FIELD NOTES AND NARRATIVE ON OLD SPANISH RUINS AT THE TONCAHUA INDIAN VILLAGE ON THE TONCAHUA BANK ON THE GUADALUPE RIVER NORTH END OF THE CITY PARK, VICTORIA
VICTORIA COUNTY TEXAS
JOHN L. JARRATT, SR.
Mission Espiritu Santo
Fort La Bahia
La Bahia on the Guadalupe River, 1726-1749
Why excavations of old Spanish ruins in City Park delayed
Excavation again underway
Descriptions and explanations (of drawing)
This Indian village first came to my attention in 1922. The location was in a mott of trees and was about 1000 feet south of the old ruins of which these notes are mostly concerned. The property was then privately owned. And in a cursary [sic] examination made at the time, enough artifacts were found that were both Indian and Spanish (including a old rock wall and foundations that were definatly [sic] Spanish) to cause me some years later to excavate the Indian village site and the Indian burying ground. The complete record of this excavation which was made in 1930-31 and again in 1932 with a Mr. A. M. Woolsey of the Dept. of Anthropology, University of Texas. The reader is referred to this record for further notes on these Indians. *1 As this report or narrative has only to do with the Old Spanish Ruin, reference to these Indians will only be made when necessary in connection with the Spanish while on the Guadalupe River.
Up tell [sic] the end of the 19th century, this location on the Guadalupe River was historically known as the Toncahua Bank and was named after the tribe of Indians found living there in 1689 by Capt. Alonzo de Leon.*2 This hill or ridge (which is more suitable for this location) is the extension of the high prairie land and juts out through the river bottom lands to the river forming a very high bluff. This ridge is 95 feet above sea level and is the highest point of land that abuts the river from this location to its mouth. Also it is first place which is fordable for ox-carts[,] wagons and live stock without swimming. Capt. DeLeon crossed the river here a little below the bluff as stated in 1689.*3
THE MISSION ESPIRITU SANTO
Now most every Texan knows where the second location of Espiritu Santo was located (lower end of Mission Valley on the Guadalupe River in Victoria County).
FORT LA BAHIA
Some historical data and notes on La Bahia will not be out of place here and will serve as a sort of back-ground to the part of this report which deals with the actual excavation of the old Spanish Ruins. In my school days, history had the first location of Espiritu Santo and the Fort La Bahia placed on the Lavaca River and there [is] still much evidence that the Lavaca River site could be the right one. In A SOURCE READER ON TEXAS HISTORY, published in 1904, by Herbert Eugene Bolton, professor of history in the University of Texas[,] he places M, La Salles Fort St Louis on the Lavaca River in Jackson County. He some years later placed La Salles Fort on the west bank of the Garcitas Creek in Victoria County.*4 & *5 The writer has visited both sites and found evidence of European habitation at each one of these locations. Now one can get a argument on this point any time and any where in Jackson or Victoria counties. As for the writer of this article he is at this time undecided just which location is the correct one. However that may be, history records the fact that Marquis De San Miguel de Aguayo left San Antonio on March 16, 1722 with 50 soldiers to reinforce the 40 soldiers who were all ready established on Espiritu Santo bay. Espiritu Santo Bay in 1722 taken in all of what is now known as Matagorda, San Antonio and Lavaca Bays.*6 That April 6th Aguayo began the construction of a fort on the exact spot where M, La Salle had established his Fort St Louis in 1685. M Aguayo named this fort La Bahia, (the bay), and on April 10th, 1722, located a spot about 2 miles from the fort and founded a Mission. This mission was named Nuestra Del Espiritu Santos de Zuniga. Father Patron was put in charge of this mission.
In this report on the excavations made at the Toncahua Bank on the Guadalupe River (1965-66) [,] the Garcitas Creek locations will be used as a starting point for the Fort La Bahia. There are good reasons for this as various points of interest will be brought out that will show a connecting link. The fort and the mission that was established near it stayed at the Garcitas Creek location for four years (1722 to 1726). In 1726 the fort and the mission were moved to locations on the Guadalupe River where they stayed for 23 years (1726 to 1749) and had developed into a self-sustaining community. The physical remains or stone buildings, dams and irrigation ditches that they used are to be seen today. The site of the mission on the Guadalupe River as before stated are well known [and] also the location of the rock dam and irrigation ditches that belonged with the mission. However, the exact location of where the Fort La Bahia was located on the Guadalupe River is not known. It is this location ,(La Bahia on the Guadalupe), that the writer of this report or article, on excavations made at the Toncahua Bank, has for over 30 years (as time permitted) been trying to locate. And this report will be more historical than otherwise, with all of the archeological finding[s], both Indian and Spanish[...] noted.
