On the basis of Paleo-Indian projectile points, or arrowheads, archaeological evidence human habitation in the Texas Hill Country can be traced back at least 12,000 years. The names of the original tribes in the area are not known. The first written records, dating from the sixteenth century, are of the Tonkawa. In the early 1700s the Apache displaced the Tonkawa and by the end of the century the Comanche had displaced the Apache. During this period the Spanish were increasingly concerned about incursions into Texas by the French, who were supplying arms to the Comanche. In an effort to expand control of what the Spanish considered their territory to the north, they sent expeditionary forces into The Lomeria or Hill Country in search of a suitable site for a mission which was expected to serve several purposes. Apart from establishing an outpost in this unknown frontier in the Hill Country, it would be the primary mission for converting the Lipan Apache to Christianity.
The mission, with its Apache warriors, would also be a buffer against Comanche attacks further south, particularly on the settlement in San Antonio. In 1750 the Spanish government proposed the establishment of a new mission among the Lipan Apache Indians who lived along the Pedernales River. Led by Lieutenant Juan Galvan from the Presidio de San Antonio de Bejar, the regions around the Pedernales and Llano Rivers were explored but lacked the fertile soil, timber and abundant water necessary to support a mission and a presidio. The presidio alone would be home to almost four hundred inhabitants, including women and children. Finally, along the San Saba River they found what they had been seeking; fertile soil, timber and abundant water.
Also on the minds of the Spanish authorities were
rumors of abundant veins of gold and silver in Hill Country. On February 17, 1756 Bernardo
de Miranda y Flores departed San Antonio with twenty-three men with instructions to locate
an already legendary silver mine, Cerro del Almagre or Hill of Red Ochre. Eight
days later, having endured torrential rains, flooded rivers, and rocky terrain, they
arrived at the Almagre. Within the hill Miranda claimed to have found a tremendous stratum
of silver-bearing ore. "The mines which are in the Cerro del Almagre," Miranda
reported, "are so numerous that I guarantee to give every settler in the province of
Texas a full claim
" The Amalgre fostered numerous legends of lost silver mines
which attracted speculators for over a century...
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