Tonkawa Bank

Historic Marker: NR-1981

The arrival along Garcitas Creek of Frenchman Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, in 1685 was the first European settlement in Texas. Although his ill-fated outpost lasted less than four years, the Spanish got word of the French stockade and began a frantic search for it. His outpost was on Spanish lands. Too late in their discovery, what was left of La Salle’s outpost was finally found in 1689; the settlers had been massacred by Karankawas, or taken captive. Later, in 1722, the first Presidio La Bahia was built by the Spanish atop the remains of La Salle’s outpost. Mission Espiritu Santo was established upstream across the creek.

After three years, “Espiritu Santo II” was built in present day Riverside Park on Tonkawa Bank. With more food and fresh water, and fewer conflicts with the Karankawas, this site served as both church and fort. Priests had elaborate plans for converting the local Indians and growing enough crops to support the natives and themselves. During their stay on Tonkawa Bank a stone mission complex was constructed and a palisade fence was built. Water was diverted from nearby Spring Creek to provide water for the crops. A substantial earthen dam — ninety feet wide — was built to retain water from area rainfall. By 1726, increasing numbers of Indian followers necessitated another move eight miles further up the Guadalupe River where it remained for twenty–three years. This area came to be known as Mission Valley. The final leg of the journey ended on the San Antonio River. The migration of Presidio La Bahia and Mission Espiritu Santo from Garcitas Creek (1722) to the San Antonio River (1749) is a vital chapter in the Spanish Colonial History of Texas.

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