In Florence things can go badly for the rich if they don't run the state. — Lorenzo de Medici

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Sky City

Although Onate cleverly escaped being murdered by the Indians in Acoma, another Spanish captain, Zaldivar, was less fortunate, a short time after. He and half his force imprudently ventured up on the rock; but instead of staying together, as Onate's troops had done, they scattered to view the strange place. The Indians took advantage of this to pounce upon their unsuspecting guests, at a given signal, and began killing them.

The Spaniards, clad in armor, defended themselves heroically; but many fell, and the last five were driven to the very edge of the rock and forced to jump down. But, strange to relate, only one of these men was killed. The others fell into a heap of fine sand, which the wind had piled up against the base of the great rock.

These men were promptly rescued by their comrades, who, knowing this attempt would be followed by a general attack upon all the missions, hastened back to warn Onate of his peril. After taking immediate measures to protect the priests, Onate sent a force of seventy men, under Zaldivar's brother, to punish the people of Acoma.

The Indians, warned of the Spaniards' coming, closely guarded their rocky staircases. When the second Zaldivar summoned them to surrender, they mocked him, bade their medicine men curse him, and flung showers of arrows and stones down upon him. The Spaniards, unable to reach their foes, were obliged to take refuge under the over-hanging rock to escape the missiles hurled down upon them.

All night long they heard the shrieks of the Indians. They were holding a monster war dance overhead, and fiercely illustrating the tortures they meant to make the Spaniards suffer the next day. This prospect, however, did not frighten Zaldivar's brave men, and while their foes shouted and danced, they made a clever plan to surprise the city.

Early the next day, Zaldivar and part of his force pretended to storm the north side of the rock. But while they were thus engaging the attention of the Indians, twelve of their number slowly crawled up a neighboring pinnacle of rock, dragging a small cannon after them. No one noticed what they were doing, and it was only when the cannon was in place, and the first stone ball came crashing into the adobe houses, that the Indians perceived their danger.

The rock upon which the Spaniards had planted their cannon was on a level with Acoma, separated from it by a chasm only a few feet wide but about three hundred feet deep. From this point the Spaniards shot ball after ball into the town. When night came on, they crept down again, cut several trees, dragged the trunks up to the top of their rock, and at dawn flung one of them across the abyss.

In spite of a hail of stones and arrows hurled by the Indians, twelve Spaniards rushed boldly across this dizzy bridge before the log was accidentally jerked out of place by one of their number. Cut off from their companions, and unable to retreat, these brave men were now in great danger, for they had to face all those raging savages alone.

Seeing their peril, one of their comrades drew back as far as he could on the outlying rock, and rushing forward took a flying leap across the chasm! By great good fortune he landed safely on the other side, drew the log into place once more, and thus enabled the other Spaniards to cross with their cannon.

One house after another was now battered down, and at the end of three days' hard fighting the Spaniards were complete masters of the Sky City of Acoma. But they soon left it, and many years later, when Fray Ramirez, a Spanish priest, came thither and began climbing the staircase, the Indians tried to keep him away by flinging a shower of stones down upon him.

Spanish priests, however, were ready to risk everything for the sake of their religion, so Fray Ramirez calmly continued to climb up. In the general excitement a little Indian girl drew too near to the edge of the rock, and, losing her balance, fell over! Although her people fancied she had fallen to the ground and been killed, she had only dropped to a narrow ledge, where they could not see her. Fray Ramirez, looking upward, saw the accident. Climbing carefully along the ledge, he picked up the little maiden, and soon reappeared on the staircase, carrying her on his shoulder.

The Indians, believing the child dead, now cried out that this was a miracle, and suddenly ceased throwing stones. When the priest reached the plateau they ran to meet him, listened quietly to his teachings, and even built a church in Acoma under his directions. And it is in memory of his coming among them that the stone stairway of Acoma is still known as the "Path of the Father."


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell