Back where it once called home; BCHS returns chalice to Menard County

Savanna Gregg/Burnet Bulletin
Menard County Historical Commission President Terrell Kelley accepts a pewter chalice from members of the Burnet County Heritage Society at a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13. The chalice was used at Mission San Saba in Menard, which stood from 1757 to 1758, when it was attacked by multiple tribes of Native Americans.





By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

It might not be the mythical 'Holy Grail,' but one special artifact has found its way home to its rightful owners with help from the Burnet County Heritage Society.

The Heritage Society returned a pewter chalice to their counterparts from Menard County during a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Herman Brown Free Library in Burnet.

The chalice was used at the Mission San Saba in Menard during the 1750s and was discovered among the ruins of the mission circa 1880 by surveyor Thomas Chamberlain of Burnet.

It was brought to Burnet and passed through generations of the founding Vandeveer family before being donated to the Fort Croghan Museum and Grounds, where it made its home until last week, when it was placed in the hands of the Menard County Historical Commission.

MCHC President Terrell Kelley and other MCHC members attended the meeting to accept the chalice and provided the room with a riveting history of Menard’s Presidio and Mission.

According to Kelley, a Spanish colony was established in Menard in 1757 as soldiers, prospectors, priests and civilians moved to the area from San Antonio, prospectors searching for rumored silver and gold mines, and priests seeking to convert Lipan Apache tribes to Christianity.

Soldiers erected the Presidio de San Saba to protect civilians and those residing in the Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba four miles downriver.

Silver and gold soon proved inaccessible, and conflict with the Lipan Apache and other tribes caused dangerous conditions for those residing in the area, and on March 16, 1758, a recorded 2,000 Native Americans attacked the mission, killing two priests and many others.

Twenty-seven people survived the attack and escaped to the Presidio, but health conditions soon became very poor, and the Presidio was abandoned in February 1768.

Throughout history, Native Americans proved unwilling to allow for Spanish expansion much further than they had already gone, and Kelley said because of their aggressive defense of their land in the Menard area, the site of the Mission and Presidio is known as the “high-water mark of the Spanish Empire.”

Over the years, thousands of artifacts have been discovered at this historical site, and the rich history continues to be shared through the research of the Menard County Historical Commission, who have opened the area to tourists, eager to share their story with others.

Burnet County has had the privilege of housing part of that history, but last week, it was time for the chalice to go home.

“This is a historical event,” said BCHS member Judy Lively.

“It is not usual,” Kelley agreed. “I was speechless when I learned (the BCHS) wanted to give the chalice to us. I am delighted it is working out the way it is.”

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