2 new exhibits and a mystery

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Editor’s note: This is the first of two columns about the former Madison County village of Bucareli.

Madison County Museum’s curator and volunteers change some things every few months so folks will have reason to make return visits. Now we have some new exhibits that we sincerely hope you will enjoy.

One, entitled “Gadgets and More,” contains items from 50 to 100 years ago. We have a rug loom, a rain stick, a turkey caller and much more. We’ve surprises in store for you.

The other new exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Franklin Ross Madole, an ancestor of many of our past and current citizens. I’ll tell you much more about him and his family in a few weeks.

At the September meeting of the Madison County Historical Commission, members again voiced interest in locating the historic site of Bucareli (pronounced BOO-kuh-RAY-lee). I was asked to ask for help via Musings.

Around 400 years ago, Texas was crossed only by animal and Indian trails. In 1691, travelers began following a network of trails that became known as Old San Antonio Road, portions of which form the Madison County’s northern border today. When a stretch got impassable from mud and muck, travelers moved over some, and that happened repeatedly. Rivers were big problem. Would you want to swim a horse or a wagon and team across a raging river? Fords, or crossings, were few, and their safety depended on weather and water levels, which of course varied.

Antonio Gil Y’Barbo played a big part of the Bucareli tale. He was born in 1729 in what is now Louisiana but was then the far reaches of the Spanish province of Texas. His Spanish-born father was a member of the Spanish military garrison sent to the fortified settlement Los Adaes, intended to defend New Spain against French Expansion from Louisiana. Gil followed his father into the military but also married and established a ranch in present-day Sabine County.

Colonial settlers necessarily benefitted the mother country. Spain required that goods only be purchased from Spanish sources. Necessities were brought from Spain to Vera Cruz and then hundreds of miles north. Colonists depended upon such shipments for basic goods including soap, sugar, farm equipment, weapons, and gunpowder. Supplies were slow to arrive, and given that a French settlement was only 13 miles east, there was incentive to ignore the law and deal in contraband. Local officials sometimes looked the other way. Soon illegal trade was common, and Spanish authorities grew unhappy.

At the end of the French and Indian War in 1767, Louisiana was ceded to Spain. There was no longer need for Spanish outposts in East Texas to protect against the French. In 1773, Spanish presidios and missions in East Texas were ordered closed.

With little time to prepare, Los Adaes troops plus around 500 colonists were ordered to relocate to San Antonio de Bexar (pronounced Bay-har). The settlement had existed for over 50 years, and many residents were not eager to leave their homes and make an arduous trip to Bexar (today simply called San Antonio but in Bexar county). Some avoided the order by leaving the compound and disappearing into the forest; others took temporary refuge with friendly Indians. The rest packed up and followed instructions.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., opens to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum curator Jane Day Reynolds and volunteers welcome your visits. Memorials or donations may be mailed to the Museum at P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. The telephone number is (936) 348-5230.

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