Goliad County Courthouse, Goliad, Texas

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“Goliad County is on the Coastal Plain twenty-five miles inland from Copano Bay in Southeast Texas. It is bounded by Bee, DeWitt, Karnes, Refugio, and Victoria counties. Goliad, one of the oldest settlements in Texas, is the county seat and largest town.”

“Goliad County, one of the original counties of Texas, was established in 1836, organized in 1837, and named for the vast Mexican Municipality of Goliad. It embraces 859 square miles, most of which is nearly level to gently rolling Rio Grande Plain, surfaced primarily by dark calcareous clays and sandy and clay loams, though land surfaces in the northeastern part of the county are primarily sandy loams and sands.”

“Although Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca may have traversed the county about 1535, and René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, doubtless crossed it on his expeditions in 1685, the first European settlement was not established until 1749, when Nuestra Señora de Loreto Presidio and Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga Mission were moved from the Guadalupe River in what is now Victoria County to a site called Santa Dorotea on the San Antonio River. The Victoria site had been prosperous, but the Spanish colonizer José de Escandón moved the presidio and mission, more commonly known as La Bahía, to guard the main roads from Mexico to San Antonio de Béxar and East Texas, as part of the Spanish government’s attempt to stop French and English encroachment on Spanish-claimed territory in the New World.”

“La Bahía was also commercially important and received traffic via the Atascosito Road to East Texas, the La Bahía Road from Monclova, Coahuila, to Nacogdoches, and roads from Bexar and its port, El Cópano (Copano). La Bahía, Bexar, and Nacogdoches were the three most important areas of Spanish settlement in Texas.”

“Within six months La Bahía Presidio, located on the southwestern bank of the river, consisted of a large barrack and forty temporary houses for the garrison of twenty-nine Spanish soldiers and their families; the commander, Capt. Manuel Ramírez de la Piscina, had a stone house built at his expense. A church completed the garrison. The La Bahía mission, Espíritu Santo, constructed by Franciscans on the northeastern bank of the San Antonio River for Aranama and Tamique Indians, also had a number of buildings, including the stone church and friary and the Indian quarters, which by 1758 housed 178 men, women, and children, primarily Aranamas. The mission also owned 3,220 branded cattle, 120 horses, and 1,600 sheep. By 1778 the branded cattle belonging to the mission and neighboring La Bahía settlement numbered more than 15,000 head; many more remained unbranded, since Indian raids, often incited by English or American pioneers, made for infrequent roundups.”

“The Spanish governor of Texas, Juan Bautista Elguézabal, reported in 1803 that poverty prevailed generally in the province. La Bahía had a population of 618 soldiers and settlers, and Espíritu Santo, Rosario, and Refugio missions together had only 250 Aranama and Karankawa Indian residents. Funds for irrigation ditches were unavailable, so crops were few. Rosario and Refugio, both under La Bahía’s protection, were in a “deplorable state, having absolutely nothing with which to support their respective Indians.” La Bahía was in better shape, however, because of income and food generated through its extensive stock raising.”

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“In 1821, after the Mexican War of Independence, the Mexican government, fearful of encroachment from the United States, adopted a colonization program to populate Texas with Catholic Mexicans and Irish. Though La Bahía was not immediately affected by Stephen F. Austin‘s colony, the settlement and military garrison were directly important to De León’s colony at nearby Guadalupe Victoria to the northeast and to the Power and Hewetson colony at Refugio to the south. Indeed, the De León family increasingly influenced the ayuntamiento of La Bahía, and most of the La Bahía lands became part of the Power and Hewetson grant, which stipulated that the Labadeños or Badeños (La Bahía citizens) would be given special consideration as colonists.”

“In 1829, after a successful petition submitted to the Coahuila and Texas state legislature by Rafael A. Manchola, the Mexican government promoted Presidio La Bahía to a villa-a capital town with municipality jurisdiction-and changed its name to Goliad, an anagram of the surname of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the “Goliath” revolutionary in the Mexican War of Independence. The name “La Bahía” had become meaningless anyway, because the mission and presidio had not been located on “the bay” of Espíritu Santo since 1726. La Bahía had an extensive ayuntamiento as early as 1821. The new Municipality of Goliad comprised the vast territory bounded by the Nueces and Lavaca rivers, extending as well from the Gulf of Mexico to the municipality boundary of Béxar (see MEXICAN GOVERNMENT OF TEXAS).”

“In 1835–36 some of the most important events of the Texas Revolution occurred in the area that later became Goliad County. In 1835 Goliad was occupied by Santa Anna’s forces under Martín Perfecto de Cos but was captured and garrisoned by Anglo-Texan forces under George M. Collinsworth and Philip Dimmittthat became crucial in the defeat of Cos’s army in the siege of Bexar. The Goliad Declaration of Independence was also drafted and signed in 1835.”

