Goliad Anacua

Historical Period: 20th Century (1900 & Later)
Historical Topic: Saved From the Axe
Species: Anacua (Ehretia anacua)
County: Goliad
Public Access: Yes

“By golly, it’s still living,” exclaimed Architect Raiford Stripling in 1981 as he laid eyes on the anacua tree he saved during the restoration of the Mission Espiritu Santo in the 1930s.

The Goliad Anacua, not yet alive when the mission was established in 1749, grew up in the ruins during the 1800s. By the 1930s, it was a lovely tree in the center arcade when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), under the guidance of Stripling, uncovered the foundations of the mission porch area.

“I couldn’t stand to cut that tree,” Stripling recounts. “We dug a ball of dirt, about eighteen feet in diameter…got every truck, and every tractor and everything we had out here in the way of moving equipment, and hooked it onto that tree, and dug a hole right here, and slid it, from right yonder to right there, and it’s still living.”

Espíritu Santo, like all Texas missions, was not intended to be a permanent institution. With the secularization decree of 1794, the Spanish government declared their purpose accomplished. However, two Franciscans refused to leave Espiritu Santo and remained as parish priests, ministering to settlers at Goliad until 1830.

During the 1836 Texas campaign for independence from Mexico, Texian soldiers were imprisoned in the presidio at Goliad. On Palm Sunday, March 27, Col. Fannin and his 341 men were marched outside the walls and executed under orders from Santa Anna, making Goliad the site of the largest single loss of life in the cause of Texas independence.

In 1846 the Goliad city council approved the disposition of the mission; they reserved the structure and twenty acres of land but granted citizens the right to carry away loose rocks.

The ruins lay quietly, while the tree grew steadily, until 1931 when Goliad transferred the site to the state. Archeological, historical and architectural research led to the rescue and restoration of the buildings—and the Goliad Anacua—by the CCC, under the supervision of the National Park Service and Mr. Raiford Stripling.

The Goliad Anacua stands in front of the restored Mission Espiritu Santo in Goliad State Historical Park south of Goliad on U.S. Highway 183.