Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Texas Independence Trail Region

Map of Gonzales County Historic Sites
Markers (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Battle of Gonzales | Chisholm Trail, Route of Old | Dewitt, Sarah Seely | Dewitt's Colony, First Site of | Duncan Ferry | Fort Waul | Gonzales Courthouse | Gonzales Memorial Museum | Indian Fort, Site of | Kerr's Creek | Community of Pilgrim | Pioneer Village | Salt Flats of Pilgrim Lake | Texas Revolution, Site of the First Shot of the | Washington, Dr. George
Uncommemorated Sites (click on a topic to jump to that section).
John Wightman | Massacre at Castleman's Cabin

Battle of Gonzales

Marker Title: Battle of Gonzales
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1910
Marker Location: St. Louis and St. Joseph, Gonzales.
Marker Text: The first battle of the Texas Revolution, fought on the west side of the Guadalupe River about four miles above Gonzales on October 2, 1835, came to be known as the Lexington of Texas. The incident grew out of Col. Domingo de Ugartechea's demand late in September for a cannon given to the settlement for defense against Indians. When the colonists refused to deliver the cannon, Ugartechea sent 150 Dragoons to demand the weapon. Alcalde Andrew Ponton, in the meantime, sent word to other colonists that he had refused to surrender the cannon, which on September 29 was buried in George W. Davis' peach orchard. From September 30 to October 2, the number of defenders at Gonzales had grown from 18 to about 160. Under command of John H. Moore and J.W.E. Wallace they dug up the cannon, mounted it on ox-cart wheels, filled it with chains and scrap iron, crossed the river and marched toward the enemy. When the Texan scouts discovered the Mexican forces early October 2 they fired their pieces and retired with the Mexicans in pursuit. A discharge from the six-pounder caused the latter to retreat. When the Texans opened with their artillery and charged the enemy his force was driven back in the direction of San Antonio.

On December 9, 1838 Comanches attacked a cabin near the Guadalupe:

Story of Lockhart and Putman in Dewitt

In early March, 1839, Ben McCulloch and five of his rangers were joined by Tonkawa chief Captain Jim and thirty-five of his warriors in an expedition against hostile Indians. On the second day they encountered a dozen or so Comanches who ducked into a deep thicket.

McCulloch's Peach Creek Fight
Savage Frontier II

Route of Old Chisholm Trail

Marker Title: Route of Old Chisholm Trail
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1969
Marker Location: U.S. 90A, Junction East of Kerr Creek
Marker Text: Blazed by trail boss Thornton Chisholm on an 1866 drive from Cardwell's Flat, near Cuero, to Austin (Texas) and Missouri, this section of the famous trail was used until 1896. Over it thundered thousands of cattle headed for northern markets, where sale of beef meant cash to Texas cattlemen and economic growth during the post-Civil War period. Until the railroad was built from Texas to Dodge City, trails such as this were also the only supply line for U.S. forts, Indian reservations and large Kansas-centered markets.

Sarah Seely Dewitt

Marker Title: Sarah Seely Dewitt
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: From Gonzales, take US 183 South about 1.7 mile then go South on US 97 about .25 mile; take a county road West 0.1 mile then go North on county road through gate.
Marker Text: Who with her daughter Evaline made the first battle flag of Texas used by the colonists in the Battle of Gonzales, October 2, 1835. Born in Virginia, 1789 came to Texas in 1826 with her husband Green De Witt, empresario, and their five children. Died November 28, 1854, and is buried here on Sarah Seely League. Green De Witt born in Kentucky February 12, 1787. Died in Monclova, Mexico May 18, 1835 while on business there.

First Site of DeWitt's Colony

Marker Title: Kerr's Settlement
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1964
Marker Location: FM 146 W side of Kerr Creek, near E. city limits, (in gazebo structure), Gonzales
Marker Text: --

Duncan Ferry

Marker Title: Duncan Ferry
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1971
Marker Location: From Gonzales, take County Road 90A, 2 miles NW.
Marker Text: Started about 1834 by Benj. Duncan (1793-1866), a Scotchman. According to tradition, Mrs. Almaron Dickinson stopped first at Duncan's home on her way to tell people of Gonzales of fall of the Alamo. She was one of few survivors of this bloody battle of Texas Revolution, in which many Gonzales men died. Upon hearing news, General Sam Houston ordered retreat of the Texas army (camped in Gonzales) and on night of March 13, 1836, he had town and ferry burned to keep them from enemy hands. Duncan later rebuilt ferry, which was operated until 1866.

