COBWEB CORNERS: French were too late for Coronado

By Mel McFarland

       Up on the Mesa we have Coronado High School. It has special importance to me because that is where I started teaching. When the school opened, I was there as a student teacher. I learned I wanted to teach junior high school!
       The subject today is a bit about our history, including the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. The big mountain with the legendary boiling springs at its base had an attraction for the Spanish in Mexico. There were tales of cities of gold, and several expeditions were sent to find them. Coronado passed through what we call Southern Colorado in 1540. He traveled along the Arkansas River. His reports of the expedition were disappointing. The area was left to the natives with their mud buildings. It would be 40 years before the Spanish attempted any settlement.
       In 1598 a Spanish governmental community was established near an Indian village in present day northern New Mexico, commonly called Santa Fe. The city became a center of trade with the Indians. Several expeditions looked at routes between the other Spanish colonies at Santa Fe and California. By the 1630s, the Spanish throughout Mexico were firmly in control of the import of outside trade goods.
       The French were the first European rivals to the Spanish in the "new world." They settled farther north, except for explorations in Florida and Louisiana, laid claim to areas along the Mississippi River and then began venturing into the West. To make things worse for the Spanish, the French in the 1700s quietly spread the word about the Southwest's trade potential. In 1714 a Spanish military expedition traveled north to "persuade" French trappers to leave. But by 1800 the French had gained control of the land west of the Mississippi River and north of the Arkansas River. They left their marks on the area, a practice that was common to newcomers to the West. Names of many features, including "Cache la Poudre," reflect the influence of the French.
       You never know, had history been different, Coronado may have had a French name!