William Corner.

San Antonio de Bexar; a guide and history online

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decay, but in ISo*) some Benedictine fathers arrived here from St. Vincent's
Abbey in the Pittsburg Diocese, Pennsylvania, wath the intention of rebuilding
these rooms and cloisters for scholavStic purpo.ses. The intention was only par-
tially carried into effect. The industrious fathers rebuilt many of the upper
Gothic arches, as far as can be learned, manufacturing their own red bricks for
that purpose and the making of the big oven at the east end. What finally inter-
fered with this purpose of the Benedictines it is difhcult to discover, but it is more
than likely that wars and rumors of wars and an unsettled epoch had much to do
with the abandonment of their project, adding one more unfinished chapter to the
heroic historv of the Catholic Church in Texas.

Notwithstanding their irrigation ditches and the proximity of the River to
all the four Missions, the constructors did not forget one important itein — water,
in case of the community being confined to the Mission Square. Each of the
Missions has a substantially built, serviceable well, sunk close to the main building.
San Jose was erected under more than ordinary difficulty, the builders being
under constant fear and expectation of attack by hostiles. Perhaps fear is a word
too foreign to the natures of these brave and religious pioneers who struggled
with such pious determination to sirccess. It must have been very disheartening
to find that all their faithful labor was in vain, though no record of any such ex-
pression is extant. Captain Pike, who in his famous expedition visited this
Mission in 1S07, relates that the Priest told him that " it appeared to him that the
Indians could not exist under the shadow of the whites — as the nations who
formed the San Antonio Missions had been nurtured and taken all the care of
that it was possible, and put on the same footing as the Spaniards ; yet, notwith-
standing they had dwindled away until the other two Missions (San Juan Capes-
trana [sic] and Ea Purisima Concepcion)* had become entirely depopulated, and
the one where he resided had not then more than sufficient to perform his hou.se-
hold labor. From this he had formed an idea that God never intended them to
form one people, but that they should alwaws remain distinct and separate." t

Bi.shop Neraz thinks the figures on the front of San Jose to be, The \'irgin.
San Jose, San Benedict, San Augustine and San Francisco. Other authorities
have given a slight variation of this list. The front was frescoed in red, blue
and yellow in pretty designs, l)ut this is now \-ery difficult to discern.

* Ccusus of 1805 .showed forty -one soul.s in Mission Conccpcion.

i This extract from " Pike's Expedition " is taken from Yoakum's History, Vol. I., p. lil. With regard to
this— Where are the nations of the Indian ("with Iialfhis face vermilion") mentioned in the Records of Marri.iges
of Mission Concepcion ? (See Interview with Bishop Neraz) • Kven with the- g) )d Knight Charlemain I '•


Mission of San Juan.

The Third Mission, or Mission San Juan de Capistrano was named after
Santa Giovanni di Capistrano, a friar of the Franciscan order who was born in the
year loS() in the little town of Capistrano in the Abruzzi in Italy, or rather in
what was formerly the kingdom of the two Sicilies. The Mission was begun in
1~'M on March nth. It is situated on the left or east bank of the river about six
miles from San Antonio, a very picturesque locality by the San Juan ford and
bridge. The settlement there is called Berg's Mill after a Scouring Mill erected
some years ago. The S. A. & A. P. R. R. Depot goes by that name also.
About a half mile from this settlement on the right or west bank of the River is
the old aqueduct already alluded to in the introductory to the Missions — this
aqueduct takes water over the Piedra creek for the use of the Fourth Mission
lands. Mission San Juan is less remarkable and distinguished than the other
two just described but has its points of interest. Its .square is well defined and
the design of a complete Mission can be made out with less difficulty here and at
the Fourth Mission than at the others. Its little granary, its chapel, its ruined
convent or monastery which must hav^e been a building of some importance in its
day, and the foundations of a chapel which was never completed are all objects of
interest. These main buildings unlike those of the First and Second Missions
form parts of and are built into the boundary or rampart walls. A number of
Mexican families live here, some of the members of which possess marked Indian
features. In the neighborhood of San Juan there are more traces of the Indian
in faces and characteristics than anywhere else in Texas. The best time to note
this is on a Sunday afternoon when they usually congregate at one of the houses
near the ford for their weekly cock fight which seems to be the excitement of the
community, that is among the men.

