The great wide open roads of Texas offer countless historical gems off the beaten path. With my daughter now 4 hours away in college, I have a new roads, much less taken, to explore while making the drive between Houston and San Antonio.
Ever since my trip to the Spanish Missions in Goliad, Texas, I have been in love with the Gonzales Flag. It's simple lines and strong daring message stand as a tribute to Texas Independence. So naturally, Gonzales would be my first side trip. A simple architecture photo journey turned into a deeper, richer history lesson in Texas justice.
The Gonzales flag proudly waves in the wind on every corner of this tiny community. I just had to have one of my own so I pulled up in front of the unassuming Chamber of Commerce. What waited just steps away totally made my entire day!
Greeted by an enthusiastic volunteer, I learned the building was actually the town jail- currently under restoration. I was shown the warden's office, the tiny downstairs cells complete with original furniture, cots, and confiscated prison shanks. Seeing my excitement and interest, the docent boasted, "Oh you have to see UPSTAIRS!"
I followed behind her like a kid seeking candy!
Upstairs was the hardcore jail in use from the mid 1800's until 1974. The first sight was the hanging platform- looming large like a warning to all the newly incarcerated of their potential fate. Hangings did occur in this space, as death row was just off the gallows, though the earliest hangings took place in the courthouse square.
This day was hot! 100 degrees outside and not much cooler inside. Fresh hot air blew through the open windows behind the rusted bars. I sweat as I stood snapping photos. I can only imagine how hot, smelly and frustrated prisoners here felt doing their time.
Layers of prisoner graffiti spanning the decades covered the walls, floor to ceiling, like a tramp art time capsule. Many bearing the strike marks of days served, some noting early gang affiliations, and most just simple carved names of lives lived on the wrong side of the law.
Behind this door was death row. Thick iron bars and doors protected the warden from the condemned. I walked the narrow hallways that wrapped the ward and definitely felt I was not alone. The docent had left me to my own explorations but the air was thick with unseen company. At times the hair on my neck stood on end and I could almost hear chatter dripping from the ceiling.
One particular cell chilled me. I froze, considered running like scared cat. So I did the logical thing: took a picture. Perhaps it's dust dancing in the mottled sunlight, perhaps my eyes wanting to see an old-timey man's face there. But just maybe it's something supernatural. A wandering soul, an old inmate, a proud warden. I'll let you decide for yourself.
Should you find yourself in Gonzales, visit the Chamber of Commerce and take the jail tour. I was doubly surprised to wrap up my visit with a woman who grew up in the jail. Her father was the last warden. (The Chamber is located in the adjoining living quarters.) She has happy memories of a small town country life and is directly involved in the continued restoration of her iconic Texas Justice home.
LOVE & THE ROADS LESS TRAVELED