Cart War Oak

Historical Period: Early Statehood (1845-1861)
Historical Topic: County Courthouses, Mob Justice
Species: Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
County: Goliad
Public Access: Yes

The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 officially ended Texas' war with Mexico; however, isolated outbreaks of bitter racism between Mexicans and Texans continued for years.

One notable example of this animosity erupted into open strife in the vicinity of Goliad in 1857. Texan teamsters who had been hauling freight from the port at Indianola to San Antonio and other interior towns became increasingly bitter toward competing Mexican cartmen. The latter charged much lower rates and were driving the Texans out of business.

The Texans began attacking the Mexican cartmen as they passed through Golaid with their loaded wagons. In a short series of attacks, about 75 Mexicans were murdered, their carts destroyed, and their freight stolen. Authorities at Goliad remained indifferent to the criminal acts. Mexican cartmen began using a new route, one which by-passed Goliad twelve to fifteen miles to the east. Deprived of their easy source of revenue and noting the apathy of local citizens, the “cart-cutters” began robbing them.

The entire disgraceful situation had been brought to the attention of the Legislature. But it was an outraged local citizenry and “Judge Lynch” that ended the careers of the “cart-cutters.” Those guilty of crimes were speedily brought to trial.

A giant live oak was the site of the court sessions. Its huge horizontal limbs served as a ready-made gallows for the swift conduct of capital sentences passed by those early courts. A number of the cart-cutting outlaws alternately cursed and prayed as they left this world at the end of the hangman's knotted rope.

Its use as a "Hanging Tree" now over, the Cart War Oak continues to provide residents and visitors a spot of shade in which to rest and reminisce with friends.

The tree is located on the north side of the Goliad County Courthouse, in Goliad.