Vial, Pedro (c. 1746–1814)

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Vial, Pedro (c. 1746–1814)

Pedro Vial (b. ca. 1746; d. 1814), explorer and pathfinder of the Spanish Southwest. A native of Lyons, France, Vial spent his first years in the New World on the Missouri River, working as a gunsmith for various southwestern tribes. As part of the Spanish attempt to protect and strengthen the northern frontier, he was recruited to open three new roads connecting Santa Fe with Spanish outposts to the east. Commissioned by the Spanish governor of Texas, Vial established an overland communication route between San Antonio and Santa Fe in 1787. Under the auspices of the governor of New Mexico, he opened a second road from Santa Fe to Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1788. From 1792 to 1793 Vial blazed a third trail from Santa Fe to Saint Louis, traveling what later became the Santa Fe Trail. After these trailblazing excursions, Vial continued to work for the Spanish crown. He was enlisted to help protect Spain's claims to Texas and New Mexico against Anglo-American encroachment, and he led an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–1806. With his extensive knowledge of the Southwest, including its native tribes and languages, Vial was also a valuable guide and interpreter, serving in this capacity until his death in Santa Fe.

See alsoSanta Fe, New Mexico .


Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, vol. 5 (1942), pp. 150-170.

Noel M. Loomis and Abraham P. Nasatir, Pedro Vial and the Roads to Santa Fe (1967).

Additional Bibliography

John, Elizabeth A. H. Translated by Adán Benavides. "Inside the Comanchería, 1785: The Diary of Pedro Vial and Francisco Xavier Chaves." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 98, no. 1 (July 1994): 27-56.

Pace, Robert F., and Donald S. Frazier. Frontier Texas: History of a Borderland to 1880. Abilene, TX: State House Press, 2004.

                                       Suzanne B. Pasztor