El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 20
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inhabitants, larger than any town in what was then
Texas (Lea 1957).
Within a decade, the villas established by Escand6n
had become ranching centers, including Camargo, Re-
villa, Reynosa, and Mier south of the Rio Grande, and
Laredo and Rancho Nuestra Sefiora de los Dolores on
the north bank (Graf 1942).
It is important to recognize that during this time
period, the Rio Grande was a unifier of people, rather
than the divider of nations it has become. Many
ranchers ran cattle on both sides of the river, and many
families who had land on the south side of the river
also claimed land on the north side. Records of the
General Visit of the Royal Commission to the Colo-
nies of Nuevo Santander (1767) indicate that fifteen
families to whom Escand6n had given permission to
settle north of the Rio Grande in 1752 had established
ranches and made improvements of various types on
their ranches there (Scott 1969).
Nuestra Seiora de los Dolores:
The First Ranch in South Texas
A brief examination of the settlement of the first
ranch north of the Rio Grande provides insights into
the challenges faced by early ranchers in the region. Es-
cand6n's first land grant north of the Rio Grande was
given in 1750 to Don Jose Visquez de Borrego, who
was a successful rancher in the province of Coahuila,
having established three haciendas in that region with
over 1,300,000 acres. When he learned of Escand6n's
settlement of Nuevo Santander, he asked permission to
settle, at his own expense, north of the Rio Grande.
Escand6n wanted him to settle near the Nueces River,
but after exploring the area, Borrego chose to settle
near the Rio Grande. Even before the grant by Escan-
d6n was officially awarded on August 22, 1750, Bor-
rego had "staked claim" to a hundred square leagues
of land, over 44o,ooo acres. He was willing to risk
his own money to establish the ranch-the very type
of settler Escand6n had hoped to attract. While Es-
cand6n's original grant to Borrego was for fifty sitios
de ganado menor (just over 98,000 acres), by the time
the actual ceremony of the customary acts of posses-
sion took place on February 16, 1753, he had awarded
him other grants totaling over 320,000 acres, including
what is now Corralitos and the hacienda of San Ygna-
cio. It wasn't until 1767 that the land grants in Nuevo
Santander were adjudicated by the Royal Commission
from Mexico, and the Borrego heirs finally received the
papers in 1784. The boundaries were not clearly deter-
mined, and this would lead to considerable litigation in
later years. The Bourland Commission of 1852 set the
size of the ranch at 276,350 acres, and this was con-
firmed in 1904 by the District Court of Travis County
There were three absolute requirements set forth
by the Spanish government for validation of land
grants: (i) homes had to be constructed on the ranch,
(2) boundaries had to be marked, and (3) the land
had to be stocked with animals. In addition, Bor-
rego agreed to five other commitments: (i) the ranch
would cost Escand6n or the Spanish Crown nothing,
(2) Borrego would provide ferry service across the Rio
Grande, (3) Borrego would provide guards to protect
local travelers from hostile Indians, (4) Borrego would
treat the local Indians kindly, and (s) Christian instruc-
tion would be provided both for the families work-
ing on the ranch and the Indians living on the land.
An extra incentive for Borrego was that he would be
exempt from taxes for ten years (Fish I991).
Nuestra Sefiora de los Dolores, Visquez de Bor-
rego's hacienda, became the first settlement on the
northern bank of the Rio Grande below El Paso. As-
suming a common social order for the typical Mexi-
can hacienda, Dolores was under the supervision of a
mayordomo-Borrego's nephew, Don Bartholome Bor-
rego-who was in charge of the thirteen families from
Borrego's Coahuila hacienda, San Juan del Alamo (Fish
In 1755, Escand6n reported to the viceroy that the
hacienda, whose principal industry was cattle raising,
had twenty-five Spanish/Mexican families and twenw-
seven Carrizo Indian families, numbering over 115 per-
sons. (After five years, the Carrizos chose to leave the
ranch and go back to their old way of life.) Bor-
rego provided food (corn and meat), shelter, and other
20 El Rancho in South Texas
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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/m1/32/?q=el%20rancho: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.