Rio Grande near present-day Roma, made its way to the river's mouth, and proceeded up the coast to near Los Olmos Creek and Baffin Bay.

On his third expedition in 1688 de Leon captured Frenchman Jean Henri near present-day Brackettville. Convinced that the French had settled in Texas, de Leon led a military expedition in 1689 that crossed the Guadalupe River near present-day Victoria before discovering and destroying what remained of La Salle's Fort St. Louis settlement in the Matagorda Bay area. De Leon led an expedition into Southeast Texas in 1690 that established the area's first Spanish mission, San Francisco de los Tejas, and eventually led to Spain's great enterprise of colonizing Texas.

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