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MESCAL INDIANS

MESCAL INDIANS. In the late seventeenth century, when first mentioned in documents, the Mescal (Mescate, Mexcal, Mezcal, Miscal, Mixcal) Indians ranged from the Rio Sabinas of northeastern Coahuila across the Rio Grande at least as far as the southern margin of the Edwards Plateau in Texas. North of the Rio Grande they were often encountered along the Nueces and Frio rivers. These Mescals were among the Indians for whom the San Juan Bautista Mission was founded at its first location on the Rio Sabinas in 1699. Some Mescal families also entered San Francisco Solano Mission, for a few were reported there in 1706 when it was located near present Zaragoza, Coahuila. Still other Mescals migrated northeastward to the area that became known as Ranchería Grande, near the junction of the Little and Brazos rivers in east central Texas. Here, in 1716, Spaniards reported a number of refugee groups from northeastern Coahuila and vicinity-Ervipiame, Mescal, Mesquite, Pamaya, Payaya, Sijame, Ticmamar, and Xarame. The few Mescal Indians at San Francisco Solano Mission probably followed this mission when it was moved from Coahuila to San Antonio, Texas, in 1718 and became known as San Antonio de Valero. However, many of those reported in Valero records may have come from Ranchería Grande. The Mescals of San Juan Bautista seem to have remained with the mission when it was moved from the Rio Sabinas to present Guerrero, Coahuila, near the Rio Grande. Some were reported there as late as 1738. The Mescal Indians slowly lost their ethnic identity through fragmentation during the eighteenth century. Some of those at Ranchería Grande must have been absorbed by the local groups that later became known as Tonkawa. The remainder faded into the mission Indian populations of Coahuila and Texas. Without question the Mescal Indians spoke a Coahuiltecan dialect. At times the Mescals have been confused with the Mescalero, an Apache group of southeastern New Mexico and southwestern Texas. Both names derived from the mescal plant (maquey or century plant), whose root crowns were used extensively for food.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978). Herbert Eugene Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1915; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). J. Jesús Figueroa Torres, Fr. Juan Larios, defensor de los Indios y fundador de Coahuila (Mexico City: Editorial Jus, 1963). Lino Gómez Canedo, ed., Primeras exploraciones y poblamiento de Texas, 1686–1694 (Monterrey: Publicaciones del Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, 1968). William B. Griffen, Culture Change and Shifting Populations in Central Northern Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1969). Mattie Alice Hatcher, trans., The Expedition of Don Domingo Terán de los Ríos into Texas, ed. Paul J. Foik (Preliminary Studies of the Texas Catholic Historical Society 2.1 [1932]). Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). P. Otto Maas, ed., Viajes de Misioneros Franciscanos a la conquista del Nuevo México (Seville: Imprenta de San Antonio, 1915). Richard Santos, "A Preliminary Survey of the San Fernando Archives," Texas Libraries 28 (Winter 1966–67). J. R. Swanton, Linguistic Material from the Tribes of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1940). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).

Thomas N. Campbell

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas N. Campbell, "MESCAL INDIANS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmm30), accessed August 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.