“In 1836 the Mexican army under José de Urrea defeated James W. Fannin‘s Goliad command in the battle of Coleto, and subsequently the Texans were executed in one of the revolution’s most atrocious events, the Goliad MassacreVicente Filisola, who assumed command of the retreating Mexican army after Santa Anna’s defeat in the battle of San Jacinto, was overtaken just south of Goliad by Texas commissioners and made to ratify the surrender terms. In the first few years after the revolution, the Goliad area, having been directly in the war zone, was virtually deserted; many of the Mexican citizens retreated south with Filisola or were forced to flee by incoming Anglo-American settlers who bore bitter prejudice against all Mexicans, including Tejanos.”

“Goliad County became one of the twenty-three original counties established by the First Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1836. Resettlement was slow, primarily centered around the La Bahía-Goliad town, which remained the business center, but also at nearby areas that became the towns of Charco and Fannin. Also, Schroeder and Weesatche were settled by the German immigrations of the 1840s, which made Goliad County, like neighboring DeWitt and Victoria counties, a large area of German location.”

“Goliad during the republic was described by one resident as “a `wild, recky, Indiany looking place’…full of lawless men [who] would throw the rawhide on to [anyone] in a way that was a pity and a caution.” Indian raids were frequently perpetrated, especially by Lipan Apaches, Comanches, and Karankawas. The convergence of roads that underpinned Goliad’s historically strategic location also made the county vulnerable during the Mexican invasions of 1842, when Rafael Vásquez entered the county.”

“The boundaries of Goliad County as fixed on December 2, 1841, by the Sixth Congress of the republic were changed a number of times. Though the county had been enlarged in 1841, when the Refugio county line was adjusted, it was reduced under the republic by the establishment of DeWitt County in 1842 and further reduced under the state legislature by the organization of DeWitt County in 1846, the establishment of Karnes County in 1854, and the formation of Bee County in 1857. Goliad County was further diminished when the Victoria-Goliad county line was moved from Coleto Creek to the San Antonio River in 1861.”

“During the [Civil] war Goliad County, like many Texas counties, formed an aid association to help the Confederate cause. The Cotton Road from Matamoros to Refugio and Goliad to eastern Texas, probably the route followed by Urrea and Filisola during the revolution, and subsequently followed by Zachary Taylor‘s army during the Mexican War, took on increased importance as the Union blockade made overland trade to Mexico for supplies a necessity.”

“The population of Goliad County grew slowly to 5,910 in 1890 and to 8,310 and 9,909 in 1900 and 1910, respectively, a result of increased foreign immigration. The number of foreign born residents in the county rose to 577 in 1890, to 976 in 1900, and to 1,276 in 1910. Though significant numbers came from Hungary, Ireland, England, and France, most by far were from Germany and Mexico, by 1900 especially the latter.”

“In 1921 the county was quarantined by the governor because of ticks (see TICK FEVER). Despite the increasing urbanization of surrounding counties, Goliad County remained a rural area. Indeed, a county law was passed as late as 1926 prohibiting domestic stock to roam at large. Though the 10,093 residents reported in 1930 represented the greatest population to date, no Goliad County town has ever recorded as many as 2,500 residents, the threshold by which the census defines urban areas.”

“Most farms had neither electricity nor telephones in 1940, and despite the county roadbuilding efforts of Judge James A. White, most farms were on dirt roads rather than on concrete, gravel, or other hard-surfaced roads. In 1929 U.S. Highway 96 was built through Goliad County to Houston, and several blocks of downtown Goliad were paved the same year. The Civil Works Administration and later the Civilian Conservation Corps, elements of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, began restoring Mission Espíritu Santo in the early 1930s.”

“The Goliad Historical Commission was organized in December 1955 by county judge Linton S. Benge to implement the program of the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission), which, among other functions, places county historical markers. Goliad County historic sites include the La Bahía mission and presidio at Goliad State Historical Park, the ruins of Mission Rosario, the birthplace of Ignacio S. Zaragoza, the site of the battle of Coleto and Goliad Massacre at Fannin Battleground State Historical Park, and the town of Goliad itself.”

“Goliad remains the county seat and the only incorporated community in the county. Among the twenty-three Texas coastal counties, Goliad County alone has had no urban centers since its organization.”

Craig H. Roell, “GOLIAD COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online

I was the guest of Goliad County and Goliad on March 12, 2012, and returned to rephotograph the courthouse on June 22, 2015.

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Goliad County Courthouse – 1894

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(Photo Courtesy: TXDoT)

For a long time, the architect of this courthouse (and its sister building in Caldwell County) was known as Alfred Giles, though some semi-recent research by the Texas Historical Commission says otherwise. It turns out that there is no surviving record of the designer of this courthouse. Most assumed it had to be Giles, because he took credit for its identical twin in Lockhart. New evidence suggests that the architect was a Henri E.M. Guindon, who worked with Giles as a partner from 1889-1891. After a two year absence from Texas to practice in Chicago, Guindon returned to San Antonio and rejoined Giles in 1893. It’s believed that he sold plans to Caldwell County in May of that year, and turned around to sell the people of Goliad theirs a month later. Giles most likely took credit for the one in Lockhart because it was a work of his firm, though he may not have been the principal architect. In turn, that would deceive history into thinking he did Goliad County’s as well.

