Goliad: Small Town, Big History
Overview of Goliad Attractions
Goliad is one of our favorite small towns in Texas, with several important historic sites, a pretty park along the San Antonio River and a quaint town square.
It's also one of the oldest towns in Texas, having been occupied well before history started being recorded in this area. When early Spanish settlers arrived, they found an Indian village which they named Santa Dorotea.
In 1749, a Spanish mission and presidio (fort) were established. The fort has been fought over many times in its history, including during the Texas Revolution. Col. James Fannin and his men were imprisoned at the fort following their surrender, only to be marched out a few days later and massacred by the Mexican army.
The Fannin Plaza is a city park on the courthouse square that honors Fannin ("Remember Goliad!" is a lesser-known battle cry of the Texas Revolution). There is a cannon from the Texas Revolution and several historical markers.
The site of the Battle of Coleto, the Revolutionary battle at which Fannin and 284 of his men surrendered to Mexican troops, is nine miles east of Goliad off Highway 59. It's called the Fannin Battleground State Historic Site, and it's a great spot for a picnic.
Fannin and his troops were corralled into the Presidio La Bahia, the fort that was originally built to garrison Spanish troops for protecting the nearby Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga (Mission Espiritu Santo for short). On Palm Sunday, 1836, Fannin and 342 others were marched out of the fort and massacred. The loss of life at Goliad was nearly twice that at the Alamo.
Today, at the site of the massace, visitors encounter a monument marking the final resting place of Fannin and his men. The monument is just a few hundred yards from the Presidio La Bahia.
The presidio is located two miles south of Goliad off Highway 183. The fort has been reconstructed and visitors can tour its grounds and buildings, including a chapel that is still used for religious services. Presidio La Bahia is considered the best example of a complete Spanish presidio in Texas.
The presidio's museum showcases materials excavated during the fort's renovation, as well as memorabilia from the Texas Revolution.
Some say the presidio houses the spirits of those who've lived - and died - there in the past. The fort's ghosts are well-known locally. Those brave enough might want to try to encounter a few of them by staying in The Quarters, a 2-bedroom "apartment" that once served as officers' quarters at the fort. It can be rented for overnight stays with guests coming and going as they like.
Right next to the presidio is the Zaragoza Birthplace State Historic Site. Mexican Gen. Igancio Zaragoza was born in the reconstructed home. On May 5, 1862, Zaragoza commanded a Mexican army that threw back a French force attacking the Mexican city of Puebla. That victory is celebrated every May 5 as Cinco de Mayo.
The Mission Espiritu Santo is inside the 184-acre Goliad State Park a short distance from the presidio. The mission church is restored and quite impressive. Interpretive displays are located adjacent to the church, and throughout the year in the state park visitors can find choral presentations, special Masses, weaving demonstrations and folk-life presentations.
The San Antonio River winds through Goliad State Park and the picnic tables near the river's edge are great spots for a family picnic.
Goliad is on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and the nature trails in Goliad State Park cross a selection of upland and bottomland habitats. Birders will also enjoy the nearby Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir. The 190-acre park is 14 miles east of Goliad on Highway 59.
The reservoir is a popular fishing spot, with fishermen reeling in large-mouth bass, crappie, catfish, Florida and hybrid striped bass, and copper-nosed blue gill perch among other species. The park has campsites and boat launches.
Fishermen are also frequently spotted casting into the San Antonio River in Goliad State Park.
Goliad's courthouse square hosts Market Days the second Saturday of every month, generally March through December. Goliad Market Days is one of the largest and most popular street markets in South Texas.
The square is also home to the Hanging Tree, a large oak tree with a very interesting history. And also in the town square is the Market House Museum, which features exhibits on farming, ranching, early Texas life including Indian artifacts and tools, military memorabilia from the Texas Revolution, World War I and II uniforms and artifacts, and displays on local life in the early 20th century.
For such a small town, Goliad offers a wealth of interesting activities for visitors.
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