Heritage, Volume 10, Number 4, Fall 1992 Page: 10
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B ells have been present in San
Antonio from its earliest history as New
Spain to the present time. They were set up
in the presidio-missions as the Spanish attempted
to hold onto their claims. The
conquistadors supposedly were reminded of
their glorious Spain with its beautiful bells
as they were encouraged to claim new lands.
This romantic picture diminishes somewhat
when a comparison is made with the
Franciscan friars. Because they had committed
themselves to a life of obedience,
celibacy, and poverty,
they were sent to make Chris- K'
tians of the Indians and to make ,
them independent Spanish
subjects. The friars actually -.\
walked the distance from
Zacatecas and Queretaro, -
Mexico, with the bells that
would regulate the daily routines
in the missions. Though
a few of the bells had been
brought from Spain as ballast /
on ships, most of the bells were
probably made in Zacatecas, 3 a
where Spanish incorporation
had been successful. j
Few of the original mission ji "
bells still exist, but legends
based on actual events are told, X /
and they reflect the life and
spirit of the people who pass J'
them down. I *
One traditional account
concerns the four bells that
were being cast in Spain for the Mission San
Jose de San Miguel de Aguayo, usually
referred to as San Jos6. A young maiden
named Teresa, after hearing that her fiance
had been killed by Indians at San Jose,
stepped forward and dropped her ring and
a gold cross into the molten metal for the
bells. She prayed that when the bells would
sound the Angelus above the grave of the
one she loved, the land of the Tejas would
always be a place where all people would
dwell in peace and happiness. She knew
that the ringing of the bell would symbolize
Though the original bells of San Jose
disappeared, a single bell blessed in 1901
now rings from the tower.
The Mission San Antonio de Valero,
named after Saint Anthony of Padua and
the Marquis of Valero, was established next
to the Presidio. Records show that this
mission, later referred to as the Alamo,
originally had twin towers for its four large
bells. When the Alamo was secularized in
1793, the bells were being carried to the
mission at Refugio on a cart that broke down
on a roadside near the San Antonio River.
The "Ave Maria" or "Angelus Bell," a 50pound
bell with a Spanish cross embossed on
its waist, was found in 1845. After changing
hands several times, it was purchased and
returned to the Alamo by the Daughters of
the Republic of Texas on October 14, 1920.
It can now be seen on a wrought iron stand
in the main chapel of the Alamo.
shoulder of the Yellow Stone bell were
mutilated in an attempt to take metal to
repair the Liberty Bell. This is hardly plausible,
because bells must be re-cast in order
to be repaired. According to another story,
the bell was damaged when the ship sank
and remained under water for several decades.
Still in a third story, it is reported
that the bell was retrieved from the Buffalo
Bayou and used on a Brazos plantation
until fire damaged it. This historic bell is
on display in the Alamo Long Barrack
A bell story associated
with the Alamo concerns the
unrest noticed on the morning
of February 23, 1836, by
Colonel William Travis. He
posted a sentinel in the parish
church tower of the Canary
Island settlement San
Fernando de Bexar. The
sentinel rang the bell at noon
to warn those at the Alamo
when he spotted the Mexican
That bell remained there
until 1903 when four new
bells were blessed for the
towers of the San Fernando
Cathedral. "Sanctus Ferdinandus,"
the largest of the
new bells weighing 3,374
pounds, was placed in the
north tower. In the south
tower were placed three other
bells: "San Antonio" (1,900
pounds), "St. John" (1,096
Two other bells are now at the Alamo.
One, a 92-pound, 400-year-old "Closing
Bell," made of brass and copper, came from
Zacatecas, Mexico. It was presented by the
Fiesta San Jacinto Association to the
Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1954
to show appreciation for a half century of
custodianship of the Alamo. The bell is
located over the Alamo Museum's main
The other bell on display at the Alamo
was on the ship Yellow Stone and was used
during the San Jacinto campaign by General
Sam Houston in 1836. The Yellow Stone
returned to Galveston with the Mexican
dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna as
a prisoner on board. Another source tells us
that the Yellow Stone was also used to carry
the body of Stephen F. Austin on December
29, 1836, from Columbia to Peach
Point Plantation for burial.
One story tells us that the crown and
pounds), and "Our Lady of Guadalupe"
The lone bell that was in the San
Fernando Cathedral tower was placed in
the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic
Church, a church erected on the edge of
the old Red Light District for missionary
reasons in 1911. The same bell voice that
once spoke to William Travis, James
Bowie, and David Crockett can still be
Had not Samuel A. Maverick been on
his way by horseback as an elected representative
of the men of San Antonio to the
that would decide constructive plans for
Texas, he might have been a casualty of the
Alamo. He later built his home at the
northwest comer of the old Alamo quadrangle
in view of the place where his comrades
had died. Maverick found a cannon
near the outer wall of the Alamo, one that
10 HERITAGE * FALL 1992
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 4, Fall 1992, periodical, Autumn 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45421/m1/10/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.