LA BAHIA ON THE GUADALUPE
RIVER, 1726 TO 1749
To start my search for the Fort La Bahia on the Guadalupe River, I first wanted to see Pro. Bolton's location on the Garcitas Creek. And in the fall of 1934 I drove to a point near La Salle, Texas and walked the Mo Pac Railroad tracks to the creek, crossed over to the west bank and walked down the creek to the site. The location was overgrown with brush and a regular thicket. There were a few Spanish Daggers along the creek. The whole area being infested with rattle snakes from 3 ½ to 5 feet long. I killed 9 at the site and 2 between the site and the railroad tracks. As it was then, it is the same now, no place to take a group of people. The site can now be reached by boat from the highway which is about 3 miles up stream. Found at the site was some lead all flaten [sic] out, fragments of Indian pottery, terra cotta type, burned clay and animal bones. I also found there fragments of European pottery or ware, one very large peace [sic] of European ware was found that had the makers mark on it and a deep blue flowery pattern or design. I identified this peace [sic] of European ware as majolica ware and have used it to compare other fragments of European ware found at other sites.
I will note here that in this area at every Spanish Fort and Mission location, this majolica ware with the same blue pattern and design has been found. (La Bahia on the Garcitas Creek , La Bahia on the San Antonio River, the Mission Espiritu Santo on the Guadalupe, and Espiritu Santo on the San Antonio River and the Mission Rosario also on the San Antonio River and in the excavation on the Toncahua Bank in the City Park this European pottery or ware has also been found). Now this trail of majolica ware connects up in the writers opinion (Fort or Mission) a Spanish habitation on the Garcitas Creek, the Espiritu Santo Mission on the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers and La Bahia also on the San Antonio River, also the site in the Victoria City Park.
All of this evidence still does not prove that the site on the Garcitas Creek which is definitely
Spanish (there has to be 2 sites, a fort and a mission close by, one of these sites has never been found) is actually the location of M La Salle's Fort St Louis and the location of La Bahia. There is still much work to do on the Garcitas Creek and the Lavaca River to prove the exact location.
OF OLD SPANISH RUINS IN CITY PARK DELAYED
Now the fact in the case is this. An early day settler and merchant in Victoria, the Hon. John J. Linn, wrote in his reminisces of FIFTY YEARS IN TEXAS, that the Toncahua Indians was for many years the wards of the Franciscan Fathers and that they had a church which was erected for them on what is known as the Toncahua Bank and that the foundations was still to be seen as it was made of masonry. For this reason the writer without any other evidence whatsoever never did examine this old Spanish location very closely [until] 1965, 35 years after he first saw the foundations, which at that time were about 2 feet above the ground. But had all ways thought of the Toncahua Bank location as a Toncahua Indian location (village) where the Franciscan Fathers during Spanish Colonial times had erected a chapel or small church there for their use. Now it is a historical fact that the Fort La Bahia was moved to the Guadalupe River and was there for over 23 years and had from time to time from 50 to 100 Spanish soldiers there plus a Priest and the Indians. After 23 years of habitation on one spot there just has to be something left there to identify the location. The writer has checked over all of the ground from Victoria to the upper end of Mission Valley both sides of the Guadalupe River and only 2 likely sites for the fort between Victoria and the Mission Espiritu Santos so far has been found. It was on one of these sites up the river that the writer was excavating with very little material turning up when he decided to start all over again and start at the Toncahua Bank on the so called Old Spanish Church (the Toncahua Indian Village located at the same place had as stated been excavated in 1930,31 and 32 *1), but the Old Spanish Ruins had not. In Aug. 1965 I checked over the Toncahua Bank. Locations were changed and very messed up. I found that the Indian burying ground on the south slope had been bulldozed off and a golf course layed [sic] out on it, a Y.M.C.A. building had been erected on about where the main part of the Indian Village was located and that the whole ridge had been bulldozed off and dirt had been hauled off the top of the ridge to make up level land for 3 Little League ball parks on the north slope. This fill was 14 feet and it taken from 2 feet to 3 feet of dirt from the top of the ridge to do it. This was enough top soil and kitchen midden to practically clean off the ridge of any artifacts, Indian or Spanish. Mr. S. R. Weiseger, chairman of the