An online search for his roots led one United States expatriate to come to Gonzales for the first time ever last month after discovering he is the great-great-great-great grandson of empresario Green DeWitt.
George del Castillo Jones and his wife, Danette, visited with employees at the Gonzales Inquirer and the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture on Friday, April 22, and also perused historical texts at the Mary Elizabeth Tinsley Texas History Center at the Robert Lee Brothers Jr. Memorial Library.
The journey has been about “five years in the making,” del Castillo Jones said.
“I’ve been working on my genealogy for about 15 years, but it finally got back far enough to find out about the Joneses,” he said. “My mother is a Jones and she was born in Laredo, Texas, and we traced her roots back to Isham Green Jones, also known as Ice Jones, a captain with Terry’s Texas Rangers. He was the son-in-law of Green DeWitt and Sarah Seeley DeWitt. He married their daughter, Minerva.”
Performing genealogical searches through websites like Ancestry.com led del Castillo Jones to the DeWitt family, and especially, an extensive history of Green DeWitt, even prior to the start of the DeWitt Colony in Texas.
“I think he started in Kentucky, then moved to Ralls County, Missouri,” del Castillo Jones said. “He had married Sarah and they had, I think, the first three or four children in Ralls County, where he was sheriff, before he got approved for a colony here by the Mexican government, with a lot of help from Stephen F. Austin and Baron de Bastrop.”
It was in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila y Tejas, that Green DeWitt was granted — on April 15, 1825 — a contract to bring 400 families to land that was southwest of the Austin Colony. For his efforts, some 75,000 acres of land were placed into escrow with a promise of 25 percent to be delivered upon the first 100 families settling and the rest to be delivered as he met other terms of his contract.
It was a fellow Missourian from St. Charles County — DeWitt’s right-hand man and surveyor-general James Kerr — who laid out the DeWitt Colony capital across four leagues near the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers and named it after Don Rafael Gonzales, provisional governor of Coahuila y Tejas.
Unfortunately for DeWitt, a new law by the Mexican legislature in 1830 prohibited any further immigration from the United States to Texas and he could not meet the terms of his contract, which ended in 1831. Four years later, prior to the “first shot” in Gonzales that started the Texas Revolution, DeWitt died on May 18, 1835, in Monclova, Mexico.
“He was in Monclova trying to get more property or get approved for more families to come to DeWitt Colony and was doing business for the colony when he supposedly died from cholera,” del Castillo Jones. “Another woman who wrote a book offers the hypothesis — which makes good sense to me — that he was perhaps murdered by the Mexican Army and they were perhaps taking revenge on him for (incidents in Texas). That could be very possible.
“My wife suggested if he had cholera or was suspected of having it, he would have been thrown in a mass grave with all the cholera victims, which is why his body was never found and returned. Of course, Sarah Seely DeWitt is right here in Green DeWitt cemetery, which is now on the (JB Wells) rodeo grounds.”
Interestingly, del Castillo Jones — who continues the Spanish tradition of using surnames from both parents — actually should be known as Gonzales Jones.
“I'm actually a Gonzales through my father,” he said. “My father was Gonzales del Castillo, but when they immigrated to the United States, immigration didn’t known anything about having two last names. They thought Gonzales was his middle name, so they gave him del Castillo as his last name.
“He and his brother, who immigrated with him, they were smart,” he added. “They said, ‘Well, wait a minute, maybe del Castillo will be more advantageous for us here. It sounds more exotic when you say it that way and they both had aspirations for business, so they thought it’d be a catchy name.”
George’s mother was born and raised in Texas, but her mother was a Mexican national from Coahuila, so she spend some time living in Mexico with her mother. It was in Mexico City she met his father, who was working for American Airlines.
“They decided to move to the United States, where I was born, so they could afford to live,” del Castillo said.
After years of living in the United States, once both del Castillo and his wife had retired, they decided to move to Mexico, where they live along Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. You could say del Castillo is following in the footsteps of his great-great-great-great grandfather, but instead of settling Texas, he has settled into Mexico.
“We moved there because it is a lot more affordable to live, so you could say the great-great-great-great grandson of Green DeWitt has been ‘colonizing’ Mexico, so to speak,” he joked. “We love it there and I am actually working on my dual citizenship now.”
He said he loved his visit to Gonzales but there was just one sad thing about it.
“Unfortunately, my mother didn’t live long enough to know this family heritage,” del Castillo said.