A President’s Day Visit to Goliad
On a sunny President’s Day in February, before the wildflower season when everything is still brown, some friends and I made a holiday trip Goliad. First we stopped at the old Spanish Mission, Espirtu Santo for a tour and picnic, and then drove over to the fort, Presidio La Bahia. As we walked to the entrance we counted NINE flags blowing in the breeze.
“Nine?” we asked each other.
“But I thought it was six!” someone said.
“What’s the story here we all wondered?”
We went inside the fort and started discovering the history of those flags, and as it turned out, we learned about the first man who claimed the title “President of the Republic of Texas.”
There have been more than 25 such claims [or something like it!] in the past 200 years – let’s take a trip across Texas to historic sites and shrines and discover just who they were, those rough and ready guys.
President’s Day In Texas
While wandering around the Presidio museum, I discovered that during a filibuster expedition [green flag], one Bernardo Gutiérez de Lara, declared himself to be President of the First Republic of Texas.
That was in 1813, two hundred years ago. After a fun visit, as we drove away, I looked back at the nine flags and wondered if each one actually represented a president? From my years as a historical archeologist, I recalled Sam Houston, first President of the Republic of Texas, and John Nance Garner [Garner State Park], who was vice-president to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Remembering the Texans who resided in the White House during my lifetime was simple enough: Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, and the two Presidents Bush. But what about those flags? Were there other men, associated with the flags, men who also had a right to the title? And if so, how many names could I add to ones I had already recalled.
I started digging in archives. Rootin’ tootin’ send up the fireworks! Presidents arose in stunning numbers during the rebellious turmoil that brought an end to Spain’s rule in Mexico and Texas. In fact, declaring oneself to be president gained such heights of popularity that every skirmish, filibustering expedition and bloody battle had a President of Texas. I found at least 25 individuals who claimed presidential leadership – ought Texas to have its own President’s Day?
No matter the soft breezes blowing across the pages of history books or pushing open doors to quiet museums and libraries in today’s world, during the past 200 years, it took strong winds of fortune, winds on the order of tornadoes and hurricanes, to thrust our wild and wooly forefathers into presidencies. Who were they – the ones who galloped into the record books guns blazing, battles raging, fightin’ n’ feudin’ to create the Lone Star State?