Fort Waul

Marker Title: Fort Waul
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1988
Marker Location: US 183 R.O.W, .25 miles N of US 183 & 90 A Intersection, Gonzales.
Marker Text: Named for Confederate General Thomas N. Waul, Fort Waul was built to defend inland Texas from possible Federal advances up the Guadalupe River from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as to provide protection for military supply trains. Construction of the earthen fortification was overseen by Col. Albert Miller Lea, Confederate army engineer. Begun in late 1863, the fort was partly built by slave labor and measured approximately 250 by 750 feet. Surviving records do not indicate whether the fort was ever actually completed.

Gonzales Courthouse

Marker Title: Gonzales Courthouse
Address: 414 St. Joseph St.
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1966

Gonzales Memorial Museum

Museum Name: Gonzales Memorial Museum
City: Gonzales
Zip Code: 78629
Street Address: 414 Smith
Area Code: 210
Phone: 672-6350
County: Gonzales

Indian Fort, Site of

Marker Title: Indian Fort, Site of
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1966
Marker Location: Between St. John St. and Water St. on St. Louis, Gonzales
Marker Text: An Indian raid July 2, 1826, left one Gonzales settler dead, another shot, homes plundered. Settlers fled to Burnham Station on the Colorado, or moved to Lavaca River. In 1827 DeWitt's Colonist were ordered back here. On this lot they built a fort for security

Kerr's Creek

Marker Title: Kerr's Creek
City: Gonzales
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1966
Marker Location: Near E city limits on FM 146 at Kerr Creek, Gonzales
Marker Text: Commissioned to found a capital for colony of Green DeWitt, ex-Missouri state senator James Kerr settled here. He and six other men built homes on this stream--known ever since as Kerr's Creek. After a destructive Indian raid in 1826, the settlement was abandoned.

Community of Pilgrim

Marker Title: Community of Pilgrim
City: Pilgrim
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1971
Marker Location: From Gonzales, take Hwy. 97 S about 2.25 miles, then take FM 1116 south about 15.2 miles.
Marker Text: Named in honor of Thomas J. Pilgrim (1804-1877), noted pioneer educator. Born in Connecticut, he came in 1828 to Texas, where in 1829 he organized a school at San Felipe, in Stephen F. Austin's Colony. Also started first Sunday School in Texas. In 1838 he received a land grant of 1,476 acres (including this site) from Texas Republic. Settled in Gonzales in 1840; started a Sunday School and was superintendent until 1871. Community became a prominent trading post in early 1840s and a hideout of famous gunman John Wesley Hardin in 1870s.

Pioneer Village

Museum Name: Pioneer Village
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 431
City: Gonzales
Zip Code: 78629
Street Address: US Hwy. 183 N
Area Code: 210
Phone: 672-2157
County: Gonzales

Salt Flats of Pilgrim Lake

Marker Title: Salt Flats of Pilgrim Lake
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1969
Marker Location: From Gonzales, take SH 97 S about 2.25 miles to FM 1116 South. Follow about 13.75 miles S. to roadside area.
Marker Text: Long before the arrival of Spaniards or Anglo-Americans, this natural salt source was probably utilized by native Indians. Although not produced in great quantities, salt was processed here by pioneers in the 1800s. In damp weather, salty "dew" forms on the flats.

Texas Revolution, Site of the First Shot of the

Marker Title: Site of the First Shot of the Texas Revolution
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: 97 West, E. City limits, Cost.
Marker Text: The monument, faced with Texas gray granite, sixteen feet two inches in width, thirteen feet six inches in height, and three feet ten and one-half inches in extreme depth, was designed by Phelps & Dewees, Architects. The great bronze plaque and the decorative figures carved in granite were designed by Waldine Tauch. The Commission allocated $10,000 for the memorial. Near here on October 2, 1835 was fired the first shot of the Texas Revolution of 1835-36 -- the shot heard round the word. At Gonzales the Texans defied the Mexican government and refused their demand for the Gonzales cannon with the "come and take it" challenge until reinforcements arrived from other parts of DeWitt's Colony and from the colonies on the Colorado and Brazos. They then pursued the Mexicans from Gonzales to near this point and fired upon them with this cannon, driving them back to Bexar. This shot started the revolution and was directly responsible for adding more territory to the United States than was acquired by the freeing of the original thirteen colonies from England.

Dr. George Washington

Marker Title: Dr. George Washington Barnett
County: Gonzales
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: Old City Cemetery, N College St., Gonzales
Marker Text: Born in South Carolina December 12, 1793, killed by Indians October 8, 1848. Served in the army of Texas, 1835-36 signed the Texas declaration of independence, '36 member of the senate of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh congresses of the republic.

