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St. Anthony De Padua, Or How The First Settlement In Tejas Got Its Name

Eileen Pace

June 13, 2016, marks the 325th anniversary of the naming of the San Antonio River.

Father Damian de Massanet said mass on that June 13 and held the feast of St. Anthony on the river’s banks.

Spaniards making their way through Tejas in the 17th Century rode through scrubbrush, oaks, and cactus, in search of a place to settle. There was no Dallas, no Houston. But according to Father David Garcia of the San Antonio Missions, the settlers recognized a rock-star river when they saw it.

“They stopped right at the river and because today is the feast of San Antonio de Padua, Father Damian de Massanet named the river San Antonio. And of course, from the river later on came the name of the city.

“They wanted to set up a string of missions to define the eastern border of the Spanish world against the French. The French were in Louisiana.”

Eventually, the remote East Texas missions - difficult to supply and to defend -- failed -- and Espada, Concepcion, and San Juan were moved to the more inland San Antonio River.

“The Spanish just found it to be delightful, beautiful, very rich valley, very lush. The water was great. They said there was a lot of fish, there were a lot of animals in the area.”

The first mission was established in what is now downtown - San Antonio de Padua -- or the Alamo.