The History of El Camino Real de los Tejas

The History of El Camino Real de los Tejas

The Origins of El Camino Real, 1689-1717

El Camino Real de los Tejas was a major overland route across Texas that was originally established in the late 1600s to connect the Spanish missions among the Hasinai ("Tejas") and other tribes in east Texas to the government centers in Mexico. Beginning in 1689, Spanish explorers - taking advantage of existing trails that had been used by natives for millennia - mapped and described routes for subsequent travelers to follow. By 1717, at least five major Spanish expeditions had traversed parts of the Camino Real from Paso de Francia on the Rio Grande to the Los Adaes mission in present-day Louisiana. For a thorough discussion of these expeditions that gave birth to the Camino Real, please see the previous article, "Origins of El Camino Real de Los Tejas".

Becoming the Royal Road, 1718-1729

The Spanish expeditions of 1689 to 1717 established the route of El Camino Real as a mission trail. Subsequent events would soon confirm the road's greater purpose as Spain's main overland route through Texas. These events were the establishment of the city of San Antonio, the Aguayo expedition, and the designation of Los Adaes as the capital of Texas.

San Antonio

The first Spanish expedition through present-day San Antonio was that of Governor Domingo Terán and Friar Damian Massanet in 1691. While making their way towards east Texas, Terán and Massanet encountered a friendly group of Payaya natives at the site of present-day San Pedro Springs. Terán and Massanet noted how agreeable the land was and how the natives were receptive to learning the Spanish language and customs, especially Christianity. Terán named the nearby river San Antonio because he discovered it on June 3, the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua. Though the objective of Terán's mission was in east Texas, his and Massanet's favorable reports of this location ensured that it would be visited again. Their positive reports of San Antonio stood in sharp contrast to Terán's miserable experiences in east Texas later in the same expedition and Massanet's abandonment of the east Texas mission field in 1693.

In April 1709, Captain Pedro de Aguirre escorted Friars Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares and Isidro Félix de Espinosa and 14 soldiers into Texas to meet with the Hasinai tribe. They stopped and turned back at the Colorado River, never making it into Hasinai territory. They did, however, visit the Payaya natives at San Antonio. To say that they confirmed Terán and Massanet's accounts of the natives and the area would be an understatement. Friar Olivares was so moved by this visit that after returning from the expedition, he traveled to Spain, where he spent six years lobbying the crown for permission to establish new missions on the bank of the San Antonio River.

In 1716, Olivares returned to Mexico, where he obtained the viceroy's permission to found new missions. Coahuila Governor Martín de Alarcón was placed in charge of the expedition. Because of Alarcón's other duties as governor and differences of opinion between him and Friar Olivares, the San Antonio expedition did not get underway until 1718. In April, 72 people, including ten families, departed from San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande. On May 1, the expedition reached San Pedro Springs and built a temporary hut of mud, brush, and straw. This structure was dedicated as Mission San Antonio de Valero. It began with three to five native converts who came from Mission San Francisco Solano at San Juan Bautista; officially, Mission San Antonio de Valero was considered a relocation of that mission.

On May 5, Alarcón founded Presidio (fort) San Antonio de Béxar. It was placed on the west side of the San Antonio River, about a half mile from the mission.

It did not take long for this new settlement to play a small, but significant role in Texas history. In 1718, the same year San Antonio was founded, a brief and unusual period of Spanish-French alliance ended, and the two countries were again on opposite sides in war. A small-scale assault by some French soldiers on the Spanish mission of Los Adaes in June 1719 was misunderstood as the harbinger of a larger invasion. The soldiers, their families, and the livestock withdrew to San Antonio. The friars and lay missionaries, informed that a relief force was not coming, followed suit in October. The feared French invasion never came, and the Spanish returned to east Texas after a few years. Still, the incident proved the usefulness of having a permanent Spanish presence at San Antonio as not just a staging area for journeys to east Texas, but also a fallback point in times of distress.

