El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 19
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Settlement of South Texas and the territory across the
Rio Grande in Mexico began in the 1730s and was
formally organized into the Province of Nuevo San-
tander in 1746. This border area had no presidios and
few missions, so the private ranch became the primary
instrument of its settlement for well over a century.
The Establishment Period: 1750-1848
The Province of Nuevo Santander was the last prov-
ince to be established in the Texas-Mexico borderlands.
When Jos6 de Escand6n brought his 3000 settlers and
146 soldiers into the region in 1749, they were aware
that the private ranch would play an important role in
the settlement of this region along the Rio Grande.
Many had come from the ranching areas of the prov-
inces of Queritero, Nuevo Le6n, and Coahuila, and
they brought with them the ranching culture which
would prove so important to the history of this re-
gion. They immediately adapted to this arid place and
made of it a productive livestock-producing area. They
brought their architectural styles, the knowledge and
skills to survive in an area with few reliable sources of
water, and all of the skills and equipment needed to
manage large herds of livestock (Paredes 1958).
As a matter of fact, when they arrived, they dis-
covered that the ranching frontier had arrived some
twenty years earlier, as early as the 1730s, laying the
groundwork for the new settlements. Ranchers from
Coahuila and Nuevo Le6n had established ranches in
several places, leaving many wild cattle and horses
already in the region. Escand6n established three types
of settlement: the villa (or town); the lugar (or settle-
ment); and the hacienda. In 1749, along the south side
of the Rio Grande, he established two new commu-
nities: the villa of Camargo on March 5 and the villa
of Reynosa on March 14. Other communities grew out
of existing ranch headquarters. For example, a ranch
headquarters which had been established with nineteen
families on the banks of the Alamo River and called
El Paso del Cintaro, was designated by Escand6n as
the lugar of Mier on March 6, 1753, when he brought
other Spanish families from Cerralvo, located about
sixty miles southwest of Mier. Another ranch begun in
the 1740s was designated by Escand6n as the villa of
Revilla, now Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Mexico (Graf 1942,
Other well-known towns and cities along the south
side of the Rio Grande also began as ranch headquar-
ters. For example, present-day Matamoros grew from
a ranch headquarters known as San Juan de los Es-
teros which was established in 1765. Some thirty years
later, it had grown into a community known as Con-
grecaci6n del Refugio and later as Puerto (Port) del
Refugio. In 1826, it was designated La Villa de Mata-
moros, named in honor of the soldier-priest martyred
in the struggle for Mexican independence. By 1836 and
the Texas Revolution, it had a population of over 7,000
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Graham, Joe S. El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750, book, 1994; Denton, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28328/m1/31/?q=el%20rancho: accessed May 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.