Mission Tejas State Park

Present-day Mission Tejas State Park encompasses 660 acres of rolling hills and forest lands in Weches, Texas. Nestled in the beautiful Piney Woods of Houston County, the park offers both a rich historical landscape and a scenic location for picnicking and hiking.

The park site was originally home to Mission San Fransisco de los Tejas, the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas. In 1690, Catholic missionaries from Spain began settling the region in hopes of Christianizing the local Nabedache Indians and establishing a buffer against France’s colony in Louisiana. The original mission established by these Franciscan priests was located on San Pedro Creek, near the Neches River. Relations between the Spanish settlers and Native Americans were civil and even beneficial for the first few years of contact. After three years, however, the Native Americans began to blame the Spaniards for diseases then decimating their people. As a result, the missionaries decided to evacuate the settlement and burned the mission before they left at the end of the seventeenth century. East Texas historian Bob Bowman notes interestingly that if the “original mission were still standing today, few buildings could challenge it as Texas’s oldest landmark. Even the Alamo wasn’t built until 1718.”

Throughout the first few decades of the eighteenth century, the mission was revived and abandoned several times, but it was finally relocated to the San Antonio area in 1731. There, the mission was renamed San Fransisco de la Espada, and parts of it remain today.

Almost two centuries later, as Texans prepared for the state's centennial celebration, the Civilian Conservation Corps was tasked with the construction of a park to commemorate Mission San Francisco de los Tejas.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program and was officially established in 1933. Young men across the country who were selected for employment in the Corps were put to work digging ditches, repairing building, building parks, constructing schools, and completing dozens of other tasks. The men in the CCC were paid an average of $30 a month and were able to use the majority of their earnings to support their families back home.

CCC Company 888 was assigned to the Mission Tejas park project. One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of the men working on the park was the construction of a replica version of the original Spanish Mission from 1690. The log structure, with double-hung windows and a petrified wood fireplace, serves as a commemorative replica rather than a true historical reconstruction.

In 1957, the federal government transferred the Mission Tejas site to the Texas State Parks Board, which renamed it Mission Tejas State Park. Since that shift in oversight, other features have been added to the park, including the popular Rice Family Log Home. Originally built in 1828 and restored in 1974, the home of Joseph Rice, Sr., is one of the oldest structures in Houston County. The home served as a stopover for immigrants, adventurers, and local residents traveling the Old San Antonio Road across Texas, and today it offers visitors a glimpse back into the nineteenth century.

Together, the reconstructed Spanish mission, the restored Rice Log Home, and the natural offerings of the area make Mission Tejas State Park a wonderful place to visit and learn about the past.

Images

Replica of the Original Spanish Mission

Replica of the Original Spanish Mission

The mission above was constructed in the 1930s to serve as a replica of the original Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, which dates from the 1690. It was built with the help of CCC Company 888. | Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department View File Details Page

Interior of the replica Spanish Mission at Mission Tejas State Park

Interior of the replica Spanish Mission at Mission Tejas State Park

This commemorative replica of the first Spanish mission in Texas includes six-over-six double-hung windows visible in this photo but likely not part of the original structure. | Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department View File Details Page

A Look Inside the Replica Mission

A Look Inside the Replica Mission

This replica of the original Spanish mission built in 1690 was constructed in the 1930s in time for the 1936 Texas Centennial Celebration. The double hung windows gave the mission a very natural feel. | Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department View File Details Page

Limestone and Wood Composite Fireplace

Limestone and Wood Composite Fireplace

This unique fireplace can be found at Mission Tejas State Park. It was built with reclaimed wood from the park's surroundings, as well as quarried limestone. | Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department View File Details Page

Civilian Conservation Corps Company 888, c. 1934

Civilian Conservation Corps Company 888, c. 1934

Taken in Weches, the site of Mission Tejas State Park, this black and white photograph shows the CCC Company responsible for the majority of the park's construction. It gives viewers a glimpse into the Depression Era men who struggled to find work during hard times. | Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Kollin Fields, “Mission Tejas State Park,” East Texas History, accessed June 26, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/121.

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