Goliad in 1857
Historic Accounts of Life in South Texas
From "A Journey Through Texas" by Frederick Law Olmsted – Published 1857

We soon reached Goliad, a settlement of half a dozen houses, two stores, a wheelwright's and a blacksmith's shop.

While the horses were being shod, I rode to the old Mexican town of La Bahia, or old Goliad, on the opposite side of the river, to visit the mission and fort, where the massacre of Fannin took place. There are several of the missions in the neighborhood, of which this seems to have been the principal. The ruins I found quite extensive; there are the remains of a large fort, with bastions, which appears to have been about two hundred feet square. Several stone buildings stand about it, all now in ruins. Behind one of the bastions, in a corner of the inclosure, is the church. It is also of limestone, and in similar style to those of San Antonio. The modern village is composed of about twenty jacals, large, and of a comparatively comfortable character, scattered over two hills. The city was formerly one of some importance, and is said to have contained some thousand inhabitants. It was the head of navigation on the San Antonio, and the port of collection for the Bay of Espiritu Santo, whence its old name.

I rode through the village and the fort, and stopped my horse before the door of the ruined church. I should have probably ridden in, but for a general respect for the worshipful design of a church; for two of those we had lately seen at San Antonio, though less ruinous, are used as stables. As I stopped my horse I saw the figure of a man beyond a dilapidated walL

Good evening, sir, said I; "can I look within the church?"

Oh, yes, certainly, he replied, "why not?"

Seeing a frame in the court, on which were hanging two old Spanish bells, I rode thither, and fastened my horse. While I was looking at the bells, the man stepped over the broken wall, and looked at me. He might have taken me for a bandit or a Texan Ranger. We had been cautioned against horse-thieves in this region, and I had slept with my Colt and bowie-knife buckled round my waist, and had added, when the norther arose, a blue flannel hunting-shirt, and a low cap, which was drawn over my eyes; the short rifle hung at my saddle-bow.

He was a man of forty years, thin, dark-complexioned, and with features that indicated culture. I raised my cap and saluted him, saying that I had ridden over to look at the ruins, and had not known that they were occupied. I did not wish to intrude upon a family.

Oh, no, said he, " no family, only myself. And where are you from, sir?"

From New York.

Ah, from New York, indeed; you are a long way from home. I am glad to see you here. Ah, it's a poor old ruin; come in and you shall see. It was once a very fine church, but the Americans destroyed it as much as they could. See, there we had a gallery, with the oriel over it; they burned it. All the pictures they burned; the carvings they cut with knives—ah it is all ruins! It is hard, my people here are so very poor; you have no idea. I don't suppose that thirty dollars could be found among them all; as for me, I have just come here, eight days ago, and three days I have been a journey to visit some sick. I had no time to do anything. Ah, it seems as nothing could be done. See, here I have made a beginning.

At the end of the church, he had whitewashed a space of the wall, and covered it with calico; over it, an old and battered image, it was now impossible to guess of what, had been set up, and several glass candlesticks were placed before it The rain had already beaten in, and stained the walls, and the calico had been half-torn off, and thrown upon the floor.

The wind, said he, " has done this—the norther this morning. I have not yet had time, since I am back, to replace it"

I asked the history of the church. He knew nothing of it, only that there had been a city and a fort, and the church within the fort; the Americans had taken it, and, so far as they could, had destroyed all. Would I look at the fort? If I would excuse him, he would take me through the room where he lived. He drew aside a curtain from an arched door, and we entered .what had been a chapel, with a door at the opposite side leading upon the parade of the fort.

This, he said, " is my little room; I could get no other. The Mexicans they live like chickens—the men and girls all sleep together in the same room. I could not live with them, so I came here. They are very kind, but so poor; but they tell me when they shall have finished sowing their seed they will give me help. They will clean and repair the church; they will build me a house in the parade ground. Then I shall get some old woman to cook for me. Now, I am sorry I can offer you no refreshment When I am hungry I must go to one of their houses, and eat what they have prepared for themselves; but I can offer you a very good cigar if you will be so good as to accept it'

The place was cheerless enough. It may be fancied that a dim damp vault-like room after being for years desolate and exposed, with open doors, to the weather, would not be a picture of cheerful comfort. It was lighted only by a round window, high up the wall. The furniture consisted of a table, half a dozen open trunks, a heap of some hundreds of well-bound books, over which the mould was beginning to creep, a few scattered garments, a pallet on the floor, and one chair. This he offered me, and, seating himself upon the table, continued to smoke and talk.

The Mexicans, he said, certainly once owned all the land about here. Now it was all held by Americans, and no Mexican had received any pay for it. He did not know, but his people said it really belonged to them. They told him they were not well treated by the Americans. The Americans thought the Mexicans to be bad people. The Mexicans thought the same of the Americans. The Americans, they said, cheated them in every business. They were not allowed to get wood for their fences where they had always got it. They were too poor and too ignorant to do anything towards insisting upon their rights. The Americans, he heard, talk very hard about the Mexicans, as if they had no business in the neighborhood; but he was sure the treaty declared they should have the rights of citizens, and continue to hold their property. I said I hoped he would be able to help them to secure just treatment. No, his duty was not to mingle in their temporal concerns, but he hoped to do them moral benefit They were in an unhappy condition. They had no ambition, no desire to improve themselves. If they could have leisure to play cards, and could own a small piece of land for corn, and a cabin, and some oxen for their carts, they did not look for anything better. But they were kind to one another, friendly and cheerful, much more so than the Americans. He had just been sent here by the bishop, to see if he could do anything for them; but it looked very bad; the people had no money; they were very poor, and it was all complete ruin. The bishop hoped they might make here a seminary, by-and-by. He came here the year before, and, after an examination, made a claim to the church, which the corporation allowed. But the parade-ground, the other ruins, he was obliged to purchase. For the country around, so far as he could inform himself, it was unusually healthy, and its beauty and fertility I could see for myself. If I were looking for a residence, he would strongly advise me to settle here. Thanking him for his politeness, I rode away, with his good wishes for my journey. The contrast of the ruin and the good cure with the Texan shop and shop-keeper across the river was strong.

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