Exploring Deep Texas History in Goliad
We're starting the new year doing what we like most, exploring history. And here in South Texas, there's plenty of it. Our primary destination for this part of our trip took us to Goliad County, but of course we found a gem or two along the way, like the old town of Dime Box.
The town started a few miles away as a sawmill built by settler Joseph Brown sometime in the early 1870s. Known as Brown's Mill, local residents would put their outgoing mail in a box in Brown's office, along with a dime, for weekly delivery to Giddings, twelve miles to the southwest. An official post office was opened in 1877 but was closed for a short while in December of 1883. After it reopened that next spring, confusion between the town's name of Brown's Mill and another Texas city, Brownsville, led the small community to rename itself Dime Box.
The town moved three miles to its location on what is now farm road 141 after the Southern Pacific Railroad built a line in 1913. The original location, on State Highway 21, is now called Old Dime Box. At its peak, Dime Box had about 500 residents and today continues to be a laid-back, unincorporated, small Texas town full of charm and memories with a population of around 300.
See more of Texas Hill Country in our galleries here.
After passing through Giddings, burial place of vicious gunslinger Bill Longley, we pressed on to our destination of Goliad. Our first stop was between Victoria and Goliad, just off U.S. 59 (future I-69 at the time of this writing) at the site of the Battle of Coleto.
After the fall of the Alamo in March of 1836 during Texas' bid for independence from Mexico, General Sam Houston ordered Colonel James Walker Fannin and his 400 men to retreat from the Presidio La Bahia at Goliad to Victoria. On March 19, during their retreat, Fannin and his men were overtaken by a large Mexican force near Coleto Creek.
After making a valiant stand, the remaining Texan's surrendered, believing they would be treated as prisoners of war of a civilized nation. Instead, they were taken back to the Presidio La Bahia, and on Palm Sunday, March 27, most were slaughtered in what is now known as the Goliad Massacre. Some escaped and a few were spared after a Mexican woman known as the "Angel of Goliad" convinced a Mexican Colonel not to kill approximately 20 captives, including two doctors, along with orderlies and interpreters. In the end, between the battle and the massacre, almost 350 Texan's perished. With the defeat at the Alamo fresh on their minds, and the atrocity of Goliad, Texan resistance against Mexico was hardened and led to the battle cry "Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad" (also "Remember La Bahia").
In May, the Texan army would return to Goliad, and under the direction of General Thomas Rusk, would gather the bones of the men slaughtered by the Mexican Army. On June 3, 1836, the bones were carried in procession from the Presidio La Bahia and given a military funeral. Today the grave is marked by the Fannin Monument close to the Presidio.
Read more about the Battle of Coleto and the Goliad Massacre Here.
The Presidio La Bahia is the military fortress built by the Spanish to protect Missions in South Texas, including Mission Espiritu Santo just across the San Antonio River.
There is a rich history here dating back to the 1700s, and several flags have flown over the Presidio as the land changed hands during various conflicts, including its crucial role during the Texas Revolution.
As both a State and national landmark, Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía and its chapel are now a popular attraction. The Chapel of Our Lady of Loreto is one of the oldest extant churches in the United States and has been continually operated by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria, Texas since 1853.
The Presidio de la Bahia also houses a history museum within the old officers' quarters. The museum offers exhibits, artifacts, and an award-winning documentary movie. Another favorite is the annual living history program, a series of reenactments that takes place each March to mark the tragic events of 1836.
Today the military compound, including the chapel, has been carefully restored to its 1836 appearance and is an important reminder of the influence of Spanish and Mexican culture on the United States.
Right beside the Presidio, you'll find the birthplace of General Ignacio Zaragoza. General Zaragoza assumed command of the rag-tag Mexican Army and welded it into a staunch fighting force, which met and defeated the French on May 5, 1862, in the Battle of Puebla, against Napoleon III's invading army (now celebrated as Cinco de Mayo in both the U.S. and Mexico).
Read more about the Presidio de la Bahia, also known as Fort Goliad, Here.
Coming out of Goliad, just before crossing the river and reaching the Presidio, be sure to stop in at Goliad State Park, home to the reconstructed Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, also known as Aranama Mission or Mission La Bahia.
The Mission, established by the Spanish in 1722 on Matagorda Bay, moved here in 1749. Educating and serving the tribes of the Aranama, Piguique, Manos de Perro, Tamique, Tawakoni, and Tonkawa to great success proved destructive for the tribes' traditional way of life. In return for food, shelter, and protection from more aggressive tribes, they agreed to live in the mission and follow its discipline and religion, which resulted in the gradual erosion and eventual destruction of their traditional tribal culture.
By the 1830s most of the Christianized Indians had left and the mission which was facing opposition from raiding Apache and Comanche. These conditions coupled with a lack of money and political turmoil in Texas forced the mission to close in 1830.
The mission itself became part of the City of Goliad and the old mission's stones were allowed to be removed and used for local construction.
Goliad, TX - Mission Espirtu Santo - Wall DetailFound over one of the side doors into the Mission. The skull and crossbones are common at old Spanish Missions, indicating the grounds act as a cemetery, in which many of the markers of wood crosses have been lost in time.
The mission ruins became part of the newly created Goliad State Park in 1931. In 1933, the Civil Works Administration with funds provided by the Works Progress Administration began reconstruction of the stone chapel and granary, which were completed in 1941. Additional construction in the 1960s and 1980s brought the mission back to its 1749 appearance. During the 1970s, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rehabilitated the chapel and built exhibits in the restored granary.
Read more about Mission Espiritu Santo HERE.
The community that grew around the Presidio and Mission was originally known as La Bahia. In 1829 the name was changed to Goliad, believed to be an anagram of Hidalgo, minus the "H".
The history beyond Spanish and Mexican control includes the fact that Texas gunfighter John King Fisher once lived here. In fact, he was arrested for breaking into a house before moving on.
The existing Goliad County Courthouse, erected in 1894 and later expanded, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
You'll also find the Hanging Tree on the Courthouse grounds, where court sessions between 1846 and 1870 were held. Death penalties were carried out immediately back then.
Besides its troubled times during wars, the city of Goliad suffered greatly in 1902 when a devastating tornado killed 114, including then sheriff Robert Shaw. It's tied as the deadliest twister in Texas History and is currently (2017) the nation's 10th deadliest on record.
We greatly enjoyed our stay in one of the oldest Counties in Texas, and encourage everyone with a love of early American History to visit Goliad.
Here are some more images from our adventure in Goliad. All are available for prints and downloads HERE.
Keywords: Fannin Battle Field, Goliad, Goliad State Park, history, massacre, missions, photos, Presidio La Bahia, texas, travel
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