The Chapel of San Juan is very plain and simple in construction. Just four
walls — the tower being merely an elevation of a portion of the East wall with open
arches in it for bells. There is still one bell left. The Chapel is roofless except
for one small room at the south end which is walled off by an adobe wall and
which is u.sed as a Sacristy, vestry, and receptacle for the small remaining stock of
figures, books, pictures and other such bric-a-brac. The inside of the walls of
the Chapel, however, will afford to such as care for that sort of thing a few min-
utes interesting study in rude frescoing. The frescoes are almost obliterated by
exposure to the weather andthe wonder is that they have not long since been washed
entirely ofi" by heavy rains. They are a curious mixture of Old and New World
ideas. Detail of Moorish design, a Roman arch, an Indian figure and pigments.
"The.se frescoes,' says Father Bouchu. "I think are of later date than the comple-
tion of the Chapel and they were probably permitted, to satisfy the Indian na-
ture's love of color." A painted rail aljout four feet high running around the
Chapel first attracts the eye, then the elaborately painted Roman Arch in red
and orange over the doorway. The design of this decoration is decidedly of a
Moorish caste, zigzag strips and lilocks of color with corkscrew and tile work,
and pillars of red and orange blocks. These pillars are al)out twelve feet high and
support another line or rail of color and upon this upper line are a series of fig-
ures of musicians each playing a different instrument. The figures for some rea-
son are much more indi.stinct than their instruments, the latter being accurately


"' .1 ■






drawn and easy to distinguish. There is one of these fij^ures over the frescoed
arch of the door. It is a mandolin ])hiyer. Tlie player is indi.stinct, portions of
his chair and instrument plainer, the latter can he made out to be of dark brown
color with the finger board and keys, red. To the right of him is a violin player,
the be.st preserved sample of all —the violin and bow are quite distinct, .so are the
features of the face of the figure, his hair is black, lips red, face and legs or-
ange, feet black, the body of the violin orange, the rest of him and the bow red. To
the right of him again is a guitar player, dres.sed in a bluish green color, sitting
in a red chair, the instrument is quite di.stinct. Directly opposite this figure vis
a vis is a viol player; the instrument being held by the player, finger board up,
from the left shoulder across the body ; head, hands, instrument and bow being
distinct, but the body of him is "played out."" To the right of this gho.stly
looking viol pla5^er is a harp and a chair but the player is either invisible or van-
ished. The lower rail, which is the nnich more elaborate of the two, supports here
and there a flower pot and flowers in incongruous colors of blui.sh green and dull
red^carnations and roses being prime favorites, with an occasional cross on a
painted pedestal or dado.

If there is any record of the partition of the lands of this Mission it has not
been discovered, at any rate with regard to the rooms in the ramparts it seems to
have been customary at the Missions that a number of years occupation of rooms
or barracks in any Mission gave some kind of title or claim to those rooms to the
occupants. The Mission Government was generous to its converts and depend-
ants. The Missions were projected for their benefit. This must explain such
doctiments as that which may be found in the County Records dated January 2Sth,
1826, which relates that Maria de las Santos Lopez and Bartara de las Santos
lyopez who were then occupying three rooms in the Mission San Juan conveyed
the same to the Province of Texas for the sum of $84.00 January 28th, 1826.
This sum was paid to them by Antonio Saucedo. then Chief Justice.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada.

