Castroville is a small town with a rich cultural heritage nestled in the Medina River Valley just 20 miles west of San Antonio. Known as “The Little Alsace of Texas” Castroville was founded in 1844 by Henri Castro, for whom the town is named. The first European emigrant settlers in this area were mostly Catholic farmers from Alsace, a region of France, brought over to fulfill Castro’s contract to colonize vacant Texas Land. Calling themselves Alsatians, they were mostly of German decent, speaking a dialect of German.
The first town colonized on the Medina River west of San Antonio, Castroville, and its fertile Texas land and invigorating climate, was seen as having endless possibilities to the Europeans. Land in Europe was expensive and hard to come by and usually only promised to the first born son. Henri Castro and his “Free Texas Land” were a dream to these settlers.
The first settlers set sail for the promised land on November 4, 1843. The voyage lasted 66 days and they experienced hardships such as no laundry, no bath, cramped quarters and a cold climate. They landed in the port of Galveston on January 9, 1844 only to find out that they still must travel 200 miles inland to find their resting place. They began their long trek down the Spanish trail to San Antonio. They arrived in San Antonio and waited for their leader, Henri Castro. On September 1, 1844, Castro and 27 of the 700 original colonists started their journey to the site now known as Castroville.
On September 3rd of 1844, those first settlers landed in the promised land and set up camp on the river’s edge and on the 4th they started construction of a shed and store room. Their dreams were coming true. They began constructing homes and the first Catholic Church which was named after the French King, St. Louis. On September 12th, the town was named Castro-Ville in honor of its founder. From this point on, the other colonists made the voyage west of San Antonio to Castroville and began cultivating their new land.
Mostly a farming community in the early days, the city of over 3,000 people now boasts agriculture, civic, commercial and industrial advancements. Castroville still has strong cultural ties to Alsace as many of its citizens are descendents of the original settlers who journeyed here from Alsace in 1844. It’s the home to many who can trace their ancestry back to their sister city, Eguisheim, Alsace, France.
The Castroville Public Library houses a genealogy section with an extensive collection of information on Medina County residents. The Library’s Oral History Collection provides an invaluable source of unwritten history and you can hear the accent brought from Alsace still alive today.
If you are interested in getting together with other individuals who have an interest in the culture and history of the Castro Colonies of Castroville, Quihi, Vandenburg and D’Hanis, please visit the Castro Colonies Heritage Association website. There you can learn about trips to Alsace, the Medina County History Book, view their Calendar of Events, and purchase books about the history of this area.
For an excellent and comprehensive history of Castroville, please visit the Handbook of Texas Online web site and enjoy reading Ruben E. Ochoa’s article on the History of Castroville. You can also find extensive information on Henri Castro and the town of Castroville in Julia Nott Waugh’s book titled Castro-ville and Henry Castro Empresario, which is available for purchase from the Chamber of Commerce. A listing of historical markers and cemeteries can be found here.