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Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Refugio


Photo by Valerie D. Bates

THE BELLS OF RE-FURY-O!

Refugio, once the site of a Karankawa campground, served as the relocation spot for Señora del Refugio Mission in 1795. Why move a mission to the campground? To colonize the camping Karankawas. Apparently since the subjects weren't coming to the Mission on their own, South Texas colonizer José de Escandón decided to bring the Mission to the subjects. It was, after all, the Spanish colonial era and in order to convert the locals they had to show up first. However, the Mission's friars found the Karankawas just as uncooperative in the new digs as elsewhere. The Karankawas, never folks who liked being told what to do with their time, managed to finally close the place down for good with the help of raiding Comanches. The Mission's stone and adobe compound suffered damage during the ensuing wars for the state's independence and, at some point, collapsed in total ruin and its bells were hauled away as salvage. Folklore tells us that on the way to the scrap yard aboard a horse or mule-drawn cart, two of the four bells broke. Then, while attempting to cross the San Antonio River, the driver lodged the cart in the sand. Unable to free the cart, the driver gave up, abandoning the cart along with the heavy bronze bells. All were lost in subsequent flooding with one exception. A single bell was discovered along the river bottom and rescued. The surviving bell served in several chapels before arriving as a donation to the Refugio County Museum. Ring it loud! The prodigal bell comes home at last!


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