The Fourth Mission or Mission San Francisco de la Espada, was ''erected "
as were Missions Concepcion and San Juan, in the year ITK), ])ut it was not lo-
cated and begun to be built until March -"ith, 17-"!1. It is situated on the
right or west bank of the San Antonio River al)out nine miles iVom the city, and
is dedicated to San FVancisco de la Espada, that is, to St. l-'rancis of Assi;5si, the
founder of the great order of Franciscans, but the question arises, whence " de la
Espada ? " St. Francis of the sword ? Tradition says that the old tower of the
Chapel was built in the form of the hilt of a sword, and that the imagination of
the founders supplied length to the blade to complete the similarity to the whole
weapon. Perhaps it was that Uiey were posses.sed with a portion of the spirit of
that Greek parent whose son complained of the shortness of his sword; "Add a
step to it, my son ! " The allusion to the sword may have had some reference to
the period of the awakening of St. Francis after his early iilne.ss, for it is related
of him that he did not know at first whether he was called to be a valiant soldier
and knight, or to be a faithful .servant of the Church Militant.


Parts of the ramparts or enclosing walls of this Mission are prett}' well pre-
served, others are in total rnins, but the foundations of the limits can be clearly
made out all around except at points facing the banks of the River. The Square is
of irregular shape as will be seen by the plan furnished. In the southeast corner is
an object of much interest. Projecting from the angle of the walls outwardly, is a
small round tower of quite a feudal character. It is in a state of fine preservation
and its three dressed stone round cannon holes near the base, and its seven
musket holes about eight feet from the ground, lend it quite a menacing presence.
The interior of it is iir equally good repair, and one cannot refrain from conjuring
up vivid scenes of fights with Indians in those early days of the Mission struggles
with the red man — of women handing out the loaded muskets from the secure
chambers to the right and left rear, of the unerring marksmen making it very hot
for the attacking hostile, with an occasional lull in which is run out a small brass
swivel gun* to the dimunitive embrasure, which makes the Apache or Comanche
wish he were safe home in his fastness among the hills of Bandera. And it
might have been that the recent remembrance of the total destruction of the San
Saba Mission and the massacre of its inmates in 17oS lent some zest to these en-
counters. For while these old Missionary pioneers were ever anxious to deal ten-
derly with any hostile, yet unfortunately there were occasions when sternness
was necessary,

• That they might feel
The velvet scabbard held a sword of steel."

There was another of these ' ' baluartes ' ' or bastions on the south wall by the
road, west of this one, but no trace of it is to be found. The chambers to the west
of the existing "baluarte" have, looking out upon the square, alternate doors and
arches, and one of the wide arched entrances still exists. The rooms to the north
have been fitted up for a school house by Rev. Father Bouchu. who is wonder-
fully active and persevering. He knows something of many subjects, which he
has practically proved here at the Mission. "Padre Francisco " is Priest, law-
yer, bricklayer, stone mason, photographer, historian, printer. His little pamph-
lets in Spanish would be a credit to an office of much larger pretensions. He has
lived in this community for many years and is well versed in information pertain-
ing to the history of the Missions, and being himself one of those Priests who join
with their vocation a knowledge of practical handicraft, he enters into the spirit of
the founders with more than ordinary keenness. He is simple, unaffected, and
garrulous, and meets the wants of the little settlement. He has built with his
own hands upon the ruin of the old Convent and arcade a comfortable Priest
house. Under his rule the Mission Chapel has been almost entirely renewed, the
front only retaining a portion of its ancient work. The Chapel is in the form of
a cross. The front is the belfry tower and is that portion that is supposed to
represent the likeness to a sword— perhaps it bore more of that resemblance be-
fore its restoration. Its three bells clang out three times a day, and would be
startling on the still country air to one who was ignorant of the vicinity of the
Mission. It is said that some of the Mission bells were cast in San Antonio in its
earliest days, so there is no knowing what these old Missionaries did not come

' Mr. Albert Maverick has one of these little Spanish brass gnns as an oinanicnl or curiosity in his
drawing looni.


