Life on the Frontier
The Presidio
The Governor's House
A Military Outpost
Farming and Ranching
Religious Life
Domestic Life
Games and Entertainment
The King's Highway
Trade with the French
Trade with the Caddo
Farming and Ranching
The people at Los Adaes were not self-sufficient; they did not grow enough crops to feed themselves. The soil around Los Adaes was not the best for raising crops, but people had small gardens where they grew corn, beans, and chili peppers. Water was a problem for the settlement. The spring-fed drainage that ran between the presidio and mission did not hold water year-round. The Spanish may have dug a ditch to bring water away from this natural drainage to irrigate their crops. The ranches were more successful in raising cattle and horses than the garden areas were in raising crops. Grass near Los Adaes was probably depleted shortly after the Spanish arrived, so the ranches were some distance away from the presidio. The priests had a ranch called El Baño, located south of the mission. Archaeologists have found Spanish colonial pottery in the area that might be this ranch. The historical documents also list other ranches associated with Los Adaes, including Velmudes, Pan y Agua, Llano Hondo, and Tres Llanos. Locating these ranches will be the goal of future archaeological surveys.
One of several enclosed gardens on Urrutia's 1767 mapCow skull fragmentCorn cobsFarmer sowing seeds, 1700s
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More about Farming and Ranching
Cattle bones are, by far, the most common animal bones that archaeologists find at Los Adaes. The wide distribution of the bones, both within the stockade and also near the outlying houses, suggests that beef was commonly eaten. The thick cattle bones are also common because they last longer at an archaeological site than most other food remains. Hog bones and sheep or goat bones are found less frequently. Chicken eggshell fragments, chicken bones, fish bones, and charred corn fragments also occur, in small amounts. Corn and beans were the main foods at Los Adaes, and pieces of metates and manos used to grind corn have been found at the site. In 1768, the French traveler, Pierre Marie François de Pagès, observed that the main food at Los Adaes was corn: “The soil is almost entirely destitute of water; which unhappy circumstance, joined to the natural indolence of the people, frequently reduces them to the way of the most common necessaries of life. The chief means of their subsistence is Indian corn, which they boil, mixed with quick lime, whereby the husk is dissolved into a kind of powder, and the grain considerably softened. Having washed and bruised it on a chocolate-stone, it is formed into a lump of paste, which they knead between their hands. Of this dough they made a sort of cake, which is toasted on a plate of iron laid over the fire. This bread is the native food of the people of New Spain; and indeed, when these thin cakes, or rather wafers, named by the Spaniards tortillas, are well baked, they are far from unpleasant” (Pagès, Pierre Marie François de, 1793, Travels Round the World, in the Years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, volumes 1–3. Second edition, cor. and enl. J. Murray, London, page 51). Father Solís made the following observations about farming and ranching at Los Adaes in 1768: “. . . there is no grass for the stock and it is necessary to take them from the royal presidio and mission out ten or twelve leagues for grazing; there is absolutely no grass or hay or fodder there. The people live on the corn and do not have any sown fields. The flesh of the bulls that is furnished them is very bad. All seed, such as corn, frijoles, etc., is scarce. There is only an abundance of whiskey [brandy], with which they are provided by the French of Nachitos who are seven leagues from here” (Kress, Margaret Kenney, Translator, 1931, Diary of a Visit of Inspection of the Texas Missions Made by Fray Gaspar Jose de Solís in the Year 1767–1768. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, vol. 35, page 65).
Suggested Reading
Jackson, Jack 1986, Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721-1821. Texas A & M University Press, College Station.