In Texas, our independent spirit runs deep, tracing its essence to the state’s original settlers and the days of the Texas Republic. To delve into the fearless roots of the Texas Revolution, I headed to the place where it all started—Gonzales.
10:00 a.m. At the Gonzales Memorial Museum, artifacts and photographs document Gonzales’ role in Texas’ fight for independence, including the story behind the “Come and Take It” cannon. After loaning the cannon to town settlers for protection from native tribes, the Mexican government realized that it might be used against Mexican troops in an impending revolution. But in October 1835, after officials ordered that the cannon be returned, the Texian men—waving a flag bearing the words “Come and Take It”—fired it upon the Mexican soldiers and officially sparked the Texas Revolution. As I viewed the weaponry and read the historic letters, I was once again struck by the bravery and resolve it must have taken to stand up for the dream of Texas.
11:15 a.m. When General Sam Houston arrived in Gonzales in March 1836,
he learned of the fate of the Alamo defenders and led the settlers in the “Runaway Scrape.” Houston ordered all persons to flee town and burn everything behind them, leaving nothing of use for the advancing Mexican army. The weary group set up camp 8.5 miles outside of town beneath a sprawling live oak now known as the Sam Houston Oak. I made the short drive and found the majestic oak still standing tall on the Texas prairie in front of the historic Braches House.
12:00 p.m. I headed back to Gonzales for a face-to-face battle—not against the Mexican army, but with a massive plate of Mexican food from Matamoros Taco Hut. This local, family-owned joint serves some of the tastiest tacos in Texas, including the two I devoured consisting of carne guisada rolled in homemade flour tortillas.
1:00 p.m. After the Texas Revolution, Gonzales was rebuilt, including its Historic Downtown. However, instead of a traditional small-town square, I was surprised to find seven square blocks laid out in a Mexican-plaza style. The old buildings were filled with a mix of businesses. At the incredible Romanesque-Revival Gonzales County Courthouse, built in 1896, legend holds that a prisoner awaiting death in the nearby jailhouse cursed the clocks atop the courthouse and they’ve never kept the same time since.
2:00 p.m. Next door, I explored the first floor of the 1887 Old Jail Museum, which holds the Visitor Center and features dis-plays of handmade weapons and photos of famous Gonzales captives such as John Wesley Hardin. As I walked up the creaky iron stairs to the second floor, the air thickened and I found myself standing at the base of a re-created hanging gallows with 13 steps up to a dangling noose. I promptly walked back outside into the welcome fresh air and daylight.
3:00 p.m. Walking the blocks of downtown shops, I stumbled into Discovery Architectural Antiques, a store that sells salvaged architectural hardware. I was inspired to start rethinking my own home’s interior design.
4:30 p.m. I hopped back in my car and cruised past blocks of historic homes rivaling those in any small town I’ve ever visited. But instead of taking one of the chamber of commerce’s historic homes tours, I headed to Independence Park and passed the time walking below the towering pecan trees and skipping rocks in the flowing Guadalupe River.
6:00 p.m. My dinner destination was Gonzales Food Market off the Texas Heroes Square. Started in 1959 by the Lopez Family, this market/barbecue joint cooks up the finest smoked meats in town, including its one-of-a-kind smoked lamb ribs. I savored every flavorful bite.
Gonzales has been the backdrop for some of Texas’ most heroic and dramatic events, and it still shares that same independent spirit with every-one who comes to town. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.
Contact the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture, 830/672-6532.
Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper™ travel show on PBS.