Nov 18 2014
In 1849, before the road was properly developed, California gold fever swept the country. Forty-niners on the way to California traveled this lower route; some, like W.D. Mays (Stockdale) and Joseph N. Dornstin (Lavernia), choose to settle on the Cibolo. Michael Erskine, a rancher from Guadalupe County, used this route to drive his cattle to California well before the cattle drives that traveled north in the 1860s, 70s, and 80s.
 
In the 1850s, the road provided access to the slaveholding farm operations on the Cibolo around Lavernia and Sutherland Springs. In 1855, Silesians who came to the area, created the settlement of St. Hedwig along the road. In 1861, the boys and men of East Bexar and Wilson Counties march away on this road to their fate in the American Civil War.
 
The original purpose of the Old Gonzales Road ended when Texas secured its independence from Mexico. In the new Texas, governmental administration was moved to county seats; the need to connect Gonzales to Mexican administration in San Antonio was eliminated. The Road’s connection to Gonzales and its role in early Texas history began to fade from memory. It came to be related to a new chapter in Texas history associated with cattle drives, Chihuahua, and the port of Indianola.
 
Civil War and Reconstruction

The Civil War changed everything. Although few battles were fought in Texas, the casualty toll for the communities located on the San Antonio to Gonzales road (Old Gonzales Road) road was horrific. The men and boys from around Lavernia and Mount Olive were among the first to volunteer for the ranks of the Confederacy; some were present at the earliest battles to the Appomattox surrender. Connally F. Henderson, the postmaster of “Lavernia” died at Gaines Mill, Virginia in the First Battle of Cold Harbor, taking with him the secret of the name he chose for the community. Even the newly arrived Silesians, who settled on the road in St. Hedwig, were pressed into service; of the 25 families living in St. Hedwig, nineteen men served in the Civil War.
 
The close of the Civil War in 1865 brought to the communities along the Old Gonzales Road the oppression and violence of Reconstruction. After the war, the continuing resistance to the Union at Helena in Karnes County is well known, however, the mayhem along the Old Gonzales Road is seldom the subject of attention.
 
The factional violence of the so called "Sutton-Taylor feud" associated with Dewitt and Goliad County also played itself out along the Road. Members of the Taylor gang murdered a freedman in Lavernia in June of 1867. In March of 1868, the Taylor gang raided the community of St. Hedwig severely wounding Felix Tudyk, its 75-year-old patriarch, when he and his neighbors resisted. Acts of violence were directed against the freedmen who now resided in the area after being brought to the area in the 1850s.