Nov 18 2014

Alamo

There are lines that when crossed result in irrevocable commitment. Soldiers instinctively know these lines where combat becomes an imminent reality.

During the Texas Revolution the Rio Cibolo was such a line: 30 miles to the east, Gonzales of the De Witt Colony bristled with Texians seeking redress to their complaints; 22 miles to the west San Antonio de Bexar, was a fortified outpost of Mexico.

Crossing the Cibolo changed the lives of men and the destiny of Texas.


Map of Cemetery Location
Click to enlarge.

In 2012, the Cibolo Crossing on the Gonzales Road associated with the Texas Revolution was designated as an historic site by the Texas Historical Commission. The following narrative was submitted with the application for historic designation. Photographs and maps have been added to the original narrative.

The Crossing is located on private property approximately two miles above La Vernia, Texas. 

Gonzales Road – Cibolo Crossing

Historic Marker Cibilo Crossing


Overview

During the Mexican administration of Texas (1821-1836), a road connected the settlement of Gonzales in the DeWitt Colony to the seat of Mexican government in San Antonio de Bejar, sixty miles to the West. Approximately 22 miles east of San Antonio, the road crossed a waterway called the Cibolo. The track of the San Antonio/Gonzales Road and the Cibolo Crossing are described in field notes of land grants and illustrated in early Texas maps.1 

Now commonly referred to as Cibolo Creek, Mexico’s cartographers called this stream the Rio Cibolo, while Republic of Texas immigrants commonly called it the “Sea Willow” or “C-willow.” From its origins near present day Boerne, to its junction with the San Antonio River in Karnes County, the Cibolo etched its course through the countryside forming the northern and eastern boundaries of modern Bexar County. Steep bluffs along its course allowed for few natural fords.

Cibolo Crossing

The Gonzales Road incorporated one such natural ford in its track through the Francisco Herrera Land Grant 2 on the west bank and the Erastus Smith Land Grant 3 on the east bank of the Cibolo. The ford is sequestered within a bowl-shaped depression surrounded by flat prairie creating a protected campsite.4 The change in elevation from the prairie to the ford is approximately 90 feet. 

Context

Descriptions of the Cibolo Crossing appear in the letters and diaries of participants of the Texas Revolution (1835-1836). It is described as a rendezvous and marshalling point for early settlers and troops. A pantheon of characters associated with the Siege of Bejar and the massacre at the Alamo crossed the Cibolo at this ford. 


Significance

Attempts to bring re-enforcements to the defense of the Alamo included the rendezvous of men at the Cibolo Crossing on the Gonzales Road. 

Historian Thomas Ricks Lindley wrote: 

Sunday, 28 February 1836…Later in the day Captain J. J. Tumlinson and his Mina rangers rode into Gonzales. Soon Afterwards, Major Williamson, Captain Martin, Smith, Seguin, Tumlinson, and Lieutenants Jackson and Kimbell probably conducted a council of war to determine the manner in which they would reinforce the Alamo. The officers appear to have decided that Martin, Smith, and Tumlinson would take the relief force to the Cibolo Creek crossing on the Bexar/Gonzales road, twenty miles east of the city. At that location they would await Fannin’s force. Seguin and his two men would ride to the Cibolo Crossing on the Bexar/San Antonio road to rendezvous with Fannin’s men and guide them to the Cibolo ford on the San Antonio/Gonzales Road. 5

Monday, 29 February 1836…Albert Martin, J. J. Tumlinson and John W. Smith and their rangers, after riding from Ecleto Creek, probably camped on the Cibolo Creek ford, twenty miles east of Bexar – a five or six hour ride to the Alamo. That evening they readied their weapons, horses, and other equipment for the ride to the Alamo. Lastly, they probably had a cold supper to void detection by any enemy spies in the area. Sometimes after sundown Martin and Smith departed the Cibolo with at least thirty-four men. 6

Thursday, March 3, 1836 …Fannin’s former New Oreleans Greys had probably joined with the Chenoweth and DeSauque company and Seguin’s Tejano unit the previous evening or that morning at the Cibolo ford on the Bexar/Goliad Road. That afternoon the combined force rode northwest to join J. J. Tumlinson’s rangers at the Cibolo ford on the Gonzales road. Seguin probably guided the combined force cross country, traveling on the east side of the Cibolo…Also this date, the Tennessee men known as Gilmore’s company probably joined the relief group that was massing at the Cibolo ford… 7

Lindley also points to “limited evidence” that David Crockett commanded the scouting mission to locate Fannin. “Sometimes before midnight, Crockett and his scouts probably located the combined force (Tumlinson’s rangers, Seguin’s Tejanos, Chenoweth and De Sauque’s men, Gilmore’s men, and about fifty other Fannin Men) that were camped at the Cibolo ford on the Gonzales Road, twenty miles east of the Alamo” 8


