SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2007, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved.
Gonzales Town-Index


Gonzales Town MapSurvey and Layout of Gonzales 1827. The cabins on Kerr’s Creek established in 1825 and abandoned in 1826 for Old Station and the fort built by Byrd Lockhart on the Guadalupe River to which the Old Station settlers returned in 1827 can be considered the first geographic site of Gonzales town. However, formal establishment of towns, which could serve as cultural and economic centers, was key to Mexican colonization strategy. Mexican colonization law specified that when a colony reached 40 families, a town should be established in the Spanish and Mexican tradition by the empresario from four leagues set aside for the town. A preliminary survey was done in 1825 by James Kerr from Kerr’s Creek when he named the town after governor Rafael Gonzales before the significant arrival of settlers, but it was not according to specifications set by law. The town as a center of economic and social life formally began in April 1831 when Land Commissioner Navarro and surveyor Byrd Lockhart laid out the town systematically under instructions from Bexar provincial jefe-politico Ramon Musquiz (Gonzales Town Deed ).

Specifications were precise and precisely followed by Lockhart. The plazas and forty two blocks each containing six 45 by 166 feet lots were laid out between intersecting streets and comprised the inner town in the southwestern corner of the four leagues. Seven blocks were reserved for plazas for public use arranged like a cross with the long part running east and west. Market Plaza was on the west end near the river and Cemetery square was on the far east end on current College St. The main square or Central Plaza was in the center and flanked on the east and west by Church and Municipal Squares, respectively. Jail Square and Military Square were to the north and south of Central Square, respectively. Every day use by the settlers soon after layout of the town caused the roles of the Jail and Market Squares to be reversed from the Hispanic tradition specified by commissioner Navarro. Streets in the grid except Water Street were named for saints. Gonzales town of today is essentially true to the original survey of 1831. Outer town lots within the remaining four leagues were of various and larger sizes. Lots were obtained at auction with payments on installment. Proceeds from sales of town lots and a tax of 1 peso per year were used to build the church and public buildings as well as pay for town operations. In March 1836 before destruction by fire after the Alamo defeat, the inner town consisted of 32 buildings of which 20 were built prior to or in 1831.

Earliest Structures: The Fort and Log Pen Cabins. The Fort built by Byrd Lockhart and crew in 1827 can be considered the earliest structure, a public one, in Gonzales town and first source of shelter and security for residents. The fort was located about sixty yards from the river in the inner town across from Jail Plaza (later Market Plaza) at the corner of Water and St. Louis Streets. Daughter of Adam Zumwalt, Elizabeth Zumwalt Mitchell described the scene related later by her daughter:

"When my parents came to Texas the Mexicans were friendly and welcomed the Americans, so they had nothing to fear but the Indians. For protection they built a fort by digging a trench and setting trunks of trees close together around a space large enough to accommodate all the families here at that time. They dug a trench from it to the river. There were holes all around the wall to shoot through. They kept watch and at an alarm, all would run to the fort. The Indians soon saw it was useless to attack the fort with their bows and arrows, but would capture or kill everyone they caught outside. Their life was hard but they had some good times….."

In 1828, the settlers began to construct individual "log pen" cabins consisting of unmodified logs chinked with clay and with either clay or crude plank floors if they could be cut. Nearby were corrals for stock and some garden plots. However, the above account which could have been no earlier than spring 1829 indicates reliance on the fort for security at that date. The author’s 2nd great granduncle Nathan Boone Burkett says in his memoirs Early Days in Texas:

"Practically every one lived in log cabins with adobe or packed earth floors, and slept in home-made beds which were built into the corner of the rooms and fastened to two walls. Most cabins were constructed with fireplaces which were used for all the cooking, in addition to heating, molding bullets, etc. Those who had no fireplace had to do their cooking outdoors in regular campfire style."

Gonzales Town LayoutGonzales Town Structures 1836. Structures present in 1836 prior to destruction by Gen. Houston's Army after the Alamo defeat with appraisal values in pesos ($) where available were as follows: Appraisal values appeared to reflect location whether or not there were improvements or a business. About 100 yards south of the fort was Thomas R. Miller’s store and residence ($11). One hundred yards east of the fort on St. Louis Street was the store and residence of Stephen Smith ($12). Going south on Water Street in the next block were the John Castleman residence ($13) and east of that the John Lawler residence. Further south within 200 yards of the fort were the Almeron Dickinson and George Kimble Hat Factory ($10) and then the residence of James Hinds ($11) (later Mathew Caldwell). At the corner of St. John and St. Michael was the home of James Hinds' brother, Gerron Hinds. Going north from Jail Plaza on Water Street about 130 yards was the home of James Tumlinson ($16) and north 100 more yards was the home of Lewis D. Sowell (($9). Continuing north on Water Street across St. George were the John Sowell ($9) and James B. Patrick homes and John Saddler’s Shop ($10). The latter was 300 yards from the fort. On St. John Street coming back south toward the fort were residences of Umphries Branch ($7) and Dr. J.H.C. Miller. At the corner of St. John and St. Lawrence was the residence of Jacob C. Darst ($14). Across from Jail Plaza on St. John St. was a structure called "Luna" owned by either Benjamin or Silas Fuqua, who were "mechanics," on lots deeded to Silas Fuqua. Mechanics were eligible along with empresarios to receive town lots without fee or taxes. Some speculate that Luna was a grogshop or pub of the period possibly associated with Winslow Turner’s hotel which was further south on St. John Street. Luna and the Turner Hotel were appraised at $17. One hundred yards east of the hotel across from the Municipal Plaza was Adam Zumwalt’s residence and "kitchen" ($15) which is thought to be a restaurant and later a hotel or boarding house. Further south on St. John Street were the G.W. Davis residence, Horace Eggleston’s Store and the Eli Mitchell residence ($12). Best’s residence and smoke house ($12) (later Andrew Ponton’s Smokehouse) were in the next block 100 yards south and south of that was the residence of Mrs. John Brown ($11). At the corner of St. James and St. Michaels was the William Arrington residence and 100 yards east was the home of Joseph Martin. Outside the south limits of the town was the gin and mill owned by Martin.

