Tejano Association for Historical Preservation

Lorenzo de Zavala Chapter

July Issue 2003

http://www.tejanoahp.org

 

Attendees at the last meeting asked for a copy of Mrs. Estella Zermeno’s lecture.  The following is a copy of her presentation.

BECERRA AND MISSION REFUGIO

By Estella M. Zermeno

My Becerra ancestors, some of the earlier settlers of this area spent much time at the missions, especially at the Mission Refugio.  Perhaps, this was where they earned their living, performed their civic and sacramental duties and rituals.  Most importantly, the missions must have been the place where they found solace and hope.  There they cried, laughed and celebrated; while taming the wilderness of their land, establishing communities and naming towns and rivers.  They built ranches, stocking them with cattle, horses and other livestock.  Here, also, they spilled their blood.

My fourth great-grandfather, Pedro Becerra, was born in Louisiana in 1730, since his Spanish parents had migrated from Portugal.  Spanish servants lived at the missions and were responsible for blacksmithing, sheep-herding, cooking and leather works.  Sacramental records of San Fernando Cathedral in Bexar County show Pedro was sponsor or witness a number of times for various sacraments. He is listed in the 1780 census of La Bahia as a campista (herdman). From the diary kept by Father Cosme Lozano Narvais, we learned that on July 12, 1781, Comanche Indians fell on Mission Rosario and killed servant Pedro Becerra.

Miguel Becerra, oldest son of Pedro, was born in La Bahia in 1757.  He is listed in the census of 1780 as a soldier in the Calvary troop, for armaments, he had one escopeta (musket), an adarga (shield), a lance and el cuero (a leather protective jacket).  In 1794, Corporal Miguel Becerra was stationed at Mission Refugio.  Miguel would also be involved in a trailride taking sheep and cattle to Bernardo Galvez’s troops during the American Revolution.

In a copy of a letter, dated January 28, 1794, which was obtained from the Bexar archives, Corporal Miguel Becerra informs the Presidio La Bahia Commander, Juan Cortez, that priest Belasco is ill, and of the many problems he is encountering with the Indians of the mission.  In addition, notice is being circulated that Fresada Pinta, chief of the Karankawas is expected.  As a result of the severity of this attack, the mission was moved to its present site in 1795.

Miguel Becerra was the grandfather of Texas hero, Colonel Juan N. Seguin.  His daughter, Josefa Augustina married Don Erasmo Seguin.  Baptism records of San Fernando Cathedral show that on November 3. 1806, Juan Nepomuceno, son of Erasmo Seguin and Josefa Augustina Becerra was baptized.  His maternal grandparents, Miguel Becerra and Barbara Sanchez Navarro, were present.

Don Manuel Becerra, another son of Pedro, and my third great-grandfather was born in La Bahia in 1762. Unlike his brother, Miguel, Manuel did not choose to be a military man; he became a farmer and politician.  He married Juana Cadena, daughter of the soldier, Diego Cadena.  They had two daughters, Maria Josefa and Gertrudis. He became very involved in the civic affairs of the colonies. When the first Ayuntamiento of La Bahia was established on August 24, 1820, he was elected secretary. He served in the Ayuntamiento (city council) in several offices until 1835.

     Don Manuel Becerra and his family lived in La Bahia.  However, he selected a parcel of land in Refugio and would commute back and forth, cultivating the land, where he later established his rancho "Alamito" on Copano Bay.  He and his wife became active in Mission Refugio and made many friends among the residents of the area.  His daughters would be left behind in the care of grandparents or uncles in La Bahia. As early as 1814, sacramental records show that his young daughter, Maria Josefa, was a sponsor (godmother) at a baptism of a Karankawa Indian girl at Mission Refugio.

On September 30, 1819, records show Don Becerra and his wife, Juana, baptized an infant girl, about a month old, who had been born in the forest and was the legitimate daughter of Pedro and Juana, residents of the mission.  She was given the name Maria Gertrudis.  Did they name her after their daughter?