No one knows for sure whether it was Alfred Giles or Henri Guindon that brought this building into existence, but we ought to be grateful to whomever it was. Here’s how the THC describes it:

“The Second Empire-style building is capped by a domed, mansard roof which was originally surmounted by a central tower. The walls of the structure are of local, quarry-faced limestone. The five-part facades feature corner pavilions and central pavilions that announce the entrances. The arches spanning the openings vary with each level. The first floor features Roman and flat arches, the second floor windows display only flat arches, and segmental and flat arches frame the windows of the third floor. These changes are emphasized by subtle differences in the color of the voussoirs. Further embellishment is provided by red sandstone stringcourses, which delineate the floor levels on the facades…” - Texas Historical Commission 

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(Photo Courtesy: Goliad County Historical Commission)

On May 18, 1902, a devastating tornado came ripping through Goliad County and wrought some pretty horrific damage to the city. 114 people were killed.

The courthouse was turned into a functioning hospital and morgue after the event.

Another destructive natural disaster occurred forty years later in 1942, when a hurricane swept across the Texas coast. In this storm, the courthouse tower and turrets were taken clean off.

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(Photo Courtesy: rootsweb.com)

Above is a picture of how the courthouse looked from 1942 to 2003. That year, the turrets and tower were restored by the Texas Historical Commission at last.

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The main entrance faces due north on N Courthouse Square.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.07.30 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.08.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.08.57 PMA large tree near the front entrance has long, sturdy limbs. Its antique purpose was exactly what you’d except it to be.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.03.23 PMThis is believed to be one of the state’s oldest hanging trees.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.09.34 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.04.01 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.10.18 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.09.56 PMThe cornerstone lists no architect, only the builders. It’s on the northeast corner.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.13.52 PMThe eastern façade

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.14.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.12.23 PMThe intersection of Market and East End Streets, as seen from this side

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.14.42 PMThe southeast corner

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.17.21 PMS Courthouse Square’s façade, featuring an annex

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Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.40.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.20.01 PMThe western doors…

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City of Goliad

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Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.18.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.18.13 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 3.15.21 PMThe sign hanging from a dentist’s office on Market Street is an antique image of the building.

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Check that out!

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Fannin Battleground

East of Goliad, in the unincorporated town of Fannin, is Fannin State Park. A portion of this area is roped off by the historical commission as the Fannin Battleground, the site of the Battle of Coleto Creek (March 19 – March 20, 1836). This conflict was waged between the Texas Independence forces of Colonel James Fannin and the Mexican troops of General Jose Urrea. As Fannin made for Victoria to retreat from Goliad, he and his men were surrounded. After a night of fighting and the realization that they were heavily outnumbered, the Texans surrendered and submitted to incarceration by the Mexican government. For safe keeping, they were taken a few miles back west to Goliad and imprisoned until March 27. Please read more about this site: here, if you’re interested.

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Presidio La Bahía

(short for Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía)

After being captured by Urrea, Fannin and his soldiers were jailed in the chapel and courtyard of this Goliad presidio. For one whole week they languished here in squalor until the Mexican president, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, ordered their execution. Under the false promise that they were being freed, the Texan forces were marched outside the presidio and then brutally gunned down. The events of March 27, 1836 became known as the Goliad Massacre. There’s great information on this site: here.

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A grand monument to Colonel Fannin and the soldiers was constructed over their mass grave, about a half mile from the presidio.

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 Previous Courthouse: DeWitt County

Next Courthouse: Karnes County

2 comments

  • Antonio Cruz Medina on July 13, 2016 at 12:00 PM said:

    Buenos días, señores.
    Soy Antonio Cruz, historiador y escritor español. Actualmente estoy escribiendo un artículo para una revista española de historia sobre los presidios españoles en América, y me preguntaba, si sería posible usar una de sus fotografías del Presidio de La Bahía para ilustrar dicho artículo.

    Gracias por su tiempo, espero su respuesta.

    • Carson Crisp on July 13, 2016 at 5:18 PM said:

      Hola Sr. Cruz, y gracias por su comentario.

      En respuesta de su pregunta: por supuesto. Yo estaría muy orgulloso si pudiera ver una de mis fotos en una revista. Solamente le pido que dé este sitio crédito en alguna forma posible.

      La Bahía es un tesoro histórico y arquitectónico sin duda, entonces estoy alegre que alguien está escribiendo de este presidio particular, y los otros también. Las interacciones entre los españoles y los indígenas, para mi, son muy interesantes. Así que, estaría contento para ayudar su revista en alguna manera posible. Gracias por visitar este sitio, y le deseo mucha suerte en todos sus publicaciones. Si alguna vez, Ud. necesita algo más, no dude en pedirme. Estaría feliz para ofrecerle mi ayuda.

      Sinceramente,
      C. Crisp

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