Spanish Fathers Visit Utah Valley in 1776.
On July 29, 1776, a Spanish expedition led by Fathers Francisco Dominguez and Silvestre Escalante left Santa Fe, New Mexico, in search of a northern route to Monterey, a new Spanish settlement in California.
The small, poorly armed expedition traveled northwestward through New Mexico and into what is now Colorado where they found guides to lead them to the Provo area and Utah Lake. They arrived on September 23, 1776, and named Utah Valley the “Valley of Our Lady of Mercy of Timpanogos” in honor of the Virgin Mary and the Timpanogots band of Utes who inhabited it.
The Spanish visited an Indian village near the mouth of the Provo River. They were welcomed as honored guests. Curious Utes from nearby areas soon filled the village, and the leaders met in Council.
Dominguez asked the Utes to furnish them with a guide. The Utes asked the Spanish to return and establish a permanent settlement and become their allies in their battles with the Shoshones. The Spanish agreed to return the following year. When the explorers prepared to leave after two days, the Utes said their farewells with great tenderness.
The Spanish expedition failed to reach Monterey. They returned to Santa Fe through Arizona with detailed information about the “lush, mountainous land filled with game and timber, strange ruins of stone cities and villages, and rivers showing signs of precious metals.”
There are three monuments in Utah Valley memorializing the visit of the Spanish in 1776: one in the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon; one in Spanish Fork City; and one in Provo in front of the historic Utah County Courthouse on University Avenue.