A History of The "Gotier" Gotcher Trace
The Gotier Trace came into existence due to the order of the government at San Felipe, the ayuntamiento, in the late 1820's.
According to the Handbook of Texas Online, "the ayuntamiento was the principal governing body of Spanish municipalities. It functioned as the town council and had a wide range of administrative duties." One of these administrative duties was to manage the public road situation. This colonial government approved and commissioned a trail to establish a direct route from San Felipe to intersect the "Old Spanish Trail," also known as the "El Camino Real."
The Gotier Trace formed a main link from San Felipe to Austin's colony, passing through Cat Spring, Industry, Round Top, and reaching the Colorado River at present day Bastrop. James Gotcher was commissioned to blaze this trail, which meant he was to notch trees and indicate the best route. Trees were then cut down to heights of 12 inches or lower to allow wagon passage. The early pioneer roads and travel routes were neither steady nor consistent. Roadways and travel routes changed routinely based on weather conditions and accessibility. These pioneer trails were usually no more than general directions that depended on external conditions and often deviated from the original set route.
The Handbook of Texas Online states "As settlement progressed, the course of the trace may have been moved slightly to the south to follow a more direct route. A branch of the trace may have connected Bastrop with Washington-on-the-Brazos." This is the main reason for this paper. Due to the changing conditions, a single specific trail is difficult to precisely define. One day, I would like to make an attempt to reconstruct the route of the Gotier Trace as closely as possible to the original trace blazed by James Gotcher.
There are four historical markers relating to the Gotier Trace.
Marker Number: 11707
Marker Title: Early Roads to San Felipe
City: San Felipe County: Austin
Year Marker Erected: 1969
Marker Location: Stephen F. Austin State Park, Park Road 38 (off FM 1458), San Felipe Marker
Text: During the mid-1820s, when Stephen F. Austin was founding this town, the only roads in the area were wagon ruts of beaten trails marked by notched trees. Within a decade, however, the village of San Felipe, one of the first Anglo settlements in Texas, had become a hub from which 8 or more roads projected. Many of these were small, intra-colony routes, but the main trails extended to major towns or joined "highways", such as the San Antonio Road (El Camino Real). A main route which passed through San Felipe was the Atascosita Road, connecting Goliad with the United States. It took its name from Atascosa (Spanish for "boggy") Spring near Liberty, which once was its main terminus. The Gotier Trace, another travel artery, was laid out about 1830 by pioneer James Gotier. It joined the northern and southern parts of Austin's colony and was used for decades. The San Felipe Road proper, which ran to Harrisburg, transported goods inland from the Gulf Coast. Even the main thoroughfares, however, were dusty trails in the summer and impassable quagmires in the winter, often flooded by knee-deep water. Not until well into the 20th century did Texas begin to develop her present, outstanding highway system. (1969).
Index Entry: Antioch Cemetery
Address: 6 mi. E on SH 71, 3 mi. N on CR 154, left at "Y" 0.5 mi.
City: Bastrop Marker
Location: 6 mi. east of Bastrop, 3 mi. north on CR 154 at intersection w/CR 146 Marker Text: This cemetery is the only remaining physical evidence of a once thriving farming community. Originally located 1.25 miles northwest of here, it was in use before the Civil War. The cemetery and an associated church-school building were moved to this site on the Gotier Trace in 1882. The earliest marked grave, that of infant Benno Goerner, dates to that year. Among the nearly 100 graves are those of pioneer families of Bastrop County; veterans, including Confederate soldiers of the Civil War; and victims of many diseases, a majority of them children. (1996).
Marker 3. Marker Image
Marker Title: The Gotier Trace
Address: entrance to Bastrop State Park, SH 21 at Loop 150
Marker Text: Originated in 1820s. Crossed the present counties of Austin, Washington, Fayette, Lee, Bastrop; joined San Felipe, capital of Stephen F. Austin's colony, with Bastrop. Marked by James Gotier, a settler who (with several in his family) died in an Indian massacre near this trace in 1837. Like most early Texas roads, this was only a marked route which travelers could follow-- dusty in droughts, boggy in rains. From such traces, wagon roads and cattle trails, Texas has developed over 67,000 miles of fine paved highways-- a system recognized as nation's finest. (1967).
Marker Title: Gotcher Trace
City: La Grange
Marker Location: from La Grange take FM 245 NW about 12.5 miles then go NW FM 1291 about 3 miles.
Marker Text: Opened about 1828 by James Gotcher from Alabama, a settler on Rabb's Creek in present Lee County, as route from San Felipe, in Stephen F. Austin's original colony, to Bastrop in second or "little" colony. A short, exposed route to the upper settlements, this trace shared with nearby Wilbarger Trace the title of "via Dolorosa" of early Texas, as both were marked by tragedies. Gotcher moved to this area, and in 1836 six people of his family were killed and several captured during an Indian attack. At this point the trace is crossed by a 20th century road.