Millington Site

By: J. Charles Kelley

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

The Millington Site is located on the edge of the first terrace of the Rio Grande in the southeastern edge of Presidio, Texas, four miles below La Junta de los Ríos, the junction of the Río Conchos and the Rio Grande. J. Charles Kelley (1952, 1953) has identified this site as the San Cristóbal pueblo of the Trasviña y Retis entrada of 1715 and the entradas of Pedro de Rábago y Terán and Ydoiaga of 1747. It may also be identifiable as the Santiago Pueblo of the entrada of Antonio de Espejo in 1582. Cristóbal, one of many pueblos in the area, was situated directly on the riverbank but reportedly was not inundated even in the worst floods. The residents raised maize and other crops by irrigation in the river lowlands; in good years they harvested food for an entire year and had a surplus for trade with the Apaches, but in years of low river flow the harvest was inadequate for their own needs, and they supplemented their diet with wild plants, fish, and other foods.

A thick midden of burned rock, ashy soil, and cultural debris marks the location of the site. This midden covered an area some 250 feet wide and over 500 feet in length along the terrace edge. Near the southeast edge of the site were high refuse mounds dating to the Spanish historical period. Midden debris elsewhere in the site ranged up to some eight feet in depth. Excavation revealed that the midden material covered the remains of innumerable Indian house structures, occupied over a period of 400 to 500 years. Preliminary excavations were made at the site by Kelley in 1936 and 1937. In 1938 and 1939 major excavations were carried out under the direction of Kelley and Donald J. Lehmer. This work was sponsored by Sul Ross State Teachers College (now Sul Ross State University) and the School of American Research; workmen were provided by the Works Progress Administration (see WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION). Recovered artifacts are stored at Sul Ross State University in Alpine and at the University of Texas at Austin. Data are on file at Sul Ross. The excavations have never been fully reported in print but were summarized in Kelley, Campbell, and Lehmer in 1940.

Twenty-four house structures were excavated, and three sequential archeological phases (the La Junta, Concepción, and Conchos) were identified. The earliest or La Junta phase was characterized by small rectangular pithouses with adobe floors and sometimes by low adobe curbs, altars (on the south), and presumed roof entrances. One multiroomed surface structure with adobe walls, closely resembling those of the El Paso phase of the Jornado Branch of the Mogollon Culture, was present, and deep oval pit structures, possibly granaries, also occurred. Such southwestern ceramics as El Paso polychrome and various Chihuahua polychromes date the La Junta phase to the period of approximately A.D. 1200–1450. The Concepción phase was characterized by large rectangular houses built in pits and by circular pithouses or earth lodge structures; the large structures continued as the house type of the fully historic Conchos phase, dated to after A.D. 1700, and are described in the Spanish accounts. Ceramics of the Concepción phase include polished red ware, red-on-brown wares, and Apache-like cylindrical jars with pointed bottoms.

The La Junta archeological sequence is termed the Bravo Valley Culture and is regarded as a variant of the Jornada Branch of the Mogollon Culture. In the historic period the occupants of the site were known as the Poxalmas Indians, one of the Patarabueye groups; it is probable that the Jumano Indians were seasonal residents of the Millington Site and that the circular pithouses and pointed-bottomed ceramics are indicators of their presence. The Spanish documents report 180 persons at Cristóbal in 1715 and 117 persons (34 families) in 1765. In 1765 the pueblo had its own mission, with Púlicos pueblo as a visita. Excavations in the Conchos phase (historic) refuse heaps produced a Spanish coin with a date in the 1750s. Cristóbal was either abandoned or became a mestizo town by about A.D. 1800, a fate similar to that of the Patarabueye pueblos of Púlicos, San Francisco, Mesquite, and San Juan in Mexico, which survive as mestizo towns.

George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, The Rediscovery of New Mexico, 1580–1594 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1966). J. Charles Kelley, "Archaeological Notes on the Excavation of a Pithouse Near Presidio, Texas," El Palacio 46 (1939). J. Charles Kelley, "Factors Involved in the Abandonment of Certain Peripheral Southwestern Settlements," American Anthropologist 54 (July-September 1952). J. Charles Kelley, "The Historic Indian Pueblos of La Junta de Los Rios," New Mexico Historical Review 27, 28 (October 1952, January 1953). J. Charles Kelley et al., "The Association of Archaeological Materials with Geological Deposits in the Big Bend Region of Texas," West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication No. 10 (1940).
  • Archeology
  • Land Sites

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

J. Charles Kelley, “Millington Site,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995