Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990 Page: 30
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FOCUSES ON Castroville
by Cornelia English Crook
willkommen zu castroville
bienvenue a castroville
bien venidos a castroville
welcome to castroville
T he town of Castroville is located
less than twenty-five miles west of
San Antonio in a horseshoe curve
created by the meandering Medina River.
The banks of the river are lined with beautiful
cypress and pecan trees and the vines
of the wild mustang grape. Today's Castroville
is a mixture of Alsatian, German,
English, French, and Spanish. However,
on a visit to this historic town, you will see
signs identifying it as "The Little Alsace of
Texas." This takes us back to its beginning.
Henri Castro, of France, was one of the
first to anticipate the eventual value of
Texas real estate. He entered into a contract
with the Republic of Texas to bring
settlers from Europe in exchange for a large
grant of land to be divided between himself
and the colonists. Castro was one of the few
Europeans to be given a colonization contract
by Sam Houston and the only one of
Houston's grantees to attempt to complete
his contract. He succeeded in establishing
four villages: Castroville, Quihi, Vandenburge,
and D'Hanis. To qualify for the
grant Castro was to complete the colonization
project within three years, by February
15, 1845. He was to bring 600 families and/
or single men to Texas by that date. Castro
returned to France and developed an organization
for the gathering of colonists
and for their reception in Texas. He ar
ranged for ships and money and the multitudinous
duties necessary for such a vast
undertaking. His colonists were recruited
from the Rhine Valley, mostly from the
French province of Alsace, and Castro was
second only to Stephen F. Austin in the
number of settlers he brought to Texas.
Each family was to receive 640 acres and
each single man 320 acres for taking part in
the colonization of Texas. A settler was to
build a cabin, cultivate fifteen acres of
land, and live on the property for three
years to get title to the property. The first
group of Alsatians arrived in 1844 and laid
out the town they named for their leader.
As Castro's people assumed the responsibilities
of looking after their own interests
and creating conditions conducive to their
development, they were confronted with
many heartbreaks and tragedies. In their
isolated positions, they were surrounded by
numerous uncontrollable problems-periodic
droughts, followed by famine, strange
sporadic and devastating diseases, and the
ever terrifying Indian harassments. All
these were beyond their control, but they
tenaciously held on while scrupulously
maintaining their old world values and
practices. Consequently that which most
distinguished Castro's settlers from the
Texas counterparts was their determination
to retain and perpetuate their own
characteristics and social practices in a
Castro, using his personal wealth, cared
for the colonists as though they were his
children. He erected a stone dwelling and
outbuildings, and planted an experimental
garden to discover crops suited to the locality.
He brought his wife and four foster
children from France and lived in Castroville
for the rest of his life. The Castro
homestead has been restored and enlarged
and is being used as a business office.
Castroville has the distinction of being
recognized by the federal government as a
National Historic District and by the state
as a Texas Historic District. The city's
architecture is totally unique in the United
States. Many of the houses are recorded in
the Library of Congress under the Historical
American Building Survey, U.S. Department
of Interior Archives. Ninetyseven
of these buildings are still standing.
The sloping roofs of the white stone buildings
are similar to country houses in Europe.
The cornerstone of the first church in
the settlement was blessed September 12,
1844 just a week after the colonists arrived
to establish the town. The church was
completed and formally dedicated two years
later on November 9, 1846. It has been
preserved and stands on the grounds of the
30 HERITAGE * WINTER 1990
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990, periodical, Winter 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45426/m1/30/: accessed November 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.