This beautiful anaqua tree lays claim to fame partly because until 1976 it was the largest of its species on record in the United States. In addition, it played a small role in the early history of Texas.
After the defeated Mexican General Martin Prefecto de Cos and his troops withdrew from San Antonio early in December 1835, Dr. James Grant, a well-educated Scotchman who had an “axe to grind,” persuaded about 200 Texans and their commander, Francis W. Johnson, to embark on an attack against the rich Mexican settlement at Matamoros. Grant's large estate had been confiscated by the Mexican Government and he was obviously determined to recoup his loss.
The Council of the Provisional Government, then at odds with Governor Henry Smith and General Sam Houston, gave Johnson and Grant permission to proceed. The Council had previously appointed General James W. Fannin as their agent and gave him authority to accept the services of officers and men. Thus did the Council usurp General Houston's legal authority and divide the command of the Expedition.
Houston, hearing of the removal of his troops and of nearly all of the supplies from Bexar (San Antonio), hastened to Goliad to confront the expedition. He could persuade only about 30 men to return to Bexar.
On January 17, Houston went to Refugio and tried once again to stop the Expedition, which was illegally authorized and which he felt was doomed to failure. Near this giant anaqua tree, which stands at the site of the original Refugio Mission on the north bank of the Mission River, Houston spoke to Grant's men, camped along the river. He spoke of the futility of the project and begged them to at least wait until reinforcements from Alabama and Georgia arrived. Some agreed to wait. However, about 60 men took the three brass cannons and left for San Patricio with Johnson and Grant to await Fannin's arrival.
Fannin arrived in Refugio from Copano on February 1. Instead of joining Johnson and Grant, he went to reinforce Goliad. Later Fannin sent troops to San Patricio and reclaimed the three pieces of artillery from Grant and Johnson. Being divested of their horses, the two leaders divided their forces to find more mounts at ranches in the area. While they were divided, Johnson's party of about 35 men were overwhelmed in San Patricio February 27 by General Jose Urrea's troops. Several Texans were killed, 20 were taken prisoner, and Johnson and 5 or 6 others managed to escape. On March 2, Grant and all but six of his men were killed from ambush at Agua Dulce.
The Mission Anaqua was situated immediately behind Our Lady of Refuge Church on Roca Street in Refugio.