San Saba’s Historic Roots Run Deep at the Top of the Hill Country
The small town of San Saba has deep historical ties, with several buildings and sites designated by historical commissions. Here’s a brief overview of some San Saba history for lovers of the old.
San Saba, Texas was first settled in 1854, but evidence shows that settlers were not the first to happen upon the hill country frontier.
Long before the settling that led to the present day town, San Saba was home to ancient civilization and then Native American populations. Archaeological workers have unearthed many artifacts from prehistoric days suggesting that it was once an area thickly populated by prehistoric men before Indians inhabited the area.
Wedding Oak Tree
Attracted by plentiful wildlife and ample water, Native Americans roamed the rivers and creeks of San Saba, camping and hunting until white men settled the region. Known tribes included Comanches, Lipans, Cherokees, Wacos, Caddoes, and Kickapoos. Settlers negotiated three with Indian tribes to curtail raids prior to San Saba’s 1854 settlement. Despite the treaties, the raids lasted until the 1870’s.
Indian tradition lives on at the Wedding Oak Tree, which stands proudly just outside of town. The ancient oak was a huge focus site of Indian marriage ceremonies. San Saba’s early settlers adopted the tradition, and it remains a popular wedding venue today. The Wedding Oak Tree, which is over 400 years old, is listed among Texas’ historic trees.
San Saba has several bridges worth a mention to Texas history buffs. Just down the road the from the Wedding Oak Tree, Beveridge Bridge, serves as a historical relic. established by John Beveridge as a river crossing, serves as a historical relic. The suspension bridge established the settlement’s first San Saba river crossing.
Commonly known as the “Swingin’ Bridge,” the Regency Bridge is Texas’ the last working vehicular suspension bridge. It was the first Texas bridge to span the Colorado River, connecting San Saba and Mills counties. The one-lane wooden deck built 90 percent by hand labor in 1939. In 1924, the original, built in 1903, collapsed. Flood waters demolished the replacement bridge in 1936. By the 1940’s the bridge became a gathering site for picnicking, song and dance – a tradition kept to this day. Throughout the years, the bridge fell into disrepair, eventually earning a legislative resolution in 1995 to prevent its closing. After a restoration, the bridge serves as a tourist attraction and Texas’ most unique river crossing.
Regency Bridge – “Swingin’ Bridge”
The San Saba County Jail, built in 1884 of local marble and blue limestones, is the oldest continuously operating jail in the United States. It’s also the country’s oldest existing public building. The building design is an Italianate style. For many years, the jailor lived on the first floor and inmates stayed in cells on the second floor.
San Saba County Jail
San Saba’s First Methodist Church, made entirely of marble, was built between 1914 and 1917. When the congregation formed, the area was so wild that the Church gave a missionary a $50 revolver and a $125 horse. The church is a Texas Historical Site and is the only all marble church in Texas. It’s also No. 193 on the official United Methodist Historic Site.
Dome of the San Saba First Methodist Church
Locals consider the San Saba County Courthouse, built in 1911, as the heart of the county. One of the few Texas courthouse’s with a statement, “From the people to the people” is carved over its entrance. The Classical Revival-style (also known as Texas Renaissance) courthouse stands proudly over downtown San Saba. Constructed of brick and sandstone, representative of a special period in Texas history, the 104-year-old courthouse features classical elements like a domed clock tower, ionic capitals, two-story columns, and dentated cornices. The clock on the cupola of the San Saba County Courthouse downtown has been keeping time for the citizens since it opened in 1911 and tours of the clock tower are available by appointment.
San Saba County Courthouse
Nearby Missions and Presidios
Presidio de San Saba was built in April 1757. It served as protection for the mission of San Saba de la Santa Cruz, established in the same year to serve the Lipan Apache. For years, the presidio and mission defended themselves from Indian attacks and raids as Comanches and other tribes warred with the Apaches. Finally, in June 1768, the leader — Rabago y Teran — abandoned San Saba without permission and retreated to San Lorenzo. In the current day, the ruins remain a little over an hour from San Saba and are a wonderful stop for history buffs on the way into San Saba proper.