San Gabriel is a village in western Milam County near the San Gabriel River. It was settled during the 1840's by Peter and Jesse Mercer who built lot cabins here.
In 1844, near the present village of San Gabriel, Indians killed Peter Mercer who was one of the two owners of the unfinished buildings in Washington-on-the-Brazos in which the convention of 1836 had met. It was here that the Declaration of Independence had been signed, beginning March 3, 1836. According to local tradition, he was killed on a bluff now known as Mercer’s Bluff and his body fell into the San Gabriel River. His grave in the Locklin Cemetery at San Gabriel is marked by a stone with the inscription
James A. Clark was among the first settlers, coming here as a young man around 1855 and settling near the Hare Community and later buying land at San Gabriel for 25 cents per acre. Here he lost three wives from illnesses. They are buried in Locklin Cemetery. He then married a woman who bore him seven children of whom four are still living at San Gabriel: namely, Winnie Clark, Herron, Leah Clark Anness, Harry O. Clark, and Vallie Mae Clark Terry.
There was a post office in San Gabriel in 1944. Mail was delivered by horse and buggy. Walter Clark was the carrier. This post office remained in operation until 1965 when it burned to the ground.
In October 1856, the San Gabriel Baptist Church was founded by Elder W. b. Eanes. During the next two years Elder W. N. Mason served as pastor. In 1871 there was a membership of 51. A Sunday School was organized in 1895. The present church was built in 1952 under the leadership of Pastor J. B. Perkins who was a student at the Seminary in Fort Worth.
The San Gabriel Christian Church was organized on April 21, 1854, on the San Gabriel River near Pecan Creek. Thirty years later John W. Hamblin gave the congregation two acres of land on which a building, known as Old White Church, was erected. In February 1901, they voted to move to San Gabriel where the first service was held on November 10 in the school. A church building was soon erected and it served until 1923 when the present church was built.
A cotton gin, known as the Felton gin was built on the river an was later replaced by one at San Gabriel owned by W. H. Camp, Sr. He and his son, Hope Camp, Jr., operated this gin until the early 1950's. Mr. Frank W. Worley, who was also a breeder of Worley-Boykin cottonseed, built a gin on the San Gabriel River in 1926 and a few years later when the road was changed, he built another more modern gin near the new road and operated it until his death in 1946. Then his son, L. L. Worley, operated it until his death in 1970. This gin was destroyed by an explosion and was never replaced.
Throughout the years a good school, post office, two blacksmith shops, several garages and stores flourished. In 1973 there remains only one garage, no gin, no post office, one store and only the Baptist Church which is still active.
Some of the prominent families were the “Pappy” Camps, whose descendants remain as big land owners, namely Ike Camp and Hope Camp. Of the Locklins only Mrs. Gertrude Locklin Shavers remains on the land. Of the Bairds, Harry Gamble is a descendent. Others were the Frank Worleys, of whom L. L. Worley remains, and daughters, Faye Worley Linke and Lula Worley Stewart; the Mel Gilchrist family, of whom only grandsons remain on the land; and the Moore family, of whom, Hazel Moore Clark remains.
Dr. Whitfield was one of the early settlers and also Henry Baird who lived in a log cabin on the Felton farm. A Mr. Amason was a well-known store operator and post master for years in the early forties. There was also a Wilburn Clark and Ed Lincoln who owned and operated an ice cream parlor. Bud McQueen was known for his store and also ice house.
SOURCE: Marshall, Ida Jo (ed.), Rockdale Centennial: A History of Rockdale, Texas, 1874-1974. Rockdale, TX: Rockdale Reporter, 1974. (p. 108-109)
San Gabriel is located on Farm Road 486, about 17-miles southwest of Cameron in western Milam County.
In the 1730s and 1740s several Spanish missions were established near the site in an effort to Christianize the Indian tribes living in the area, but these projects were abandoned by the mid-1750s. The mission buildings soon fell into ruin, and by the end of the 19th Century little trace of them remained.
The town of San Gabriel began in 1843 or 1844, when Jesse and Peter Mercer built cabins on the San Gabriel River. The community was granted a post office in 1850. By the mid-1880s San Gabriel had a steam gristmill-cotton gin, a church, two schools, and 130 residents. Cotton, corn, and oats were the principal crops grown by area farmers.
Population estimates for San Gabriel ranged from a low of 25 in 1890 to a high of 350 in 1929. The number of residents fell to 200 by the early 1940s, and to 75 by the late 1950s. San Gabriel served as the center of a common-school district until 1960, when the school was consolidated with the Thorndale Independent School District. The San Gabriel post office was discontinued in the late 1960s. Two churches, a business, and a community hall were marked at the site on county highway maps in the 1980s. The population in 1990 was 100.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lelia M. Batte, History of Milam County, Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956); Milam County Heritage Preservation Soc., Matchless Milam: History of Milam County (Dallas: Taylor, 1984); Handbook of Texas On-Line
Created on 15 Feb 2001 and last revised on 4 March 2003.