preixired to do. Tliere arc sex'cral pretty little bits of wron.^ht iron work in tliis
and tlie other Missions. Here is another artistic accomplishment to be added to
the list of those possessed by the fathers. The entrance door of the Chapel is un-
mistakably Moorish, havin*; the true Alhanibra shape and lines. Sebastian
Tejada, the Mi.ssion's oldest resident, maintains that there was still another place
of worship on the inside of the South wall by the road, here was the old main
South entrance and the Granary was l)uiU projecting lengthwise outside the
w^alls by the same entrance. Only the bare foundation of these two buildings
now exist. Opposite the old Con\ent is the well which was never forgotten in
the building of a Mission. The Conv^ent, its yard, (which form now the Padre's
residence) and the Chapel or Church are built into and form portions of the
western ramparts. A plan and three illu.strations of this Mission are included in
this book. Several Mexican families still reside in tumble-dowm huts on the lines
of the Mission Sc^uare.

It was this Square that the Texan Army of Independence made their first
camping ground — on the place that is now much overgrown with mesquite
brush. Here Stephen F. Austin joined the troops as Commander in Chief upon
his escape from Mexico, and where — " but that is another story," — An interview
with Sebastien Tejada will perhaps be of some interest.

An interview with Sebastien Tejada, an old and intelligent Mexican, who
was born in one of the Mission Dwellings in 1818, Mission Francisco de la Es-
pada or Fourth Mission. Interview held on May 20th, 1S'.)(). In reply to many
questions he stated substantiall}- as follows :

"I w^as born here in IS];;. I have lived here all m\- life. I was born aliout
the time that Arredondo came through. This Mission seems to be much the
same as when I first remember it, — only some of the buildings were more com-
plete. I remember the Convent before it was so much altered. I remember the
arcades (row of arches of the Convent) and the granary which projected from the
entrance on the southern boundary. Also the foundations of the old Church in-
side the walls projected from the granary — the present Church is quite new, except
the front. I do not remember ever seeing the " baluarte " — (the fortified tower on
the southeastern corner) — used but I have heard of its being used against the In-
dians. Yes I remember the hostile Indians coming upon us many times — but
they were general!)- fought in my time inside the square of the Mission. The
dwellings used to be much more used formerly. We used to have and
house friendly Indians, but they mostly left at last. I remember when there
were three Padres to do service here. The old Church was pulled down about
fifty years ago. Dependants of the Mission used to live in the barracks at the
corner where the baluarte is. I remember another "baluarte" at the entrance
opposite the granary. The walls by the other entrance of the western boundary
had loop holes, too, but not round towers. I remember often the Spanish troops
camping here. I remember Bowie well, he married Gov. \'eramendi's daughter.
He was a fine looking, fair man. I remember the army of Austin and Fannin
camping here in 1.S3-"). They camped in the middle of the Plaza. Many colonists
(he called them coloni.sts of his own accord which was a touch of old days) came
here at that time. I remember Santa Anna, I saw him. He had one leg. I re-


member ven- well that the dead of the Alamo fight were burnt. The Texans
separately from the Mexican dead. It was the Mexican custom to thus burn
their dead after battle. I remember the fight well. I don't know what the Tex-
ans defended in the Alamo, but thought it was the whole Mission walls. I don't
know. I knew Seiiora Candelaria formerly. She is old, may be a hundred.
She might hav^e been in the Alamo during the fight. Quien Sabe."


The Plazas.

These open spaces which are characteristic of Latin America, and to a great
extent of Texas are as follows, beginning in the east and traveling westward :

Alamo Plaza. — Is the outcome of an original space around the Alamo,
added to by the destruction of its outworks the " Muralla del Alamo." It has
recently been converted into a beautiful garden and surrounding it are the follow-
ing buildings of interest : The Church of the Alamo, the Opera House and Club,
the Federal Building, and the Menger Hotel. This ground was the scene of
Santa Anna's bloody assaults on the Alamo in March, 1836.

Main Plaza. — Is situated on the west side of the business heart of the
city and is connected with Alamo Plaza by Commerce and North Alamo street.
This Plaza was anciently named La Plaza de las Yslas, and fronting on it and
running back to the Military Plaza is the Cathedral of San Fernando, formerly
the old Parish Church and yard. This square is also laid out as a handsome
pleasure ground.

