Today’s journey took me to the southernmost border of Texas, a drive through history from McAllen to Brownsville.
Starting Point: McAllen, Texas: Militarized Much?
The first International Bridge Crossing was near the Santa Ana National Wildlife Park. 12 miles South of Pharr.
Some ‘interesting’ professional services are offered throughout the region.
At the Border Crossing – not so much a firearm friendly sign
On the road east toward Brownsville, I had five Border Patrol sightings – Ford Explorers with distinctive green markings. I waved each time I passed them to show my recognition & support.
This is a region rich in Texas History.
The eleven Texas State Historical Marker picture snapped along the way turned the 60 mile drive into a “three hour tour …”
Founded 1880 by Florencio and Sostenes Cano Saenz on a 1790 Llan Grande land grant of his ancestor Spanish colonist Juan Jose Hinojosa. Once nearly 10,000 acres, Toluca Ranch stretched 17 miles north from the Rio Grande.
Here Saenz operated a mercantile store and brick kiln, promoted cattle ranching and river farming and served as Hidalgo County Commissioner from 1882 to 1906.
The Military Highway of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (my route of transit today) originated from trails made by Plains Indians near the banks of the Rio Grande. These same trails were used by Spanish explorers in the 18th century.
Early settlers built a road close to the river connecting their ranches.
Later called the Military Road, it ran from Brownsville to Laredo, linking frontier forts and stage-coach and mail lines. An inland route for cotton shipping during the Civil War, parts of it were also used for cattle drives.
It serves as the military telegraph road between Forts Brown an McIntosh in the 1870’s. Paved in the 1940’s, this highway is a significant part of the region’s history.
The Relampago (Lightning) Ranch was originally part of a Spanish Land Grant. The ranch community lay along the Stagecoach and military routh from Rio Grande City to Brownsville.
In 1852, Thanneus Rhodes (1828 – 1904) acquired acreage here when he became Hidalgo County Clerk. Later he served as Commissioner and Judge.
He and Jose Maria Mora (1824 – 1884) who bought adjoining land in 1856 helped bring economic and social stability. Mora and later his son Melcher, a Deputy Sheriff and Texas Ranger, farmed, ranched and operated the only general store in the area.
Descendents still live on the property.
El Horcan Tract and Rio Rico
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican War (1846 – 1848) designated the main channel of the Rio Grande as the boundary between Mexico and the United Staes. Disputes arising from frequent changes in the river’s course led to the Treaty of 1884 which recognized only those river diversions resulting from natural occurances. The Internation Boundary Commission was establised in 1889 to administer the Treaty of 1884.
In 1906 the American Rio Grande Land & Irrigation Company dug and unauthorized canal about two miles south of this spot which altered the course of the Rio Grande. As a result, a 419 acre section of United States property called (the) El Horcan Tract was isolated south of the river. Although still United States territory according the the Treaty of 1884, the tract and the popular gambling and resort community of Rio Rico which flourished there during the 1920s and 1930s became increasingly subject to Mexican administration and jurisdiction.
After the United States granted Mexico territorial rights over (the) El Horcon tract and Rio Rico in 1970, a native of Rio Rico sued the United States Government to guarantee is United States Citizenship. This lawsuit began an eight-year legal battle that eventually le to United States Citizenship for about 200 people born in Rio Rico prior to 1970.
Battle of La Bolsa
In 1859 and early 1860, a series of raids on Texas settlements by Juan N. Cortina (1824 – 1894) led to skirmishes with companies of Texas Rangers and United States soldiers.
These conflicts became known as the Cortina Wars.
On February 4, 1860, a battle occurred at La Bolsa Bend between Cortina’s raiders and Captain John S. “Rip” Ford’s Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers successfully defended the riverboat “Ranchero” travelling downstream from Rio Grange City from an attack by Cortina’s band.
Cortina escaped into Mexico and later became a General in the Mexican Army.
The Longoria family were among the initial Spanish settlers to arrive in this region in the mid-1700s. Luan Rosas Longoria and Maria Salome Cano were among the men and women who founded permanent communities such as the Villa de Reynosa – establishing the Longoria family in the area. They and other pioneers introduced ranching to the area with techniques brought from southern Spain – many of which remained in use centuries later.
In 1831, Irineo Longoria increased the family landholdings north of the Rio Grande by prurchasing portions of the Llano Grande, La Feria and Ojo de Agua Land Grants. He added these tracts to the land of his second wife, Maria Inez Cavazos and established their residence in the community of Santa maria. The Longoria Ranch stretched from what became Sebastian to the Rio Grande. The family also farmed the land and participated in the early development of irrigation systems in the Rio Grande Valley.
Juan Miguel Longoria (1815 – 1875) became the owner of the Longoria Ranch in the mid-1800s. Married three times, he was the father of 17 children. His first wife, Silveria Ruiz, became on of the first persons interred here upon here death prior to 1853. After his death, Juan Miguel’s third wife, Teresa Guerra, became the family matriarch and managed the ranch from 1875 to 1909. Juan Miguel’s grave is marked by an above ground brick tomb.
By the late 1990s, the cemetery was in a state of disrepair. Longoria residents organized to resore the site and its estimated 371 graves to ensure the endurance of to Longoria cemetery as a chronicle of the diverse history of Texas.
The Spot where “American Blood was Shed on American Soil”
April 25, 1846
Here Captain Philip Thornton and 62 Dragoons were attacked by Mexican Troops.
Spain’s desire to colonize this area of the New World in the late 17th Century was spurred by the fear that the French adventurer Rene La Salle, who had landed on the Texas coast in 1684 was claiming vast areas for its bitter rival France.
In 1865, Spain’s Mexican Viceroy directed Alonso De Leon to lead expeditions against French encroachment and protect Spain’s Claim by initiating the colinization of Texas.
De Leopn’s first expedition in 1686 followed the Rio San Juan to the mouth of the Rio Grande. In 1867 his second expedition crossed the Rio Grande near present-day Roma, made its way to the river’s mouth and proceeded up the coast to near Los Olmos Creek and Baffin Bay.
On his third expedition in 1688, De Leon captured Frenchman Jean Henri near present-day Brackettville. Convinced that the French had settled in Texas, De Leopn led a military expedition in 1689 that crossed the Guadalupe River near present-day Victori before discovering and destroying what remained of La Salle’s Fort St. Louis settlement in the Matagorda Bay area.
De Leon led an expedition into southeast Texas in 1690 that established the area’s first Spanish mission. San Francisco do Los Tejas, and eventually led to Spain’s great enterprise of colonizing Texas.
Here, Colonel John S. Ford of the Confederate Army defeated the Union Forces.
June 25, 1864