Thursday, December 11, 2014

Presidio de San Saba: Menard, Texas

Presidio (Spanish for "fort") de San Saba was established in 1757 on the north bank of the San Saba River just a mile or two west of the present-day town of Menard. The original occupants included soldiers, prospectors, priests, and other civilians and their families. The prospectors were searching for gold and silver while the priests were hoping to convert the Lipan Apaches in the area.

A mission -- Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba -- was located about 4 miles downriver from the presidio, but it was short-lived. On March 16, 1758, it was surrounded by hostile Comanche, Wichita, and Caddo warriors and basically destroyed. Some of the occupants, including Father Terreros, the mission leader, were killed. A small group was able to escape under cover of darkness and make its way to the presidio, which had also suffered a series of attacks that same day. Although some archaeological work has been done on the mission, there is very little today to mark its location.

The presidio was eventually abandoned by February 1768, due largely to continued attacks by hostile Indians. A grant provided by the Texas Legislature in 1936 helped with some restoration, but the quality of materials used was very poor and the walls soon deteriorated. Recent renovations have proven to be much more successful.

This general area is also thought by many to be the location of the "Lost Bowie Mine", sometimes referred to as the "Lost San Saba Mine." Historically, the mine was probably the Los Almagres Mine. However, many archaeologists believe the Los Almagres Mine might have been located farther east, on Packsaddle Mountain near the confluence of the Llano and Colorado Rivers. In short, we actually do not know if Bowie worked a mine or, if he did, where it was. But legends abound about Jim Bowie and his lost mine, and they are interesting to look into.

View of the presidio from the west. The gate is the main entrance. Corrals for cattle and horses would have been located to the right of the entrance.
Main entrance. There are few original stones left at the presidio, but the two large base stones on either side of the entrance on the ground are thought to be in their original locations.
This is the base stone to the right of the entrance. Over the years, many markings, names, and such have been scratched into the surface. If you look closely, you'll see the name "Bowie" in the picture above. Jim Bowie and his men were believed to be in the area in 1831 searching for silver, and many believe either he or his men scratched his name in the stone. But who knows who really scratched this name into the rock.
Donna standing in the entrance to the northwest bastion. It is believed that the bastion was filled with dirt so cannon could be rolled to the top. The jagged design along the top was probably not in place then. Notice the coloring of the stones. The dark stones indicate work done during the 1936 reconstruction. The lighter stones are from more recent work.

The backside of the presidio is literally only steps from the river. The bluff above is on the south bank of the river. That is part of a golf course in the foreground.
You can see part of a collapsed wall on the left. That is the San Saba River looking downriver, in the direction of the mission and the present day town of Menard.

Looking upriver from the same position as the picture above.

If you use Google Earth, you can find the location of the presidio at these coordinates: 30°55'20.67" N  99°48'04.25" W.

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