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The Presidio de San Saba in Menard County, Texas

2014 September 3

We have a treasure in Menard County!  We are located in the Texas Hill Country along the Texas Fort Trails and in our little San Saba river valley, over 257 years ago, the northern-most and largest and most advanced Spanish Colonial fortification was built. 

The Presidio de San Saba, (originally called Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas), was established in April 1757, by a Spanish force led by Captain Don Diego Ortiz Parilla with the combined efforts of the Spanish soldiers, priests, and Apache Indian labor. The fort was established to protect Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba (four miles down the San Saba River) which was also built in 1757. The mission was destroyed by over 2,000 Comanche, Caddo, Wichita, and other Indians on March 16, 1758. The Presidio only lasted another decade and a half, abandoned by decree of the Viceroy of New Spain in 1772.

This Menard County historical treasure has been honored as a Registered Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL) in 1971; National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1972, and State Archeological Landmark (SAL) in 1981.

The presidio and its accompanying mission were the first place that Europeans in Texas came into conflict with the Comanche Indians and found that Plains Indians, mounted on Spanish horses and armed with French guns, constituted a fighting force superior to that of the Spanish colonials. The course of history was changed at the Mission and Presidio; eventually, the Spanish withdrew from the frontier creating other lines of defense along the Rio Grande.

In 1937, as part of the Texas Centennial Commission, our little community partially reconstructed the northwest bastion area of the presidio complex and received a Texas Centennial marker honoring its history.  My father-in-law, F. L. Wilkinson took the below two photos when the work was completed in 1937. He was an excellent photographer.



The below was stated on the State of Texas Centennial paperwork for the Presidio.

Real Presidio de San Saba was originally established on the San Gabriel as the Presidio de San Francisco Xavier in 1751. Moved to a site one mile northwest of Menard in 1757 as a protection to Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba, it was known as Presidio de San Luis de las Amarillas until March 1761, when its name was changed to Real Presidio de San Saba. An allocation of $11,800 supplemented by a contribution of $500 by Menard County was used to acquire the twenty-five acre site and to restore the stone building as it was in 1761. The plans were drawn by F. L. Napier, architect. The building is maintained by the county as a museum.

The Texas historical marker states:

REAL PRESIDIO DE SAN SABA

ORIGINALLY ESTABLISHED ON THE SAN GABRIEL RIVER AS THE PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO XAVIER IN 1751

MOVED TO THE PRESENT SITE IN 1757 AS A PROTECTION

TO THE MISSION SANTA CRUZ DE SAN SABA

KNOWN AS THE PRESIDIO DE SAN LUIS DE LAS AMARILLAS

1757-1761

AFTER MARCH 1761 THE NAME WAS

REAL PRESIDIO DE SAN SABA

THE STONE BUILDING WAS COMPLETED IN 1761

You can read about the celebration at my blog link:
http://blog.wilkinsonranch.com/2011/11/20/noah-hamilton-rose-famous-menardville-photographer/

Another good compilation of our history is in the Texas Almanac. It is a wonderful article. Here is my blog post.

Several archaeological digs have been conducted at this historic site and it has undergone significant restoration work. The site sits on almost 25 acres along the San Saba River and includes a covered pavilion with restroom facilities.

Today, we are very fortunate through support of Menard County, the Presidio de San Saba Restoration Corporation and the Texas Historical Commission, Phase I of a management plan was completed in 2011. Now we are ready for Phase II which includes a Learning and Visitor’s Center.

Through educational and diverse historical narrative, which is suited to a wide audience, we are able to provide a very important benefit to our community.  We welcome you to come visit this wonderful site and see what a small group of unpaid volunteers can do with hard work and determination.

Heritage tourism is a big part of Menard County.  Plan a trip to see the newly renovated Presidio and keep in touch on Facebook/Presidio-de-San-Saba or website http://www.presidiodesansaba.org/. Donations to support the preservation and development of Presidio de San Saba are always welcome.  You can contact the Presidio de San Saba Restoration Corporation at P. O. Box 1592, Menard, Texas 76859. The corporation has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

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