History

Humans have roamed the Pineywoods for thousands of years.

Early farmers

Caddo settlements in East Texas date from the 800s to the 1830s. The Caddo people lived in thatched buildings and raised crops of corn, beans, melons, squash, sunflowers and tobacco.

Claiming Texas

Mission building with door open and wooden cross on top of buildingFrance and Spain both coveted the land that is now Texas.

El Camino Real

From 1686 to 1692, the Spanish identified a 2,500-mile route from Guerrero, Mexico, to Louisiana. It passed through Laredo, San Antonio, and what is now this park. The route became known as El Camino Real: The Royal Road.

People traveled this route pursuing business opportunities and seeking a new life. Alternative routes were established during the 1800s, and the Royal Road fell into disuse.

Texas Highway 21 and Louisiana Highway 5 follow much of the path of El Camino Real.

In 2004, this historic road became El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.

Establishing a mission

French colonists settled on the Texas coast in 1685. In response, the Spaniards built Mission San Francisco de los Tejas in a village of Caddo Indians in 1690. It was the first mission in the province of Texas.

The Caddo blamed a smallpox epidemic that winter on the Spaniards and plotted to overthrow them. When the Spaniards discovered the plot in 1693, they burned the mission and retreated to Mexico.

Spanish friars tried to rebuild the mission in 1716. But conflict between France and Spain led them to abandon it a few years later.

Rice Log Home

log cabin with split -rail fence in front.In 1828, Joseph and Willie Masters Rice built a log home close to El Camino Real. They added on to the cabin for the next 10 years.

The Rice family donated the log home to the state of Texas in 1973, and TPWD moved it to the park.

Learn more by downloading the Interpretive Guide: Rice Family Log Home | PDF.

Building a park

In 1934, local citizens purchased land and put up a marker to commemorate the Mission San Francisco de los Tejas. The federal government dispatched the Civilian Conservation Corps to build a park on the land.

Civilian Conservation Corps

Imagine yourself with little food, less money and no job. This was the case for many Americans during the Great Depression.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The CCC provided jobs and job skills by hiring young men to work on conservation projects.

The program enrolled men between the ages of 17 and 25 who qualified for public assistance. They earned clothing, food, medical care and $30 a month; they sent some of their pay home to their families.

panoramic shot of assembled CCC Company #888. Text at bottom says "CCC Co 888 Weches Texas July 1934, Capt. H.H. Spoede Com'd'g."

Creating the park

CCC Company 888 worked to create a park and reclaim the land. As part of the project, they built a representation of the original mission. They also constructed picnic areas, a pavilion (since rebuilt), and a small dam and pond.

Learn more: