El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 38
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others became victims of the newcomers-some from
Mexico but most from the United States-who bought
by deception, took by force, and otherwise dispos-
sessed the original families of their land. Some families
were actually killed when they refused to sell or leave
Unscrupulous law enforcement officers and judges
took advantage of the Mexicans' lack of understanding
of the new American laws. A copy of court records in
Brooks County shows one example of the sale of sooo
acres of land for $IS in delinquent taxes. The deed of
the Armstrong Ranch in Jim Hogg County shows the
sale of 4,431 acres of land for $8.31 back taxes (copy
of deed in possession of author). A Mexican American
lost it and an Anglo bought it.
This transition period was also marked by an un-
precedented rise in cattle rustling and raids on ranches,
both by Mexican thieves who drove Texas cattle to
Mexico (or butchered them for their hides) and Anglo
thieves who raided Mexican and Anglo ranchers on
both sides of the Rio Grande. Although outlawed in
Mexico over three centuries before, the hocking knife
came into use again in South Texas during this period
of lawlessness. Thieves immobilized the cattle with
these knives, then killed and skinned them before haul-
ing the hides to market.
This problem continued until the Texas Rangers
began imposing order in South Texas in 1875 and Por-
firio Diaz was elected President of Mexico in 1876. Diaz
and his government imposed control on the Mexican
side of the border, as the Rangers did for the Texas
side. In 1876, Ranger Captain McNelly reported that
there was an organized band of desperadoes between
Goliad and the Nueces River, numbering from four to
five hundred, who lived by robbing others. They often
divided into bands of twenty-five to forty men, form-
ing settlements in different counties in the area (Smith
1986). By 1880, thanks to the combined efforts of Texas
and Mexico, the extensive cattle thievery and killings
had ended, and relative peace was established.
From a Way of Life to a Business
Contrary to popular notions, the Anglo adopted
rather than invented ranching. Their coming to South
Texas did, however, initiate a number of changes to the
ranching tradition. The 185o census of Nueces County
indicates that the Anglos were at first farmers and
woodsmen rather than ranchers. Those who wanted to
try ranching had to rely on Mexican traditions, par-
ticularly the vast store of knowledge of the Mexican
vaqueros. This confluence of cultures brought changes
in the ranch which transformed it from what was prin-
cipally a way of life into a profit-making enterprise.
The exchange of information and tradition was by no
means one-way; while the Anglos were learning from
the mexicanos, the mexicanos, in turn, were learning
from the Anglos.
The first large land purchases by Anglos came in 1839
and 1844, before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but
neither sale resulted in the establishment of a ranch.
The first large Anglo-owned ranches in the region were
those established by Mifflin Kenedy, Richard King,
Major James H. Durst, F. J. Parker, and W. G Hale
In 1852, Kenedy attempted to ranch at Valerio on the
Nueces River, and in 1854 he bought land on the huge
San Salvador del Tule grant, some sixty miles north-
west of Brownsville, but he did not attempt to stock it.
In 1853, Richard King and his partner Gideon "Legs"
Lewis (a former Texas Ranger captain who had a print
shop, a real estate business and a mercantile store in
Corpus Christi) bought the Rinc6n de Santa Gertrudis
grant, originally the property of Juan Mendiola of Ca-
margo. Until his death in 1836, Mendiola had a house,
pens, and livestock on the land, but the ranch had been
abandoned because of the Texas Revolution. Paying
$300 for is5,oo acres, King received a warranty deed
from Mendiola's heirs on July 25, 1853 (Lea 1957).
In 1854, he and Lewis purchased the de la Garza
Santa Gertrudis grant, consisting of 53,000 acres.
Lewis was killed a year later, so it was King, Kenedy
and James Walworth who formed a company called
R. King & Company in 1860, with about 20zo,ooo000 head
38 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/m1/50/?q=el%20rancho: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.