East Texas is full of amazing history
and natural beauty. Mission Tejas State Park fully encompasses both the rich history
of East Texas and the natural wonder
and beauty of the Pineywoods and affords visitors the chance to experience both
to the fullest extent. Mission Tejas State Park is a 363.5-acre park nestled in
Houston County, 21 miles northeast of Crockett.
The park was constructed in 1935 and acquired in 1957 by Legislative Act from
the Texas Forest Service, at which time it was open to the public.|
park was built in 1934 by Company 888 of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as
a commemorative representation of Mission
San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas,
which was established in 1690.
San Francisco means “Saint Francis.” St.
Francis of Assisi was born in 1181 and died in 1226. His influence assisted in
the restoration of popular faith in the church which had been corrupted by wealth
and politics. Saint Francis was the founder of the Franciscan religious order
whose members seek to follow a life of poverty and devoutness. He was declared
a saint by the Roman Catholic Church on July 16, 1228.
The mission was
constructed to bring Christianity to the Indians dwelling in the Pineywoods
and to secure Spain’s domination over the territory, which would eventually become
the great state of Texas. The mission served as a
reminder for France, which occupied nearby Louisiana, that the territory belonged
Tejas was the Spanish pronunciation the Caddoa Indian word meaning,
“friends.” The Lone Star State takes its name from the term “Tejas.”
mission became a stopping point for many adventurers and explorers such as Rene
Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle during the late 1660s. La
Salle led the Spanish effort to settle with colonists and deny the French
entry, thus establishing sovereignty over the area. In 1683, La
Salle returned to France to gain permission for his colonization plans and
received the support he needed to proceed. In 1684, La
Salle left France and unintentionally landed at Matagorda
in 1685. La
Salle had intended to land near the mouth of the Mississippi River, but irtonically
misread his map, thus landing on the Texas
coast. Spain reacted defensively to La
Salle’s mistake and launched a manhunt aimed at La
It was at this time when Father Damian Massanet, a Franciscan
friar, was assigned the task of inaugurating missionary activity among the East
Texas Indians. Officials in the capital concluded that military presence would
impede upon their mission of spreading the Gospel. In light of this, a proposed
system of forts to bridge the gap between settlements in Coahuila and a new mission
field were rejected. Rather, Massanet founded San
Francisco de los Tejas, which became the first mission in East
Texas, known as Mission
The Spanish faced a long and perilous journey from Mexico to
East Texas. They had to trek some
700 miles in order to supply the mission. The path these early travelers used
eventually became known as the El
Camino Real, otherwise known as the Royal Road or the King’s Highway. The
El Camino Real de los
Tejas was originally a Native American footpath that adapted over time as
the frontier expanded. The path eventually facilitated Spanish exploration into
present day Louisiana, and even later Anglo settlers heading southwest.
1694, the mission
was abandoned. The mission
was extremely difficult to supply due to the long distance. Factors regarding
the Native American Indians also played a role on the abandonment of the mission.
Illness and death among Native Americans as well as their belief that baptismal
waters were fatal, and missionary fatalities led people not to congregate at the
Nearly 30 years later, in 1721, the mission was reestablished by Friar
Jose Guerra. The mission was renamed San Francisco de los Neches. Approximately
nine years after the mission was reestablished, the French were no longer a threat,
however, there were very few Native American converts. It was still very difficult
to supply the mission due to the great distance, and therefore was abandoned again.
Tejas Historical Marker|
courtesy Dana Goolsby,
Click on photo for large image
settlers who traveled the El Camino Real de los Tejas were Moses
Austin and later his son, Stephen
F. Austin. Other Texans who traveled the trail include Sam
Houston, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.
marched on and eventually more settlers arrived and constructed a log home. Joseph
Redmond Rice Sr. and his wife Willie Masters relocated to Texas
from Tennessee in 1828 and were among the earliest settlers of Houston County.
The Rice’s were a large family of 13. Rice became a self-sufficient and prosperous
farmer in Houston County after securing a grant of 1,237 acres of land in 1841
from the Republic of Texas.
The home which Rice constructed between 1828
and 1838, is one of the oldest structures in East
Texas. The home served as a stopover for immigrants, adventurers, and local
residents traveling the El
Camino Real. The log home was originally built 16 miles southwest of the park.
After Rice’s death in 1866, his wife continued to live in the log home
until her death in 1881. Family members occupied to log house until 1919. Rice’s
grandson, John Rice, relocated the house between 1919 and 1928, in order to use
it as a garage or barn. After John Rice passed away his wife, Nancy Rice donated
the log house to the state. In 1974, the log house was restored and moved to its
current location in the park.
Tejas State Park
courtesy Dana Goolsby,
Tejas State Park offers several activities including camping, picnicking, hiking,
and fishing. A pond located near the picnic area offers an excellent opportunity
to explore aquatic life and fish. Hiking and nature trails provide access to the
natural beauty of the East Texas Pineywoods. Facilities include commemorative
representation of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas; the restored Rice Family
Log Home; picnic sites; campsites with water; campsites with water and electricity;
campsites with water, electricity, and sewer; group picnic areas; a group picnic
pavilion; restrooms with and without showers; a group camping area; an amphitheater;
a trailer dump station; 3 1/2 miles of hiking trails; a playground; and a nature
pond (approximately 1 acre in size).
Nearby attractions include Caddo
Mounds State Historic Site and the Davy Crockett National Forest.
Tejas State Park is located 21 miles northeast of Crockett
and 12 miles southwest of Alto
on State Highway 21. For reservations contact 512.389.8900 or for more information
contact 800.792.1112 or 936.687.2394 or visit the state park website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/missiontejas.
Elevation: Elevation ranges from 167 to 552 feet.
Average rainfall 42.2 inches. January average low is 35 degrees. July average
high is 95 degrees.
Schedule: Open 7 days a week year-round. Office
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 365 days a year.
article was originally published on MYETX.com
The Pines With Dana Goolsby"
April 20, 2012 Column
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