Labor Day Weekend Scott and I traveled to the Austin-Bastrop area to visit our friends John and Faye, but also to mark off a few more Texas State Parks. On Friday we had spent the day around the city of Bastrop and visited the two parks called the Lost Pines; Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park. It was a wonderful time and really made me feel appreciative of the people who worked tirelessly to save them from total destruction of fire.
Saturday morning we got up and made plans to visit two more parks. Leaving before we ate, we decided to find a place to have breakfast on our way to one of the two planned parks. A sign we passed said Gonzales was 22 miles ahead when Scott stated that he thought something historical happened in Gonzales, but wasn’t sure. As we neared the city, he remembered it was where the first battle of the Texas Revolution occurred. This caused a huge change in our plans; it had become a trip about Texas History.
Texas History is something both Scott and I have been interested in for quite some time. I think it is mostly because we are not originally from Texas and we did not actually learn this state’s history in school. It was not shoved down our throats so we feel as if it is our choice to learn it. What I love most is to find out what historical thing has happened that has impacted this country and why it matters to me as an American and now a Texas Transplant.
While eating breakfast at the Rodeo Restaurant, an authentic Mexican restaurant, we made some decisions about what our sudden travel plans were. There was so much to see and learn about in Gonzales considering this was where the first Texas Revolution battle happened. We decided to do as much as we could until noon and then we would travel down to Goliad for the rest of the day. There we would visit Goliad State Park and Presidio la Bahia. This would give us a Texas State Park to mark off, many more counties to cross, and history to visit.
Gonzales is one of those towns with the County Courthouse in the center of town and the downtown circling it on the four streets around it. It is full of Texas Revolutionary history, pioneer history, and Civil War history. You can see proof of all this by just walking around an eight block area of the courthouse. Here you will find a large statue dedicated to those who were the Old Gonzales 18 (the 18 men who stayed behind to battle Santa Anna’s men), the Immortal 32 (the 32 men who, after the Gonzales Battle, went to the Alamo to fight), as well as the wives and daughters (those who created the first battle flag of Texas). This was the history we had come to see, to witness, to remember.
We went from the the square to the Gonzales Memorial Museum where, we had been told, that the actual “Come and Take It” cannon was housed. We drove to the other side of town with only forty-five minutes to spare before they closed for the weekend.
This Cordova cream limestone building was built in 1936 for the Centennial of the Texas Revolution. It was one of many, many, many buildings, statues, and monuments built with the Cordova cream limestone which was only used for this special date in Texas history. Within the fossil covered stone walls you will find artifacts from the Texians who fought for Texas to be a free nation, but the most treasured by Gonzales people is the actual cannon Santa Anna tried to take from the town in 1835.
No, it may not look like much, but for those 18 men who stood against the Mexican army it was a huge issue. Four years prior to this instant in time, the Mexican government had given the town of Gonzales a cannon to protect them against the Comanche attacks. Since that time, the Mexican government had begun to show their true colors and were doing what they could to push out the Texians. Due to a government authority change there had been extremely high duties placed upon the colonists, an increase of military presence, and the seizing of a schooner loaded with supplies. The Texas colonists were angry and with the order for Santa Anna’s men to take the cannon was the last straw.
On October 1, 1835, the numbers grew from 18 men to 167. Because of the efforts of the original 18 men, there was no ferry for the Mexican Army to use to cross the Guadalupe River. There were comments made from one side of the river to other when, out from the Gonzales side a “Come and Take It” was shouted. It was from that shout the first Texas Revolution battle flag was created. The women of Gonzales took a silk wedding dress and made the flag with a cannon in the center with a Lone Star above it and the words “Come and Take It” below so the men would remember why they were fighting. Early in the morning hours on October 2, the men quietly crossed the river and settled themselves for battle.
Scott and I found the memorial commemorating this battle just outside of Cost, Texas. It is five miles south of Gonzales and is about a mile from where that very first shot was taken by the Texians of Gonzales. It too was put up during the centennial using the same Cordova limestone. Scott got out and took photos while I worked on our next move. That move was heading down to Goliad and finding some lunch.
We made it to Goliad, had a quick lunch, then headed to get the county courthouse. It, once again, was in the center of the downtown area with old buildings circling the courthouse. It is amazing to see these very old courthouses and the work they were built. There was so much true workmanship and care about it.
I am not sure what I was expecting at Goliad State Park; whatever it was, this was not it. There was a mission! This was the Mission Espiritu Santo that was established in 1749 and became a secular church in the 1930’s. It was just so strange to me to see this huge white mission sitting above the park headquarters. Many of the camping sites at this site were closed due to the recent flooding, but there were still plenty of spaces and they were rather well kept.
The park has worked very hard to keep the items in the mission and decorations painted on the walls to be what was actually found there or from the missions in the same time period. Not only have they been able to create a very good replica of what the mission sanctuary looked like, but they created a very nice museum with dioramas.
As I was discussing this being a Texas Revolution History trip, we had decided to visit Goliad because of the battle that happened the following February after the battle in Gonzales. The state park was not the actual location of the Goliad battle, it was about half a mile south of the park at the Presidio la Bahia. At one point there had been a battle after the Alamo fell near Fannin, Texas. The Texas men that were taken prisoner were force marched back to Presidio la Bahia and eventually massacred there. I often wonder how many of those souls still wonder about the rebuilt ruins.
Visiting the Presidio was such an amazing thing to me because for such a long time I had heard the cry, “Remember The Alamo! Remember Goliad!” to spur on the men fighting the battle of San Jacinto. We are all taught about the cry “Remember the Alamo!” but rarely are we taught about the massacre at Goliad. Yes, the Alamo was a massacre as well, but we are all taught about it and taught to remember each of the heros.
After visiting the the town of Goliad, Goliad State Park and the Presidio la Bahia, we headed back towards Bastrop. On the way we found we were only a couple of minutes from where the Battle of Fannin happened so we made a quick stop. Here we found something very interesting; we found a Texas Historical Commission site called Fannin Battlegrounds.
We found a found area with sidewalks from the north, south, east and west leading to the monument. Unfortunately it was beginning to rain and we did not get out to walk towards the monument. However, Scott was able to take a few photos of the grounds. There was a pavilion built and a bandstand for the Centennial to help honor the men of the Fannin battle as well as those massacred in Goliad.
This trip was something that had a bit of surprise for me. While we were visiting the Presidio la Bahia we came across a plaque with the names of the 300 men who died there as a result of the prisoner massacre. On this plaque were two names that caught my attention because if is a family name; Ellis.
Those names are James and Michael Ellis. Unfortunately, these men are not direct descendants, but they are distant cousins on my mother’s father’s side. This however, was not the only pleasant surprise for me on this trip.
We had only spent a few moments at the Fannin Battleground Historic Site, but turns out there is a second connection to Fannin other than the Ellis Boys. Even though it was many, many years later, my grandfather’s father was born in Fannin, Texas. I was elated! I have always wanted to be a true Texan, and here is link. I will not be able to become a Daughter of the Texas Republic, but I am a TEXAN and that is important.