At the site of an Indian village named Santa Dorota, a Spanish mission and presidio were first established at present day Goliad in 1749. Known as La Bahia in the early 1800s, the town was renamed Goliad in 1829.

After the Battle of Gonzales, the presidio at Goliad was captured in 1835 by the Texans under George Collinsworth and Ben Milam. James Fannin, who occupied the presidio in the spring of 1836, evacuated the post on order of Sam Houston. However, Fannin and his men were afterward captured and returned as prisoners to the presidio. Under order of Santa Anna, Fannin and most of his men were executed nearby in an event considered one of the major atrocities of the war with Mexico.

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