The influx of refugees from the presidio and six missions in east Texas created a small overcrowding problem in San Antonio. Friar Antonio Margil, the displaced head of the three abandoned Zacatecan missions, received permission from the governor of Coahuila and Texas, the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, to build a new mission1. Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo was founded on February 23, 1720 on the east side of the San Antonio River, about 5 miles south of Mission San Antonio de Valero.

One of the biggest problems with Spain's first attempt to place missions in east Texas in the 1690s was their remoteness from Monclova, the closest Spanish town at the time. With the establishment of San Juan Bautista in 1700 and now San Antonio in 1718, however, there were two fortified Spanish outposts along El Camino Real de Los Tejas, cutting the distance between the east Texas missions and the rest of New Spain from 600 miles to 300 miles.

Map: The Aguayo Expedition, 1721-1722.
(Click the map for a full-size version)

The Aguayo Expedition

As explained above, all Spanish personnel in the presidio and six missions in east Texas withdrew to San Antonio in 1719 in an overblown reaction to a small French action against the easternmost mission of Los Adaes in present-day Louisiana. The Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo was appointed governor of Coahuila and Texas because of his proposal to restore the Spanish presence in east Texas. To that end, Aguayo mounted an expedition consisting of 500 to 600 persons and 6,000 head of horses and other livestock. Departing from Monclova on November 15, 1720, the expedition reached the Rio Grande on December 20, 1721. Crossing the swollen river in the winter proved to be an extreme challenge; the expedition did not depart from the Rio Grande until March 23, 1721.

On February 20, while still on the river, a party from Presidio San Antonio de Bexar brought a rumor that the French explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, who had helped Captain Domingo Ramón establish the east Texas missions in 1716 and 1717, had organized the natives and equipped them with horses and guns to keep the Spaniards from returning. Aguayo sent a scouting party, which went into the neighborhood of the Brazos River, but dared not go further. The scouts reported back, believing that St. Denis and the natives were waiting for them between the two branches of the Brazos.

After completing the Rio Grande crossing, Captain Ramón took a detachment to Matagorda Bay to establish a permanent Spanish presence near the old site of French explorer Robert La Salle's failed colony. Ramón arrived there on April 4 and founded a mission and presidio, both named La Bahia del Espiritu Santo.

On the same day that Ramón reached Matagorda Bay - April 4, 1721 - Aguayo's main expedition arrived at San Antonio. Aguayo stayed there for over a month, gathering intelligence about the French and about Ramón's activities at La Bahia and writing reports to send to the viceroy. According to author Eleanor Claire Buckley, Aguayo and his "council of war" decided that traveling over the main road to Tejas country would present too many obstacles in the form of large rivers and dense brush, so they would seek another route to the north. They left San Antonio on May 13. As the map accompanying this section shows, Aguayo did venture north of the normal road by over 70 miles, making it all the way to present-day Waco before following the Brazos River back downstream to the rejoin the road.

Aguayo finally crossed the Trinity River on July 25 and was met there warmly by a delegation from the Hasinai (called "Tejas" by the Spaniards), who told him that they had been waiting for the Spaniards to come back since they left in 1719, and they were on the verge of going to San Antonio to appeal in person for them to return. By the 28th, the expedition was in the midst of the Hasinai settlements on the west side of the Neches River. As with Domingo Ramón's visit in 1716, The Neches chief smoked the peace pipe for his visitors. Aguayo did not hold a formal ceremony for the Hasinai on this date, but the Spaniards did distribute gifts to the natives to acknowledge their hospitality.

Also on July 28, a messenger arrived from St. Denis, now commander of the French fort at Natchitoches, requesting an audience with Governor Aguayo. Receiving a positive answer, St. Denis crossed the Neches River on July 31 and met with Aguayo the following day. St. Denis and Aguayo promised not to go to war against each other, and St. Denis agreed to Aguayo's terms to withdraw to Natchitoches and not interfere with the Spanish reoccupation of its missions, including Los Adaes. St. Denis, reluctant to agree to this very last provision, attempted to discourage Aguayo from reoccupying Los Adaes, but in the end, he accepted Aguayo's terms and made none of his own.

