El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 37
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protection. Between 1828 and 1834, the population of
Laredo declined from 2,054 people to 1,746 (Wilcox
1938). In a letter written to the Governor of Tamaulipas
on December 21, 1835, the alcalde of Laredo wrote:
... the incursions of the barbarous Indians continue with all
the vigor and force customary. Fifteen days ago today they
killed citizen Ram6n de la Garza at his ranch, and stole a
considerable number of horse stock; and only six days ago
they killed at a place called Rio Frio on the road to B6xar ...
Gregorio Canales and Luciano Benavides. (Laredo Archives,
letter, Ildefonso Ram6n, alcalde, to governor of Tamaulipas,
dated Laredo, December 21, 1835)
That year, these warlike Indians killed twenty-six
people in the Laredo area and stole over Iooo head of
livestock (Wilcox 1938).
The other factor which made life on ranches in
South Texas very hazardous was the Texas Revolution
of 1836. Although the southern boundary of the Prov-
ince of Texas was the Nueces River, Texans claimed the
Rio Grande River as the boundary. This argument was
not settled until the Mexican-American War and the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Between 1836 and 1848,
many of the ranch owners left their land and moved
to the communities along the Rio Grande, fleeing the
dangers of Anglo bandits in the region. In September,
1839, Lieutenant Browne of the Texas Army reported to
the Adjutant General:
When I arrived in Victoria I found it filled with a set of men
who have given themselves the title of a band of Brothers. ...
They are all in the cow stealing business, and are scattered all
over this frontier. They pretend ... they steal only from the
enemy; but I am convinced, to the contrary, that they steal
from Texans as well as Mexicans .... [One said to me] that
he was one of the band of Brothers and wished me to know
that they could defend themselves against any force the gov-
ernment could send to oppose them.... I am convinced that
there are no less than three or four hundred men engaged in
this business. . . . One of them told me that they had their
expresses better regulated than any regular army that has ever
been in the country. (Fugate 1961)
Faustino Morales, a vaquero on the Kenedy Ranch
in the I880s, recalled having witnessed Anglo outlaws
from Corpus Christi attacking Mexican ranches, burn-
ing their buildings and killing or driving the Mexican
ranchers away. He states that "there were many small
ranches belonging to Mexicans, but then the Ameri-
cans came in and drove the Mexicans out and took over
the ranches" (Villarreal 1972).
From El Rancho to The Ranch, 1848-1885
Many of the Anglo Americans who settled in South
Texas before the Mexican American War and the Treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 were single men who
subsequently married into Mexican families, adopted
the Mexican culture, and for all practical purposes be-
come Mexicans. These Anglos brought with them the
values and technologies which would make significant
changes in the 8oo-year-old institution of the private
cattle ranch. Others came in as businessmen, work-
ing the river trade in boats along the Rio Grande.
These new arrivals included men like Charles Stillman,
Richard King, Mifflin Kenedy, John Young, and John
Allen. The latter three married into landed families in
These men saw the importance and value of ranch-
ing as a source of income and began purchasing land
grants from Mexicans, many of whom had little use for
the lands lying some distance from the Rio Grande be-
cause of the Indian troubles of the time. The Mexican
landowners with property close to the river were more
reluctant to sell, and much of this land still belongs to
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo declared the land
between the Rio Grande and the Nueces Rivers as
American soil, causing a significant increase in the
number of Anglo Americans who came to the area.
During this period of time, over eighty percent of the
land in South Texas changed hands (De Le6n 1979).
Although many original landowning families willingly
sold their land because of Indian raids, constant war-
ring with the Anglos, and the turmoil of facing new
laws, a new legal system, and a new official language,
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/m1/49/?q=el%20rancho: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.