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Victoria in Victoria County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espíritu Santo

Second Site of Mission Nuestra Senora del Espíritu Santo de Zuniga

 
 
Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espíritu Santo marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney
1. Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espíritu Santo marker
Inscription.  The arrival of Frenchman Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, on Garcitas Creek in 1685 marks the establishment of the first European settlement in Texas. Within four years though, all of La Salle’s settlers were either dead or scattered. Word of the French incursion into Spanish territory triggered a “manhunt” for the settlement that involved a total of eleven expeditions by land and sea to locate and destroy it. In April of 1689 Alonzo De Leon located the settlement. He buried the skeletal remains of the settlers, buried eight French cannons, made a sketch of the site, and returned to New Spain (Mexico City). A year later he returned and burned all evidence of the French presence. In 1721 the first Nuestra Seńora de Loreto de la Bahía Presidio was built atop the burned remains of La Salle's settlement; the first Mission Nuestra Senora del Espíritu Santo de Zuniga was built across Garcitas Creek, a short distance away.

Spanish forts and missions had different agendas and rules. The presidio was a fort where soldiers lived, patrolled the frontier and protected the mission. The mission was where priests lived,
Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espíritu Santo marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney
2. Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espíritu Santo marker
Site where marker is located is part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.
farmed, and converted the local Indians to the Catholic religion.

By 1725, both the mission and presidio had been moved to Tonkawa Bank in present day Riverside Park. The presidio soon moved six miles up the east bank of the Guadalupe River. Priests had elaborate plans for converting the local Native Americans and raising enough crops to sustain everyone at the site. Stone mission complex was constructed as well as an earthen dam – thirty feet high and ninety feet wide – to retain rain water which drained toward the river from the east. Water was also diverted from Spring Creek to water the crops, which were planted alongside the river. In 1726 the mission moved eight miles above Victoria on the west side of the Guadalupe River where it remained for the next twenty-three years.

1725–1726
Life at Mission Espíritu Santo on Tonkawa Bank


Timber, stone and water were more abundant here than along Garcitas Creek where the first mission and presidio were constructed. The inland Indian tribe – the Aranamas – were accommodating to Spanish missionaries and to the Catholic religion. The Spanish Padres demonstrated the rare ability to inspire Indians to learn about agriculture, industry and art. The Indians and Spanish Padres coexisted happily on Tonkawa Bank.

A soldier’s life at a Spanish presidio was hard.
Artist Reconstruction image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney
3. Artist Reconstruction
An artist's reconstruction of Presidio La Bahia that hangs in the nearby Parks and Recreation building. The artist was Tom Jones based on the works of John L. Jarratt.
It was a 10-year commitment with daily patrols half way to the next mission, monitoring Indian activity away from the mission, escorting Spanish supply caravans safely to their destination plus the unending task of maintaining, enlarging, and repairing the mission complex. Days were long and their pay was seldom on time.

It soon became obvious that more land was needed to accomplish the goals set by the Padres. In 1726 this site was abandoned in favor of land near Mission Creek, where more extensive farming could be done.

(captions)
“The Padres” Original Illustration by Tom Jones
“Mission Espíritu Santo” Original Illustration by Tom Jones
 
Erected by El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association.
 
Location. This marker has been replaced by another marker nearby. 28° 49.448′ N, 97° 0.774′ W. Marker is in Victoria, Texas, in Victoria County. Marker is on McCright Drive 0.2 miles west of North Vine Street, on the left when traveling west. Marker is in field near west of the Victoria Parks and Recreation Department building. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 476 McCright Drive, Victoria TX 77901, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Tonkawa Bank (a few steps from this marker); John J. Linn
Guadalupe River image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney
4. Guadalupe River
Tonkawa Bank was a crossing of El Camino Real across the Guadalupe River. View from bank of Guadalupe River .15 miles west of marker.
(approx. 0.9 miles away); Agapito De Leon (approx. 0.9 miles away); Felix de Leon (approx. 0.9 miles away); Don Martin de León (approx. 0.9 miles away); Silvestre de Leon (approx. 0.9 miles away); Dońa Patricia de la Garza de Leon (approx. 0.9 miles away); Fernando de Leon (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Victoria.
 
Categories. Colonial EraExplorationSettlements & Settlers
 

More. Search the internet for Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espíritu Santo.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 8, 2019. This page originally submitted on September 8, 2019, by Richard Denney of Austin, Texas. This page has been viewed 64 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 5, 2014, by Richard Denney of Austin, Texas. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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