Gonzales County Data
Gonzales County Neighbors
Dewitt County, Texas
Fayette, New Mexico
Guadalupe County, Texas
Karnes County, Texas
Lavaca County, Texas
Wilson County, Texas
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About Gonzales County, Texas...
Gonzales County is located south of Austin. The city of Gonzales is the county seat. Three major land-resource areas in Gonzales County are the Texas Claypan Prairie, the Southern Blackland Prairie, and the Northern Rio Grande Plain. Typical vegetation in the county ranges from post oak savannah with tall grasses, post oak, and blackjack oak in the Texas Claypan area, to the dense growth of mesquite, prickly pear, brush, and low-growing grasses of the northern Rio Grande Plain, to the live oaks and pecan and walnut trees of the southern Blackland Prairie and timberlands.
Continuous human occupation has been documented in the Guadalupe River basin from the late Paleo-Indian period through the early historic period. Artifacts from hunter-gatherer groups, including pottery shards, worked stone, and bifaced stone tools, have been discovered. Bones of extinct animals have been located at Ottine. In historic times Coahuiltecan tribes occupied the area.
Green C. DeWitt’s petition for a land grant to establish a colony in Texas was approved by the Mexican government on April 15, 1825. In January 1825, confident that the grant would be awarded, he had appointed James Kerr to survey the colony and its capital. Though Kerr selected a site near the confluence of the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers to be the capital, he and his assistants built cabins near a creek (ever after called Kerr's Creek) while the town site of the capital was being surveyed. This group became the first Anglo community west of the Colorado River.
After two Indian attacks, the first probably the work of the Waco Indians and the second by the Tonkawas, Kerr's group abandoned their cabins in July 1826. DeWitt's colonists settled for a time at a site called Old Station, about six miles from the mouth of the Lavaca River. The Mexican government, however, refused their request to remain at Old Station, and late in 1827 some settlers returned to the Gonzales town site that Kerr had surveyed. When Jean Louis Berlandier passed through in April 1828, he found six cabins near the river crossing, encircled by a fort-like barricade; other cabins were located in the surrounding forest. Cotton and corn had been planted, and there were domestic cows, pigs, and some horses. Buffalo were present, and nearby were two permanent Indian villages, one of Tonkawas and the other of Karankawas.
Within three years more than 100 families had arrived to settle in DeWitt's colony. The Mexican government refused to recognize Kerr as the official surveyor, and Byrd Lockhart was appointed in 1831 to resurvey the town site. A population of 532 in 1831 convinced the Mexican government to send a six-pound cannon to Gonzales for protection against Indian raids. DeWitt's colony sent delegates to the conventions of 1832 and 1833 and to the Consultation of 1835. The Mexican government considered the conventions a treasonable act, and in September 1835 Mexican troops were sent to Gonzales to retrieve the cannon. On October 2, at the battle of Gonzales, the colonists resisted the attempts of Mexican troops to confiscate what came to be known as the Gonzales "come and take it" cannon. This was the first armed encounter of the Texas Revolution.
Stephen F. Austin arrived in Gonzales and was elected the first commander in chief of the revolutionary army by the volunteers, many of whom took part in the siege of Bexar. Thirty-two men from DeWitt's colony who answered the call for assistance at the Alamo, and eight or nine other men from the colony who had volunteered earlier, perished at the battle of the Alamo. Sam Houston's order to retreat and the burning of Gonzales after the battle of the Alamo began the Runaway Scrape.
Gonzales County, named for the capital of Green DeWitt's colony, was established in 1836 and organized in 1837 as one of the original counties in the Republic of Texas. It occupied the same area as DeWitt's colony-a territory some sixty miles long and twenty-five miles wide, with an area of 1,100 square miles. After the annexation of Texas to the United States in 1845, portions of Gonzales County were detached to form what are now the counties of Caldwell, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Guadalupe, Jackson, Lavaca, and Victoria.
County residents joined in the fight against Indian and Mexican incursions during the 1840s. After the Comanche Indians raided Victoria and Linnville in August 1840, a number of Gonzales County men joined other volunteers in the attack and defeat of the Indians in thebattle of Plum Creek in nearby Caldwell County. During the Mexican invasions of 1842, volunteers from the county joined the Texas forces and families living along the rivers, and many from the town joined in what is sometimes called the Second Runaway Scrape.
The arrival of immigrant settlers in the 1850s stimulated enough growth to establish in 1853 the first newspaper in the county, the Gonzales Inquirer, as well as post offices in several communities. Gonzales College, founded in 1851 by slave-owning planters, was the first institution in Texas to confer A.B. degrees on women before the Civil War.
