May 2, 2013 – Goliad, Floresville, Panna Maria, Helena and Runge, Texas
I slept in a little this morning and then did my blog entry from yesterday. It was close to 11 before I left here. It started to rain as I drove to Goliad. It rained steadily so I decided to eat lunch at the Hanging Tree restaurant in Goliad and hope that while I was eating that it would stop raining. It was a good plan because that is just what happened. The restaurant had a 50/50 burger – 50% hamburger and 50% bacon. It was really good.
After eating I went to the Presidio La Bahia which I have already described. The name means Fort by the Bay. La Bahia was the original name of Goliad. It was changed in 1829 to Goliad which is an anagram for Hidalgo – the patriot priest of the Mexican Revolution Father Miguel Hidalgo. It was the 2d largest populated settlement in Spanish Texas. Even though the Presidio was an inland frontier fort, it was responsible for the defense of the coastal area and eastern province of Texas after the presidios at Los Adaes and Orocoquisac were abandoned.
The soldiers from the Presidio La Bahia assisted the Spanish army fighting the British off the Gulf Coast during the American Revolution. This action gives Goliad the distinction of being one of the only communities west of the Mississippi River to have participated in the American Revolution.
The soldiers of the Presidio La Bahia are credited with originating the cattle industry in American.
On October 9, 1835 a group of Texas citizens attacked the Mexican garrison and took possession of the fort. The 1st Declaration of Texas Independence was formally declared at the Presidio on December 20, 1835. It was signed by 92 citizens and distributed throughout other Texas municipalities. The 1st flag of Teas Independence was flown over the Presidio. It was a bloody right arm holding a sword. It represented the feeling that the Texans would rather cut off their right arm than live under Mexican rule.
The darkest day in Texas history, the Goliad Massacre, took place on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836 when Col. James Walker Fannin and 341 men were executed a week after their capture. There was twice as much loss of life at Goliad as there was at the Battle of the Alamo.
The Presidio is a fort and not a mission. The chapel was erected in the quadrangle for the sole use of the soldiers and Spanish settlers living in the town of La Bahia which surrounded the fort. It is the oldest building in the compound and has been in continuous use since the 1700s.
It is one of the oldest churches in America and is one of the only buildings in existence that has its original “groin vaulted ceiling” in place. The fresco behind the altar was done in 1946 by the “Michelangelo of South Texas” Antonio Garcia. Located in the niche above the chapel entrance is the statue of Our Lady of Loreto sculpted by Lincoln Borghum of Mt. Rushmore fame.
Fannin and his men were held in the chapel during their captivity prior to the massacre. The 1st Declaration of Teas Independence was signed on the altar inside the chapel.
After the Texas Revolution of 1836, the chapel was still used despite the rest of the fort falling into disrepair. At one time, it was temporarily used as a private residence. An act of the Republic of Texas in 1841 restored church properties confiscated by the Republic. It was not until 1855 that the 1st non-Hispanic Bishop of Texas received title from the town council of Goliad.
The next stop was Floresville to visit the Rancho de las Cabras. In 1731, Mission San Francisco de la Espada was re-established on the San Antonio River. Espada’s grazing lands became known as Rancho de las Cabras (Goat Ranch). It is just ruins and can’t be seen from the road.
The next stop was Panna Maria (Polish for Virgin Mary). It is the oldest permanent Polish settlement in America. It was established in December 1854. Because of their deep devotion to the Virgin Mary, they named their town for her. The early years were difficult as the settlers were plagued by disease, climate extremes and outlaws. Neighboring cowboys often ridiculed the strange non-English speaking people. The 1st Polish school in the US was established here and other settlements sprang up from this one.
The cross on the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was carried from Poland by the original colonists. During the renovation of the Church in 2000, the old painted ceiling was restored. I did not get to go into the Church as there was some kind of service or gathering going on. There was a hearse parked in front of the church but it was 4 p.m. so I don’t think it was a funeral. It might have been a visitation though. The “town” now consists of maybe half a dozen houses, a school, the church and a Bed and Breakfast. Since there is no funeral home anywhere close, they maybe were having the visitation in the church.
The next stop was Helena which is billed as a ghost town. There are about a dozen houses, a gas station and a restaurant there which makes it less of a ghost town than Panna Maria which is smaller and has no commercial ventures and which is not billed as a ghost town. Helena was killed by one gunfight too many. The town was established in 1852 near the Chihuahua Tail and the Indianola-San Antonio Road. During a saloon shooting one night in 1884, 20-year-old Emmett Butler, son of the area’s wealthiest rancher, was killed. Unable to determine who fired the fatal shot as no one in town would talk or fess up as to who killed his son, Butler vowed to kill the town. The railroad was building lines across south Texas. Butler gave the railroad land which was located miles away from Helena if they would bypass the town. Other towns sprang up along the railroad lines and prospered. Helena lost its role as county seat and effectively the town was killed as Butler promised. All that is left of the original town is the old courthouse, post office, a farm house and a barn.
The courthouse is a museum which was not open today so I did not get to see Black Diamond’s leg complete with bullet holes. Black Diamond was a killer elephant. He was the largest captive Indian elephant (9 tons) in 1929 who lived with a circus. He was prone to fits of temper and in October, 1929, he went on a rampage injuring his former trainer and killing another person. This was not the 1st person he had killed so after he was recaptured he was deemed too dangerous to continue with the circus. It was decided to put him down. There were several methods advanced but none seemed workable due to his large size. Finally, the decision was made to shoot him. It took as many as 50 and perhaps more than 100 bullets to kill him.
The last stop of the day was in Runge. I had to take a picture of the town sign because the University Architect at Emporia State University is Mark Runge. I’m going to send him the picture to let him know that there is a town named for him.
After the morning rain, the wind came up and has been blowing hard all day. The temperature barely made it to 63 today, but at least we didn’t get 18” of snow like they did in Rochester, Minnesota.
Fun Business Names: Stepped in What Cattle Company; Dog E. House (dog grooming service); Futility Trenching Company; Fabian’s Snack Shack (when did he stop singing?)
Department of Transportation Signs: Drive Clean Across Texas – depends on where you put the emphasis as to what it means; Littering is unlawful