On August 5, the expedition reached the site of Mission San Francisco de los Neches in present-day Houston County, and rededicated it. Here, Aguayo conducted the formal ceremony asserting Spain's authority over the Hasinai and their land, but placing it in their custody, and announcing Spain's intentions to convert the Hasinai to Christianity, make them into Spanish citizens, and protect them from their enemies. From that day through the 21st, Aguayo went to the Concepcion, Nazonis, Nacogdoches, and Dolores missions and refounded them at their previous locations in Angelina, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine Counties, along with the old Presidio Dolores near Mission Concepcion.

Continuing eastward, Aguayo reached the site of the old Los Adaes mission near present-day Robeline, Louisiana on August 29. Finding no members of the Adaes tribe in the vicinity, he did not immediately take action to rebuild or rededicate the mission. On September 1, a message arrived from Commandant Rerenor at the French fort at Natchitoches, who explained that St. Denis was in Mobile to convey the terms of the agreement he and Aguayo had recently made to Bienville, the governor of French Louisiana. Aguayo sent two of his officers to meet with Rerenor. Rerenor told them he preferred if Spain did not begin to reoccupy Los Adaes until St. Denis returned with orders to either allow it or stop it. Aguayo's officers, however, told Rerenor about all that the Aguayo expedition had accomplished thus far and persuaded him that Spain was resolved to not only rebuild the Los Adaes mission, but also erect a presidio near it. Rerenor said that in the absence of orders from his superiors, he would not go to war over the issue.

Meanwhile, the Spaniards at the old mission site made contact with the Adaes natives, who were glad to see them. They began rebuilding the San Miguel de los Adaes mission and rededicated it on October 12. The presidio, called Nuestra Señora del Pilar, was completed on November 1. One hundred soldiers were stationed there. In addition, six cannons - the only pieces of artillery Aguayo brought from Mexico - were left there.

With his work completed, Governor Aguayo left Los Adaes on November 17. He arrived at Presidio Dolores on November 29, where he arranged for the transfer of some as-yet unallocated men and supplies to the various places where they were needed. He returned to San Antonio via the camino real, arriving on January 23, 1722. After his return to San Antonio, Governor Aguayo oversaw the construction of a third mission and a newer presidio to replace the original one.

Thanks to the Marquis de Aguayo's expedition, Spanish travel resumed along El Camino Real de los Tejas after a three-year hiatus. And, while the rumors about a planned French invasion may have been incorrect in the details, St. Denis and his countryman, Bernard de la Harpe, were in fact laying the groundwork for such a plan.2 After Aguayo's expedition, however, France - though not formally acknowledging Spain's claim over Texas - never again took steps to challenge it.

Los Adaes is Made the Texas Capital

The Marquis de Aguayo was effective in removing the French threat from east Texas in his 1721-1722 expedition, but as was always the case in Spanish Texas, when there was no French threat, the crown's interest in Texas diminished. In 1727, the viceroy of New Spain ordered a cost-cutting inspection of the northern frontier. Presidio Dolores in present-day Nacogdoches County - also called Presidio de los Tejas - was declared a luxury, as there were no hostile tribes in the area. Since the friendly tribes refused to congregate in communities around the missions, the presidio had few people to protect, and little to protect them from.

Following the inspector's recommendations, Presidio de los Tejas was closed in 1729. At the same time, Los Adaes was declared the capital of the Texas province. The three Quereteran-administered missions around the Neches and Angelina Rivers, unhappy with the loss of the presidio, moved to San Antonio in 1731. The Zacatecan-administered missions at Los Adaes and at present-day San Augustine and Nacogdoches, however, remained.

With Los Adaes as the provincial capital, the entire length of the road from there to Mexico City was necessary for the king's affairs to be conducted, thus genuinely earning it the title of "The Royal Road" - El Camino Real.

