Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Spire, Georg von

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

SPIRE, or SPEIER, Georg von, governor of Venezuela, b. in Spire, Germany, about 1496; d. in Coro, Venezuela, in 1540. He entered as a boy the banking-house of the famous Welsers, of Augsburg, and worked his way up as their confidential agent, accompanying in the latter capacity the fleet that was armed by the Welsers in 1528, and sent under Ambrosius von Alfinger to conquer Venezuela. Returning to Europe after Alfinger's death, Spire obtained from Charles V. the appointment of governor of Venezuela, despite the claims of Nicholas Federmann, who had been Alfinger's lieutenant. He armed a new expedition in Spain and the Canary islands, and on 22 Feb., 1534, landed at Coro. Against Welser's advice, Spire had appointed Federmann his lieutenant. In the following year, accompanied by 450 regular troops and 1,500 friendly Indians, they set out on a journey of exploration to the interior. After marching together for about 200 miles, they divided into two parties, agreeing to meet afterward. Spire experienced great hardships from hostile Indians, and the soldiers, unaccustomed to march under a burning sun, mutinied several times. When at last they reached the appointed place of meeting without finding any trace of Federmann, the soldiers were discouraged, but Spire animated them with the hope of discovering the riches of the “El Dorado,” of which the survivors of Alfinger's expedition had brought the first reports. They continued the march to the south, but, when the rainy season set in, the overflow of the rivers impeded progress, and the consequent fevers decimated their ranks. Spire persevered for a long time in his search for the El Dorado, until at last his progress was arrested by a mighty river, probably the Orinoco, or its confluent, the Apure, and early in 1539 he returned to Coro with only eighty ragged and sickly men out of the host he had led forth more than four years before. He set out immediately for Europe to lay his complaint against Federmann before the Welsers, but heard in Santo Domingo of the former's return to Spain, and was persuaded by the audiencia to return to his government, where he died soon afterward. Spire's narrative to Charles V., which he sent from Santo Domingo, is said to have been published, but no copy of it is known to exist. It is hoped that the manuscript may be among the papers in the archives at Simancas, of which the Spanish government has recently undertaken the publication.