Mission Espiritu/ Presidio La Bahia- Goliad State Park and Historical Site, Goliad, Goliad County, Texas

Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

I am a hiker, momma is not but from time to time we find a place that we both enjoy. This time out it was Goliad State Park and Historical Site in Goliad Texas.

We have been in the pandemic now for a few months. Now imagine my surprise when momma said I want to take a daytrip and suggested a state park. Whaaaaat! She said she wanted to go to Goliad.

Texas history is a little more modern then that of the rest of the country as Texas didn’t exist as an English speaking place until 1836. But there is still a lot of places from the time of Spanish/Mexican rule. How did we get so many English speaking people in Texas. Well the Spanish/Mexican government was having a hard time getting their people to settle in the Indian infested area, so they began to offer land to all who would come with a few stipulations. One had to swear allegiance to the Mexican government and convert to Roman Catholicism. And you had to actually be present on your land.

Now, everyone has heard of the Alamo and the stand that the Texans made there. Of lesser notoriety is Goliad and Gonzales in east Texas.

By Daniel Mayer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1792100

Surely you have seen the flag pictured above, the Come and Take it Flag. This flag flew over the Texas army before the Alamo. Santa Ana had given the settlers at Gonzales a small cannon as protection against hostile Indians. When trouble and unrest started among the Texicans, Santa Ana sent an army to retrieve the cannon. The Texicans of Gonzales held off the Mexican army and retained their cannon. This is generally thought of as the first battle of the Texas Revolution.

Stationed at Goliad under Colonel James Fannin was another army of Texicans who unfortunately were not so lucky. They were captured by the Mexican army and put to death; known as the Goliad Massacre.

The affair at Goliad started when Jim Fannin and others planned a capture of Mexican General Martin Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law. Although Cos had already left Goliad to lay siege to San Antonio. Fannin’s men captured La Bahia and renamed it Fort Defiance. Fannin was ordered to help relieve the siege at the Alamo but waited too long to abandon Goliad. Mexican troops under Jose de Urrea caught Fannin’s forces out in the Prairie near Coleto Creek. The Texans fought courageously in the open prairie, but lack of water forced them to surrender on the second day of the battle. General Urrea attempted to secure honorable terms, but Santa Anna ordered all combatants to be executed as pirates and enemies of the state. The men were marched out from La Bahia under false pretenses of collecting firewood, driving cattle and even marching to Matamoros for their release back to New Orleans. Away from town the men were lined up and gunned down.

The Fannin Memorial

Although the Texicans were marched out of town before being shot the bodies were later retrieved and buried in a mass gravenow located under the Fannin Memorial. The Massacre at Goliad actually took more lives then the battle at the Alamo.

Now about the Mission Espiritu Santo. This is one of the oldest missions in Texas. Although not always located in Goliad it was eventually moved there in 1749.

Officially named Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga it was first established at Matagorda Bay in 1722. The Mission and Presidio were constructed to protect Spanish claims in the New World from French intrusion. Later after the move to Goliad the mission of the Mission changed to that of Christianizing the Karankawa and Aranama Indians.

At one time just a wreck of a structure, Company 3822 (V) of the Civilian Conservation Corps with funding from the Works Progress Administration, revived the property, from 1933 to 1941, to what it is today. The church was cannibalized for wood, brick and artifacts before restoration

Mission Espiritu Santo
Interior Mission Espiritu Santo

Next to the Mission Espiritu Santo is the Presidio La Bahia. The mission served the local Indians and attempted to Christianize them. The Presidio was nothing more then the barracks of the soldiers who guarded the mission and the San Antonio River crossing of the Camino La Bahia.

Mission Espiritu Santo became one of the first and largest cattle ranches in Texas. It’s vaqueros even drove cattle to Louisiana to supply meat to the American Army during the American Revolution for Independence.

But sadly the Mission also contributed vastly to the destruction of the Karankawa and Aranama cultures.

The Presidio La Bahia contains The Lady of Loreto Chapel which is one of the oldest, continuously operating church congregations in America. Part of the Archdiocese of Victoria Texas , Mass is still held every Sunday at 5PM.

Presidio La Bahia and Lady of Loreto Chapel

Above the door is a statute of Lady of Loreto sculpted by Lincoln Borglum. Lincoln Borglum is the son of Gutzon Borglum who designed and started Mt Rushmore in South Dakota. Lincoln actually finished the Mountain after the death of his father.

Statute of Lady of Loreto

Inside the Chapel is beautiful. It was carefully renovated in the 1960’s.

During the Texas Revolution the Presidio was captured by the Texicans and renamed Fort Defiance. Unfortunately these same Texicans were imprisoned in the presidio before being marched out of town and massacred.

Lady of Loreto Chapel today
This beautiful Fresco was painted by Antonio Garcia in 1946

Later on we found the barracks of the presidio. What was striking there was that each bunk also had a gun port for firing outside the fort.

Firing port behind each bunk
Presidio La Bahia
Lady of Loreto Church

Another great historical trip.

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