The Principal Routes

Map: El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail
National Park Service Map of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.

It would be incorrect to think of El Camino Real as a single, fixed route. Just like modern highways, the royal road included a system of alternate routes and bypasses, and the preferred route shifted over time as flooding, native troubles, changing settlement patterns, and other factors dictated. It is more correct, then, to consider El Camino Real as a network of roads. The long name, El Camino Real de los Tejas, is used to distinguish this system of roads from corresponding roads and road systems in other Spanish provinces, such as California and New Mexico.

As the map to the right shows, there were over a dozen road segments in the system that is recognized today by various federal, state, and private entities as El Camino Real de los Tejas. Some, like the road connecting Laredo and Goliad, though important, were not part of the east Texas mission route that prompted a royal road to be formed. To keep the scope of this article manageable, we discuss here the four main segments of the road: the Upper Presidio Road and Lower Presidio Road, both of which went between the Rio Grande at San Juan Bautista to San Antonio, and the Camino de los Tejas and the Camino Arriba, both of which went between San Antonio and Los Adaes.

The Upper Presidio Road

The Upper Presidio Road started at the Paso de Francia crossing of the Rio Grande in Maverick County. The town of Guerrero, Coahuila is presently across the river; in the 18th century, this was the settlement of San Juan Bautista. The road proceeded northeast, roughly in a straight line, through Dimmit, Zavala, Frio, and Medina Counties, passing through present-day Crystal City and Pearsall, and terminating at San Antonio in Bexar County. The Upper Presidio Road was one of the routes used in 1693 by Gregorio de Salinas Varona. It was also used by subsequent expeditions, including Domingo Ramón in 1716 and the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo in 1721.

In the 1700s, Comanche Indians moved into present-day north and west Texas, where the Apache had previously been dominant. The Apache were crowded into the area north and west of San Antonio. At the time, the Apache were hostile to the Spanish, and raids and attacks on travelers were common enough by around the 1730s that the Lower Presidio Road, which was further south and east, became the preferred route.

In 1749, the Apaches made peace with the Spaniards. The raids did not completely stop, but travelers returned to the Upper Presidio Road, as it was an easier and more direct route than the Lower Presidio Road. In this second period of usage, many parts of the Upper Presidio Road were north of their original course. The earlier route is known as the Camino Pita, while the term Upper Presidio Road - or sometimes simply the Presidio Road - refers to the later, more northerly route. The Camino Pita was also still used in this later period.

Throughout its history, the Upper Presidio Road was only used for travel between Texas and the rest of Mexico, as there were no Texas towns between Guerrero and San Antonio in the 18th and early 19th centuries. One of the last known users of the road was Santa Anna, who brought the main body of his army up from Mexico to San Antonio along this road in 1836. After Texas won its independence, traffic between San Antonio and Mexico was minimal, and therefore the road had little use. When Mexican General Adrián Woll invaded San Antonio in 1842, rather than using the Upper Presidio Road, he used an old smuggler's trail to the west. That road, called Woll's Road, was used throughout the Mexican-American War. Afterward, in 1849, the U.S. Army built Fort Duncan on the Rio Grande about 30 miles upriver from Guerrero, closer to Woll's Road. The town of Eagle Pass grew there, and it became the seat of Maverick County. Highways built in the 20th century provided access to the Rio Grande from San Antonio via Eagle Pass and Laredo, making the Upper Presidio Road completely obsolete.

Little of the Upper Presidio Road has been preserved by modern roads and highways. According to a 1991 report published by the Texas State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, only 32 of the Upper Presidio Road's 146 miles were on public roads. These were sections of Farm-to-Market Road 471 southwest of Lacoste in Medina County and U.S. Highway 90 a few miles on either side of Interstate 410 in west San Antonio.3 The rest of the route is on private property. Some of its wagon ruts and dirt trails are still distinguishable, but most of it has simply disappeared with the passage of time.