On February 23, 1861, residents voted for secession. Gonzales County saw some twenty-two volunteer companies, including home-guard units, organized there during the Civil War. Membership rosters for seventeen of these companies are on record. In 1863 the Confederacy commissioned Fort Waul to be built to protect against invasion by northern troops through Indianola. In the 1990s remnants of the fort could still be seen north of the city of Gonzales. Though no Union troops fought in Gonzales County during the war, a small group of fifteen or twenty Union soldiers was encamped on the Gonzales public square for several months during Reconstruction.
The cattle industry was one of the mainstays of county agriculture both before and after the war. The first cattle brand and hog ear marks were recorded in the county in January 1829. The first known cattle drive from the county occurred in 1853, and in 1856 two herds-one of 500 head and one of 600-were driven north. Extensions of the Chisholm Trail were blazed through Gonzales County in 1866. After the Civil War, thousands of unbranded cattle roamed the prairie. Other livestock important in the county included hogs and sheep.
In the post-Civil War period, settlers moved to the county from Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, and Arkansas. The population continued to rise for the rest of the century. By 1880 African Americans in Gonzales County numbered nearly 5,000-roughly a third of the population. This proportion was roughly maintained through 1900. Immigrants, 98 percent of whom were farmers, made up a large part of the population in 1887. There were Germans, English, and a number of Scots, Irish, and French. In 1900 Gonzales County included 318 foreign-born Czechs, who listed Moravia, Bohemia, and Austria as their place of origin.
Gonzales County received attention during the Texas Centennial in 1936, when a monument was dedicated at the Alamo, honoring the "immortal thirty-two" from Gonzales who entered there five days before the fall of the Alamo. Besides the "immortal thirty-two," there were eight or nine other men from DeWitt's colony who had entered the Alamo at an earlier date and who also died there. On March 14, 1937, Governor James Allred dedicated a large monument that commemorated the first shot of the Texas Revolution; it was sculpted by Waldine A. Tauch and built by the state of Texas near the town of Cost in central Gonzales County.
County citizens have freely participated in all wars from the Texas Revolution to the present. Twenty-three men served, and two died, during the Spanish-American War (1898). Three served with the First United States Volunteer Cavalry (the Rough Riders). In World War I, 1,106 men from the county served, of whom 358 were volunteers and 748 were conscripts. A total of 544 men served overseas, and fifty-eight died in service. During World War II, 3,000 men from Gonzales County served in the armed forces; seventy-nine of them died.
Recreational facilities abound in Gonzales County. Palmetto State Park, established in 1933, includes 264 acres of palmetto swamps, springs, and camping on the San Marcos River. There are two major lakes in the county on the Guadalupe River offering exceptional fishing, camping, and water sports. The 250-acre Independence Park in Gonzales includes a golf course and a variety of recreational facilities. Other recreational spots include the Pioneer Village Living History Center and Noah's Land Wildlife Preserve. Annual celebrations in the county include the Feather Fest, at Nixon, honoring the poultry industry, the Settlers Set To at Smiley, the Guacamole Fest at Waelder, and the "Come and Take It" festival at Gonzales, which commemorates the firing of the first shot of the Texas Revolution.
The county has a total area of 1,070 square miles, of which 1,067 square miles is land and 3 square miles (0.3%) is water. The population recorded in the 1850 Federal Census was 1,492. The population peaked in 1900 at 28,882. The 2010 census recorded 19,807 residents there.
Neighboring counties are Bastrop County (north), Fayette County (northeast), Lavaca County (east), Dewitt County (southeast), Karnes County (southwest), Wilson County (southwest), Guadalupe County (west), and Caldwell County (northwest). The county seat is the town of Gonzales. Other communities in the county include Bebe, Belmont, Cost, Harwood, Leesville, Nixon, Ottine, Smiley, Waelder, Wrightsboro, and Pilgrim.
Gonzales County, Texas Records
Birth Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services has records from 1903 to present. Records for the last 75 years considered private and will only be provided to certain individuals. To obtain current information on who may obtain a record, how to submit a request and an official request form, see the Texas Department of State Health Services website or write to Texas Vital Records, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.
For older birth records you will have to write to the County Clerk of the applicable county. The existence of birth records prior to 1903 will vary widely from county to county. Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.
Death Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services has records from 1903 to present. Records for the last 25 years considered private and will only be provided to certain individuals. To obtain current information on who may obtain a record, how to submit a request and an official request form, see the Texas Department of State Health Services website or write to Texas Vital Records, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.
Marriage Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services can provide a verification letter of marriage for Texas marriages from 1966 to present. This is NOT a marriage license. To obtain a certified copy of a marriage license you must contact the County or District Clerk in the county or district where the marriage took place.
Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.
Divorce Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services can provide a verification letter of divorce for Texas divorces from 1968 to present. This is NOT a copy of the divorce decree. To obtain a certified copy of a copy of the divorce decree you must contact the County or District Clerk in the county or district where the divorce took place.
Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.