There are several towns in the Southwest that are (in my opinion) unique—Santa Fe, New Orleans, San Francisco, and San Antonio. Choosing a favorite among them is difficult, but San Antonio wins. I have many happy memories of visits to this central Texas city. However, research for a recent release provided surprises.
San Antonio is located in south central Texas about 200 miles southwest of Houston and 150 miles north of the Mexican border. Spanish explorers first visited the site, then a camp of the Payaya Indians (which the Spaniards interpreted to have the name Yanaguana), on the Feast Day of Portuguese Franciscan friar Saint Anthony of Padua.
The year 1691 has been recognized as the beginning of a network of trails (caminos reales) that came to be known as the San Antonio-Nacogdoches Road or Old San Antonio Road. With stretches most likely developed from existing Indian trails, the road developed into a main artery for commerce and immigration.
But, San Antonio was not founded until 1718, when its first mission and first presidio known as San Antonio de Béxar were established at San Pedro Springs. The Mission San Antonio de Valero, later called the Alamo (Spanish for “Cottonwood”), was one of five founded in the area. The other missions are Concepción, San Juan, San Jose (called the Queen of Missions), and Estrada. Concepción Mission is the oldest continually functioning stone church in the United States. This Mission Trail has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|Rose Window at the|
San Jose Mission
Here is one of the truly surprising facts I encountered: In 1731 settlers from the Canary Islands laid out the town of San Fernando de Béxar near the presidio. Why did I not know this? I grew up in Texas and love Texas history. During its early years the settlement suffered from raids by Apache and Comanche tribes. By 1837 when it became a county seat of the Republic of Texas, it had been renamed San Antonio.
When the Alamo was built it included a large compound surrounded by walls. At that time the mission did not have the arch facade it now has. The arch was added when the mission was restored. At one time, there was speculation about demolishing the chapel. Fortunately, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas negotiated the mission's restoration.
Although I have never stayed at the Menger Hotel, I have wished I could. Our youngest daughter stayed there when she was in San Antonio for a conference. She was a bit disappointed that she did not encounter one of the ghosts rumored to be residing there. <g>
|Early photo of the Menger Hotel|
The Menger Hotel was built in 1859 by William and Mary Menger and has been in continuous operation since then. Their opening was so successful that they immediately added fifty more rooms. Mary cooked food served in the dining room. She received acclaim for her delicious food. One of her specialities was mango ice cream, flavored with mangoes growing in the hotel courtyard.
During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital but did not close its doors. After William's death in 1871, Mary and her son Louis William continued. They sold not too long afterward so that Louis William could concentrate on the family brewery next door. Over the years the hotel has sold several times and gone through numerous renovations to retain its status as a luxury hotel.
|Vendors in the plaza|
One of the places I enjoy in San Antonio is the River Walk. I also love the river taxis one boards at the Casa Rio Mexican Restaurant. Of course, I could eat Tex-Mex food every day given the chance, so I look forward to eating at Casa Rio when we visit. The plans for what would become the River Walk were designed by Robert Hugman in 1929. I admit I am grateful for his vision.
|1839 sketch of the Alamo|
On February 23, 1836, Texas soldiers garrisoned in the Alamo began their fateful stand against the larger Mexican army under the command of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, who ordered the siege and ultimately the final assault that took place on March 6, 1836. The battle of the Alamo, which Alamo historian Stephen Hardin has characterized as the “most celebrated military engagement in Texas history,” immortalized San Antonio’s converted first Franciscan mission and its Texan defenders as symbols of sacrifice, and generations would recognize the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo.”
Facts about San Antonio abound. Due to museums, sports, theme parks and events it’s a popular tourist destination.
One of my favorite songs about San Antonio is “San Antonio Rose” by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Enjoy!
If you would enjoy reading a fictional book with historically correct facts
about San Antonio, AN AGENT FOR MAGDALA, a Pinkerton Matchmaker Series romance, is available from Amazon in e-book and print and is in KU. The buy link is https://www.amazon.com/Agent-Magdala-Pinkerton-Matchmaker-Book-ebook/dp/B07V3G4QHY