Erastus “Deaf” Smith is closely associated with the Cibolo ford on the Gonzales Road. The east side of the ford was located on land granted to Smith by the Mexican Government in 1833. In October 1835, Mexican Colonel Ugartachea sent troops from San Antonio to retrieve a canon from the Dewitt Colony at Gonzales. As the troops approached Gonzales and camped at the Cibolo ford, Erastus “Deaf” Smith climbed an oak tree to study their force and report that information to the forces of Stephen F. Austin. Designated the “Deaf Smith Oak” the tree stands within view of the ford. 9 

Deaf Smith Oak

The Deaf Smith Oak Tree
 

Juan Nepomuceno Altmonte, aide-de-camp, and confidential secretary to General Santa Anna noted the following in his journal of the events of the Texas Revolution:

“Friday, 18th, - At 10 A.M. we started from Bejar; at three leagues from Cibelo [Cibolo], we met a soldier of the company of Bejar, with dispatches from the President; he said that General Sesma left yesterday (17th) for San Filipe. General Tolsa started this afternoon from Cibelo; it was supposed he will not reach the Carrizo; one and a half leagues before reaching the Cibelo, we saw a drove of horses; at half past 5 P.M., we arrived at Cibelo; encamped on the side toward Bexar about 100 yards from the river; on the other side the grass was burnt, and the track of two persons on foot, who had been down to the river...” 10

La Vernia Heritage Museum

William Physick Zuber, historian and soldier of the Texas Revolution, in a letter to General William Steele, dated September 14, 1877 wrote about Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson, a survivor of the Alamo: “On that night, about nine oclock, Colonel J. C. Neil rode into camp,&, in a conversation with Captain Bennett, confirmed the rumor which we had heard, that the Alamo had fallen. He had borne an express from Colonel Travis to San Felepe [sic] or Washington, & was returning; when, on the 7th of March, I believe, at the ford on the Cibolo, between Gunzales [sic] & San Antonio, he met Mrs. Dickerson & her infant, & Colonel Travis’s servant, Joe. They, then & there, informed him of the slaughter of his brave companion in arms.” 11

Conclusion

With the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the strategic purpose of the San Antonio/Gonzales Road was redirected. In 1848, Bexar County Commissioners formally integrated the portion of the Gonzales Road, west of the Cibolo, into a route through Yorktown 12 to the port of Indianola on the Texas coast. This route became part of a network of roads that supplied a military depot created by the United States Army in San Antonio. This depot supported forts along the cross-continental route to San Diego, California and the markets in Chihuahua, Mexico. 13 The portion of the Gonzales Road east of the Cibolo was eventually abandoned and is now enclosed within private property.

By 1855 the village of Post Oak (now La Vernia) was settled two miles below the Gonzales Road crossing of the Cibolo. A new crossing was created on land owned by W. R. Wiseman,14 and the original crossing was abandoned. 


Documentation

Endnotes:

1. Texas General Land Office, The Map Collection: #4156, Wilson County, 5/9/1866.

2. Texas General Land Office, Texas Land Grants: Francisco Herrera, Vol. 31, Patent #85, Translation #1848, Abstract 15, Survey #6 for 4428.4 acres and Vol. 31, #85, Abstract 16, Survey #5 for 177.1 acres. The Gonzales Road is mentioned in field notes for the Survey.

3. Texas General Land Office, Texas Land Grants: Erastus (Yrineo) Smith, Vol. 31, Patent #122, Translation #3642, Abstract #31 for 4428.4 acres. The Gonzales Road and Cibolo crossing are mentioned in field notes and illustrated in a plat for the Survey.

4. Thomas Ricks Lindley, Alamo Traces: New Evidence and New Conclusions (Lanham, MD: Republic of Texas Press, 2003) xi, 149. Owner of property acknowledged and photographs of crossing provided.

5. Lindley 127.

6. Lindley129.

7. Lindley 138.

8. Lindley 142.

9. Texas Forest Service & Texas A&M University, Famous Trees of Texas: Deaf Smith Oak Tree, 2005, Oct. 2010<http://texasfamoustrees.tamu.edu/>.

10. Todd Hansen, ed., The Alamo Reader: A Study in History (Mechanicsburg, PA, Stackpole Books, 2003) 369.

11. Hansen 251.

12. Bexar County Commissioners Court Minutes, Book 1A, p. 102. Road Establishment, Nov. 20, 1848, San Antonio to Sulphur Springs.

13. Roy L. Swift and Leavitt Corning, Jr., Three Roads to Chihuahua (Austin, TX, Eakin Press, 1988) 60-107.

14. Bexar County Commissioners Courts Minutes, Book 2A, page 14, Jury of View, August 22, 1855, p. 20. To Locate Road From Wiseman’s Crossing to Intersect Stage Road.