The Old Stone Fort in Historic Nacogdoches
The Old Stone Fort, originally called the Stone House, or "la Casa Piedra",
was built around 1790 by Gil Y'Barbo, founder of Nacogdoches. In 1779 Gil Y'Barbo led
350 colonists from San Antonio to the early Spanish mission in East Texas, "Nuestra Senora
de Guadalupe de Nacogdoches", and established the town on the crossroads of the
El Camino Real and La Calle del Norte.
The Stone Fort was constructed on the El Camino Real at the northeast corner
of the Town Square. It was a 70 by 23 foot two story structure of native iron ore stones
having two rooms on each floor, walls two and a half feet thick, and a 2nd story gallelry
porch indicating influences of French colonial architecture. Y'Barbo built the Stone Fort
as a store house and trading post, but it was used for civic, judicial, and governmental
purposes since the Spanish government had appointed him official authority over these matters.
The Stone Fort was the historic landmark building in Nacogdoches and East Texas
for over 100 years providing economic, military, and political stability through the transformations
of eight different governments: Spain, the Magee-Gutierrez Expedition of 1813, the James Long
Republic of 1819, the Fredonian Rebellion of 1826, Mexico, the Texas Republic, the Confederacy,
and the United States.
From the Stone Fort the first Declarations of Texas Independence were proclaimed:
first, by the Magee-Gutierrez expedition of 1813; secondly, by the James Long Expedition of 1819,
and thirdly, by the empresario Haden Edwards, who used the Stone Fort as headquarters for the
unsuccessful Fredonian rebellion of 1826 where the rebels signed and raised the red and white
Fredonian flag above the Stone Fort inscribed with the words, "Independence, Liberty, and Justice."6
The first newspapers in Texas were published in the Stone Fort.
As a consequence of the Magee-Gutierrez Expedition of 1813, type was set on
the printing press for the "Gaceta de Tejas". It was written in Spanish and
contained a front page essay called "Reflections" relating to Spanish-American
independence. Published later in Natchitoches, only one issuance of the Gaceta
is believed to have existed. A second newspaper, the "Mexican Advocate",
a bilingual edition aimed at prospective settlers in Texas, was published in
September of 1829 and continued for several months.¹
The Stone Fort became the successful military objective of the Texan forces
in the Battle of Nacogdoches in August of 1832 when it was used as headquarters by Mexican
troops under the command of Colonel Jose de las Piedras. Some of the causes leading to this
conflict---a forerunner of the Texas Revolution---were arbitrary land entitlements, unfair customs
duties, restrictive immigration policies, and an attempt by Mexican authorities to seize the arms of
colonists. The Battle of Nacogdoches effectively dispersed Mexican military rule from East Texas.
The Stone Fort established Nacogdoches as the gateway of immigration into Texas from the United States
and was the first building where the structures of colonial Anglo-American culture had their beginning.
The Stone Fort was an early residence of Mexican governors of Texas. It was the first trading post and mercantile store,
the first mayor's office, civic center, and Nacogdoches' first courthouse. It was a fortification and headquarters building
through shifting political and military occupations. From the Stone Fort the first land titles were issued, and in 1837 the
first official Texas court was held in the Stone Fort. The Stone Fort saw the beginning of the Texas Revolution in the
Battle of Nacogdoches, and through its doors passed many of the patriots and Texas heroes who fought for an independent
Texas Republic: Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, James Bowie, and Davy Crockett.
Today, the Old Stone Fort stands on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University,
a Texas Centennial Landmark and reconstructed replica of Y'Barbo's original Stone
House that was torn down in 1901 to make way for modern construction. The
stones of the original building were saved by the Cum Concilio Club of Nacogdoches,
used in a temporary memorial on the Washington Square campus from 1907 to 1931,
and in 1936 became the basis of the reconstructed Stone Fort Museum built on the campus
of Stephen F. Austin State University in time for the the Texas Centennial Celebration.
(Next Picture: Austin Building from Vista Drive)