The European Roots of Castroville, the “Little Alsace” of Texas

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The European Roots of Castroville, the "Little Alsace" of Texas

By: John Hallowell

Photo: Facebook/Castroville Area Chamber of Commerce

Five years after it had won its independence, the fledgling Republic of Texas was in grave danger and deeply in debt; Texian leaders looked to the United States and several European countries for aid, and many ambitious plans were discussed. One of the few plans which actually yielded timely results was that of Henri Castro, a descendant of Portuguese Jews who had become an influential banker in France. In 1842, he entered a contract with the Texan government to settle a colony in southwestern Texas, and at great personal expense managed to bring several hundred immigrants from the French province of Alsace. It is helpful to understand that Europe was in a period of much political and economic turmoil during the 1840s, and tales of freedom and opportunity in Texas resonated with many in Germany, France and Scandinavia. There was no shortage of potential immigrants, but there were very few with the means and know-how to successfully manage a mass migration. Henri Castro was one of the very few. Before Texas joined the United States in 1845, and before the German Adelsverein landed its first settlers at Indianola, Henri Castro had successfully founded the westernmost settlement in Texas and was preparing to build four more towns in the next four years. All together, he brought 485 families and 457 single men to his colony, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide for the success of his endeavor. The town of Castroville remains a monument to his wisdom and generosity. Today it’s known as the Little Alsace of Texas.

The European Roots of Castroville, the "Little Alsace" of Texas

Photo: Historic A.H. Tondre House. Facebook/Castroville Area Chamber of Commerce

The architecture is a dead giveaway; it takes barely a momentary glance to realize that there is something different and special about the little town of Castroville (on the southern edge of the Texas Hill Country, just west of San Antonio). To understand it better, and appreciate it more, a short history lesson about the Little Alsace is in order. Let us introduce you to the Little Alsace of Texas!

The European Roots of Castroville, the "Little Alsace" of Texas
Photo: Alsace, France. Facebook/Alsace

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