The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944 Page: 64
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
present when peace returns once more. From his many duties,
however, the Judge takes time to send in a tribute to a dis-
tinguished citizen of his home town-an account which is at
the same time a telescopic history of Brownsville.
LIFE AND BACKGROUND OF WILLIAM ALFRED NEALE
William Alfred Neale, who died Friday, May 28, 1943, at his home
in Brownsville, was the last living link between the modern city of
Brownsville and the border island of Anglo-American culture which was
Brownsville of the decade between its founding and the War Between
the States. As a child of two years, he was sleeping in the same bed with
William P. Neale, his father, when the latter was called to a window and
shot to death in the notorious "Cortina Raid" of September 30, 1859.
The lives of William Alfred Neale, his father, and his grandfather
span the history of Brownsville, from its beginnings as "Refugito," an
outlying rancho of the Congregacion, or settlement, of "Refugio," which
became Matamoros, to the irrigated beauty of the city of today.
William Neale, the grandfather of William Alfred Neale, was born
in London, England, in 1807. In 1821 he took part in the naval attacks
on the castle of San Juan de Ull6a and the city of Vera Cruz. He re-
turned to England, where, in 1827, he married Una Rutland, and with
her sought a new home in America, which was established with wife
and child in Matamoros, not later than 1834.
Matamoros was then a prosperous young city, arisen after the winning
of Mexican independence to satisfy northern Mexico's economic needs.
First of the grievances of the North Mexican people against Spain was
the Spanish policy which compelled all Mexican commerce to move
through the Port of Vera Cruz. Their first use of Mexican freedom was
to establish a North Mexican port. The Rio Grande was opened to com-
merce in 1823, and the quiet settlement of Refugio became, almost over-
night, a bustling port. The Congress of the new Mexican State of
Tamaulipas made it the villa (town) of Matamoros in 1828, and raised
it to the dignity of a ciudad (city) in 1836. The whole commerce of
northern Mexico was soon passing across its wharves.
These wharves were not at Matamoros proper, but within the shelter
of the island of Brazos de Santiago on the coast. A mud bar at the mouth
of the Rio Grande, which vessels drawing more than four feet of water
could not cross, limited the use of river ports; but oceangoing schooners of
eight or nine feet draft could navigate the channel of Brazos de Santiago,
and find harbor in deeper water on the Laguna Madre side. Cargoes
unloaded there were transported to Matamoros in two-wheeled oxdrawn
carts; passengers made their way by private conveyance, as best they
could. William Neale heard opportunity knocking and installed a line
of "stages"-horse-drawn "ambulances" or "hacks"-between Matamoros
and its port. His enterprise was well rewarded, and the stages con-
tinued profitable until supplanted by a regular line of steamboats between
Brazos de Santiago and Matamoros in 1852. William Neale accommodated
himself to this change; and taking advantage of regular steamboat
navigation, which began at the same time, on the Rio Grande, established
a new river port at Nealeville (now Santa Maria), twenty-eight miles
above Brownsville, where he engaged in merchandising from 1852 to 1859.
This new business flourished until destroyed during the "Cortina War" in
the latter year.
William Peter Neale, born in Louisville, Kentucky, June 11, 1833, mar-
ried Margaret Webb, sister to the late Joseph Webb, who, at the turn
of the present century, was county clerk of Cameron County for more
than thirty years. William Alfred Neale, born September 10, 1857, was
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944, periodical, 1944; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146054/m1/68/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.