Much of the Texas Hill Country’s recorded history on colonization occurred post-German settlers reaching New Braunfels in 1845. Their settlements were ultimately successful, as credited by museums in Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, and Mason, which are chock full of artifacts and first-person accounts to that end. Due to prior unsuccessful attempts which are relatively unknown and therefore less venerated, many people aren’t quite as familiar with Spanish efforts to do the same. In trying to tame the Hill Country almost 100 years prior, Spain sent its first major expedition into the Texas Hill Country, to what is now modern-day Menard, and the site of Presidio de San Sabá.
Presidio de San Sabá: Maiden Attempt to Tame the Texas Hill Country
To the south and east of the area, San Antonio and the Camino Real were already established, however in 1750, a major effort to colonize Texas saw the Spanish expedition into the valley where Menard now sits, choosing that location as the home for a presidio and, following that, a mission (Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá) in 1757. Approximately 300 Spaniards, including a contingent of 100 soldiers, made their way in a convoy of pack animals and carts from Central Mexico toward the interior of Texas. On the north side of the San Saba River, the presidio was built (west of present-day Menard), and three miles to the east, the mission was established, between which the Spaniards constructed an irrigation ditch, and began the task of cultivating the fields.
On March 16, 1758, the mission was destroyed by the Comanches and their allied tribes, but the presidio held out. Its log stockade walls were exchanged for solid rock, but the Comanches strategically beleaguered their supply lines, destroyed their crops, and stole the Spaniards’ livestock. Within a decade, the site was abandoned, leaving behind an impressive ruin as a monument to Spain’s overly ambitious plans. Over time, the old fort had been used as a makeshift corral and campground, but other than a mural which was painted in 1765 commemorating the mission’s destruction, the presidio was all but forgotten by the early part of the 1900s.