Military Plaza,— Or, La Plaza de Armas, lies a block to the west of
Main Plaza and, pre\'ious to the erection of the new Municipal Building, which
occupies a site in its centre, was from time inmiemorial the heart of Mexican life.
The small vendors, the freighters, the pastores, peones and vaqueros, all congre-
gated here. Here, too, still stand the old Court House and Jail, commonly called
the " Bat Cave."

At night, in the olden time, and in a modified form up to within a few
months, was to be seen a unique spectacle of open air life belonging rather to the
tropics than to any part of the realm of Uncle Sam.

Imagine a large .square at that time badly lighted as to municipal illumina-
tion, but ablaze with small camp fires and flaming lamps swinging above rows
of improvised and shaky tables. All night long one might be served here with
viands hot from the Mexican cuisme — Chi/icon came, Tamales, Enchiladas, Chili
verde, frijoles and the leather-like tortillas. The more fastidious American
might enjoy delicately fried eggs and chicken with a cup of fair coffee, followed,
perchance, by a corn-shuck "r/^a;vv," rolled by the hand of the dark-eyed
" muchacha " in charge.

These a/ /resco restaurateurs have been hunted by electric lights and city im-
provements from Plaza to Plaza, until now a poor remnant of them may be found
still further west on Milam S(|uare near the grave of the hero, whilst a few others


T "/^-S



cling tenaciousl\' to a coii^ii of vantage in front of the- l'"c(kral huildiiin on Alaiiuj
Plaza in the east.

Hy the tourist " from the states," these peripatetic tal)les are eaj^erly sought
for as a curiosity to be seen, but only to be patronized in a "' west longitude.

There is a telegraph office at Department Headquarters and a railway con-
nection between the Quartermaster's Depot and the Southern Pacific system.

The buildings were begun on June 21st, 1S77, P,raden & Angus, contractors,
and have only recently been completed, the Government Hospital being built in
1885 and the "New Post," contracted for September lo, 1888. The}- are tastefully-
designed, as will be seen from the accompanying illustrations, and are located on
a reservation of l()2.21 acres. Of this noble site, so worthily occupied by
Uncle Sam, '.»2.7-> acres were donated by the city ; l'.».].s were acquired liy
purchase, April 2sth, 18,S1 ; P.».2!) acres by decrees of the r>istrict Court of
Bexar County, dated April 7th and May 25th, 1883, and .115 acres were granted
by the city of San Antonio to complete the donation heretofore referred to.

*Refcreiicc i-< liad for further particulars as to tliese interesting public places to the accompanying-
maps of I, a Villa Capital dc San Fernando, and the map of the heart of the modern city, also to many further
details in historical portions of this work.

26 SAN ANTONIO ni-: l^vXAR.

It will be noted, further on. that other sites had been offered to the Govern-
ment by the city authorities, both before and after the war. but for various reasons
none of them were accepted.

In addition to the Officers' Quarters of the '' Old " and " New " Posts and
the extensive Barracks, are the Department Offices and Ouartern.aster's Depot,
the following data will give an idea of their importance :

They are built around a quadrangle 024 feet square, the main facade fronting
south is 499 feet G inches by o;> feet and two stories high. The north front is ()24
feet by MO feet and of one story ; the whole comprising oO store rooms, 20 offices,
extensive work .shops and a cellar.

In the center of the quadrangle is a tower formerly u.sed as a water tower, and
containing a clock. It is 88 feet high, and from its summit a fine view of the city
and its environs may be obtained. Below lies the town with the San Antonio
River meandering .southward on its tortuous way to the Gulf, doubling aiul turn-
ing on its journey, as tho' loath to leave the scenes of its birth.

Military Drills. — A feature of Post life, of probably the most interest to
visitors, is the Dre.ss Parades and other military functions which are constantly

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Online LibraryWilliam CornerSan Antonio de Bexar; a guide and history → online text (page 4 of 22)