Gonzales was established in 1825 on Kerr Creek, 2 1/2 miles east of the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. It was the capital of Empresario Green DeWitt’s Colony and was the westernmost Anglo settlement until the close of the Texas Revolution. The town was named in honor of Don Rafael Gonzales, provisional Governor of Coahuila, Mexico and Texas.
During the colonial period of 1825 to 1835 there were many problems with the Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. In 1831, the Mexican government sent Gonzales a six-pound cannon as protection against the Indians.
This cannon was used in the ‘Come and Take It’ Battle on October 2, 1835, firing the first shot in the Texas Revolution. General Sam Houston, while in Gonzales, learned of the devastating defeat of the Alamo from Mrs. Almaron (Susannah) Dickinson, who, with her baby and two servants, survived the siege. After learning of this event, General Houston gathered troops and began the famous ‘Runaway Scrape’, gaining time and mustering troops to eventually take a stand at San Jacinto where Santa Anna was defeated and Texas gained its freedom from Mexico.
On December 14, 1837, Gonzales County was created by the legislature from the DeWitt Colony, along with Guadalupe, Caldwell, Coma, Lavaca, Fayette, DeWitt, Victoria and Jackson counties. Gonzales became a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds, with Mexican families and Mexican families who were long-time residents of the area settling alongside the members of Green DeWitt’s Colony . The 1850s saw Germans and Czechs moving into the area and African-Americans coming with the development of plantations.
The Civil War period found about 20 volunteer military companies organized in Gonzales County. In 1863, the Confederate government commissioned a fort to be built in Gonzales as protection against inland invasion by Yankee troops. Fort Waul, C.S.A. an earthen embankment fort, was located on a prominent hill north of the city.
Cotton was a king in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cattle drives made their place in Gonzales history, from the Civil War until railroads took over the transportation. Cow-and-calf operations still play a vital role in today’s economy while Gonzales is ranked as a top producer of eggs, broilers and hens. Other agricultural products from the county are hogs, corn, grain, hay, pecans, mushrooms and cactus and mineral production includes bentonite clay, sand, gravel, oil and gas.
Gonzales history brings tourists to the area, with the Old Jail Museum featured as the Visitor Information Center and the office of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture. Other tourism activities include the self-guided Walking and Driving Tours of the downtown historic district, Memorial Museum, Gonzales Pioneer Village Living History Center, Outdoor Interpretive Exhibits at Memorial Museum and Independence Park, Palmetto State Park along the San Marcos River, Lake Wood Park along the Guadalupe River. For group tour information, contact the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture at 888-672-1095.
Links to Community History:
Wagonworks- Hugh Shelton is a local historian, buggy & carriage expert and has a collection of information about Gonzales at this site. If you are a historical enthusiast, be sure and visit.