Jarry, Jean (unknown–unknown)

By: Robert S. Weddle

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 19, 2013

Jean Jarry (Jean Henri, Jean Gery) was a deserter from the La Salle expedition (1685) who took residence among the Coahuiltecan Indians in what is now Kinney County, Texas, and held sway over them as their ruler. The location is generally believed to be Anacacho Mountain, some fifteen miles southeast of Brackettville, Texas. Coahuila governor Alonso De León, fearful of a French-inspired Indian uprising, arrived at the Indian village on May 30, 1688, and persuaded Jarry to return with him to Monclova.

"Yan Jarri," as De León recorded his name, related that he was a native of St. Jean d'Orléans in France. He was judged to be more than fifty years old. Interrogated first by De León, then by officials in Mexico, he became more confused with each question and gave conflicting answers on nearly every detail. Yet he seemed unwavering in his account of having come from a French fort on a big river to the east. Under his direction a map was sketched showing the arrangement of the purported French settlement and its location. Although the interrogators were convinced that the prisoner was demented, it was deemed necessary to "take every precaution." De León, therefore, was sent on his third expedition in search of La Salle's colony with the French prisoner as guide.

As De León marched across Texas on the journey that led him to La Salle's Texas Settlement in April 1689, Jarry seemed no less confused than during the interrogations. After crossing the Guadalupe River, however, the Frenchman began to manifest a knowledge of the country and could converse with the Indians. He was especially knowledgeable of the Lavaca-Matagorda Bay region and identified the Matagorda Bay mouth as the place he had landed with "Monsieur Felipe de la Gala." Thus, with Jarry's help, the Spanish force found La Salle's Texas Settlement on April 20, 1689.

After his return to Coahuila, De León sent the Frenchman to the Rio Grande to await visitors expected from the Hasinai, or Tejas, Indians in eastern Texas. Nothing more is heard of him. Presumably, Jarry had died before De León and Father Damián Massanet departed the following year to found missions among the Tejas. On returning, De León wrote of his erstwhile guide: "On this journey I sorely missed the old Frenchman, because of his knowledge of all the Indian languages of the region. He was always found faithful. Only with his help was it possible to discover the settlement he came from."

Lino Gómez Canedo, ed., Primeras exploraciones y poblamiento de Texas, 1686–1694 (Monterrey: Publicaciones del Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, 1968).

  • Exploration
  • Explorers (French)
  • Peoples
  • French
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

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

Robert S. Weddle, “Jarry, Jean,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 07, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/jarry-jean.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 19, 2013

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