The Lower Presidio Road

The Lower Presidio Road, like the Upper Presidio Road, connected Guerrero, Coahuila with San Antonio. It was known simply as the Lower Road at first, then later as the Camino en Medio, or "middle road", after the Laredo Road was established. Instead of the generally constant northeast course of the upper road, the lower road went east from Guerrero through Dimmit, Zavala, and La Salle Counties. Wallace L. McKeehan has presented an excellent case showing that Alonso de León's pioneering 1689 expedition into Texas followed this route, rather than the Camino Pita. Around present-day Fowlerton in La Salle County, the Lower Presidio Road turned north, passing through Frio and Atascosa Counties on the way to San Antonio. This indirect route made the Lower Presidio Road about 60 miles longer than the Upper Presidio Road.

As explained in the previous section, the Lower Presidio Road was mainly used as an alternate route during a time in the mid-to-late 1700s, when Apache raids were common along the Upper Presidio Road. Not only did the Lower Presidio Road add about 60 miles to the journey, but it was covered in dense brush. The area around the Atascosa River was especially difficult, as evidenced by the river's name - atascosa is Spanish for "boggy". When the Apache attacks dwindled, travelers returned to the upper road. The Lower Presidio Road was apparently completely out of use by 1800, if not sooner; Erasmo Seguin wrote in 1838 that only old-timers remembered where it used to be.

In 1915, the route of the Lower Presidio Road was rediscovered and surveyed as part of an El Camino Real preservation project sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the State of Texas. This project is discussed in detail in the next article on this topic, "Rediscovering and Preserving El Camino Real".

In 2015, retraced the entire Lower Road, matching every mile of the 1915 survey to a place on the ground. Our research, presented in the article, "A Tour of the Old San Antonio Road," shows that only 31 of the Lower Presidio Road's 170 miles were on public roads in 2015. Most of this coverage was in San Antonio and southern Bexar County on Mission Road, Espada Road, and Pleasanton Road. Fragments of some city streets and county roads in Cotulla and Catarina also preserve the route. As with the Upper Road, the rest of the Lower Road's route is on private property. About 15 miles of the Lower Road still exist as private ranch roads; the rest of it has either eroded away to traces or is now completely gone.

The Camino de los Tejas

The original road from San Antonio to the east Texas missions followed the northwesterly line separating Comal and Hays Counties on one side from Guadalupe and Caldwell Counties on the other. At present-day San Marcos, the road took a northward turn, crossing the Colorado River on the south side of present-day Austin in Travis County. Turning northwest again, the road crossed Williamson County and entered Milam County. There, the road forked. The shortest fork stayed on a northwest course through Robertson and Leon Counties to the first mission in Houston County. The much longer northern fork detoured through Falls, Limestone, and Freestone Counties. Once in Houston County, the forks converged. The camino then passed through Cherokee, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine Counties. Originally, the road visited the five missions in east Texas plus the one at Los Adaes in present-day western Louisiana.

From Los Adaes, the road continued another twelve miles to the east to the French post of Natchitoches. Even though France and Spain were usually either rivals or outright enemies for most of the 17th and 18th centuries and Spain had an official policy forbidding trade with France, the east Texas missions depended on goods from Natchitoches, as San Antonio and other Spanish towns were so distant. Both sides benefited from the arrangement: the French welcomed the trade from the Spanish and also appreciated the weekly visits from the friars, who held religious services for them.

In 1729, the presidio in Nacogdoches County was closed. Three of the east Texas missions moved to San Antonio two years later. This left the missions at Nacogdoches and San Augustine and the mission/presidio complex at Los Adaes as the only Spanish settlements on the Camino de los Tejas.

