El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 23
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there were sixteen land grants lying partly or wholly
within Nueces County, including Casa Blanca, Ba-
rranco Blanco, Rinc6n de los Laureles, Puentecitos,
San Antonio de Agua Dulce, Padre Island, Rinc6n
del Oso, Rinc6n de Corpus Christi, San Antonio
del Alamo, Santa Petronila, Agua Dulce, Palo Alto,
El Chiltipin, Paso Ancho de Arriba, Paso Ancho de
Abajo, and San Francisco (Garcia 1984).
Back along the Rio Grande, Tomas Sinchez, a suc-
cessful rancher and army veteran from Coahuila, re-
ceived a land grant of some 66,000 acres to establish a
ranch and villa at a location called Paso de Jacinto, dis-
covered in 1745 by Jacinto de Le6n. Since Sinchez did
not have a name selected for the villa, Escand6n sug-
gested the name Laredo, in honor of the town in Spain
located a short distance from Escand6n's birthplace.
The villa of Laredo, formally established on May is,
1755, would eventually grow into one of the more im-
portant cities in the region (Garcia 1970).
In 1798, one of the largest landowners in South
Texas was a woman, Rosa Maria Hinojosa de Balli. She
owned around 642,755 acres of land. Her father, Cap-
tain Juan Jos6 Hinojosa, and her husband, Jos6 Maria
de Balli, had applied for and received porciones (land
grants with river front) north of the Rio Grande, and
decided to apply for additional land in 1777. In 1778,
the Llano Grande Grant (21,250o acres) was given to
Captain Hinojosa, and the La Feria Grant (53,140.8
acres) was given to her husband. By 1790, when the
grants were adjudicated, both her father and husband
had died, and she inherited their land. By 1794, she
had secured for her son, Juan Jos6 Balli, the San Sal-
vador del Tule Grant (315,319 acres) and in the name
of her brother, she secured the Las Mestefias Grant
(146,670.75 acres). When she died in 1798, she left her
holdings to her three sons, and by 1913, when the land
was partitioned, there were more than thirty ranch
settlements located within the boundaries of this prop-
erty, located in Cameron, Hidalgo, and later Willacy
counties (Scott 1969).
While much of the vast acreage between the Rio
Grande and the Nueces River was awarded in the form
of land grants by the Spanish government during its
last twenty-five years of control (over 200 land grants
were given), there were no new communities founded
in the area during this period. After South Texas be-
came part of the Mexican State of Tamaulipas in I824
(it had been part of the Province of Tamaulipas be-
tween 1821 and 1824), the state constitution granted
liberal colonization of vacant lands on the Rio Grande
in an attempt to strengthen the frontier towns. In 1834,
the government sold much of the land north of the Rio
Grande (Graf 1942; Robertson 1985; Scott 1937).
The Search for Water
Early ranches in South Texas were established along
the Rio Grande, where there was a ready supply of
water for cattle and other livestock. Laying out the
original land grants in a pattern called porciones was
designed to give every landowner access to the Rio
Grande. As rancheros began applying for land away
from the river and attempting to settle on these large
grants, they drew upon their cultural heritage-their
ranching experience in northern Mexico-to meet the
need for water for their herds of livestock.
The location of a ranch's headquarters was deter-
mined by access to adequate supplies of water. Flowing
springs were a particularly valuable resource, and a
number of ranch headquarters developed around the
larger ones. For example, Los Ojuelos, located near a
large natural spring in present-day Webb County, be-
came the ranch headquarters for the Ysidro Guti6rrez
land grant established in 1830. Other ranches were
founded at the nearby springs at Las Albercas Arriba
and Las Albercas Abajo. Farther north, the de la Garza
Santa Gertrudis ranch headquarters, which almost half
a century later would become the headquarters of the
King Ranch, was established near springs on the Santa
Gertrudis Creek in 1808.
Where water from rivers or from springs was not
available, the early Spanish and later Mexican rancheros
could supply water for their herds of cattle either by
constructing a watering system with a noria con buque
(well) or by building a dam across one of the many
arroyos in the region. The noria con buque system was
by far the most common, and most ranches in the arid
The Ranch 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/m1/35/?q=el%20rancho: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.