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HISTORY OF FORT ST. LOUIS

This webpage contains a brief history of French Fort St. Louis established on the Texas coast by French explorer, Robert de La Salle in 1685. La Salle intended to set up a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi River, but inaccurate maps and navigational errors caused his ships to reach the coast of Texas near Matagorda Bay. This Fort was overrun by the Karankawa Indians in 1689 and later became the first site of the Spanish fort, Presideo La Bahia and mission Espiritu Santo.


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Texas History-French Fort St. Louis (1685)




Len Kubiak, Texas Historian and Author

Welcome to our Texas History Series. On this webpage, we provide the history of the French attempt at colonization of America. Under the leadership of the famous French explorer, La Salle in 1685, an attempt was made to establish a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River near present day New Orleans. However, due to serious navigational errors, La Salle and his ships found themselves near present-day Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast. Here they built Fort St. Louis which solidified the French claim to North America which they later sold to the United States under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase.

Fort St. Louis, Est. 1685

Explorer La Salle of France set out to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River to maintain France's claim on the Louisiana Territory. With support from France's King Louis XIV, La Salle sailed into Matagorda Bay near present day Inez, Texas thinking he was at the mouth of the Mississippi River. La Salle and his men then set about building Fort St. Louis on the west bank of Garcitas Creek.

The colony at Fort St. Louis faced many difficulties during their brief existence, including hostile Native Americans, epidemics, and harsh conditions.

When La Salle realized he was nowhere near the Mississippi River, he led many expeditions in search of the elusive river. However, he did explore much of the Rio Grande and parts of East Texas.

During one of La Salle's absences in 1686, the colony's last ship was wrecked, which meant they could no longer obtasin supplies from the French colonies in the Caribbean Sea. As conditions deteriorated, La Salle realized the colony could only survive with help from French settlements in Illinois Country.

La Salle's last expedition ended along the Brazos River in early 1687 when La Salle and five of his men were murdered by rivals in the group. A handful of men did reach the Illinois colony, but help was not forthcoming for Fort St. Louis. The remaining members of the Fort St. Louis colony were killed or captured during a Karankawa raid in late 1688. Although the colony lasted only three years, its existence established France's claim to possession of the region that is now Texas, and later supported the claim by the United States to the region as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Spain learned of La Salle's mission in 1686. Concerned that the French colony could threaten Spain's control over New Spain and the southern portion of North America, Spanish authorities funded multiple expeditions to find and eliminate the settlement. The unsuccessful expeditions helped Spain to better understand the geography of the Gulf Coast region. When the Spanish finally discovered the remains of the French settlement in 1689, they buried the cannons and burned the buildings. Years later, Spanish authorities built a presidio at the same location. When the Spanish presidio ceased to exist, the site of the French settlement was forgotten. It was rediscovered in 1996 and the area is now an archaeological site.

In 1721, the Spanish built a fort over the ruins of the failed French colony, Fort St. Louis in 1721. The Spanish Fort, known as Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía, or simply La Bahia was moved to a new location on the Guadalupe River in 1726. In 1747, the presidio and its mission were moved to their current location on the San Antonio River in present day Goliad. By 1770, the presidio had been rebuilt in stone and had become ""the only Spanish fortress for the entire Gulf Coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the Mississippi River". A civilian settlement, modern-day Goliad, sprang up around the presidio in the late 18th century, and the area was one of the three most important in Spanish Texas.

The presidio was captured by insurgents twice during the Mexican War of Independence, by the Republican Army of the North in 1813 and by the Long Expedition in 1821. Each time the insurgents were later defeated by Spanish troops. By the end of 1821 Texas became part of the newly formed Republic of Mexico. La Bahia was one of the two major garrisons in Mexican Texas and lay halfway between San Antonio de Béxar (the political center of Texas) and Copano Bay, the major port in Texas. In October 1835, days after the beginning of the Texas Revolution, a group of Texian insurgents marched on La Bahia. After a 30-minute battle, the Mexican garrison surrendered and the Texians gained control of the presidio, which they soon renamed Fort Defiance.

