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Spanish explorer finds defunct French fort
April 22, 1689

On this day in 1689, Spanish explorer Alonso De León discovered the ruins of a French settlement, Fort St. Louis, on the Texas coast. The fort had been established by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, in the summer of 1685. In February 1685 La Salle, seeking the mouth of the Mississippi River, had landed 280 colonists, including 100 soldiers, at the mouth of Matagorda Bay in Spanish-claimed territory. The explorer made a temporary camp on Matagorda Island while he sought a more secure location farther up the bay. In April he chose a site on an eminence overlooking the "Riviére aux Boeufs." Though disease devastated his men, La Salle saw the building well under way by autumn, when he set out to explore the surrounding country. In January 1687 he departed on his last journey, leaving at the fort scarcely more than twenty men, women, and children in the charge of the Sieur de Barbier. In late 1688 or early 1689 the Karankawa Indians gained entry to the fort under guise of friendship and murdered all the occupants but five children. Meanwhile, news that the French had founded a settlement on the northern Gulf Coast had agitated New Spain in the mid-1680s. As a result, De León led four expeditions between 1686 and 1689 seeking to find and destroy the French installation. The fourth expedition left Coahuila on March 27, 1689, with a force of 114 men, and found the deserted settlement on April 22.

Coronado departs Culiacán in search of Seven Cities of Cíbola
April 22, 1540

On this day in 1540, an expedition led by Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado left Culiacán in Mexico in search of the Seven Cities of Cíbola, concerning which wondrous tales had been brought to Mexico by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. There was no gold at Cíbola (the Zuñi villages in western New Mexico), but the explorer was led on by stories of great rewards to be found in Quivira, a region on the Great Plains far to the east. Chasing this chimera occupied Coronado until the early part of 1542; along the way he apparently marched across the Llano Estacado of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, passing through present Palo Duro Canyon. When he returned to Mexico he was subjected to an official examination of his conduct as leader of the expedition and as governor of Nueva Galicia. He was cleared of charges in connection with the expedition, but on some of the other charges was fined and lost his commission. He died in 1554.

Law authorizing State Police repealed
April 22, 1873

On this day in 1873, the state legislature repealed the law authorizing the State Police. A response to the lawlessness and chaos that prevailed under Radical Republican rule during Reconstruction, the Police Act of July 1870 authorized a force of 257 men, though the force never had as many as 200 members. The fact that the force employed blacks and was controlled by Gov. Edmund J. Davis made it unpopular. Some members of the force certainly deserved criticism. Capt. Jack Helm, for instance, was accused of murdering prisoners. In 1872 James Davidson, the head of the force, embezzled $37,000 and disappeared. After repeal of the authorization law, Leander H. McNelly and at least thirty-six other State Police members became Texas Rangers.