Victoria Historical Survey Comm. was with me. Mr. Weisiger has worked with me on various occasions up the Guadalupe and is well posted on historical locations in this area. We found a trace of the Old Spanish Church foundations and I decided to excavate the ruins to learn the size and outline of the building. As this site was now public property and in the City Park, I went before the Park Officials and the City Police Dept to keep a eye on the site as I advanced in the excavation to keep people from destroying my work. Excavations got under way on the 11th of Sept. 1965 and in probing the area and setting stakes for the work, I found a burying ground 600 feet due east from the river and 36 feet southeast from the old foundation wall. One burial was partly out of the ground and I took the relics up. With me at the time was a Police Capt. Kenneth Rosenquest and a Mr. Herman Fishbeck, both of Victoria. Also was found the outline traces of other old foundations. I was now satisfied that there was more to this location than what I had all ways believed and now went to work in earnest on the project and was doing very well [until] the news of my work got out in the local paper on Sept. the 19, 1965, and in a few days thereafter, I was stopped cold in a work that was purely historical and a work that I had been doing for over 40 years, 30 years of the 40 trying to locate the location of La Bahia on the Guadalupe River. (The newspaper account of this interference by local and adjoining county arrowhead hunters, who style themselves as members of an Archeological Society, but who in fact only hunt for good specimens or arrowheads and then sell them. One of them sold me 20 Matamoros points for 5 cents each, will appear in the appendix of the complete and final report of the excavations done at the Toncahua Bank). Now I want to say here that there is no harm done in collecting arrowheads and other Indian Artifacts, it is the digging up that does the damage. The Pot-Hunters of New Mexico and the Arrowhead Hunters of Texas are as the Indians say, Bad Medicine for the archaelogist [sic].
AREA PUT UNDER A GOOD FENCE
The city had me to stake off a 50 by 50 foot square that would take in the main building or what appeared at the time, the main building, and they put a good fence around the site. All excavations has been done within this square. But as before stated there are more here than what is enclosed within the fenced off area.
EXCAVATION AGAIN UNDERWAY
On the 23 day of Oct. 1965, I was back at work on the site. The building excavated within the enclosed area sets back from the river bank or bluff 500 feet due east and 65 feet due south from the north slope, which is very steep, was almost a bluff before the area was bull dozed and level[ed] off in 1958. The building was 25 x 40, had two rooms and faced west. A Mr. Des Hiller who as a boy played around the old foundations states that the large door to the building faced west, or toward the river and the excavations showed that this was correct.
The reader will have to from time to time in this narrative refer to a drawing
of the building ground floor plan DRAWING
No 1. The various locations etc. are numbered to correspond to the
brief descriptions of the building and artifacts found. We will start with the
west room which is No 1 on the building ground floor plan as outlined by the
foundations and No 2, the rear room or east room. The outline of the foundation
shows that the building had two rooms 16 x 21 feet [,] inside measurement[,]
with possibly a third room attached on the south wall and used as a kitchen,
No 3, for at this location was found a lot of bones (animal), burnt sandstone
rock, fragments of pottery (Indian) and the remains of an old iron pot. (Unable
to save any of the pot but scraps and a part of the rim). The walls in width
was 2 feet and in laying the foundations, a layer of sand, yellow in color,
was first put in the trench about 3 inches thick. This sand was layed on solid
black clay. On top of this sand was placed river gravel mixed with small parts
of sandstone, all then was cemented into a solid mass by water lime made of
burned caliche and fine sand. When the excavation trench was even with the surface[,]
sandstones were then used to rear the walls[,] some gravel being used as filling,
with the exception of the corners and where the buttress[es] were located. The
construction of the walls were not on a coursed line but of a daub type of rock
laying. (Rock mortarsed [sic] together in any form) The outside dimension of
this two room building was 25 x 40 feet. The building was heated by a large
fireplace on the north side and in the northeast corner of the west room No
4. This room No 1 has three doors[,] one on the west end, one on the south side
and one in the partition wall to the rear room. This rear room has a door on
the south side. Note...(I want to quote Mr. Des Hiller again about these walls.