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Spaniards in Texas maintained generally excellent relations with the Hasinai and other Caddo tribes of north and northeast Texas. These tribes were allied with each other against the Apache, who populated the regions north and west of San Antonio. The Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to befriend the Apache also. The Apache started to become a bigger problem for Spain when Comanches moved into their territory and pressed the Apache closer into Spanish territory. Over time, however, the Apache realized they could not afford to be enemies with everyone else in Texas at the same time, so in 1749, they entered into a peace treaty with Spain. When Spain established a mission for the Apache in 1757, the Caddo tribes felt betrayed. They and the other northern tribes, including the Comanche, began conducting raids against travelers on the Camino de los Tejas. A more southerly route from San Antonio to Nacogdoches, called the Camino Arriba, was used instead. By 1800, the Camino de los Tejas was no longer a major east-west thoroughfare.

In 1839, the town of Waterloo, on the Camino de los Tejas in present-day Travis County, was chosen to be the site of the Republic of Texas and was renamed to Austin. The Camino de los Tejas around Austin and between it and San Antonio once again came into use; many sections of it were paved over in the 20th century and are still used today.

A 1991 study published by the state of Texas calculated that the Camino de los Tejas was 282 miles long from San Antonio to Los Adaes, and that 112 of those miles, or about 40 percent, still existed on modern public roadways. The preserved sections, county-by-county, are as follows:

  • Bexar - Nacogdoches Road from Tuxedo Avenue in Alamo Heights to Cibolo Creek.
  • Comal - Old Nacogdoches Road and Farm-to-Market 482 southwest of New Braunfels, Nacogdoches Road, Elliott Knox Boulevard, Broadway, and Post Road in New Braunfels, and Interstate 35 northeast of New Braunfels.
  • Hays - I-35.
  • Travis - Old San Antonio Road south of Austin and parts of South Congress Avenue, US Highway 183, and Manor Road/Old Manor Road in Austin.
  • Williamson - None.
  • Milam - About half of County Road 235.
  • Robertson - FM 485 from the Brazos River to Hearne.
  • Leon - None.
  • Houston - FM 227 from Grapeland to State Highway 21.
  • Cherokee - SH 21 from County Road 2905 to the Angelina River.
  • Nacogdoches - SH 21 from the Angelina River to SH 7 in Nacogdoches (with exceptions), then SH 21 from CR 302 east of Nacogdoches to the Attoyac River (with exceptions).
  • San Augustine - SH 21 from end to end, with exceptions, including in and near the city of San Augustine.
  • Sabine - SH 21, with exceptions.
  • Louisiana - SH 6 from the Sabine River to Natchitoches, except in the vicinity of Robeline/Los Adaes.

The sections around San Antonio and from Houston County eastward coincide substantially, but not completely, with the Camino Arriba.

The Camino Arriba

As explained in the above section, the Camino de los Tejas was the original route from San Antonio to Los Adaes, but native hostilities in the second half of the 1700s required the development of a more southerly route. Despite being south of El Camino de los Tejas, the newer route was called the upper road, or camino arriba.

The Camino Arriba followed the same route as the Camino de los Tejas leaving San Antonio - northeast along the present-day Comal-Guadalupe County line, but between New Braunfels and San Marcos, it veered ever so slightly to the south of the older route. The newer route was subsequently used as the boundary between Hays and Caldwell Counties. It then turned southward some more, clipped the northern corner of Caldwell County, and passed through Bastrop, Lee, and Burleson Counties. After crossing the Brazos River into Brazos County, the road then turned northward. It formed the Brazos-Robertson County line and much of the Leon-Madison County line. It then dipped into Madison County and crossed the Trinity River, turning northward again to meet up with the old route in Houston County, near the site of the old Tejas mission. From there to Natchitoches, the Camino Arriba was essentially the same as the Camino de los Tejas, except that a few segments of the route shifted slightly southward over time.

