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The Winedale Story - The Anglo Americans

Stagecoach graphic from San Antonio ExpressSettlement during the first half of the 1800s placed an initial Anglo American imprint on the Winedale area. Most Austin Colony pioneers were farming families who grew corn, sugar cane, and especially cotton. The soil, climate, and market for cotton attracted southern planters, who brought slaves to the new and abundant lands between the Colorado and the Brazos rivers. Life on the Texas frontier was full of hardship and violence. Austin colonists were swept up in the Texas Revolution in 1836, and remained on constant guard against marauding bands of Comanches. During this period, William Townsend, and then Samuel K. Lewis, built the first structures on the historic Winedale property. [Stagecoach graphic is from ad in San Antonio Express 12/10/1876]
In 1831, the Mexican government made adjoining grants of a quarter league each to brothers John and William S. Townsend in the Austin Colony at the present site of Winedale. “Townsend” was also the original name given to the settlement now known as Round Top. Early Anglo settlers in the vicinity also included the Ledbetter, Taylor, Flack, and Hill families. Following his marriage in 1834 to the daughter of ferry owner Jesse Burnam, William S. Townsend built a large room on his property with a fireplace and a loft. This was the first, or south, section of what is now called the Wagner House. Historic Winedale began to take shape.
Wagner House

View of the Wagner House, highlighting Townsend's original structure, photograph by Drew Patterson.
Winedale Photograph Collection

  Map of Fayette County showing original land grants, Texas General Land Office, 1920. Map Collection

Map of Fayette County Showing Original Land Grants

  Townsend Grants in Austin's List of Titles

John and William S. Townsend grants in Stephen F. Austin, A List of Titles, 1831.
J. P. Bryan Papers

Texas Revolution Broadside, 1835
  Deteriorating relations between Anglo settlers and the Mexican government culminated in the Texas Revolution of 1835–36. The defeat of the Texans at the Alamo and Goliad spread panic throughout Austin’s colony. Fearing themselves at the mercy of Santa Anna’s punitive expedition, the settlers abandoned their farms and fled to the Louisiana border in the “Runaway Scrape.” The reminiscences of colonist Mary Rabb evoke both their fear and suffering:
 Mary Rabb Reminiscence

“… then we was all drove out of ouer houses with ouer little ones to suffer with cold and hungry and little Lorenzy not three months old when we started out died on the road … when the Mexicans was invadeing Texas … we alwase calld the invadeing of Texas the runaway trip so your uncle Tommys wife onley lived one day after tha got home thare was many births and deths on that road while we was running from the mexicans.”

Mary Rabb reminiscence, 1875. Rabb Family Papers

Texas Revolution Broadside, 1835.
Broadside Collection
Portrait of Comanche Warrior

Portrait of Comanche warrior by W. M. Soule.
Prints and Photographs Collection

Having survived the Revolution, Winedale area settlers still faced the constant threat of raids by bands of Comanches and their Waco and Kichai allies. Comanche raiding parties regularly penetrated into the heart of the Anglo settlements near the Gulf coast. Thus, the threat of Indian attack was a fact of daily life as much as the toil of working the land.

  Map of the Comanche Frontier, ca. 1840
Map of the Comanche frontier, ca. 1840. Adapted by Drew Patterson from a map by W. A. Riney, in Rupert N. Richardson, The Commanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement (1933).
Texas Collection Library
Samuel K. Lewis  

Lewis Household Entry in 1850 U.S. CensusSamuel K. Lewis household entry, U. S. Census, 1850.
Texas Collection Library

Samuel K. Lewis came to the Republic of Texas in 1838, and soon acquired land in present-day Fayette County. A surveyor, legislator, and farmer, Lewis bought the Townsend property in 1848 from Indian fighter Capt. John York and developed it into a large cotton plantation worked by his slaves. He soon expanded Townsend’s original structure, turning the loft into a full second story and adding an identical section to the north, with a breezeway between the two sections. Across the front he added a broad two-story gallery, with cedar pillars running the full height of the structure. Lewis’s house and the nearby four-square barn are the only buildings that today occupy their original sites on the old Lewis farmstead.

Portrait believed to be of Samuel K. Lewis, ca. 1850s.
Winedale Photograph Collection
Map of Washington and Fayette Counties, 1860Map of Washington and Fayette Counties, from Thomas Affleck, Affleck's Southern Rural Almanac for 1860 (1860).
Texas Collection Library

As a result of Sam Lewis’s lobbying efforts, a public road was built that passed in front of the Lewis house. By the early 1860s this road served as a stagecoach route from Brenham to Austin. The Lewis residence became known locally as “Sam Lewis’s Stopping Place,” though it seldom lodged travelers. Affleck’s Southern Rural Almanac for 1860, published in nearby Brenham, shows the road from Brenham to La Grange passing through Round Top and “Vine Grove,” a Washington County community that predated Winedale. Sam Lewis died in 1867, but his heirs retained the house until 1882. His grave is located near Winedale in the Richter Cemetery on FM 1457.

  Samuel K. Lewis Gravemarker

S. K. Lewis grave marker, photograph by Drew Patterson.
Winedale Photograph Collection


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