Thomas Gonzales [born Tomás González], pioneer cotton broker and hero of the battle of Galveston, the second of two sons of Victor González and Rita Samaniego de Reyes, was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on November 10, 1829. Victor González drowned during the summer of 1835. During January of 1836, as the Texas Revolution was beginning, Rita took her two young sons to New Orleans, where her daughter, Elena, was living with her husband, Richard Blossman, a successful cotton broker. Thomas and his brother, Francis, attended schools both in New Orleans and Alton, Illinois, a riverboat town on the Mississippi River, where they also worked in the offices of their brother-in-law. In 1842 the two boys spent three years studying in Valladolid, Spain. Upon their return to the United States, Blossman sent Thomas, at age fifteen, to oversee the office of his cotton business in Port Lavaca, Texas. On February 13, 1847, Gonzales married Elizabeth Blair, a Presbyterian minister's daughter. Both were seventeen. She died in a smallpox epidemic a year later, and he returned to New Orleans, where on August 28, 1850, he married Edith Boyer of Philadelphia. They moved to Point Isabel, where Thomas established a lighterage firm and quickly prospered by both receiving and forwarding business to and from the United States and Mexico. Early in 1853, when Edith was four months pregnant with their first child, they moved to Galveston. Gonzales opened a wholesale grocery and cotton-factoring firm on the Strand, and they joined Trinity Episcopal Church.
At the outset of the Civil War Gonzales enlisted in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant in the artillery. With his own money, he organized, trained, and outfitted 150 men and formed what became the Gonzales Light Battery which served with distinction under Gen. Richard Taylor in Louisiana. Gonzales purchased a total of $4,800 in Confederate bonds. His major contribution during the war was to serve with Gen. J. B. Magruder during the battle of Galveston. Gonzales was forced by ill health to resign from the service in September 1863. Magruder commented that he was "distressed at losing an officer in whom he felt he could have such confidence."
Upon returning to Galveston after the war, Gonzales opened his own cotton firm, Thomas Gonzales and Sons, and established contact with textile factories throughout Europe. The firm soon ranked with the largest shippers from the port. He also became a partner in other cotton-related businesses as well as a major stockholder in one of Galveston's most profitable cotton compresses. He had extensive real estate holdings throughout Texas and in Washington Territory. From 1885 through 1888 he served as vice president of the Galveston Cotton Exchange, when Col. W. L. Moody was president and George Sealy was treasurer.
Thomas and Edith Gonzales had five children. The fourth was Boyer Gonzales, Sr., an award-winning marine painter. Thomas Gonzales died on December 2, 1896, while visiting his daughter in Boston, two years after the death of his wife. His body was returned to Galveston, where he was buried beside his wife in the Episcopal Cemetery.