On August 8, 1998, I was present during a "public day at the site" where an archaeological excavation was being done at our Lady of Refuge church in Refugio.  I was pleasantly surprised when someone handed me a list of burials that had taken place there.  I recognized the name of an infant that my ancestors, Don Manuel and Juana, had baptized.  When I returned home, I checked my documents and found the baptismal record that I had obtained from the Catholic Archives in Austin, Texas.  It confirmed my find, and gave me a great sense of connection to my ancestors. Following is a translation of this baptism record:

On the 18th day of the month of July of 1820, I, the undersigned, Minister of this Mission of Our Lady of Refugio, Solemnly baptized and anointed with holy oil, a nine-day-old infant, And whom I named Jose Francisco, Legitimate son of Prudencio and of Maria Rosa both of the Cujan Nation.  His Godparents were Manuel Becerra and Juana Cadena, Whom I advised of their obligation of spiritual bond.  In Witness of which I sign. Fr. Jose Diaz de Leon

Notation from burial list given to me:

111 Jose Francisco July 19, 1820 Karankawa/Cujan Male 10 days Parents Prudencio and Rosa Maria

This baptism of Jose Francisco made Don Becerra, a compadre of Indian Chief Prudencio.  Compadre is a term used between godparents and parents, which means co-parents.  The infant must have been i11, since he died shortly after and was buried the next day.

I shall mention here that on September 3, 1821, by order of the Governor of the Province Councilman Don Manuel Becerra accompanied Commissioner Stephen F. Austin on a seven-day trip to the margins of the Colorado River to check out a suitable site to establish a new town.

On May 13, 1827, Sindico, civil judge, Don Manuel Becerra, signed on behalf of the settlement of La Bahia, a peace treaty with Karankawa and Coco Indians.  Several other citizens were present.

On September 2, 1827, Don Becerra, good friend of Don Martin de Leon, founder of Victoria, was made second in command of the colonies and assumed all responsibilities while de Leon was absent.

     Don Becerra was instrumental in the development of Refugio, awarding thousands of acres and town lots to the Refugio colonists.  A number of his works are recorded in the “Libro De Becerra” located in the district court records of Refugio County.  A volume probably named after him.

On February 8, 1830, Don Becerra took part in the inspections and inventories of Refugio Mission.  He was a witness, along with Juan Nepomuceno Escalera, when Father Jose Antonio Diaz de Leon, President of the missions and Father Miguel Muro signed the Inventory and Article of Secularization of the Mission of Our Lady of Refugio.

A meeting to discuss the secularization of the missions Refugio and Espiritu Santo and relocation of the Indians was held on February 26, 1830.  Present at this meeting were the following members of the Ayuntamiento of La Bahia-Goliad:  Alcalde, mayor, Don Jose Miguel Aldrete; Regidores, councilmen, Jose Maria Falcon, Manuel Becerra, and Sindico Procurado, Civil Judge, J. Nepomuceno Escalera.

Don Manuel Becerra died about 1849 and was buried at the family cemetery at his Rancho Alamito, which was located twelve miles east of Refugio.

His two daughters, Maria Josefa and Gertrudis married Jose Maria de-laGarza and Francisco dela Garza, respectively. Maria Josefa and Jose Maria had no children.  Gertrudis my second great grandmother and Francisco had four children, of which one of them was Genoveva, my great grandmother.  Genoveva married Miguel Lozano, long time resident of Refugio, born at Rancho Papalote in 1838.

Paula Euphenua Lozano, my grandmother, was the only child of Genoveva and Miguel Lozano.  She was born in Refugio March 20, 1871 at Rancho Alamito and baptized at our Lady of Refuge Churchd baptized May 9, 1871.  Her godparents were Salvador Lozano and Facunda Cabassos, with Rev. A. Badelon officiating. 

Genoveva died shortly after the birth of my grandmother, Paula.  Her sister, Trinidad dela Garza and Juan Elias Lozano, brother of Miguel, and a Confederate soldier, took in my grandmother and raised her.  They had no other children.

