Francois Guilbeau, Jr. (1813-1879) moved to San Antonio in 1839 during the early years of the Republic of Texas. The French-born entrepreneur opened the first wine shop on Main Plaza; it remained in business until the turn of the century. The popular young bachelor became Mayor Pro-Tem in 1841. Then he became Mayor when Juan Seguin resigned in disgrace at the request of the Board of Alderman.
Guilbeau married Rosario Ramon in 1848; they established a vineyard and chateau in France, where Rosario died. He started a profitable oxcart shipping business that flourished until the railroad came to San Antonio. The Guilbeau home on S. Flores in San Antonio became the French Consulate in 1855 when Guilbeau became Consul of France. He assisted the French Government in obtaining rootstock from Texas grapevines to save the French wine industry. Guilbeau referred his longtime friend, French Agriculture Commissioner Jules Poinsard to Thomas Volney Munson in Sherman, Texas, who was known as the Grape Man of Texas. Munson was the viticulturist who learned to graft the hearty rootstock of Texas mustang grapes onto European varieties, making their vines resistant to the phylloxera. Guilbeau carted hundreds of tons of Texas mustang root cuttings by ox train to Galveston for shipment to France.
That collaboration saved the French Wine Industry from destruction by phylloxera. Francois Guilbeau served his native France and his adopted Texas well. Viva La France and Long Live Texas and the men and women who made her great!
All images provided by the Texas State Historical Association. For more information on the Guilbeau family, visit the TSHA website.