During the month of April 2021, in honor of National Poetry Month, the San Antonio River Authority encouraged local poets and story tellers to take a walk along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park in downtown San Antonio and submit a poem or short story about their experience. After a couple of weeks, the winner for the 2021 Writers Take a Walk poetry contest was selected: Don Mathis from San Antonio. Below you may read Mr. Mathis’ short story about the intersection of Martin Street and the San Pedro Creek focusing on the Bridges of Understanding, by Diana Kersey.
The Bridge with Four Names – by Don Mathis
A bridge over the San Pedro Creek holds hundreds of years of the hopes and heroes of this land. When San Antonio was part of Mexico, they called this street Calle Hidalgo in honor of the hero of the 1810 revolution. As Father Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla faced his execution squad, the soldiers trembled; no one wanted to kill a priest.
The first volley wounded his arm and abdomen. The blindfold was dislodged. Bloody hands held the crucifix. Tearful eyes stared at the executioners. The second volley riddled his body. The soldiers cried as they reloaded. Hidalgo prayed for his killers as they fired again. His back, his belly cut to pieces, still he lived. The captain ordered his men to place their muzzles point blank to Hidalgo’s heart. It took sixteen musket balls. Then he gave his life for our land. ¡Viva la revolución!
When the border crossed San Antonio, they called this street Third Avenue. The city was expecting growth, but Third Avenue was still an industrial area on the outskirts of town. Simon Menger built a soap factory. Bones and fats from hogs and cattle were converted to cleansing agents for laundry, for dishes, for bathing. The effluent from this early industry is long gone, but the Soap Factory building is still here.
What happened to Third Avenue? Follow the street down to Broadway; it changes back to its old name. The border crossed San Antonio again and again. Third Avenue was no longer the edge of town.
A beautiful new neighborhood on the West Side grew around a picturesque pond. Our Lady of the Lake University anchored the new subdivision. They called the waters Elmendorf Lake and changed the street name to Lake View. A streetcar carried students to the new school and workers to their jobs downtown. It was the 1890s and life was good in Lake View.
And then came the Centennial of the Texas Revolution, a celebration of the border crossing – and the men who helped to move it. It was time to say goodbye to Lake View and hello to Albert Martin. Captain Martin was one of the “Old Eighteen” defenders of Gonzales, Texas. The government in the early 1830s would only tax his earnings – but gave no services for his efforts. When the Centralist army came to reclaim their cannon, Martin helped make a flag that said, “Come and Take It!”
Captain Martin came to San Antonio for the Siege of Bexar in 1835. An axe injury sent him home for a while but he came back when freedom called. Martin served at the Alamo as an emissary to meet Santa Anna’s adjutant. The next day, he carried Colonel Travis’ letter to the people of Texas and all Americans in the world. Martin’s father in Gonzales begged his son not to go back to the Alamo, but he returned with 32 friends. Captain Martin died in the battle but his name lives on, as do the other names of this street.
The bridge with four names takes but a few seconds to drive across. But take a few minutes to study the medallions made by Diana Kersey. They will hint at the history of hundreds of years.
For more information about San Pedro Creek Culture Park and other upcoming events, visit www.spcculturepark.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at #SanPedroCreek. San Pedro Creek Culture Park is maintained and operated by the San Antonio River Authority.