The well maintained Texas state parks are captivatingly beautiful areas to enjoy camping, boating, swimming, and tour historical sights. One of the finest historical parks is Goliad State Park located near the town of the same name. Goliad, 188.3 acres situated along the San Antonio River, offers historic sites, picnic areas for day use, overnight camping, swimming at a junior sized Olympic pool, and nature trails.
There is an entrance fee of $2.00 per person over the age of 13. This fee can be waived if one has the Texas State Parks pass which is an excellent way of saving a few dollars especially if you are a regular camper.
There are 14 sites with water at $8.00 per day, 22 sites with water and electric at $13.00 per day, and 20 sites with full hookups of water, sewer and electric at $15.00 per day.
The camps are shady and each has a fire ring for campfires. It is a quiet area to sit among the cottonwood, sycamore, and pecan trees and relax or explore the trails.
This is a popular spot for migrating birds and you can see such birds as the red-shouldered hawk, Swainson’s hawk, and the whip-poor-will along with cardinals and jaybirds. Wildlife is plentiful and you possibly will sight javelinas, wild turkeys, deer, fox and raccoons.
Goliad Historical Sites
Mission Nuestra Senora Del Espiritu
On the park grounds, within walking distance of most campsites, you will find a replica of the Mission Nuestra Senora Del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga. This striking reconstructed Mission, once operated by the Franciscan priests, was one of the largest ranching operations in Texas in the 18th century. Today, you can see many of the original artifacts used by the missionaries and the Indian converts. Mission life eroded the culture of the native tribes. In return for food and protection from more aggressive tribes, the Indians agreed to live and work inside the mission and to learn about the Catholic religion. Gradually, their own customs faded.
This was a busy community with women making clay pots and weaving wool for clothes. The men worked at ranching and farming. It was ranching that dominated. There were thousands of long-horned cattle and horses that roamed the lands owned by the mission.
Abandoned by the Franciscans in 1830 due to lack of money and a declining Indian population, the mission was revived in 1930 when the Texas State Park system began reconstruction. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the chapel was restored.
Fannin Battleground Historic Site
This site can be found nine miles east of Goliad and is a 13 acre day use park. During the battle for Texas independence from Mexico, this is the spot where Col. J. W. Fannin surrendered expecting to be prisoners of war with 284 of his men after the battle of Coleto. The Mexican army killed ten Texans, all the horses, and wounded fifty men including Fannin. Seven days later, Col. Santa Anna executed him and all the remaining prisoners. Only 28 men escaped while 342 died. The Fannin Memorial Monument, just east of the Presidio, marks the gravesite of Fannin and his men.
The Presidio La Bahia
The Presidio is located ¼ mile south of Goliad State Park on US highway 183. Originally it was built in 1749 to protect the mission and the frontier. It was at this spot that Fannin and his men were shot as traitors by General Santa Anna. The cry of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” were heard at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Adjacent to the Presidio La Bahia is the birthplace of Ignacio Seguin Zaragoza who was born in 1829. Zaragoza was a general in the Mexican army and fought for Mexican independence from France. On May 5, Zaragoza led an outnumbered volunteer army of farmers against the better prepared French army. He motivated his troops with these words, “Your foes are the first soldiers of the world, but you are the first sons of Mexico.” Zaragoza and his army of farmers were triumphant at the Battle of Puebla.
Zaragoza died of typhoid fever shortly after this battle. Benito Juarez, Mexican President, declared Cinco de Mayo a national holiday in 1862. In 1992, Texas legislature proclaimed Goliad as the official site for Cinco de Mayo.
The Angel of Goliad
The “Angel of Goliad,” has been reported to be the wife of Captain Telesforo Alvarez. It is unclear if her name was Francisa, Panchita, or Francita or if she even was truly Alvarez’s wife. However, it is known that she bestowed many kindnesses upon the Texans during the time of Texas’s battle for independence from Mexico. Her mercy and compassion to the men who were prisoners along with Fannin is well documented by those who survived the massacre. Several men have reported that they owe their lives to this angel. One man, Benjamin Hughes who was fifteen, recounts that through her intervention his life was spared and he was taken to Matamoros as a prisoner. He was one of the men who escaped being slaughtered at Goliad along with Fannin. When the Angel of Goliad was abandoned by her husband, she returned to Matamoros and continued to care for the Texans.
Town of Goliad
Nearby is the small historic Victorian town of Goliad. On the second Saturday of every month from March through December, the town holds Market Days. There are approximately 170 vendors and booths.
One can also tour the Goliad Courthouse Square, an historic district, and the Market House Museum while in town.
A visit to this State park is to glimpse history. The story of Goliad is one of ranching, of faith, and of sacrifice. Goliad embraces historic sites celebrating the Indian, the Spanish, the Mexican and the Anglo cultures for a span of over 300 years. These groups collided and battled, yet their cultures continued and assimilated into a Texan identity.