John Wightman

The following excerpt is from the book, Savage Frontier, by Stephen L. Moore:

One of the little settlements that would remain a centerpiece for Indian troubles and revolution was Gonzales, the capital of Green DeWitt's young Texas colony. The area of DeWitt's Colony as contracted with the Mexican government included all of present Gonzales, Caldwell, Guadalupe, and DeWitt Counties and portions of Lavaca, Wilson, and Karnes Counties.

The peace in this area was shattered on July 2, 1826, when a party of Indians attacked a group of pioneers, stealing their horses and personal effects. Bazil Durbin was wounded by a rifle ball that drove so deeply into his shoulder that it remained there for the next thirty-two years of his life. The Indians next plundered the double log home of James Kerr, where John Wightman had been left alone in charge of the premises. Wightman was killed, mutilated, and had his scalp removed by the Indians. The fear spread by this depredation was enough to prevent the Gonzales area from being permanently settled again until the spring of 1828.

Massacre at Castleman's Cabin

15 mi. W of Gonzales April 15th, 1835.
From the book, Savage Frontier, by Stephen L. Moore:

The campground was ominously quiet as the first rays of sunlight filtered through the trees along Sandies Creek. The dawn air was cool on the mid-April morning in South Texas. The tranquility was violently interrupted by the sudden report of rifles and resounding war whoops as more than sixty Comanche Indians descended on the scene.

The men of the camp scrambled to make a stand. Improvising breastworks of carts, packsaddles, and trading goods, the besieged fired back at the howling Indians who outnumbered them by upwards of six to one. The contest was fierce, but it was over before it had begun.

From a small porthole type window in his pioneer cabin several hundred yards away, John Castleman could only watch the massacre in anguish. He was frustrated that he could not assist the besieged and that they had not heeded his advice.

His gut instinct was to open fire with his rifle, however futile the effort may prove to be. Only the pleading of Castleman's wife restrained him. The first shot he fired would only ensure that he, his wife, and his children would also be slaughtered. Even still, it was difficult to watch as others died before him.

Castleman and his pioneer family had become bystanders to a bloody Indian depredation in south central Texas. It was April 1835 when the Indians descended near his place and slaughtered a party of traders.

John Castleman, a backwoodsman from Missouri, had settled with his wife, four children, and his wife's mother in the autumn of 1833 fifteen miles west of Gonzales. His cabin often served as a place of refuge for travelers moving down the San Antonio Road from Gonzales. Castleman's place was located in present Gonzales on Sandies Creek, a good watering hole. Indians were known to be about the area, and they had even killed his four dogs in one attempt to steal Castleman's horses.

...The traders declined the offer to use Castleman's cabin, choosing to retire for the night near the waterhole. The Indians attacked these traders right at daylight, the yelling from which had awakened Castleman. The traders fired back and continued to hold their ground for some four hours while the Indians circled them. The attackers slowly tightened their circle as the morning sun rose, falling back temporarily whenever the traders managed to inflict damage on their own numbers.

The traders suffered losses and drew to a desperate point. The furious Comanches finally took advantage of their enemies' desperation and made an all-out onslaught from three sides. They succeeded in drawing the fire of the party simultaneously and left them momentarily unloaded. During this brief instant, the Indians rushed in with victorious war whoops and fell upon the traders in hand-to-hand combat.

Raiding to acquire fine stock and other goods became a ruthless sport to the Comanche (translatable as "the real people" in Indian tongue) as settlement of Texas began to encroach upon the hunting lands the Indians had long claimed. By 1830 the Indian population in the territory of Texas was perhaps fifteen thousand compared to about seventeen thousand settlers of Anglo-European, Mexican national, and black origin. In combat with early settlers, the Comanche warriors had learned to exploit any advantage a battle might offer them, such as lengthy time required to reload weapons in the case of the French and Mexican traders. The determined Indians could accurately fire a half dozen arrows in the time it took an opponent to reload his rifle a single time. The battlewise Comanches forced the traders to discharge all their weapons at once before moving in to slaughter the men before they could reload.

This last terrific charge was witnessed by Castleman from his window, and he immediately realized that it was all over for the poor traders. The victims were brutally mutilated and scalped. The Comanches stayed long enough to dispose of their own dead, round up the traders' mules, and collect all of the booty that was desired. As they slowly rode past his house single file, Castleman counted eighty surviving warriors, each shaking his shield or lance at the house as they passed.

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