The flag was emblazoned, “Come and Take It.” The year was 1835 and the flag referred to a small cannon sent to Gonzales by the Mexican Government several years earlier to protect the town from the Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. However, with political unrest and increasing hostilities throughout the area, a contingent of 150 Mexican soldiers was sent to Gonzales to retrieve the cannon.
The Mexican Army wanted the cannon back, but the Texians gathered in Gonzales refused to give it up and on Oct. 2, they fired the first shot in the battle for Texas Independence. Gonzales took its place in history, and was given the nickname “the Lexington of Texas.” Five months later, the Alamo fell to the Mexican Army, led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and on April 21, 1836, the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution took place at San Jacinto, near what is now Houston, Texas.
Back in the day
Gonzales, established in 1825, was named for the provisional governor of Coahuila, Mexico, Don Rafael Gonzales. Several families from Missouri, along with German, Polish, and Czech immigrants -- known as the DeWitt Colony -- helped settle this area. The population reached 300 by 1850, just over 4,000 by 1900, and today 7,200 call Gonzales home.
It is history that attracts visitors today: the Old Jail Museum, the Memorial Museum, the Gonzales Pioneer Village Living History Center, and the magnificent Gonzales County Courthouse. If this is your first visit to Gonzales, you might want to start at the Gonzales Visitor Center, located in the Old Jail Museum, 414 St. Lawrence St., where you can get information to help you plan your visit. While there, walk through the old jail. It is a little scary, and should have made anyone think twice before committing a crime back in those days.
The courthouse is just around the corner from the Old Jail Museum. The original courthouse burned in 1893; the current one was completed in 1896. Construction of this beautiful Romanesque Revival-style facility cost $64,450.
The Gonzales Pioneer Village Living History Center is comprised of buildings dating back to the 1800s and some in the early 1900s, including a working broom factory, a church, the Baker-Seiler Cabin, a smokehouse, and a blacksmith shop. When you visit the village, you will be transported back in time; men and women perform everyday tasks as they were done in that era. It is located a half-mile north of Gonzales on S.H. 183. There is a nominal entry fee of $1 to $2.50.
A river runs through it
The San Marcos River flows through the nearby Palmetto State Park, then joins the Guadalupe River, and offers opportunities for fishing, tubing, kayaking, and canoeing. The park is located on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, and is noted as a birding “hot spot,” with more than 239 bird species having been observed in the park.
The Gonzales Memorial Museum, 414 Smith St., has the “Come and Take It” cannon, along with other historical artifacts. Admission is free.
The Eggleston House, built with hand-hewn logs in the mid 1840s by Horace Eggleston, was the first permanent residence in Gonzales. It is also the first house in the state of Texas to receive a medallion marker from the Texas Historical Commission. It is located at 1300 St. Louis St. and admission is free.
Come and visit
The Come and Take It Festival takes place on the first full weekend every October in downtown Gonzales, where the streets are filled with craft vendors and food booths. This three-day celebration has a full slate of events, including a Saturday morning parade, live music, home show, chili cook-off, car show, a 5K walk/run, and the reenactment of the battle of 1835.
If you have the opportunity to stay longer in Gonzales, there are several historical bed and breakfast facilities, including Belle Oaks, the Booth House, and the St. James Inn.
Do not overlook this wonderful town filled with Texas history, beautifully restored historical homes, and a nearby state park. And, if you plan your trip during the annual festival in October, you, too, can “Come And Take It.”
Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.