He, Mr. Hiller states that he remembers the wall as a boy and that they were
about 5 feet high in places and had a lot of windows or what could of been windows.
They were very small and looked more like slots left in the wall for some reason).
DESCRIPTIONS AND EXPLANATIONS
Refer to DRAWING No 1 for the locations etc.
No 1. West room facing the river, Majolica Ware found here.
No 2. East or rear room. These two rooms are 40 feet over all on the north side, and 42 feet on the south side, each was 16 x 21 feet inside diameter and what appears to have been the main part of the building.
No 3. This appears to have been another room attached on the south side. At this location was found some very thick Indian pottery and also Majolica ware. A lot of burned rock, an old iron pot, some of the pot rim was saved, animal bones , clam shells. This indicates a place where cooking was done and was possibly used as a kitchen by someone.
No 4. The foundations outline a fireplace here for heating the west or room No 1, burned rock was found here [and] also clay. Charcoal was found in both rooms near the center partition wall. Majolica Ware fragments were also found at this location.
No. 5. This is a space between 2 rock walls and is located 21 feet from the north side of the building, with a wall between, 14 feet from the building. Nothing was found here to indicate what the walls could have been used for. The wall foundations were just a trace here and could hardly be followed.
No. 6. This is the rock part of the stockade wall surrounding the buildings. This too was just a trace in places of the foundations and this could not be followed around the whole building. I am inclined to believe that the stockade grounds was much larger and were in part a palsiade [sic] formed of sharp pointed stakes or posts set in the ground, making a very good fortifacation [sic] and could pen and protect stock etc.
No. 7. The partition wall that cut the building into two rooms which were connected by a door near the center ( you will note that here near the fireplace which was located in the northeast corner of the west room, was found a lot of burned rock and charcoal [and] also Indian Pottery and fragments of Majolica Ware).
No. 8. The grave yard of the Fort ( or chapel ). This grave yard was just south of the rock part of
the stockade wall, but was within the palisade area of the complex. (See DRAWING No 2 which is a probable layout of the establishment ).
No. 9. Graves... 3 have been located in this grave yard and all of the graves are now only 2 to 3 inches under the surface and all are badly crushed and broken. I want to note at this point that all of this ridge or hill area where this fort ( or chapel ) was located was bull-dozed off in 1958 by the Park Board or commissioners and at least from 2 to 3 feet in places, of dirt and rock from the building area etc. was carried to the north slope to use as a fill in building up the ground for the Little League Ball Parks. This fill was 14 feet and covered an area of 2 to 3 acres, thus leaving a very thin layer of dirt covering these graves. One of these graves was on the surface level and it had to be taken up. The skull was all broken and crushed as was the other bones of the skeleton, however, a complete jaw bone with the teeth still intact was in good condition. The burial was all removed[,] as to[o] much of it was showing above ground. I did not want anyone digging around the area and find[ing] the other graves. These I want to excavate with a anthropologist present when they are taken up. In the grave excavated [...] found with the skeleton were scraps of old iron so badly rusted away that nothing could be made of it [and] also found was a fragment of braid made of copper silver and brass thread. This I identified as Spanish by comparison with similar braid found at the Espiritu Santo Mission site and at La Bahia at Goliad and could be off of a Spanish Priest vestments or from a Spanish Officers coat of the early 18th century. A peace [sic] of lead was also found at this burial as was a small fragment of Majolica ware. All of the other graves are covered up with dirt 2 or 3 inches and are marked in my field notes as to locations. My opinion of this grave yard is that it is Spanish as the burials face east and are straight burials[,] whereas the burials that I found in 1930 in the Indian burying ground south of this location was all flexed or bundle burials. DRAWING
No. 10. This is a trace of a rock wall or part of a wall and found here was a lot [of] burned clay and sand, fragments of baked clay, charcoal[,] a lot of Indian pottery of the terra-cotta type and some pottery that had been glazed. Clam and mussel shell, flint chipping are plentiful at this location. This indicates to me a outdoor oven or kiln. The site No 10 has not been completely excavated. However[,] in 1930[,] I dug 2 test holes on this ridge and at that time the kitchen midden dirt was one foot deep. It is this midden dirt around the whole site that since has been completely removed as stated to level ground for the 3 Little League Ball Parks at the north slope. There are, however[,] a lot of Indian Potsherds to be found yet on the south slope of the ridge. As one walks across the ridge toward the south slope and down the south slope which is a gentle decline, more Indian artifacts, arrowheads, potsherds, clam shells and other refuse etc. can be found. This indicates that there was not as much top soil removed there as was done on the north slope or north part of the ridge where the old Spanish building was located.
