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OLD STONE FORT

OLD STONE FORT. Old Stone Fort is the modern name of a historic building, called La Casa Piedra by the Spanish, that was the first mercantile house and a frequent seat of civil government in early Nacogdoches. In 1779 Antonio Gil Ibarvo laid out the town near the intersection of the Old San Antonio Road and La Calle del Norte and built a stone house to use in the trading business. It was constructed of the native iron ore that occurs in the area abundantly. The interior walls were made of ten-by-fourteen-inch sun-dried adobe blocks. Hand-hewn black walnut was used for sills and casements. The structure measured seventy feet along the Old San Antonio Road and twenty-three feet along Fredonia Street, as this lateral street was later called. With the second story the building was twenty feet tall; it remained the tallest structure in Nacogdoches for nearly a century. Originally each story had two main rooms, although subsequent owners rearranged the interior partitions and added a lean-to at the back.

The Stone House was not officially a government building despite its many public and civic uses in later decades. Ibarvo used it as a trading center in which he stored goods from the United States to trade to Indians for skins and hides. Since he was also the military and civil leader of the community, the Stone House assumed a quasi-public character that it never lost. Ibarvo faced accusations of smuggling in 1791 and was forced to leave Nacogdoches in 1796 but retained ownership of the Stone House until he sold his interest to José Luis de la Bega in 1805. Bega in turn sold it to William Barr within a year. During these years the government used the structure as if it were government property. In 1792 Juan Antonio Córtez used the Stone House as an office to issue land titles; in 1800 Ramón Músquiz used it as a military headquarters for his operations against the filibusters, and after Philip Nolan was killed, some of his men were jailed there briefly; Zebulon M. Pike's soldiers were billeted there on their return from Mexico; Governor Antonio Cordero y Bustamante resided in the building while Col. Simón de Herrera negotiated the Neutral Ground agreement with Gen. James Wilkinson; and Manuel Maria de Salcedo, governor of Texas in 1810, occupied the house when he visited East Texas.

The Gutiérrez-Magee expedition entered Texas in 1812, and their first stop was the Stone House in Nacogdoches. There they proclaimed Texas to be theirs. They remained in Nacogdoches for three months before moving on to La Bahía. While in the Stone House they prepared to publish the first Texas newspaper, the Gaceta de Tejas, which was subsequently printed in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Another newspaper, the Nacogdoches Mexican Advocate, was published in the Stone House during the time of the invasion of Texas and proclamation of independence by James Longqv. Though neither of these attempts to take Texas from Mexico succeeded, both were proclaimed at the Stone House. Barr's association with the Magee expedition cost him not only the ownership of the structure but his life as well. His business partner, John G. Davenport, succeeded to ownership. The first alcalde of Nacogdoches, James Dill, established his office in the building and added to its uses as a civic center. Empresario Haden Edwardsqv used the Stone House as the headquarters for his grant and later for his abortive Fredonian Republic (see FREDONIAN REBELLION), and the Mexican garrison stationed in Nacogdoches in the aftermath of the rebellion, commanded by Col. José de las Piedras, also headquartered there. The Stone House later became the primary objective of the Texans from the Ayish Bayou country in the battle of Nacogdoches (1832). Committees of Safety and Correspondence met there during the Texas Revolution, and the house served as a reception center for many Americans, including David Crockett.

John M. Durst purchased the Stone House from John Davenport, heir of Samuel Davenport, in 1829, and sold it to Juan Mora and Vicente Córdova, district judge and district attorney of Nacogdoches, in 1834. Thus the Stone House became a courthouse for the community, and in September 1837 the republic's first official court in East Texas met there with Judge Robert M. Williamson presiding. After Córdova's unsuccessful rebellion against the republic in 1838, the Stone House was purchased by John S. Roberts and his wife, Harriet. They used the building for commercial purposes until it was sold to William and Charles Perkins in 1901. During much of that time Roberts operated a saloon in the Stone House, and it became an eyesore and a source of embarrassment to the town. When the Perkins brothers dismantled the building in 1902 to build a modern commercial building, they donated the materials of the Stone House to the Cum Concilio Club. In 1907 this ladies' organization used the materials to construct a building on Nacogdoches public school property, and in 1936 the state of Texas moved the materials to the campus of Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College, where a replica of the original structure was erected for the Texas Centennial celebration. Because of its many uses by Spanish, Mexican, and American military forces, the reconstructed building became known as the Old Stone Fort.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Jordan Holt, The Edwards Empresarial Grant and the Fredonia Rebellion (M.A. thesis, Stephen F. Austin State University, 1977). Archie P. McDonald, comp., Nacogdoches: Wilderness Outpost to Modern City, 1779–1979 (photocopy, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Archie P. McDonald, The Old Stone Fort (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981). James G. Partin, A History of Nacogdoches and Nacogdoches County, Texas, to 1877 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1967).

Archie P. McDonald

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Archie P. McDonald, "OLD STONE FORT," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/cco03), accessed August 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.