The land upon which the small town of Luna City was formally established was originally part of a Spanish land grant to Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales) and his sons Augusto (the eldest and eventual heir) and Tomas. Correct spelling of the family name is a matter of uncertainty. Handwriting on the original records of the grant is difficult to read, and within a generation or two Don Diego Manuel’s descendants were spelling their surname with either an ‘s’ or a ‘z’ interchangeably. The grant, consisting of a league and a labor of land (that is about four and a half thousand acres) was officially recorded in 1769, although there is evidence for the family to have established a residence and begun raising stock in the area from the 1720s on.

The first Don Diego Manuel was a trusted officer in his youth, serving under the command of of Jose de Escandon, the first governor of Nueva Santander, a colony stretching along the Gulf Coast between Tampico, Mexico and into present-day Texas as far as the San Antonio. The Gonzalez/Gonzales family originated in Gijon, Cantabria; and connected to the Escandon family through social and kinship networks. The Gonzalez/Gonzales family name is an alternate spelling of Gonzaga; the Gonzalez/Gonzales of Gijon are thought by historians to be descended from the notorious Cardinal Pedro Gonzaga – a dissolute but able administrator, and ally of the equally notorious Borgia family two centuries previously.

In any case, the grant – known in most records as Rincon de los Robles, or Oak Corner – continued in it’s original incarnation and acreage for a century after being officially recorded. Taking its’ name from a grove of particularly fine oak trees, many of which still stand throughout Luna City, the Gonzalez/Gonzales clan ran cattle, horses, sheep and goats on various tracts, establishing several small herding camps for their employees. One such camp was excavated in the early 1970s just inside the present-day main gate of the Wyler Lazy W Exotic Game Ranch; a two-room adobe structure, half bunk-house and half-stables. Although of interest to social historians, nothing much besides a few coins, pottery shards and bottle fragments was found in the course of the excavation. A historical marker was placed on the site in 1975, as this is the oldest known permanent building of any kind in or near Luna City.

Meanwhile, location of the main residence for the Gonzalez/Gonzales clan is uncertain, although certain outbuildings on the present-day ranch headquarters of Rincon de los Robles hint at a very early date of construction.  The Gonzalez/Gonzales family prospered in a mild way; both Augusto and Tomas are recorded as having fathered eighteen and twenty-three children, respectively, through several marriages or other, less official arrangements. Most of these offspring are known to have lived to adulthood, although due to a rather casual attitude to record-keeping, only the main line of descent from oldest son, to oldest son can be ascertained with precision. An inclination towards very large families, with frequent use of the same names, marriage within the extended clan and informal adoption over three centuries complicates any attempt to make sense of the Gonzalez/Gonzales family tree. The majority of Augusto and Tomas’ descendants still live in and around Luna City.

Proud Tejano patriots during the Texas War for Independence, at least three members of the Gonzalez/Gonzales clan of Rincon de los Robles on the San Antonio River served with Captain Juan Sequin during Sam Houston’s retreat into east Texas in 1836 and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. Alas, having served with valor in the war did not spare local Tejanos from later suspicion and political disenfranchisement on the part of the mainly Anglo establishment. Although having no interest in and taking little part in the Civil War, a mere fifteen years later, the hardships brought about by that war and the collapse of the Confederacy, took a toll on Rincon de los Robles. In 1867, a large portion of the grant remaining were sold for hard cash by Don Anselmo Gonzalez, (in direct line the great-great-great grandson of Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales) to Captain Herbert Kling Wyler, CSA. During the War, Captain Wyler (a native of Kentucky) had been posted to Texas, where he was involved in moving Confederate cotton to Brownsville and thence over the border to the Mexican port of Baghdad, from where it was shipped to Europe. Captain Wyler, unlike many of his Confederate compatriots, emerged prosperous from the conflict, and turned his considerable energies into building up his own ranch property.

The infusion of cash into the much-diminished Rincon de los Robles Ranch was not wasted on Don Anselmo, or on his son, Don Antonio, who inherited the diminished Rincon de los Robles in his turn and turned his attention to breeding and raising prize-winning merino sheep and angora goats. It should be noted that Don Anselmo had cannily held on to the lushest pasturage adjoining the river and most of the oak woods which gave the ranch its name.  Don Antonio, who trained originally in law, eventually became one of Texas’ leading authorities on the parasites particular to angora goats. It is Don Antonio who fought the last officially recorded duel on the streets of Luna City. A historical marker on Town Square marks the place.

In 1884-5, Captain Wyler developed an interest in making a third fortune, upon realizing that the best route for a proposed railway connecting San Antonio with Aransas Pass lay across a portion of his vast properties in Karnes County. He proposed forming a corporation to establish a model town at the point where the old road between San Antonio and the coast – to Don Antonio, still the second-largest landowner in the district.  Don Antonio, no fool, and having little reason to trust Captain Wyler (who had a long-established reputation as a man with very few scruples and great determination) agreed – made his contribution to the corporation with a few acres on the northern border of Rincon de los Robles for the town site rather than his bank balance. He made it a condition that as few of the standing oaks be felled as possible. Captain Wyler attracted the interest and investment of other parties, before abruptly withdrawing support for the railway, with half the town plots already sold and construction completed, when his adored younger daughter Bessie suddenly eloped with a handsome train engineer. It is considered likely that out of all the investors in the original Luna City, only Don Antonio escaped more or less financially undamaged from the debacle.

The Rincon de los Robles grant exists to this day, as a ranch under the management of Don Antonio’s son, Don Jaimie. His granddaughter, Mindy Gonzalez-Ramirez, is currently conducting research on the existing ranch headquarters buildings, to determine which, if any of them, pre-date the mid-19th century.

 

WWI Veteran Laid to Rest

F

Luna City First Methodist Church

Luna City First Methodist Church

rom the Karnesville Weekly Beacon – By Katherine Heisel, Staff Writer

A brief memorial service was held last Saturday at the First Methodist Church of Luna City, to honor LCpl. Michael Delaney Walters, USMC, late of Marlton, New Jersey. LCpl. Walters was a survivor of the horrific battle for Belleau Wood, and badly wounded in later fighting along the Asine-Marne front. Disabled, with a disfiguring facial scar, and eventually homeless, he lived for a brief time in a makeshift encampment on the outskirts of Luna City in 1935, before succumbing to exposure during severe winter weather early in 1936. It has long been assumed locally that his presence in Luna City gave rise to the legend of the ‘Scar-Faced Tramp.’ His remains were discovered last fall during the early stages of construction of expanded recreational facilities at Mills Farm. Over subsequent months, he was identified through painstaking efforts by members of Luna City’s VFW post, and frequent visitor to Luna City, Allen Lee Mayne, host of the popular Food Network series Ala Carte with Quartermayne.

Following the service, conducted by the Reverend Peter Dawkins, senior minister at First Methodist, LCpl. Walters was interred with full military honors in the Luna City Municipal Cemetery, in a procession led by members of the Luna City Volunteer Fire Department, and representatives of the Luna City Police Department. The honor guard was made up of members of the Karnes Company Historical Reenactors group. The Mighty Fighting Moths Marching Band performed the Marine Corps Hymn, and other suitable selections, including the hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” and the “Washington Post March.”  Chief among the mourners were the family of Mavis Harrison, of Toledo, Ohio, LCpl. Walter’s grand-niece. Costs for burial, and a memorial headstone were met by funds raised by local Boy Scout Robert A. Walcott, as his Eagle Scout project, and a donation of services by the owners of Rhodes Funeral Home, of Karnesville.