Graytown

Graytown is one of the earliest settled areas in Wilson County. It is located on the west side of the San Antoinio River just downstream of the junction of the San Antonio River and the Medina River, very close to the Wilson-Bexar County boundary. The residents living in this part of the San Antonio River valley were associated primarily with the ranching environment. These individuals were mostly vacqueros and ranch owners.

The town site is situated on a small rise on the western bank of the San Antonio River initially surrounded by massive, live oaks and mesquite trees. The western side of the town was bounded by the Alamo-La Bahia Road. Just to the south of the town,was the Maldonado River Crossing.

Fording the river at this site was convenient because there were gentle descents on both sides of the river. Also located in the area at a later time was a ferry operated by Mr. Seguin.

Graytown is sited in the Mariano Seguin land grant. Simona Fernandez Seguin inherited this property from her mother Margarita Seguin. Simona Fernandez Seguin was married to James Gray, a Scottish immigrant. James Gray surveyed a portion of this grant to develop a town site which was originally called Santiago but changed later to Graytown to honor the developer’s name.

A plaza was the center point of the community; it bordering the Alamo-Bahia Road on the west and the Catholic Church on the east. The other two sides of the plaza were sites for local businesses serving the area. Graytown became a flourishing community and a center of activity in the trade and social life of the surrounding ranches.

On the north and south sides of the plaza there were various stores, shops and saloons.Included was a school,a post office and offices for a judge and a sheriff. Graytown, being located in the midst of thriving ranches,became a gathering place for their cowboys and ranchers who generally were descendants of the first settlers of the Bexar area. Included in the local population were a number of individuals who were brought into the area at the request of James Gray to helpdevelop the town. these included workers and renters. As this became the centerpoint of the local ranches,it also became a gathering point for herds of Longhorns to be driven up the trails to northern markets.

Graytown during its flourishing days was the religious, social and commercial center south of San Antonio. It was at the crossroads of travel routes from San Antonioto, La Bahia (Goliad), San Patricio, Matamoras, Laredo, and other points south and west. Crossing the river at this point provided a choice of going to the Alamo Presido on the east side of Bexar or the Villa de Bexar on the west. From areas as far away as thirty miles people would come to participate in the religion festivals and to receive the consolations of religion. This access by roads and trails to Graytown helped the Catholic church become the religious center of the area. It served people in Canada Verde, Elmendorf, Lodi, Calaveras, Parita, Las Islitas, El Salado, Los Arroyos, Chupaderas, and Seguin.

By far the Catholic church became the outstanding factor in the growth and development of Graytown.. Without it might never have become more that just an ambitious venture for James Gray. On April 1, 1854 the Rt. Reverand J.M. Odin, Vicar Apostolic of Galveston established the church here as the parish church for the surrounding territory. The Rev. Casimiro Raymond, a Frenchman, was assigned as the parish priest to serve the hundreds of scattered Catholics living on the ranches and small communities in the vicinity. To establish the physical church James Gray Sr. and his wife provided property at the east end of the plaza for a church and a residence for the priest. The church was first named St. James after James Gray the originator of the town and donor of the church property. In 1877 the church was renamed as the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This occurred because the great number of Mexican Catholics in the parish had a great devotion to the national patroness of Mexico. They requested a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe be placed in the church. A temporary substitute priest who came from Mexico learned of the request and carried with him from Mexico such a picture and had it solemnly erected in the church by Rt. Rev. Antony D. Pellicer, first Bishop of San Antonio. Slowly the official church title of St. James fell by the wayside and the church became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe during its existence was blessed with one extraordinary French priest named Rev. Emilio Chapolard who served here for 50 years. One of the first improvements he made to the church was the purchase of a bell. The bell was cast by the West Troy Bell Foundry and shipped by water to Port Lavaca, Texas. From there it was brought overland to Graytown by a mule drawn wooden wagon. The priest later bought an organ for the church and erected the way of the cross. As a great lover of music he established a choir in his church plus choirs in the adjacent mission churches.

During prosperous times the town had a post office, a school, various stores and shops plus a number of residences. One residence of note was the spacious homestead of James Gray located at the west end of the plaza. The town reached a peak population of 369 in 1900. In its time it also had a sheriff and a judge with James Gray Jr. holding these positions. He also served as the local postmaster. For many years the post office was the central gathering place for the nearby ranchers and cowboys. A school opened in 1896 with an enrollment of sixty four students.

After 1900 the community began to decline when many of its residents began to move to Elmendorf. Elmendorf was located nearby on the railroad connecting San Antonio to the Gulf Coast and several industries had started operations there providing employment. The Catholic Church also relocated to Elmendorf depriving the Graytown community of its most important involvement with the nearby church missions. Gone was the uninterrupted offering of the Holy Mass, the awe inspiring ceremonies of Holy Week, the feast to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the solemn procession in honor of St. Isidor, the patron saint of the farmers. The post office closed in 1912 and after the end of World War II the school and the stores were closed.

Graytown exists today only as a location on the maps as all the activities in the town have ended, leaving only the cemetery, a few ruins and memories.



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