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The History of Goliad
History runs deep in Texas, a state that has seen at least six national flags wave in her breezes down through the years. But perhaps no place in the Lone Star State can lay claim to more historical twists and turns than in the history-rich community of Goliad in the Coastal Bend region.
The county seat of Goliad County, the community originated as one of the oldest Spanish colonial municipalities in the state. In the mid 18th century the Spanish government sanctioned the construction of a new presidio, La Bahía, which was built on a hill near the San Antonio river where sand, limestone, and timber were abundant. Around the presidio walls grew the settlement of La Bahía, and on the opposite bank stood Mission Espíritu Santo.
According to the Handbook of Texas, the fort supplied Spanish men-at-arms to the army of Bernardo de Gálvez in the American colonists' war against the British between 1779 and 1782, garrisoned Spanish troops throughout the 1810-21 Mexican war of independence, and after 1812 saw four separate attempts to establish Texas independence. In the longest siege in American military history, the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition captured La Bahía and held it for the first "Republic of Texas" from November 1812 until February 1813.
Goliad is situated just 90 miles east of San Antonio and 80 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. The community is one of the three oldest cities in Texas and has one of the oldest churches in the United States. It was the birthplace of one of Mexico's most famous generals and national heroes, who eventually led the Mexican nation in their fight for independence from France. But perhaps most importantly, the very soil here runs deep with the blood, sweat and tears of sacrifice that gave birth to the Republic of Texas.
Though nine different nations have flown their flags over the Presidio of Goalie, there is no question about this town's important role in founding Texas as a nation. On Dec. 20, 1835, the first Texas Declaration of Independence was signed here. However, independence came at a great price for soldiers at Goliad. In one of the most tragic days in Texas history, Col. James Fannin, Jr. and 382 of his soldiers were massacred by order of Mexican General and dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Their execution was handled in such a barbaric and sadistic manner that it was probably the single act that most ignited the fire under the Texans fight for freedom. The loss of life in one day at Goliad was larger than the battle of the Alamo and San Jacinto combined. It was this event that inspired the battle cry "Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad."
Modern day Goliad, while the product of it tumultuous history, stands in marked contrast to those early days of turmoil. A pleasant, agriculture-based community, there's always a friendly face to greet you on its pristine and award-winning Main Street. Goliad is the smallest town in Texas to be selected for the Main Street Program in 1984, and the Courthouse Square Historic District is one of the most complete examples of early Texas Settlements.
The town is primarily based on oil, agribusiness, and cattle, but tourism is also a vital component. The moderate climate provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and rich grasslands for ranching. Landscape is an important historical resource in the area, from the plants and animals that thrive there to modern day roadways that follow centuries-old trade routes. Giant oak trees dominate the grassy landscape which traditionally were given to grazing herds of cattle and horses. The San Antonio River flows through Goliad and provides both scenic and recreational activities.
Must See Attractions:
Presidio La Bahia, which means fort on the bay in Spanish, dates back to 1721 and has a long and interesting history that is worth further research which you'll find at the excellent site linked here. It is interesting to note that long before it's association with Texas Independence it was the only community West of the Mississippi River to have participated in the American Revolution in 1776. Soldiers from Presidio La Bahia assisted the Spanish army in fighting the British along the Gulf Coast during the American Revolution.
Our Lady of Loreta Chapel which is located within the Presidio is actually the oldest building in the compound built in the 1700's, it is also one of the oldest churches in the country. The chapel was built for the soldiers and Spanish settlers of the region. The architecture of the building has some interesting features including it's original "groin vaulted ceiling", the only one in existence today. Many artists through the years have been inspired by the chapels stark beauty and important history and wished to contribute to the chapel. Lincoln Borglum who designed and built Mt. Rushmore created a small bronze of the "Lady of Loreta" and she sits within the chapel. Also noted Corpus Christi Artist, Antonio Garcia, known as the "Michelangelo of South Texas" painted a beautiful fresco at the back of the altar in 1946. The church is not merely a historical site but has continued to serve the community as a church since it's inception.
Fannin Plaza Park This city park is located in the center of town with it's 1800's county courthouse as the heart of it's focus. Goliad's Courthouse Square Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The plaza park includes a couple of Texas Revolutionary canons used by Fannin and his men, a children's fort play area, "The Hanging Tree", the oldest Masonic Lodge in the state of Texas, "The Baptist Tree" which is the birth place of the first Baptist church west of the Guadalupe River and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church considered by some to be the most beautiful small church in the state of Texas. The Market House Museum is also on the square and is operated by the Goliad Historical Commission. The museum houses documents, pictures, household items and farm equipment circa 1840 to World War II.
Grave of Col. James Fannin and Men It's hard to believe this sacred site was once lost in history if not for the efforts of a local merchant in 1858 who simply piled rocks in the area to keep wildlife and people from trampling the grounds. It wasn't until 1936 that the state built the beautiful pink granite marble memorial you see today. The memorial is located two miles south of Goliad off U.S. 183, a few hundred yards from Presidio La Bahía.
Mexican Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza Birthplace this site is also located next to Presidio La Bahia. You've heard of the national Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo... which is also celebrated annually in several Texas cities. We credit this holiday to General Zaragoza when he defeated the French army and ended their rule in Central Mexico. General Zaragoza is still regarded today as one of Mexico's greatest heros.
Goliad State Park The park serves as a jumping off point for the many historical points in the area and sits on the San Antonio River. Visitors can participate in many outdoor activities including camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating (no ramps provided for river access), swimming (a junior Olympic swimming pool, operated by the City of Goliad is across from the park), nature study, and historical study.
Goliad Chamber of Commerce
Texas Coastal Bend.org - This is a great site for information on Goliad as well as many other Coastal Bend communities you'll want to visit. You'll also find information about hotels, restaurants, and RV campgrounds here.