In 1767, France ceded Louisiana to Spain. The three missions and presidio on the east end of El Camino Real no longer served any strategic purpose for Spain, and by that time, it was clear to even the missionaries that the Caddo tribes simply weren't interested in either Catholicism or living in Spanish communities. So, in 1772, the Spanish government decided to withdraw from the region and focus all of its efforts on San Antonio and Goliad. All Spanish personnel in east Texas and at Los Adaes were ordered to relocate to either San Antonio or across the Rio Grande. By this time, however, there had been a substantial Spanish presence in east Texas for more than fifty years. Many of the residents had been born and raised in the area, where illegal trade and a measure of frontier lawlessness were ways of life, and did not like living in San Antonio. In 1774, a group of them received permission to found a civil settlement on the Trinity River. After problems with flooding and Comanche raids, they moved, without permission, further east to the Nacogdoches mission. Thus, in 1779 the town of Nacogdoches became the first permanent Spanish town on the Camino Arriba.

Nacogdoches, founded by unrepentant smuggler Gil Ybarbo and populated by Spanish citizens who preferred to keep their government at arm's length, soon became a waypoint for entrepreneurs and troublemakers from the east. The American filibuster Philip Nolan headquartered there in 1794. Filibusters Augustus Magee and Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara proclaimed Texas' independence from Spain there in 1812; James Long followed suit in 1819.

In the 1820s, Spain began granting land to empresarios for colonization. The Camino Arriba was a crucial element of Texas history during that time. Not only was it the main avenue of immigration for the empresarios and their colonists, but it also served as a boundary for many empresarial land grants, and several Texas towns, including Milam, San Augustine, and Bastrop, sprang up along the road during this time. During and after the Texas Revolution, the Camino Arriba remained the most important road in the state as thousands of colonists poured in to fight Mexico and stake their claims to cheap land.

As the new Republic of Texas matured and as Texas evolved into a state, railroads and navigable rivers, not roads, determined where cities needed to be. Nacogdoches lost its importance, and San Antonio's was diluted by the growth of new cities like Galveston, Dallas, and Houston. The heyday of the Camino Arriba was over, but the road itself is far from gone. Known in later days as the "Old San Antonio Road", it still serves the towns and rural areas along its route.

In 1915, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the state of Texas began a project to survey and preserve the Camino Arriba, or Old San Antonio Road as it was known at that time. This project is discussed in detail in the next article on this topic, "Rediscovering and Preserving El Camino Real".

From 2013 to 2014, retraced the entire Camino Arriba, matching every mile of the 1915 survey to a place on the ground. Our research, presented in the article, "A Tour of the Old San Antonio Road," shows that 313 of the Camino Arriba's 369 miles in Texas were on public roads in 2014. Nearly half of the route is preserved by State Highway 21 between San Marcos and Bryan and between Midway and the Sabine River. The section between Bryan and Midway is preserved by Texas Highway OSR. Nacogdoches Road/FM 2252 in Bexar and Comal Counties and Old Bastrop Highway in Comal and Hays Counties also preserve segments of the Camino Arriba, along with many other county and local roads. The main places where the Camino Arriba has been lost are in the vicinity of the towns of Crockett and San Augustine, and in the vicinity of the Neches and Trinity Rivers.

Page last updated: October 29, 2015

1The missions in Texas were administered by two different Franciscan colleges - one at Queretaro, and the other at Zacatecas. Though they represented the same faith, the two mission organizations operated independently of - and sometimes at odds with - each other. Friar Olivarez of the Quereteran-administered Mission San Antonio del Valero unsuccessfully attempted to stop the establishment of a Zacatecan mission so close to his.

2In 1721, La Harpe sailed for Matagorda Bay with orders to establish an outpost there. He mistakenly landed on Galveston Island and was driven away by natives. Additionally, there is no doubt that St. Denis was meeting with the natives in east Texas and supplying them with firearms to be used against the Spaniards when Aguayo's expedition came along. St. Denis, seeing with his own eyes what a large force Aguayo brought with him - not to mention how beloved the Spaniards were to the east Texas natives - knew that his plans were over that day.

3The state report did not note the number of miles from the Camino Pita that were still in use, but it was probably close to zero. Interstate Highway 35 parallels the Camino Pita on the south from approximately Pearsall into San Antonio. The closest any modern highway gets to it is State Highway 132 in Devine, which is still about a half mile to the south.