Gonzales, the county seat of Gonzales County, is at the confluence of the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers, on U.S. highways 90, 97, and 183 in the north central part of the county. It was surveyed by James Kerr as the capital of DeWitt's colony in 1825 and named for Rafael Gonzales, governor of Coahuila and Texas. The settlement was abandoned in July 1826 after two Indian attacks and was rebuilt on the Guadalupe River in 1827. Gonzales was surveyed a second time, by Byrd Lockhart in August 1832, when it was given sixteen leagues of land for town development. As the westernmost point of Anglo-American settlement and the closest town to San Antonio de Béxar, it was the center of much of the Texas revolutionary activity. On October 2, 1835, Texans led by John H. Moore resisted Mexican dragoons sent to retrieve the town cannon. Challenging the Mexicans to "come and take it," the Texans rallied around the gun and fought the battle of Gonzales, the first skirmish of the Texas Revolution. On October 11 Stephen F. Austin took command of the volunteer army that had concentrated at Gonzales and there made preparations for the siege of Bexar. The following February the Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers rode to the aid of William Barret Travis's command during the battle of the Alamo, where the thirty-two men of the Gonzales contingent perished on March 6, 1836. On March 13 of that year Susanna W. Dickinson, widow of one of the Alamo defenders, and Joe, Travis's slave, arrived in Gonzales with news of the Alamo slaughter. Sam Houston, who was there attempting to organize the Texas army, had the town burned and ordered a retreat, thus precipitating the Runaway Scrape.
After the battle of San Jacinto many citizens remained in exile. In 1837 the Republic of Texas incorporated Gonzales and established Gonzales County, but the city council did not have its first meeting until March of 1839. A post office opened in January 1839. By the early 1840s rebuilding of the town was concentrated on the original townsite near the Guadalupe River. Many Gonzales volunteers, responding to the Comanche foray known as the Linnville Raid of 1840, rushed to join the battle of Plum Creek. In 1841 a Baptist church, the first in Gonzales, was built. In 1850 Gonzales had a population of 300. In 1851 Gonzales College opened in the town's first permanent school building. This was the first college in Texas to award diplomas to women. The Gonzales Inquirer was established in 1853 and was one of the six oldest county papers still operating in Texas in 1995. In 1860 the town had a population of 1,703. Several Gonzales men were active in Confederate service during the Civil War. In 1862 the term at Gonzales College was cut short because most of the professors and many of the older students enlisted for Confederate service.
Gonzales was incorporated in 1880 and had six churches, daily mail service, four schools, a courthouse, two banks, a 500-seat opera house, a library, gas and water works, several lodges, gristmills, cotton gins, several stores, and a population of 2,900 in 1884. Though bypassed by the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway in 1874, the community was connected by a rail spur to Harwood; on the railroad the community shipped cotton, wool, hides, cattle, horses, cottonseed, and pecans. In 1885 the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway began service to Gonzales. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Gonzales was also home to a considerable number of African-American landowners, notably members of the Price family. Descendant Walter Price went on to achieve acclaim as a blues player.
In 1900 the town had 4,297 inhabitants, and in 1910 it had 3,139. The population declined to 3,128 in 1925 and then grew slowly to 4,722 in 1940. In 1947 the Texas A&M Poultry Experiment Station was established in Gonzales. That same year the town's first radio station, KCTI, went on the air. In 1949 the community staged the first Fryer Frolic, a county-wide celebration that emphasized development of the poultry industry, one of the mainstays of the Gonzales economy. In 1950 the population was 5,630. In 1955 Gonzales had 215 businesses and 5,659 residents; in 1965 it had 217 businesses and a population of 5,960. In 1968 the number of businesses had declined to 190, but in 1976 Gonzales had a population of 7,000 and 250 businesses. In 1990 the population was 6,527; it had increased to 7,237 in 2010. The Gonzales Museum, established in 1936, houses a collection of historical artifacts and weapons. The Eggleston House, a restored dog-trot cabin maintained by the town, is perhaps the finest example of its type. The old 1887 jailhouse is also preserved and in 1989 served as headquarters of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce. Special events include the annual Come-and-Take-It-Days, which observes the Gonzales legacy as the "Lexington of Texas."