Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology




Site 41CE291 was visited by H. Perry Newell and A. T. Jackson in March 1940, and they made a small surface collection of artifacts at that time; the surface-collected artifacts are in the collections of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin (TARL). The site is on a large terrace of the Neches River, about 0.4 km east of the George C. Davis site (41CE19); the two sites are divided by a small valley of a southward-flowing spring-fed tributary of the Neches River; Forman Branch flows along the east side of this terrace.

Newell noted about the site that “A. T. Jackson and I found some fragments of what may possibly be Spanish bricks in a heavily wooded area near a spring, about a mile east of the mound,” the mound namely being Mound A at the George C. Davis site. Notes by Newell in the site file for 41CE291 provide more detail about the finds there, which he suggests are from a Spanish mission, namely Mission Nuestra Padre San Francisco de Tejas or San Francisco de los Nechas, occupied by Spanish missionaries from 1716-1719 and then again from 1721-1730.

Mission site on hill adjacent to spring (N) and prehistoric village to S of Branch. Mission site contains Spanish sherds and fragments of Spanish brick with a few flint artifacts. Old village some 200 yds. (S) shows no evidence of white contacts but has Indian potsherds and artifacts.

Newell further indicated that there was a shack standing on the mission site, and he provided a more detailed inventory of what he and Jackson noted or collected from the site. This included a few animal bones on the old Indian village site, as well as one end scraper, one side scraper, four projectile points, two plain rim sherds, two gouges, one punctated sherd, 28 combed [brushed] sherds, two Spanish sherds, nine incised sherds, four Spanish bricks, and 30 plain sherds.

In July 1969, George Kegley and Dan Witter surveyed the site while looking for other Caddo settlements that may be associated with the ca. A.D. 900-1300 occupation at the George C. Davis mound center. They noted that there was a stone marker on the terrace marking the site as the location of Mission San Francisco de Tejas or de los Nechas, but the collection of artifacts they gathered from the terrace (which was recorded at the time as 41CE54) did not contain any European artifacts, only Caddo sherds, Late Archaic to Woodland period dart points, lithic flakes, and ground stone tools.

Given that the location of Mission San Francisco de Tejas or de los Nechas has not been definitively located by archaeologists, I wanted to examine the collections gathered by Newell and Jackson in 1940 to determine what evidence they had found of Spanish use of 41CE291. If there were Spanish artifacts from 41CE291, their discovery may be the first real indication that the mission was on this Neches River terrace. At the same time, early 18th century Spanish ceramics (ca. 20 sherds from Puebla Blue on white majolica sherds from several vessels) and lead balls and lead shot have recently been rediscovered in the collections from the George C. Davis site from a place several hundred meters south of Mound A at the site, and this area may also be considered a possible location of Mission San Francisco de Tejas.

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