by Michael R. Hardwick
In the latter half of the eighteenth century frontier conditions in northern
New Spain had deteriorated to such an extent as a result of Indian
depredations, management of presidios etc., that the Spanish crown found it
necessary to order an examination of the entire frontier with the view of
relocating presidios and making whatever other adjustments might be
necessary to prevent further abandonment of the frontier settlements. The
Marques de Rubi was given the assignment of investigating this problem.
He began his investigation in 1766. Royal engineers Nicolas de La Fora
and Joseph de Urrutia assisted Rubi by drawing plans of presidios and
drafting maps of the area traversed.
As a result of the Rubi recommendations, a new line of defense was
established, uniform fortification plans were prescribed, and numerous
changes were made in regulations governing military personnel. The new
line of fortifications was to be composed of some fifteen presidios situated
at about 40 league (or 120 mile) intervals extending from the Gulf of
California on the west to the Gulf of Mexico on the east along what is now
approximately the northern boundary of Mexico. The order implementing
the realignment of the Presidios of the Frontier Line was published in
1772: REGLAMENTO e instrucción para los presidios que se han de
formar EN LA LINEA DE FRONTERA de la Nueva España.
Hugo O'Conor was named to the post of Commander-Inspector of the
military forces of the frontier provinces and took over the command on 17
February 1772. Between 1773 and 1775, O'Conor succeeded in relocating
12 presidios that had to be moved and added two others. Detachments of
troops were ordered to be stationed at San Antiono de Bejar and Arroyo
del Cibolo in Texas. These however were not considered to be Presidios of
the Frontier Line. (pp 7-8, Spanish Presidios of the Late Eighteenth
Century in Northern New Spain, Rex E. Gerald, Museum of New Mexico
Research Records No. 7, Santa Fe, 1968).
Presidios of the Frontier Line (from west to east):
Santa Gertrudis del Altar, founded 1755 with 30 soldiers from the
of Sinaloa. Presidio was designed to restrain the Seris, Pimas and Papagos.
Tubac, founded 1753 following the Pima uprising of 1751. The garrison
moved to Tucson in 1777.
Terrenate, founded 1742 southwest of Huachuca mountains Sonora.
1775 Santa Cruz de Terrenate was relocated near what is now Fairbank
Arizona. Apache Indian attacks forced relocation of the of the presidio
again in 1780 to a site near the arroyo of Las Nutrias.
Fronteras, originally founded in 1692. It was located for a while
to the north
in the San Berardino Valley, possibly in Arizona. Later in 1780 it was
moved south by Teodoro de Croix.
Janos, founded 1690.
San Buenaventura, founded in 1776 by troops from Guajoquilla.
El Paso del Norte, founded as a result of the Revolt of 1680 in
Mexico. Spaniards moved downriver (southward) and founded presidio at
the site of present Juarez, Chihuahua. Presidio was constructed in 1683. In
1773, because the town of El Paso was well populated and could defend
itself, the presidio was moved southward to Carrizal.
Guajoquilla, erected in 1752 on orders from the Viceroy Revilla
Later known as San Eleazario.
Julimes, located in 1777 at the former site of the presidio of La
the confluence of the Conchos and Del Norte (Rio Grande) rivers.
Cerro Gordo, founded after 1772 as part of the new frontier defense.
San Saba, San Saba-Aguaverde was founded in the new presidial line
Santa Rosa del Sacrament, now Ciudad Melcho Muzquiz, Coahuila. It
moved north after 1772.
Monclova, founded in 1674. The villa or town of Monclova was the
of Coahuila in 1780. At that time the presidio was located to the east
nearer the Rio Grande.
San Juan Bautista, found in 1699.
La Bahia del Espiritu Santo, founded in 1772 as the last and easternmost
presidio of the line. The original site was where Fort St. Louis stood on
Matagorda Bay. It was moved in 1726 to the Guadalupe River and later
removed to the north bank of the San Antonio River at the site of the
present town of Goliad, Texas.
San Antonio de Bejar, founded May 5, 1718 was not considered a presidio
of the line, but it was defended by a detachment according to the
regulations of 1772.
Arroyo del Cibolo, founded in 1771 as a detachment site. Presidio
deactivated in 1782 at orders of Teodoro de Croix, (pp.94,95, Lancers for
the King, Brinckerhoff amd Faulk, Phoenix, 1965).