During the siege of the Alamo, Texian commander William B. Travis several times asked La Bahia commander James Fannin to bring reinforcements. Although Fannin and his men attempted a relief mission, they abandoned the attempt the following day. After the fall of the Alamo, General Sam Houston ordered Fannin to abandon La Bahia. He did so on March 19, but took a leisurely path and the La Bahia garrison was captured and imprisoned in the presidio. On March 27 the Texian captives were marched from the presidio and executed, in an event known as the Goliad Massacre.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: DeWitt Clinton Baker, comp., A Texas Scrap-Book (New York: Barnes, 1875; rpt. 1887; facsimile rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). Joseph H. Barnard, Dr. J. H. Barnard's Journal: A Composite of Known Versions, ed. Hobart Huson (Refugio?, Texas, 1949). Harbert Davenport, James W. Fannin's Part in the Texas Revolution (MS, Harbert Davenport Papers, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin). John Crittenden Duval, Early Times in Texas, or the Adventures of Jack Dobell (Austin: Gammel, 1892; new ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986). Hermann Ehrenberg, Texas und Seine Revolution (Leipzig: Wigand, 1843; abridged trans. by Charlotte Churchill, With Milam and Fannin, Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Joseph E. Field, Three Years in Texas (Greenfield and Boston, Massachusetts, 1836; rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). Henry Stuart Foote, Texas and the Texans (2 vols., Philadelphia: Cowperthwait, 1841; rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920-27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Hobart Huson, Colonel Fannin's Execution of General Houston's Orders to Evacuate Goliad (MS, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin). Hobart Huson, El Copano: Ancient Port of Bexar and La Bahia (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1935). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). William Kennedy, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas (London: Hastings, 1841; rpt., Fort Worth: Molyneaux Craftsmen, 1925). John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: Sadlier, 1883; 2d ed., Austin: Steck, 1935; rpt., Austin: State House, 1986). Abel Morgan, An Account of the Battle of Goliad and Fanning's Massacre (Paducah, Kentucky?, 1847?). Kathryn Stoner O'Connor, The Presidio La Bahía del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, 1721 to 1846 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1966). José Enrique de la Peña, With Santa Anna in Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975). Jakie L. Pruett and Everett B. Cole, Goliad Massacre: A Tragedy of the Texas Revolution (Austin: Eakin Press, 1985). Victor Marion Rose, History of Victoria (Laredo, 1883; rpt., Victoria, Texas: Book Mart, 1961). Antonio López de Santa Anna et al., The Mexican Side of the Texan Revolution, trans. Carlos E. Castañeda (Dallas: Turner, 1928; 2d ed., Austin: Graphic Ideas, 1970). Ruby C. Smith, "James W. Fannin, Jr., in the Texas Revolution," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 23 (October 1919, January, April 1920). Victoria Advocate, January 3, 1932, 88th Anniversary Number, September 28, 1934. Clarence R. Wharton, Remember Goliad (Houston: McCurdy-Young, 1931). Nell White, Goliad in the Texas Revolution (M.A. thesis, University of Houston, 1941). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986). Henderson K. Yoakum, History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846 (2 vols., New York: Redfield, 1855).






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LEONARD KUBIAK's ONLINE TEXAS HISTORY WEBPAGES


TEXAS HISTORY

Letters by Early-Day Texas Settlers.
Officers and Men of the Republic of Texas
How Texas Got It's Name.
Officers and Men of the Republic of Texas
Old 300 Anglo Settlers in Texas.

Important Documents of Early-Day Texas
Battle of San Jacinto-Victory for the Republic of Texas Army

Military Forts in Early Day Texas
Alamo Hero Jim Bowie


FALLS COUNTY, TEXAS
History of Busksnort and Marlin, Texas
Eye Witness Accounts of Busksnort and Marlin, Texas
History of Cedar Springs, Wilderville, and Rosebud

Pleasant Grove, Falls County, Tx Webpage
Rosebud, Falls County, Tx Webpage
Highbank Webpage and History

History of Reagan, Texas
History of Reagan Baptist Church
History of the Reagan Methodist Church
Reagan Homecoming Page
Reagan Obituaries
Map of Reagan, Texas
Former Residents of Reagan, Texas
Former Students and Teachers of Reagan, Texas
Fond Memories of Life in Reagan
History of Alto Springs

FALLS COUNTY CEMETERY LISTINGS
North Blue Ridge (Stranger)Settlement History and Cemetery
Blueridge History and Cemetery Roll
Mustang Prairie Settlement History and Cemetery Listing
History of Cedar Springs, Pleasant Grove, & Wilderville, and cemetery Listings Waite (Reagan)Cemetery Listing
Blue Ridge (Reagan)Cemetery Listing
Hog Island (Reagan) Cemetery Listing
Johnson (Reagan)Cemetery Listing
Powers/McCaleb(Reagan)Cemetery Listing

LIMESTONE COUNTY
Kosse Cemetery Listings.

MILAM, COUNTY, TEXAS
History of Rockdale, Thorndale, Bushdale
History of Hamilton Chapel, Cemetery Listing
History and Listing of Rockdale IOOF Cemetery


ROBERTSON COUNTY

Bremond and Wootan Wells


WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TEXAS
Liberty Hill, Williamson County, Texas Home Page
Prehistoric History of the Liberty Hill Region
Liberty Hill Settlement in the 1850's
History of the Liberty Hill Stage Coach Stop (1852)
Liberty Hill -Then and Now
The Founding of New Liberty Hill (1882)
Historic Liberty Hill Cemetery Listing.
History of Cedar Park

FAMOUS TEXANS AND VISITORS
Governor John Conally
State Representative Daniel James Kubiak
Jean Kubiak Cundieff Memorial Page
Indian Captive Cynthia Ann Parker
Sam Houston-Early-day Texas History
General George Custer
Generals Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant
Famous Sam Bass Outlaw Gang
General Santa Anna
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the U.S.


HISTORY OF TRANSPORTATION
History of Trains in Texas


INDIAN RELEATED HISTORY
Indian Treaty Signed With the Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches in 1867
The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker.
History of the Tarahumara Indians, a primitive tribe living in modern times.

OLD WEST RELATED

Another true life tale of life in Early-Day texas
History of the Cowboy and Cattle Drives in Early-Day texas
History of The Western Stagecoach
Cowboys of the Silver Screen.


MISCELLEANEOUS
History of Thanksgiving.
History of the Hesston Belt Buckle.







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