Coronado Expedition at Blanco Canyon in 1541
Artifacts and recent historical research now point to Blanco Canyon in south Floyd County as the probable site of an encampment of the Coronado Expedition in the late spring of 1541.
Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado made his 1540–1542 journey through the High Plains of Texas in search of the rumored seven golden cities.
Archaeologist Donald J. Blakeslee, professor in the Department of Anthropology at Wichita State University, Kansas, has spent several years working at the Blanco Canyon site near Floydada. What brought Dr. Blakeslee to the canyon were two pieces of chain mail discovered there by local ranchers in the 1960s, and copper crossbow arrow points found there in 1993 by Jimmy Owens, a local metal-detector buff.
The crossbow artifacts are significant because later Spanish expeditions had guns, making crossbows obsolete. In addition, Spanish coins and Mesoamerican pottery sherds have been found at the Owens site, named for Jimmy Owens, as well as a camp layout indicative of the Spanish military and unlike the camps of Indian tribes. This evidence supports the theory that this is one of the two Texas campsites of Coronado’s expedition, an enterprise that included 1,200 Indian allies and 300 Spanish soldiers.
Also on the expedition were Franciscan friars, including Fray Juan de Padilla, who celebrated the Mass of Ascension Day 1541 in the canyon for those assembled there.
Fray Padilla, a native of Andalusia, chose to remain in the Southwest after Coronado abandoned his search, and the Franciscan, who would later be killed there, is called the first Christian martyr in what is now the United States.
Bishop Plácido Rodríquez of the Catholic Diocese of Lubbock celebrated a commemorative Mass in the canyon May 12, 2008. The event marked the anniversary of the Mass celebrated there by Fray Padilla.
— written by Robert Plocheck, associate editor, for the Texas Almanac 2010–2011.