Texas Independence Trail visitors experience bold,
refreshing look at history
GOLIAD, TEXAS (March 9, 2010)
- Fans and students of Texas history, Spanish Colonial
and Mexican cultures have good reasons to venture
beyond the Alamo and the San Jacinto Battleground
to see the 261-year-old Presidio La Bahia (For of
the Bay) at Goliad. http://www.presidiolabahia.org/index.html
More than $500,000 in improvements to the fort, museum
and chapel complex were completed in March, thanks
to the generosity of members of The Presidio La Bahia
Foundation, its Advisory Board, the Friends of the
Fort, and numerous individuals and area foundations.
During the past 3 1/2 years, the National Historic
Landmark has quietly undergone its most extensive
refurbishing since the walled bastion was restored
to its 1836 appearance in the mid-1960s with funds
from the Kathryn Stoner O'Connor Foundation. Architect
Raiford Stripling and archeologist Roland Beard -
both now deceased - guided that project.
"Returning and first-time visitors are going to be
amazed at the numerous changes," said Newton M. Warzecha,
Director since 1991, as well as President of The PLB
"Not only have the exhibits been re-designed with
new, museum-quality cases and lighting, but all interiors
have been repainted; murals and decorations refreshed;
the floors repaired and re-sealed and the gift shop
expanded," Warzecha emphasized. "The soldiers' barracks
have been upgraded and the entry and museum are now
more wheelchair accessible."
The Presidio and self-contained Lady of Loreto Chapel
are owned by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria, which
purchased the site in 1853 from the City of Goliad
The fort has eight-foot stone walls, parapets, cannons,
a bell tower containing two bells, a religious statue
estimated at 300 years old, more than 150 artifacts
on display, a charming Texas- version fresco of the
Annunciation and "The (Officer's) Quarters," which
can accommodate four persons for overnight stays.
First Class Museum Standards "More than just representing
the Texas Revolution and the massacre of the 342 'Fort
Defiance' defenders, the museum now accommodates a
high quality look into Spanish Colonial life and the
Mexican period," explained Drew Patterson of Drew
Patterson Studios in Austin, TX.
"This may be the only presidio on what was the Northern
Frontier of New Spain that is totally intact," said
the museum designer and physical anthropologist.
Patterson, whose background includes 20 years as a
fine artist, has been doing museum exhibit design
work for 15 years, including projects for the Texas
Parks & Wildlife, The LBJ Presidential Library, a
top-to-bottom updating at the Alamo exhibits in 2004-05,
as well as work for the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas
History and personal projects for the late "Lady Bird"
Although never done before, the museum's entire collection
has now been painstakingly photographed and cataloged
by Randal Scott of Washington, D.C., resulting in
some new revelations, Warzecha noted. Future plans
call for an online digital catalog to help historians,
scientists and researchers.
"All the artifacts came off the grounds and are hard
evidence of the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods,
the intersection of religion and politics and of the
fight for Texas Independence," Patterson emphasized.
Considerable assistance, cooperation, information
and digital images were provided by the Nettie Lee
Bentsen Latin American Collection and the Dolph Briscoe
Center for American History, both at the University
of Texas at Austin, during the museum renovation,
Sketches, copies of historic woodcuts and special
art was commissioned for the displays, with many completed
by fine artist Barbara Whitehead of Austin.
Suzanne McGarraugh of San Antonio, "a top-notch mount-maker,
prepared the artifacts on new, carefully designed
'exhibit furniture,' making them easier to see and
much more animated . . . like a painting or sculpture,"
"Feature lighting for the interpretive panels sculpts
each display. We also allowed the walls and the rooms
to be a significant part of the exhibits, using only
what was necessary for the panels and the beautiful,
world-class cases (by Caseworks) from Germany.
"These cases are elegant and uncomplicated and help
elevate the Presidio to the top historical site museums
in the state," Patterson said. "Previous visitors
will immediately notice a stunning difference. The
Presidio has an incredible story to tell and can now
tell it in an incredible fashion."
Daily admission prices for the Presidio were raised
slightly in 2010 "but offer real family value, real
educational opportunities," Warzecha said. "Any school
group visiting by the end of May will be matched with
a costumed re-enactor, an advantage typically not
available day to day."
Admissions are $4 (ages 12-59); $3.50 for (60 and
older and military personnel) and $1 (ages 6- 11),
with children five and younger admitted free. Group
rates are available with advance reservations. The
Candlelight Tour on the re-enactment weekend (March
27) is an additional $2.
Living History Program March 26-28 About 5,000 persons
are expected for the Silver Anniversary re-enactment
of the Battle of Coleto Creek, the defeat of Col.
James W. Fannin's army by the Mexican army in March
1836 and the ensuing massacre. About 150 costumed
re-enactors on both sides of the opposing forces will
fill the air with gritos ((cries), noise and smoke
from black powder muzzle-loaders and cannons.
"This is one of the most extensive Living History
programs in Texas," Warzecha said. "The scenes occur
in the open meadows and near the San Antonio River,
where the engagements actually occurred, as well as
inside the Fort and Chapel. Col. Fannin is unceremoniously
executed on the grounds."
Visitors will have the opportunity to ask the re-enactors
about the roles they are reliving and to attend lectures
in the 231-year-old chapel, with still functions on
Sundays as a parish church. In the evening, candlelight
will be conducted through the barracks and the Mexican
officer's quarters, and there will be a hospital scene
in the chapel where the Texian prisoners are being
The final events of the weekend occur on Sunday, March
28, when the death march will begin inside the Presidio
and go to one of the locations where the massacre
actually took place. The program concludes with a
memorial service that begins in the chapel, followed
by a procession to the Fannin Memorial.
The Battleground Monument is where the gathered remains
of those massacred were originally buried in 1836,
and where the Monument, commissioned for the Texas
Centennial in 1936, was completed about 1938. The
burial statement is read aloud, "Taps" is played,
and there is a 21-musket salute.
"The Friends of the Fort, Goliad residents and all
supporters of the Presidio," Warzecha said with a
smile," have a message for history lovers, descendants
of soldiers on both sides, Hispanics, Catholics, Mexicans,
school children and local and foreign visitors.
"Don't just 'Remember Goliad,'" the famous battle
cry at the Battle of San Jacinto, but go. Go to Goliad
for the history, the hospitality and The Presidio.
Spring, with its wildflowers, is the perfect time
to "Hit the Trail!' -- The Texas Independence Trail
-- for one of the most exciting chapters in the Texas
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR INTERVIEWS: Newton Warzecha,
Director of Presidio La Bahia and President of The
Presidio La Bahia Foundation, Goliad, TX, 361-645-3752,
Preston F. Kirk, APR, Kirk Public Relations, Spicewood,