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Coronado Sword

Spanish sword (top blade) displayed in the  museum's main gallery

Sometimes an artifact isn't what it seems to be. This is the story of one such object, a sword people wanted to believe was associated with a Spanish explorer.

In 1886 a man found a sword blade 30 miles northwest of Cimarron, Kansas. About 15 years later he made the following statement to a Notary Public about how he had acquired the blade:

"John T. Clark, of lawful age and sound mind and memory, being by me duly sworn, deposes and says, that in the year 1886 there was found on the prairie, in what was then Finney county, an old sword, partly concealed in the grass-roots and was much rusted, which, when rust was removed by scouring with brick dust, was found to bear this inscription, written in two parallel grooves running from hilt toward the point:
'No me saques sin razon; no me enbaines sin honor.'
"This sword was about thirty inches in length and one and one-half in width at the hilt. Sides, or edges, blunt. Point sharpened to a length of perhaps three inches. No handle or other parts found. Etching on sword and some script words written across broad end of sword, apparently proper nouns. Sword is quite flexible, very resonant, and exceedingly hard. Each side of the blade is an exact duplicate of the other, including motto, etching, grooves, etc. The place of finding was near the head waters of the Pawnee, close to the north line of Finney county, and nearly due north of the town of Ingalls, on the Santa Fe railroad. . . ."

The blade's inscription - a phrase found on Spanish swords for many years - translates to "Draw me not without reason; sheath me not without honor." Also inscribed on the sword was text that observers understood to be "Gallego." By luck, a Juan Gallego was an officer in the 1540-1541 expedition commanded by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, and the sword quickly was taken as proof of the explorer's presence in what is now Kansas.

The blade's discoverer turned it over to W.E. Richey of Harveyville, Kansas, in 1901. When Richey donated the sword to the Kansas Historical Society in 1923, the Coronado association was perpetuated in the museum exhibits.

Not until the 1980s were questions raised about the artifact. Sword experts quickly realized it was not a 16th century piece but an 18th century one, and therefore could not have been with Coronado on his expeditions into this part of the continent. What was thought to read "Gallego" also fell into question, and was reinterpreted as "Solingen," the name of a high-quality German sword maker whose product was sold throughout Europe. Examination also indicated that the sword never had a hilt, meaning it never saw use.

Instead of an artifact from the Coronado expedition, the blade is now believed to have been imported by the Spanish. Perhaps it was intended for army use or for trade, which may account for its discovery near the Santa Fe Trail, a major U.S. - Mexico trade route for many years.

Although the Kansas Museum of History no longer has a sword associated with the renowned explorer Coronado, it does have an artifact testifying to the Spanish influence in North America in general and Kansas in particular.

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Entry: Coronado Sword

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1999

Date Modified: April 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.