Paula Lozano married Apolonio Martinez in 1890 and by now were living in a small ranch in Goliad.  My father, Placido, was born in La Bahia in 1897 in a cabin, which had been located at Rancho Alamito and which was pulled to La Bahia by oxen.

In 1920, Placido married Paula Cabrera Cortinas, a Canary Island descendant, and a long time resident of La Bahia.  They had eleven children of whom I, Estella, was number seven and was born in February 14,1932.  The family moved to Houston when I was quite young.  There, I met and married my husband, William Zermeno. I became a mother and we have four wonderful children: three sons, a daughter and also six beautiful grandchildren.  My husband and I retired from the U.S. Postal Service and moved back to Goliad, my roots. We live in La Bahia, and when I go for a walk, I feel as if I am stepping on the footprints of my ancestors. I will be forever grateful to my grandmother, Paula dela Garza Lozano, who left so many great documents, told me stories, and instilled in me a passion for my genealogy and our history, and to my husband, William, for all his encouragement and patience in my research.

Mrs. Zermeno can be contacted at wzermeno@txcr.net for more information.

 

YEARLY DUES FOR THE TEJANO ASSOC. ARE $ 25.00 FOR INDIVIDUAL OR FAMILY, PLEASE SEND A CHECK BY U. S. MAIL TO:  T.A.H.P.   P.O. BOX 231021   HOUSTON, TEXAS 77223-1021   THANK YOU.

 

Goliad State Park of Texas Parks and Wildlife recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps with music, food and exhibits of the era at the Mission Espiritu Santo.  The CCC was started under Franklin D. Roosevelt to assist struggling families during the depression.  The Espiritu Santo Mission was one of the missions restored during 1935-1942 by the CCC.  Leah Huth, Park Manager and Mary Livingston, Manager of Historical Sites helped to create the CCC evening complete with a dinner mess hall style.  The Amigos of the Mission helped cook the dinner, and also sponsored the event.  Beth Ellis, Assistant Manager of Historical Sites and educator of the park showcased artifacts, uniforms, tents, photos, (which included Raul C. Martinez, who was a member of the CCC camp #3822 from the Goliad area).  The CCC (also referred to as the “Tree Army”) repaired roads, bridges, missions, built buildings, parks and hospitals.  The workers were paid $30.00 per month, of which $25.00 would be sent to their families and the young men would be allowed to keep $5.00.  Benny C. Martinez and his old time Bedenos provided music from the ’30’s and 40’s and the audience even joined in to sing “ The Eyes of Texas are Upon You.”  Mr. Bill McDonald from Austin provided tales of his youth as a CCC worker and even serenaded the audience with various songs one of them being “El Rancho Grande.”  Mr. Gary Brown, author of “The New Orleans Greys” and “Hesitant Martyr in the Texas Revolution James Walker Fannin” was also present for the memorable event.  All enjoyed the evening and Goliad State Park and the Amigos are to be commended for preserving and showcasing the history of the CCC.

 

The Harris County Court House Annex located at 1001 Staff Sgt. Macario Garcia will be named Raul C. Martinez due to the appreciated efforts and recommendation of Hon. Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia in a dedication ceremony to be held on Sept. 17, 2003 at 10:00 a.m.  TAHP members are invited and for more information contact Loretta Williams at 713-673-1418.

 

The 2nd Annual Col. Juan N. Seguin Memorial Picnic honoring all the “Heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto” will be held at the Battleship side under the pavilion on the left side of the park, Sat. Oct. 25, 2003 at 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.  For more information contact Angel Seguin Garcia of Seguin Descendants Historical Preservation at 713-641-1043 or atexhero@aol.com

 

Linda Alonzo Saenz, President

Loretta Martinez Williams, 1st Vice President

Richard Perez, 2nd Vice President

Margarito C. Vasquez, Board Member

Benny C. Martinez, Advisory Board Member

Dr. Emilio Sarabia, Advisory Board Member

For input regarding the newsletter contact Loretta Martinez Williams at latejana3000@aaahawk.com