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.