Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Walking Tour of Historic Gonzales Texas

Gonzales Texas 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 which started in 1825 and was the westernmost Anglo settlement until the close of the Texas Revolution of which it played a large role.

come and take it gonzales texasGonzales is perhaps the most historic town in all of Texas. It was here in Gonzales that the opening shots of the Texas Revolution were fired. The story goes back to 1831 when the Mexican government sent Gonzales a six-pound cannon as protection against the Comanches. This cannon was later used in the ‘Come and Take It’ Battle on October 2, 1835, firing the first shot in the Texas Revolution against Mexican rule.

 The battle was set off when a group of Mexican soldiers demanded that the cannon be returned to them and of course the Anglo settlers resisted. The cannon was never returned and the Mexican soldiers returned to San Antonio.

Some forty-one members of the Gonzales settlement died at the Alamo including the "Immortal 32" who answered the call for help from William Travis during that famous battle.

Every year Gonzales celebrates the "Come and Take It" event which includes parades, arts and crafts, a classic car show and of course a reenactment of the battle named "Come and Take It".

historic buildings gonzales texas
Randle-Rather Building
Gonzales Becomes a Large Financial Center

Fast forward about 40 years and Gonzales Texas finds itself as a financial center where people earned large fortunes in cotton and cattle. Cotton growing in particular was a major industry in Gonzales and the surrounding areas. These large fortunes resulted in large mansions being built. Today over 80 properties have been documented and many of these large homes have been wonderfully preserved for over 100 years.

Something very unique about Gonzales Texas is that the town was originally built on seven public squares laid out in the shape of a cross. The names of the squares have had several names through the years, but the layout today is the same as in 1832.

Confederate Square

Located at the intersection of N. St. Joseph and St. George Street, Confederate Square honors the soldiers killed while serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The monument (by sculptor Frank Teich) was dedicated in 1909 through the efforts of Chapter 546 of United Daughters of the Confederacy, Gonzales, Texas.

See the Historic Homes 

historic homes texas
J.D. Houston House
Take the self-guided walking/driving tour that points out the historic homes and buildings built at the turn of the century.  The 1.3 mile tour includes several historic homes, landmarks and other buildings in Gonzales. Complete information about the tour, both the walking and longer driving tour, is available at the visitor center located in the Old Jail Museum.

The frame homes are built of cypress shipped from the Florida/Louisiana coastal area to the Texas port of Indianola. The material was then hauled by ox-cart to Gonzales. Cypress was preferred because cypress seldom rotted and was rarely damaged by termites. Many of the brick homes and buildings are built from brick made by the Sunset Brick Company, which operated in Gonzales for a very long time, from the early 1880s through the mid 1970s..

Below are just a few of the historic homes and building in Gonzales, Texas

The J.D. Houston House

James Dunn Houston was the brother of  W.B. Houston, and built this Queen Anne-style house in 1898.  The mansion construction started three years earlier in 1895. The house has fifteen main rooms, five bathrooms and several halls and walkways. Each of the main rooms has it's own uniquely designed fireplace. The house foyer  still has two canvas wall murals that were bought in New Orleans when the house was constructed.

historic homes gonzales texas
J.B. Kennard House
Dunn was another of Gonzales’ early cattle barons. In 1900 he sold his house, moved to San Antonio and went into the banking business. The house is located at 619 St. Lawrence St.

The J.B. Kennard House

James Blake Kennard was born June 24, 1861 in Plantersville, Texas. J.B. Kennard was a lumberman and built this Queen Anne style home in 1895. The two story house with a large attic features fishtail shingles, clapboard siding and glass and pottery-chip mosaics in the gables. The entrance windows in the cupola and dining room are French beveled glass topped by Tiffany leaded glass.

The St. James Inn

The St. James Inn is a bed & breakfast in one of Gonzales Texas' historic homes. The three story home with 10,000 square feet was built circa 1914.  The home was built by the children of a cattle baron named L.M. Kokernot. The cattleman died in 1914 and his children wanted to build a house in the town so their mother wouldn't have  to continue living on the ranch.

L. M. Kokernot was one of Gonzales' first and largest cattle barons. The rooms are large and elegant. The property opened as a B & B in 1989 after renovations were completed returning the house to it's original splendor. The home and B and B is located at 723 St. James Street.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below... 

Visit Lockhart Texas / History and the Barbecue Capital

The King Ranch / One of the World's Largest

b & b gonzales texas
St. James Inn
The Randle-Rather Building

The Randle-Rather Building, shown above, was constructed in 1895 by two Gonzales business leaders, James Polk Randle and Charles Taylor Rather. The architecture is of Italianate Renaissance Revival style and  housed the Gonzales National Bank as well as several other businesses. The building is still a major structure in downtown Gonzales, Texas. The building is at the corner of St. Paul and St. George Streets

If your Texas travels take you anywhere near Gonzales, Texas, you will be glad that you added a stop there to your Texas vacation planner. Gonzales offers so many historic sites that highlight it's very early days during the Texas Revolution as well as it's growth into a large financial center based primarily on cotton and cattle. Gonzales offers some of the finest architectural examples of the late 1800's. 

Gonzales, Texas is located approximately 65 miles south of Austin and 70 miles east of San Antonio. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

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