Historically and architecturally one of the more important county seats in the region, Gonzales was founded in 1825 by empresarioGreen C. DeWitt as the capital of his colony, the first Anglo-American settlement west of the Colorado River. Abandoned in 1826 due to Comanche Indian attacks and reestablished in 1831, Gonzales was the site of the first skirmish of the Texas Revolution on October 2, 1835. Thirty-two men from Gonzales were the only reinforcements received at the Alamo during the siege in February 1836. The Republic of Texas named the town as the seat of Gonzales County in 1837.
Surveyed by James Kerr in 1825 and later by Byrd Lockhart in 1832, the town's unusual plan has five squares arranged in a cruciform pattern that served as the sites for the jail and courthouse, parade grounds, and church, with two outlying squares set aside for a cemetery and a market. After the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, Sam Houston burned Gonzales in his retreat from Santa Anna's army and many of Gonzales's citizens remained in exile until 1837.
Stability began to return in 1839 with the opening of a post office. Rebuilding of the town commenced along its original site near the Guadalupe River. By 1880, Gonzales had two banks, six churches, four schools, a courthouse, a library, several stores, and a 500-seat opera house. In 1885 the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway began service to the town, whose population had reached almost 3,000. Rail commerce included cotton, cattle, and pecans. The wealth of the community can be seen in the several large and flamboyant late-nineteenth-century residences and commercial buildings. In 1947 Texas A&M University established its poultry experiment station nearby, which led to the development of a poultry industry in the county, but by the second half of the twentieth century, cattle ranching had become the county's main economy.
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