Old Jail Museum
Old Jail Museum built in 1887, houses the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture offices Open Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. 1-4 p.m.
Architect Eugene T. Heiner designed the brick structure to hold 200 prisoners under riot conditions. Contractor Henry Kane and Snead & Company Iron Works contracted to build the jail of concrete and steel for $21,660.20
Enter an entrance hall which was once the sheriff’s office. To the left were three rooms, kitchen and bath used as the family living quarters for the sheriff or jailer.
All of the ceilings are made of corrugated steel and concrete. On the lower floor are display cases for articles taken from prisoners, information on the sheriffs, deputies and other law enforcement officials who served through the years.
At the end of the hall is the dungeon, where the only light light and air came from holes above the door. There is a jailer’s bedroom and the ‘women and lunatics’ cell.
The second and third floors feature a large room known as the runaround which is two stories high and was not used for hardened criminals. The death cells are at the front of this room and feature doors of two-inch iron strips forged and fused through the use of heat, borax and hammer, since the jail was built before welding was invented. In each wing of the room are two-story metal cells, built as rooms within a room and featuring more of the riveted doors.
The last gallows were last used in 1921 and were torn down in the 1950s. They stood in the run-around next to the third-floor walkway. The present gallows are an exact reproduction. Large doors to the cell blocks feature small swing-out doors with bars, from which the jailer could observe the prisoners and inside the room are levers that opened and closed latches on the cell doors.
Note the small diagonally shaped coal stoves in the far corner of each cell. At the end of each wing is a recessed arch where a large wood stove was used.
There were six legal hangings in Gonzales, the first in 1855 between the jail and the jailer’s house that were on Market Square. In 1878 it was estimated that 4,000 people “arrived as to a feast to witness the human suffering and shedding of blood” of Brown Bowen. Another hanging was in 1881.
After this jail was built, the first permanent gallows were built in it in 1891 and used again in 1897. Albert Howard’s hanging on March 18, 1921, was the last held in Gonzales County and this jail.
A legend persists that while Howard was in jail, he became obsessed with the clock on the courthouse, keeping strict attention to the number of hours he had to live. He swore his innocence would be shown by the clock, that none of the four faces would ever keep the same time again if he was hanged. Through the years the faces have rarely been consistent.
Gonzales Memorial Museum
414 Smith Street
A Centennial historical memorial, the Memorial Museum commemorates the ‘Immortal 32' who died in the Alamo. Memorabilia is displayed there from the founders and early settlers of Gonzales, including the come & Take It Cannon, which might have fired the first shot for Texas independence on Oct. 2, 1835. Located between St. Lawrence and St. Louis streets, Memorial Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.; on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Closed during the noon hour and on Monday.
The Eggleston House
This ‘dog-run’ style cabin was built after the Texas Revolution and is located on St. Louis Street east of Memorial Museum. Period furniture is on display there and a recording can be activated that tells its story. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.
J. B. Wells House
823 Mitchell Street
The James Bailey Wells house was built in 1885 of Florida long-leaf pine. The 15-room house features original wallpaper, drapes and furnishings. The Gonzales Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas is the custodian and the home is open for tours on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5 per person and group tours are available by appointment. Call the chamber office at 888-672-1095.
Braches House & Sam Houston Oak
The Braches House is open by appointment only. Group tours may be arranged at $3 per person. At the present time, tours are not being conducted as the house needs repairing.
A log house built in 1831 by Sarah Ann and Bartlett D. McClure was replaced by this plantation-style house built in the 1840s by Sarah Ann and Charles D. Braches. The house became a stopping place for wagon trains, stages and mail hacks.
After the fall of the Alamo, General Sam Houston ordered the burning of Gonzales before the advancing Mexican Army. A large oak tree near the home will forever be known as ‘The Sam Houston Oak’, because it was here the general is said to have rested on his first stop during ‘The Runaway Scrape’.