February, 2012. Castroville, Texas – The Un-Texan Texas Town

Posted on February 11, 2012

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Home built by Prussian emigrant in 1847.

My ancestors came to America from Germany in 1847.

Actually, they came from Trier, near the Alsace-Lorraine area.  After the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, Trier was handed over to the Prussian Empire and became part of Germany in 1871.

Anyhow, when I read that Castroville, Texas was a city founded by settlers from Alsace and that some of the more-or-less original architecture remains, I wanted to take a look, and I had question.

Why would an Alsatian-American settlement be named Castroville?  Trust me; “Castro” is not a German name.

Well, it was named for Henri Castro, who was not a German or an Alsatian – he was a French diplomat of Jewish-Portuguese descent.

After breaking away from Mexico during the Texas Revolution, the Republic of Texas was formed. Anxious to colonize the new republic to help ensure it would not be re-captured by Mexico, huge grants of land were offered to European entrepreneurs as a money-making scheme.

Henri Castro thus obtained – for a price, no doubt – 1,250,000 acres where four present-day Texas counties west of San Antonio are located.  He began recruiting likely emigrants from an office in Paris in 1842, talking up the limitless land available in the new Republic of Texas – land owned by Henri Castro.

As central Europe was in political turmoil at this time, it probably wasn’t a hard sell.

Waves of his colonists arrived in Texas between 1843 and 1844, with a group from Alsace settling down in present- day Medina County, forming the settlement of Castroville.

Why this settlement wasn’t eventually named something more in keeping with the settler’s homeland is anyone’s guess.

Castroville has been recognized as both a national and a Texas historic district.  Its architecture is distinctly European with rubblestone or stone and timber construction smoothed over with stucco. Buildings feature steeply-pitched side-gable roofs that were originally thatched.

A visitor in 1850 described the town as quite “un-Texan” suggesting “Europe rather than the frontier.”

That feeling still exists, 162 years later, thanks to many of the early settler’s buildings still in use today.

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Posted in: Travel - Texas