The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Gainesville. Du Troit draws on interviews, memoirs, genealogies, and an array of
published and unpublished materials to describe the half-dozen Boer colonies
that flourished between 1903 and 1928 in Chihuahua, West Texas, and south-
ern New Mexico. He builds his story around two families-the Viljoens and the
Snymans-who established highly successful irrigated farms in the Mesilla Valley
before World War I. The study is largely a blending of fragmentary information,
but the author deserves applause for showcasing this little-known chapter in the
history of the El Paso district.
In six short chapters, du Toit reviews the Boer struggle against British imperi-
alism, then focuses on the efforts by Gen. Ben Viljoen and Comdt. William Sny-
man to find an overseas asylum for some fifty families. The Boer colonists started
farms at Meoqui, Chihuahua, and at Fabens, Texas, but the largest number clus-
tered along the Rio Grande below Las Cruces in the communities of Mesquite,
La Mesa, Berino, Chamberino, La Union, and Anthony, where they profited
from the waters of the new Elephant Butte Reservoir. Viljoen dominates the sto-
ry as a community leader, politician, publicist, and military advisor to Madero.
The concluding chapter sketches the diaspora of the younger generations, and
includes genealogical charts that trace Viljoen and Snyman descendants down to
the 1970s.
The slim volume has six illustrations, four maps, and a list of references, but
no index. Although shifts in chronology and flashbacks often make the story dif-
ficult to follow, this book is a valuable addition to border history.
Austin HARWOOD P. HINTON
Lfe on a Mexican Ranche. By Margaret Maud McKeller. (Bethlehem: Lehigh Uni-
versity Press, 1994. Pp. 238. Acknowledgments, introduction, epilogue,
notes, glossary, index. ISBN 0-934223-31-9. $38.50, cloth.)
In 1879, Scottish-born David Harkness McKeller, his brother-in-law, and two
friends, Stanley and Peter Learmonth, traveled throughout Mexico in search of
land to establish a Scottish colony where good soil, water, and grassland for
ranching would result in profits. President Porfirio Diaz had opened the country
to foreign investment, and, by 1882, McKeller had acquired the huge Hacienda
del Nacimiento, a grant of almost 250,ooo acres in northern Coahuila west of the
colonial town of Santa Rosa del Sacramento (now Ciudad Melchor Miizquiz).
During the next decade, McKeller left the hacienda in the hands of the Lear-
months while he traveled from London to Mexico City or to New Zealand in an
effort to float loans for his various properties. In 1891, McKeller brought his
wife, six daughters, and young son to settle at Las Rucias, one of several ranches
comprising the Hacienda del Nacimiento. The McKellers spoke no Spanish and
knew nothing of Mexican customs and food, yet they managed to survive in a
strange climate by sheer determination. McKeller built a large home and pro-
ceeded to fence that portion of his holdings through which flowed the Sabinas
and Alamos Rivers. Neighboring Mexican ranchers protested the fences inter-
fering with the watering of their stock. Less than two years later, McKeller was

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed October 20, 2014.