No. 11. This is the outline or bottom of the foundations of the building as indicated, refer to DRAWING No 1 for width of walls and construction etc.
No. 12. Rock buttress on outside of walls at corners.
No. 13x. This denotes location and in this area was what was probably another room and was used as a kitchen[,] as at this location was found iron, Indian Pottery, majolica potsherds and much burned rock, bones, clam shells etc. (Note) The bones that were found here at this spot was left at the excavation site overnight and were stolen as were the fragments of old iron.
No. 14x. This also denotes location and at these points in the excavation of the foundations[,] Majolica ware potsherds was found all within 3 inches of the surface and inside the building. This Majolica ware pottery also can be found all over the ridge area and some fragments were found in the grave yard area as before noted. Majolica ware is a soft paste pottery with tin enemal [sic] coating and this particular Majolica ware has a richly colored blue design and is found at all of the Spanish habitations in the coastal area along the Garcitas Creek, Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers.
No. 15x. At this location was found the Indian beads made out of bone[.] DRAWING [T]hese beads are cylindrcial [sic] in shape [and] about ½ inch in diameter and 1 inch long with a hole through the center. This hole through the beads was bored from each end[.] [T]hey used a flint drill for this purpose which left the ends of the hole concave. There was no carving on the beads, as are in some cases. A few of these flint drills were found at the main Indian Village site about 1000 yards south of the old foundations in 1930-31 and in 1932 when the Indian Village site was excavated.
Now as of this date, May 1, 1966, the excavation of the old foundations are complete, except that there are and should be more excavation work done on a 40 x 40 foot area just south of the excavation done in the enclosed 50 x 50 foot area. This will include the grave and burials. I will note here that this should be done as soon as possible and is very important, as large trucks and other vehicles are destroying and distorting anything of archeological value in this unprotected portion of the ridge. The excavation work done on the foundations have been banked so as [to] keep intact the outline of the building walls. This concludes the work that I wanted to do at the site for the present. There will be farther notes to this report as soon as a report on the material taken to the Archeological Research Laboratory in Austin is received. Also the complete report on the excavations made at the Indian village ( same location ) in 1930-31 and 1932 will be made part of the narrative.
As of this date May 1 1966, what we have here in the north end of the City
Park at the Toncahua Bank are these facts.
No 1.. An Indian Village, approx. 600 years old at time the Indians were first seen by white people in the 17th century and continued to live there to about the middle of the 19th century.
No 2.. A rock building, which could of been a fort or a chapel erected in the early 18th century ( between 1726 and 1730 ) by the Spanish and a part of and included in the Spanish Complex of Missions, Forts, Dams, irrigation ditches, outposts etc., which extended from the Toncahua Bank to the upper end of what is now known as Mission Valley along the Guadalupe River.
No 3... A ford on the river just below the Toncahua Bank, a ford that was found and used by Capt. ( Governor ) Alonzo DeLeon in 1689. DeLeon crossed the Guadalupe on April the 15th (however he came to the river and named it at about 2 p.m. on April 14th 1689 ). A truly Historical Location, and there should be something done to save what remains.
May 1, 1966
John L. Jarratt Sr.
*1. Archeological Surveys in Victoria County, ( Toncahua Village ) by John L. Jarratt Sr. 1930-31.
*2. Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas, 1883, page 334, by the Hon. John J. Linn. ( early day merchant of Victoria 1829 to 1885 ).
*3. Texas Gulf Coast, by Joseph L. Clark.
*4.and *5. A Source Reader, by Herbert Eugene Bolton, 1904. (Used in public schools). Bolton in 1914 changed the location of M La Salles Fort St Louis from the Lavaca River to the west bank of the Garcitas Creek. (Letter from Bolton to the Hon. Leopold Morris, 1936).
*6. Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1936, page 169, Vol. 2, by Carlos E. Castaneda.