[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

On this webpage you can read a chapter of
Stories of Heroism

William Mace

published by
Rand McNally & Company
New York, 1909.

It's all right to copy it or use it any way you want.

I checked this page carefully for mistakes,
and didn't find any:
but if you find one, please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]

 p36  Two Men Who Proved that North America Had No More Rich Cities

Coronado, who Discovered New Kinds of Towns and the Grand Canyon of the Colorado

22. Coronado's Search for Rich Cities. The stories of Cortés and Pizarro so excited the imagination of the Spaniards that they believed North America must be full of cities more splendid than any yet seen. Accordingly, in 1539, the Governor of Mexico sent Francisco Coronado with more than a thousand Spaniards and Indians, far to the northward, in search of the country of the Seven Cities. Tales of the size and wealth of these cities so stirred the people that the Spanish priests in Mexico preached about them.

For many days Coronado and his army marched northward until they reached the dry and rocky regions of Arizona and New Mexico. The soldiers were now hungry and thirsty, but they marched cheerfully on, each day hoping to reach some great city.

One day a strange sight burst upon their eyes. It was a town such as few height men had ever seen. Far up on the top of a great rocky hill, with very steep sides, stood a town of the Zuni Indians. The houses were built of sun-dried  p37 brick and flat stones. Many of them were three or four stories high and large enough for two or three hundred people. The roofs were flat and contained the entrances or doors of the houses through which the people climbed in and out by means of ladders.

Was this one of the Seven Cities sought for? The Spaniards were deeply disappointed, for there were no temples richly ornamented with gold and silver.

Coronado sent out small scouting parties, but neither cities nor gold were found — only tales of great riches farther on. One party discovered the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and with awe and wonder the Spaniards gazed down into its dizzy depths to the river, so far below that it seemed narrow enough to be crossed at a single leap. Yet, however interesting and beautiful such things might be, they could not satisfy the Spaniards.

When spring came, Coronado and his men took fresh hope and pushed northward many days, until suddenly the soldiers found themselves in the midst of a very  p38 strange region. All around were little mounds, from which, now and then, popped the heads of small animals. It was a town of prairie dogs.

On the army marched until they reached and crossed the mountains, probably into the region of Kansas and Nebraska. Here the Spaniards saw the western prairies with their immense seas of waving grass and herds of countless buffalo, which they called "crooked-back oxen."

Neither from the tops of the Rocky Mountains nor upon the face of the wide prairies had Coronado been able to see the temples of a single great and rich city. Disappointed, and tried out by his long march, he turned his face southward, and reached home in 1542. He wrote to the King of Spain that the region he had explored was far too poor a place for him to plant colonies.

 p39  De Soto, The Discoverer of the Mississippi

23. The Expedition to Florida. While Coronado and his men were searching in vain for hidden cities with golden temples, another band of men was wandering through the forests farther to the eastward. Hernando De Soto had been one of Pizarro's bravest soldiers. The news that this bold adventurer was to lead an expedition to Florida stirred all Spain. Many nobles sold their lands to fit out their sons to fight under so great a leader.

The Spanish settlers of Cuba gave a joyful welcome to De Soto and to the brave men from the home-land. After many festivals and solemn religious ceremonies, nine vessels, carrying many soldiers, twelve priests, six hundred horses, and a herd of swine, sailed for Florida (1539).

What a grand sight to the Indians as the men and horses clad in steel armor landed! There were richly-colored banners, beautiful crucifixes, and many things never before seen by the Indians. But this was by far the most cruel expedition yet planned.

Wherever the Spaniards marched Indians were seized as slaves and made to carry the baggage and do the hard work. If the Indian guides were false, they were burned at the stake or were torn to pieces by bloodhounds. Hence the Indians feared the Spaniards, and Indian guides often misled the Spanish soldiers on purpose to save the guides' own tribes from harm.

 p40  De Soto fought his way through forests and swamps to the head of Apalachee Bay, where he spent the winter. In the spring a guide led the army into what is now Georgia, in search of a country supposed to be rich in gold and ruled by a woman. The soldiers suffered and grumbled, but De Soto only turned the march farther northward.

The Appalachian Mountains caused them to turn south again until they reached the village of Mavilla (Mobile), where the Indians rushed on them in great numbers and tried to crush the army. But Spanish swords and Spanish guns won the day against Indian arrows and Indian clubs. De Soto lost a number of men, at least a dozen horses, and the baggage of his entire army, yet he boldly refused to send to the coast for the men and supplies waiting for him there.

24. The Discovery of the Mississippi. Again De Soto's men followed him northward, this time into what we know as northern Mississippi, where the second winter was spent in a deserted Indian village. In the spring he demanded two hundred Indians to carry baggage, but the chief and his men one night stole into camp, set fire to their own rude houses, gave the war whoop, frightened many horses into running away, and killed several of the Spaniards.

 p41  The army then marched westward for many days, wading swamps and wandering through forests so dense that at times they could not see the sun. At last, in 1541, a river was reached greater than any the Spaniards had ever seen. It was the Mississippi, more than a mile wide, rushing swiftly on at full flood toward the Gulf.

On barges made by their own hands, De Soto and his men crossed to the west bank of the broad stream. There they marched northward, probably as far as the region now known as Missouri, and then westward two hundred miles. Nothing but hardships met them on every hand. In the spring of 1542, the little army came upon the Mississippi again.

De Soto was tiring out. He grew sad and asked the Indians how far it was to the sea. But it was too far for the bold leader. A fever seized him, and after a few days he died, and at dead of night his companions buried him in the bosom of the great river he had discovered.

25. Only Half the Army Returns to Cuba. There were bold leaders still left in the army. They turned westward again, but after finding neither gold nor silver, they returned to the Mississippi and spent the winter on its banks. There they built boats, and then floated down to the Gulf. Only one-half of the army returned to tell the sad tales of hardships, battles, and poverty.

Thus it came about that Coronado and De Soto proved that northward from Mexico there were no rich cities, such as Columbus had dreamed about, and such as Cortés and Pizarro had really found. Hence it was that the King of Spain and his brave adventurers took less interest in that part of North America which is now the United States, and more in Mexico and South America.

 p42  Suggestions Intended to Help the Pupil

The Leading Facts. 1. Coronado marched north from Mexico, found an Indian town and the Grand Canyon, but no rich cities. 2. De Soto wandered over the country east of the Rocky Mountains in search of rich cities, but found a great river, the Mississippi, and later was buried in its waters. 3. Hence the Spaniards, eager for gold, went to Mexico and South America rather than farther to the North.

Study Questions. 1. What was Coronado searching for and what kind of "city" did he find and why were the Spaniards disappointed? 2. What things did the Spaniards see that they never before had seen? 3. What report did Coronado make to his king?

4. Why were De Soto's Indian guides false? 5. Show that De Soto was a brave man. 6. How far north did the Spaniards go both east and west of the Mississippi? 7. Tell the story of De Soto's death and burial. 8. What proof can you give to show that Spaniards were more cruel than was necessary?

Suggested Readings. Coronado: Griffis, Romance of Discovery, 168‑182; Hale, Stories of Adventure, 136‑140.

De Soto: Hart, Colonial Children, 16‑19; Higginson, American Explorers, 121‑140.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 11 Sep 06