Goliad Chamber of Commerce

Birthplace of Texas Ranching

Goliad History

GOLIAD:  EMBRACING THE PAST

Picture of Mission.Goliad is one of the oldest municipalities in Texas.  In 1749, the Spanish government transferred Mission Espiritu Santo and its royal protector, Presidio La Bahia, to the site of a small Aranama Indian village, which they named Santa Dorotea; this mission served the Aranama, Tamique, and their allies for 110 years, longer than any other Spanish colonial mission in Texas.
A small villa grew up around the walls of the presidio, and was called La Bahia.  This area was occupied by the Spanish until 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain.  The name of the town was officially changed to Goliad in 1829.  Goliad is a phonetic anagram of Hidalgo, the name of the priest who became a hero during the Mexican Revolution.  Mexican soldiers occupied Presidio La Bahia from 1821 to 1825.
The first great cattle ranch in Texas is said to have its beginnings at Mission Espiritu Santo.  Along with its sister, Mission Nuestra Senora del Rosario, Mission Espiritu Santo possessed the largest longhorn herds in the state, at times owning more than 40,000 head.
Mission of Goliad Flag.The first offensive action of the Texas Revolution occurred here on October 9, 1835, when local colonists captured the fort and the town.  The first Declaration of Texas Independence was signed on the altar of the presidio chapel on December 20, 1835.  As 92 citizens signed the document, pledging their support to the cause of freedom, the "Bloody Arm" flag, first flag of Texas independence, was hoisted above the town.
The flag, described as a white ground, in the center of which "...was a sinewy arm and hand painted red, grasping a drawn sword of crimson," symbolized the Texians' willingness to make any sacrifice, no matter how great, to win their freedom from the tyranny of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
Picture of Fannin Battle ground.

During the 1836 Texas campaign, Colonel James Walker Fannin's force surrendered in defeat at the Battle of Coleto Creek.  The Texian soldiers were imprisoned in the presidio for a week.  On Palm Sunday, March 27, Col. Fannin and his 341 men were marched outside the walls and shot, making Goliad the site of the largest single loss of life in the cause of Texas independence.  The Goliad Massacre, which accounted for twice the loss of life as that at the Alamo, was, in part, the inspiration of Gail Borden's headline, "Remember Goliad!  Remember the Alamo!", which become the rousing battle cry of the victorious Texians at the Battle of San Jacinto.

One of Goliad's most endearing legends was also born of the heroism associated with the massacre here--that of the Angel of Goliad.  Panchita Alvarez, wife of a high-ranking officer in the Mexican army is credited with saving at least 28 lives, by begging the commander there to spare them.  One of the survivors, Dr. Bernard, wrote, "Her name deserves to be recorded in letters of gold among those angels who have from time to time been commissioned by an overruling and beneficent power to relieve the sorrows and cheer the hearts of man."
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Many of the buildings on the Courthouse Square, now housing a pharmacy, antique shops, gift shops, and private residences, date back to the early 1800s.  In 1976, Goliad's Courthouse Square Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places.  Visitors are invited to take the Downtown Walking Tour, which features, among others, the sites described below.
Fannin Plaza Park:  Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.  This city park is highlighted by a memorial shaft and Texas Revolution cannon.  The larger of the cannon bears the inscription, "Used by Col. Fannin and His Men on Fannin Battlefield in Goliad County in 1836."  The memorial was erected in 1885.
Goliad County Courthouse:  Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.  Goliad's third courthouse, and the second on this site, this roughcut limestone structure was designed by Alfred Giles.  The stones used in its construction came from the old courthouse, which was built in 1865; according to stories, some of this stone was originally hauled from Austin by oxcart.  This courthouse building was completed and occupied in August, 1894.  After a 1902 tornado devastated most of the city, the courthouse served as a hospital and a morgue.  In 1942, a hurricane destroyed the clock tower and turrets; in 1964, the interior was renovated, and the original wainscoting and carved staircase were retained.  On display at the courthouse are the nine flags that have flown over Goliad.
Picture of hanging tree.

Hanging Tree (Cart War Oak):  Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.  Between 1846 and 1870, this live oak tree served as the site of court sessions.  Death sentences pronounced by the court were carried out immediately.  During the 1857 Cart War, during which Texan freighters perpetrated a series of vicious attacks against Mexican cart drivers along the Indianola-Goliad-San Antonio Road, this tree was also the site of a number of unauthorized lynchings, before the Texas Rangers brought the conflict under control.

Masonic Temple:  Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.  Constructed  and dedicated in 1854, this limestone structure is home to Goliad Lodge No. 94, the oldest Masonic Lodge in continuous use in the state of Texas.  Lodge members have always met on the top floor, while the bottom level has been used as a dining hall, a doctor's office, a post office, and a school.
Baptist Oak Tree:  On May 7, 1849, a dozen Goliad citizens, led by Rev. John Freeman Hillyer, met under this live oak tree, just a block off the town square, to organize the first Baptist church west of the Guadalupe River.  The congregation included members of the Hillyer family, along with former Tennessee Congressman and noted attorney, Pryor Lea, and his wife.
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church:  Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.  Goliad has been home to an Episcopal presence since 1861, as a result of the foreign mission outreach.  This building was erected in 1883, and was consecrated in 1885.  It served as a mission church until it was elevated to parish status in 1913.  The building, regarded as one of the most beautiful small churches in the state, features several stained glass memorials.