1768-1777: Building to the Karankawa-Spanish War

[1772] Bonilla’s Brief Compendium of the History of Texas (Breve Compendio) 

Author: Antonio Bonilla

Written In: 1772

Description: Spanish Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa ordered officer Antonio Bonilla to compile a nearly hundred-year history of the troublesome province of Texas. In fifteen days, Bonilla vigorously wrote a seventy-page document entitled A Brief Compendium of Events in the Province of Texas


(1) There exists a single offhand mention of the Karankawas in Bonilla’s history. It being the following: “The Carancaguazes Indians were asking to be brought into missions, allowances for ten soldiers were added to the Presidio of la Bahia del Espiritu Santo, in the year 1758; yet even to this day they abide in their heathenism, becoming apostates when the inclination ceases them.” [57]

(2) Bonilla’s work inspired a far more influential text: Father Juan Agustín Morfi’s History of Texas (See Morfi, 1783). Bonilla’s A Brief Compendium claims that that the colonization of Texas failed because of the incompetence of mission priests. Padre Morfi, an accomplished Franciscan friar, became so incensed upon reading Bonilla’s conclusion, that he spent the next decade writing his own history of Texas—this time blaming Indians, presidials, and the Spanish government for Texas’s failures. Morfi’s text is a particularly propagandized depiction of Karankawas.

Access: Antonio, Bonilla, “Bonilla’s Brief Compendium of the History of Texas, 1772.” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 8, no. 1 (July 1904): 3-78. 

Further Reading: I can not think of any, do you have ideas?

Tags: Missions

[1777-1783] Morfi’s Memorias para la Historia de Tejas and Historia de Texas: 1673-1779 and Morfi’s Historia

Author: Juan Agustín Morfi

Written in: 1777-1783

Description: Father Morfi wrote two histories of Texas: Memorias para la Historia de Texas and the Historia de Texas. Memorias, his first history, was a collection of documents that he planned to condense into a more concise history—Historia de Texas. He died before fully completing Historia but historian Carlos Castañeda published a rough draft in 1935. Of the two histories, Memorias has far more information on Texas’s Native Peoples.

Morfi wrote his history during the Karankawa-Spanish war. With that the case, Morfi found little issue depicting the Karankawas as demonic. But Father Morfi had never set foot in Karankawa territory. His only encounter with these coastal peoples likely occurred in San Antonio, with Copano mission Indians when he toured the northern borderlands with the new Commandant General of the Interior, Teodoro de Croix. Therefore, Morfi relied heavily on Father Gaspar de Solís’s 1767 journal for information on the Karankawas’ cultural practices (copying it word for word in instances). Nevertheless, Morfi does provide some unique information such as estimated population sizes.

Father Morfi’s histories have since become quite popular and set in stone the image of Karankawas as inherently hostile group. It mythologized the Karankawas as impossible to civilize—as a Peoples who “eat children.”


Juan Agustín Morfi, Excerpts from the Memorias for the history of the province of Texas: being a translation of those parts of the Memorias which particularly concern the various Indians of the province of Texas; their tribal divisions, characteristics, customs, traditions, superstitions, and all else of interest concerning them, trans. Carlos E. Castañeda and Frederick C Chabot (San Antonio: Naylor Publishing, 1932).

Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, v. 1, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 79-81, 93-94, 99-102, 121-139, 191-192.

Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, v. 2, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 243-244, 252-255, 300-301, 306-307, 338-340.

Further Reading: Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 15-43; Irving A. Leonard, review of History of Texas, 1673-1779 in The Hispanic American Historical Review 16, no. 2 (May, 1936): 229-232.

Tags: Cannibalism, Customs, Hunting, Migrations, Spirituality, Trade, War