The view from Farm to Market road 666 as you enter southbound in to ‘Old’ San Patricio. There are numerous historical markers in the town, but if you want to read them all in place you can. In front of the replica courthouse they are all on display for your reading enjoyment.
Some of the items at the Old San Patricio Museum seen here include some vintage typewriters, old cameras and a very ornate cash register from the local store that burned down a few years ago.
Drive south on Farm to Market road 666, and you’ll see a few old houses, a museum and a replica courthouse between Mathis and Calallen. And by the time the sign welcoming visitors is visible, it’s already passed.
This quaint little place is San Patricio. Or ‘Old’ San Patricio as it’s affectionately known by most locals.
The story of the old town started in 1824 when Mexico gained it’s independence from Spain. Texas was still part of Mexico, so in order to try and maintain control of the huge chunk of land, they encouraged colonization and granted large tracts of land to empresarios, a person who has been granted the right to settle on land in exchange for recruiting and taking responsibility for new settlers.
It was the Irish that chose to colonize the area which ran from San Patricio, Live Oak, Atascosa, Bee and part of Bexar counties. Eventually, Empresario James McGloin decided that San Patricio was a good place to settle and named it San Patricio de Hibernia in honor of St. Patrick.
The town currently has a population of 395, which will seem like a lot once you visit the town.
“A lot of the people that live here are the dependents of the original founders,” City of San Patricio chairperson Margo Byerley said.
“It was the county seat at first, then when the courthouse burned they moved the county seat to Sinton.
“When they did that, this town just died.”
The decision for the railroad to bypass San Patricio didn’t help either.
In 1893, it ceased to be incorporated until 1971 when a Corpus Christi dam threatened to flood San Patricio. A lawsuit finally protected the historic town which spurred interest to renovate and restore some of the town’s landmarks.
San Patricio is also the home of the World Championship Rattlesnake Races, which Byerley is the president of. More than 20,000 spectators from all over the world visit the town for the annual event.
One of San Patricio’s most notable residents was Chepita Rodriguez. At the age of 63, she was the first woman to be put to death by the state of Texas.
Not something you’d see on the welcoming sign.
And it is perhaps due to her tragic death and the death of the many soldiers who died in battles around the area that the town has been visited by many professional paranormal investigators.
And some not-so-professional investigators.
“Every Halloween we have to stay in town and watch stuff,” Byerley said.
“When the family still owned the Dougherty house, kid’s would break in there on Halloween night.”
So one Halloween night Byerley decided to stay on the balcony above the front porch.
She called the sheriff to let him know, and he quickly grew concerned about her being up there all alone.
“He said, ‘What if you see – ’, and I said ‘if I see a ghost I’ll let you know,” she added with a laugh.
Byerley said that as soon as the sun went down and it began to grow dark, her first set of visitors drove up in their Jeep to check out the old, spooky house.
“One said, ‘Ooo, the fog’s moving in!’ and I said, ‘Can I help y’all?’
“You should have seen those kids.
“That was kind of fun.”
Right in the middle of town sits the San Patricio museum which is chock full of historic items from the area such as rifles, toys, photos and not to mention prehistoric fossils.
Even though San Patricio seems small and lackluster, it has a rich history and a visit to the old site and museum is something passersby may want to finally stop and enjoy.
The museum is open the first Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. until noon and 1:30 until 2:30 p.m. You can call 361-547-5351 to make an appointment or for any questions.