The Burket-Zumwalt-DeWitt Cluster. Nathan Boone Burkett’s father, David Burket, 3rd great grandfather of the author, established his first cabin on his 177-acre labor of land for which he received title in November 1831 on Kerr Creek within a cluster of labor-size tracts between the southern border of the town tract and the Guadalupe River. Three of Green DeWitt's premium tracts were on the west, east and south of the cluster. On the border of the Burket tract and the town tract on Kerr Creek was where the first original and abandoned cabins composing Gonzales stood in 1825. The Burket’s neighbors on the west were the labors of Green Dewitt, Samuel Highsmith, James Gibson and Esther Berry (House Floyd Clark). To the immediate west was Mary Ann Zumwalt Burket’s cousin Adam Zumwalt’s labor who had come with them to Texas from St. Charles County, Missouri. This Adam Zumwalt went by Adam Sr. and later was called "Red" Adam Zumwalt by historians to differentiate him from another cousin Adam Zumwalt Jr. who was referred to as "Black" Adam Zumwalt. On the south were the labors of Francis Berry and stepson John Oliver and on the immediate west a tract of service bounty land owned by Charles H. Braches. Minutes of the Ayuntamiento of Gonzales from January, 1833 through early 1834 give a glimpse into the early affairs of government within the town. After 1834, no systematic minutes of the ayuntamiento have been found and may not exist because of pre-occupation with events leading to the Revolution. Documents in the Texas Archives relate some sketches of activities from February through October of 1835. No formal records from that period through Mar 1839 have been found.

The Burning of Gonzales 13 Mar 1836. On 13 Mar 1836 after the fall of the Alamo in San Antonio on March 6, the evacuation of Gonzales town began under orders of General Houston. Rear guard troops under Captain Sharpe with two groups working their way from north to south torched the town. Captain Sharpe related the scene to author Henry Stuart Foote sometime before 1841:

"Captain Carnes then told us that the orders were to burn the Town, and that not a roof large enough to shelter a Mexican's head was to be left, with everything else that could be of any service to the enemy. We divided ourselves into two parties, one party to commence at one end of the Town, the other at the other end, and meet. There were some four or five in each party, and we made rapid work of it. The houses were principally framed, covered with thin boards, split from the oak, similar to barrel staves. In the course of a few minutes the flames began their work of destruction, and by dawn every house was burning, or had crumbled to ashes. Twas a scene, the like of which I never before or since, have witnessed. I entered several houses, and found the beds yet warm, on which the inhabitants had, but a short time before, laid down, full of confidence and hope, and from which they had been awakened by the wild Tocsin of alarm and had fled, leaving all they had been for years collecting, all for which they had braved the dangers of the wilderness, ALL, everything they had, whilst they themselves fled they know not whither, probably many of them without a dollar or a friend on earth."

"Not less than twenty women, with young and helpless children, were made widows. Fathers had lost sons, brother had lost brother. In short, there was not a family in the once happy and flourishing settlement of Gonzales, that did not mourn the death of some murdered relative. For several hours after the receipt of the intelligence, not a sound was heard, save the wild shrieks of the women, and the heart rending screams of the fatherless children. Little groups of men might be seen, in various corners of the Town, brooding over the past and speculating on the future; but they scarce spoke above a whisper, for here the public and private grief was alike heavy, and sunk deep into the heart of the rudest soldier."

Author Foote continues: "This affecting narrative of Captain Sharpe derives double pathos from the fact that most of those able to bear arms about Gonzales had, a few days before, rushed to the relief of Travis and his associates in the Alamo; had broken through the ranks of the besieged, army, and had reached the fort in safety, only to add to the number of victims who perished in that dreadful massacre. One who was at Gonzales when the tidings of the unhappy fate of these noble fellows was received, thus describes the spectacle unfolded."

Of all the structures present in Gonzales town, only Adam Zumwalt’s kitchen and Andrew Ponton’s smokehouse were not reduced completely to ashes in the inferno. Gonzales and DeWitt Colony residents began to return soon after the Texas Independence victory at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. For most the return was not immediate since families had been scattered and disrupted by the refugee conditions of The Runaway Scrape. The author’s ancestors Burket, Zumwalt and Kent which included Alamo widow Elizabeth Zumwalt Kent and family did not return to the area until late 1837. However, eventually most returned to begin the slow task of rebuilding the infrastructure of Gonzales and surrounding homesteads in the DeWitt Colony. Records describing proceedings of the Gonzales town council began again in March 26, 1839.


SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2007, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved