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The History of
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A Historic Lower Rio Grande Valley City
By Dick D. Heller, Jr.
3103 Granite Drive
Mission, TX 78574
July 23, 1994
Aug. 13, 2003
The following history of Mission is based on a large number, more than 100, of previous interviews, newspaper stories, etc., about Mission, plus some interviews conducted by the author. It is an attempt to blend and combine previous writings about the city, and make a more complete, factual and interesting story of our city.
Neither county seat, nor the largest city in the county, it is the oldest incorporated city in the western part of the county.
Those who have stories that they think should be a part of Mission’s history are invited to send or bring them to the author.
This began with the writing of the history of Sharyland, and was enlarged after the author became a member of the Mission Historical society.
In the year 2000, I was asked for a copy of this history, which I did not have. So, I attempted to put one together from the various Chapters I had saved. This is the result. It is imperfectly edited, with much wasted space, and wrong page numbers. I will continue working on it.
Dick D. Heller, Jr.
3103 Granite Drive
Mission, TX 78572-9743
March 10, 2002
Table of Contents
Chapter 0 Before Men Arrived 1
Chapter 1 The Porciones of Mission 2
Chapter 2 Local Ranchers helped in 1776—1783 13
Chapter 3 Juan Davis Bradburn 17
Chapter 4 The La Lomita Mission 26
Chapter 5.Before Mission 42
Chapter 6 Founding of Mission 55
Chapter 7 The First Years 65
Chapter 8 Citrus Development 79
Chapter 9 Entertainment 92
Chapter 10 Characters in the New City 101
Chapter 11 Border Troubles 109
Chapter 12 Border Troubles II 118
Chapter 13 World War land the Roaring 20’s 132
Chapter 14 Shary Municipal Golf Course 138
Chapter 15 Oil Near Mission—Moore Field 1930-1945 146
Chapter 16 Since 1948 155
Chapter 17 Water for Mission 164
Chapter 18 Pump Station #2 186
Chapter 19 Mission Land Developers 199
Chapter 20 Churches of Mission 230
Chapter 21 Mission in 1994 235
Chapter 22 Manuel Hinojosa, Artist 237
Chapter 23 The schools of Mission 1908—1995 238
Chapter 24 The “Duke” of Padre Island 254
Chapter 25 The Ups and Downs of Lettuce 257
Chapter 26 Mission After World War II 259
Chapter 27 The Texas Citrus Fiesta, 1932—1996 261
Chapter 28 Moore-Carson Family 266
Chapter 29 Sharyland 267
Chapter 30 Eugene Goodwin Talks About Valley History 269
Chapter 31 Dr. Jack Gray, Jr., on Mission 274
Chapter 32 Unique Techniques Change Produce into Costumes 284
Chapter 33 Motels, Hotels of Mission 286
Chapter 34 Mayors and City Managers of Mission 287
Chapter 35 Recent Town Characters 290
Chapter 36 Eligio De La Garza, Jr. —“Kika” 291
Chapter 37 Ed Dumas 294
Chapter 38 Early Mission Chiefs of Police 295
Chapter 39 William Jennings Bryan Home 296
Chapter 00. Before Men Arrived, and After
The Rio Grande Valley, as many already know, is not a “valley” at all, but a delta! A valley is land that has been eroded away, leaving high banks on both sides, by a steam or river. A delta is land deposited at the mouth of a river, building up and out into the ocean. It is generally about the same height above sea level as the river itself. The size of the delta depends on two things—how much sand and dirt the water carries from eroding valleys upstream, and how long it has been depositing this silt.
Obviously, a delta more than a hundred miles wide, and a hundred miles deep has been building up deposits for hundreds of thousands of years. No doubt the rate of deposit has increased and decreased, depending on the amount of rainfall up in the mountains where the tributary streams build up.
The main “river” is traced up into Colorado, across New Mexico, to a high mountain area. But there are many, many tributary streams. Frequent heavy rains caused great washouts of silt and sediment, which washed downstream. Some was deposited quickly—heavy metals like, gold, silver, and lead, for example, are not carried far. -
In an earlier period, all Texas was under a shallow sea. But about ten million years ago, a short time in geologic history, a great ridge raised up as two huge “islands” of solid land, resting on magma deep in the earth, collided, and raised up the Rocky Mountains. Texas was generally raised above sea level, and three mountain masses pushed even higher— the Guadalupe Mountains, the Davis Mountains, and Chisos Mountains, in west Texas.
But here in the lower Rio Grande basin, frequent floods deposited more and more silt, gradually extending the Texas coastline east into the Gulf of Mexico, once much, much larger.
At first, reeds, palms, and grasses covered the area. Slowly, as the coast pushed outward, grassy plains survived. Trees were mainly located along the regular banks of the river itself, where annual flooding gave enough moisture for theft great root systems. A few types of cacti extended into the region from the west. And, low mottes, which had permanent water available, formed oases replete with trees and even an occasional spring.
Near the coast great salt lakes resulted from impounded ocean water; others were created when salt domes, deposited thousands of years earlier, collapsed, and water gathered on the top. These lakes did not always contain water—during very dry periods of years they would disappear. El Sal del Rey and La Sal Vieja are examples of the latter. Salt is still extracted, but no longer for personal use—the lakes are used today to provide salt water for oil drilling purposes.
The soil, more than 100 feet deep, provided a fertile bed for seed when there was enough water. Great herds of buffalo used the grassy plains.
Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Drive Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@ Oct. 11, 2001
THE PORCIONIES OF MISSION
Did you know that Richard King, the steamboat captain and King Ranch owner, once owned a porción on which Mission partly stands today? Or that the Missionary Fathers of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were in fact partners in ownership-lease with John J. Conway when the roads and canals of this Mission area were originally laid out? Do you know what happened to Conway’s partner, James W. Hoit? Who was F. H. Welcome of Minneapolis, Minn., and what part did he play in the founding of Mission?
And was Banker’s Trust Co., of Houston the hero or the villain in the establishment of Mission?
And who was Stephen Powers, who once owned both porciones 53 and 54? What part did those 19th Century Democratic caudillos of South Texas, James B. Wells and Sheriff John Closner, play in the development of Mission?
These and many other interesting questions are answered, not in the old histories of Mission and Hidalgo County, but in the abstracts of the land titles of Mission!
Modern-day Mission sits across six of the eight porciones purchased 1908-1914, by John J. Conway and John H. Shary, whose La Lomita Lands, Sharyland, and West Addition to Sharyland were originally purchased and laid out to settle this region. If you are a newcomer to this region, or not familiar with its history, you may very well wonder what a porción is. It is pronounce pour – see-own, with the emphasis on the last syllable. When José de Escandón settled this area in 1748-53, each community held its land communally, but soon the settlers had their own favorite spots, some with corrals, or small buildings. In 1767, the King decided it was safe to give each rancher-farmer a piece of land. Since it was very dry in this area, each piece of land had to start at the river, and extend inland a good distance. Each of these was about 2,500 acres, give or take a few hundred acres. So, a porcion is a measure of land, but an irregular one, stretching back miles from the Rio Grande. Some are much bigger than others - if you already had a ranch going in a given area, you were granted more land, enough to include your improvements.
Now, Anglo farmers would have built a cabin, cleared the land, farmed a few years, and moved on. But Hispanics were different. To them, it was really something to own their own land, and they were very serious about their home being their castle. Each rancher would pass his ranch on to his children - undivided. And then the children did the same. And their children, and grandchildren! Of course each person had a small piece of land, which he would later divide among his children, etc.- and the other brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, etc., all knew who had what. There were occasional sales, noted among the family, and by the new owner. But these were not recorded in the court house. There were arguments about who owned how much of the such-and-such pasture. There were even feuds and fights. The land, which was mostly used for pasture, wasn’t worth much in a people-less area before the coming the of the railroad. But the railroad quickly made the
by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003
land potentially valuable to those who could see the future -- bringing water from the Rio Grande, via canal, to the cleared, planted farm-sites. And many of the 5th and 6th generation owners, with only a few acres, were glad to sell for cash money. The men with ideas hired lawyers to purchase the land and clear title, porción by porción. And many of those lawyers, themselves, ended up as very powerful men.
So, when you drive east-west through the Valley, you are crossing porcion lines about every half mile. North-south, you are paralleling the lines, in many instance past highway 102, where it runs east from Conway to Edinburg.
In the 1910-20 period, many of the porciones (pour-see-own-knees, emphasis on “own”.) were title-cleared and subdivided. But even in the 1990’s, much of neighboring Starr County remains undivided.
You will recall that the porciones are about half a mile wide, but 14 to 17 miles deep. Mission spreads east and west across the narrow parts of the porciones. Most of the old historic accounts refer to the two porciones given to the Oblates of Mazy Immaculate by Rene Guyard, a Reynosa merchant. These were 55 and 57. But the original Mission town-site was laid out in porciones 54 and 55, yet little is said of 54, the history of which is usually glossed over. Porciones 55, 56, and 57 were the three porciones purchased from the Oblates, but two other porciones, 53 and 54, were bought from James B. Wells and John Closner, and part of the original Mission laid on 54 as well as 55, where La Lomita Mission was located. The actual hill, La Lomita, was located on the line between porciones 56 and 57, the crown being north of the Military Telegraph Road.
And the author has never seen an account of the land history of porciones 58, 59, and 60, on which the John H. Shary Subdivision conmonly called Sharyland was imposed, nor of the West addition to Sharyland. But we have found a 215-page abstract of Porciones 53-57 including the west addition to Sharyland, and a separate, 25-page statement of title to Porciones 58, 59, and 60, all of the Reynosa Distribution of 1767, which give this history. The statement of abstract is a brief resumé of the more than 1,000 typewritten pages in the Sharyland abstract BEFORE Shary purchased the land! At that time, only two complete copies of the full abstract existed, and it was not printed because of the cost.
Let’s start with the history of Porción 54, since that is where the west part of Mission lies. It was originally granted by the King of Spain in 1767 to Ermenejilda Ochoa, widow of an original settler. (This would be her maiden name - it does not give her late husband’s name, which was Juan Cavazos Fernández, according to the Census of 1750 as alphabetized in Origen de los Fundadores de Tamaulipas by Guillermo Carmendia Leal.) Porcion 54 contained approximately 5,314 acres. The proceedings state that this porción was traded to José Antonio de la Garza, who wanted a tract adjoining his father, who was granted porciones 52 and 53. In the 1850’s, 60’s and 70’s, porciones 53 and 54 were purchased from the heirs of the original owners and their successors in title by Stephen Powers of Brownsville. Who was this man?
Stephen Powers was the top land attorney in South Texas from the American takeover in 1848 until his death in 1882. He had arrived in the Valley in 1847, at 34 years of age, a lieutenant in General Zachary Taylor’s Army; he soon was promoted to Captain, became a legal aide on General Taylor’s staff, and was made a military commissioner in Matamoros. He had a legal and political background in New York, including diplomacy, having served as U.S. consul in Basel, Switzerland.
by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
In 1848, when the war ended, he helped Israel Bigelow incorporate Brownsville, made a brief trip home to New York, and returned in 1849 to Brownsville and opened his law practice with Frank Cummings. His law office on Elizabeth Street within the same block as the Miller Hotel and the ferry landing, also served as the post office, and he was appointed postmaster. He married Annette, the widowed daughter of Captain John Butler. During the next three decades, he held the positions of postmaster, customs collector, mayor of Brownsville, Cameron County Judge, district judge under the Confederate States of America, state representative and state senator. He quickly mastered land litigation, and represented both Anglos and Mexicans. He acquired thousands of acres himself, and was purchasing agent for the legendary Richard King, who accumulated more than a million acres for the King Ranch. He supported the land claims of both Anglos and Mexicans, supported the political aspirations of both, and never advocated complete Anglo dominance. He often called on his rancher friends to mobilize their votes from the peones and vaqueros - even the famous bandit Juan Cortina regularly delivered 40 or 50 votes during the 1850’s!1 As he grew older, Powers took a budding attorney James B. Wells, Jr. under his wing, and in 1880 Wells married Powers’ niece, Pauline Kleiber. She was a granddaughter of Capt. John Butler, daughter of John Kleiber who had married Humphrey Wodehouse’s daughter Ethel. Kleiber had been a prominent stockholder in the Rio Grande Railroad, which had challenged and toppled the commercial hold of the King-Kenedy-Stillman faction. A series of marriages linked the Powers, the Brownes, Viviers, Landrums, Combs and Hickses and several other prominent Democratic families, including now James B. Wells, Jr., who eventually controlled the neighboring counties of Hidalgo, Stair and Duval counties through the Closner, Guerra and Parr machines, in matters of district, state and national politics.
On September 27, 1879, when the two porciones 53 and 54 were resurveyed for Powers, there was the Big Estero, called Tortuga Lake, partly in porciones 53 and 54, south of the Military Telegraph Road. North of that was the sendero from Reynosa Viejo, the Derramadero de Los Fresnos, the Abra de los Tiradores, and finally La Seja, the boundary between the first and second lifts.
Powers, of course, realized that he might have missed an heir or two in his purchasing, so he allowed the taxes of both porciones to lapse, then at a tax sale June 7, 1881, he re-bought the land, so that he had clear title from the sheriff! On February 5, 1882 Powers died, and his will was probated. James G. Browne, Thomas Carson, and Joseph Webb were named appraisers. (Browne, an Irish native of Manchester, England, a successful merchant, was the founder of the Red (Democratic) Party in Cameron County; Carson was a long-time county judge; Webb was the son of one of the city of Brownsville’s founders.) The two porciones were valued at $2,000. Benjamin 0. Hicks and Charles B. Combe were named co-executors.
And who were they? Powers’ codicil explains - Benjamin.O. Hicks was married to his stepdaughter, Pauline Impey; his other stepdaughter, Kate Maria Impey, was married to Dr. Charles B. Combe. Dr. Combe and his two sons were the principal physicians in Brownsville of the period;
1See page 4,Evan Anders’ Boss Rule in South Texas.
by Dick 0. HelIer, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13.2003
Hicks ran steamboats on the Rio Grande, and San Benito was named for him!
Stephens left his property, valued in excess of $100,000 to be equally divided between his two natural daughters, Agnes Anastacia and Frances Euphemia Powers, and his two step-daughters. His lands were not to be divided until his youngest daughter came of age at 21. The two porciones were eventually sold by the surviving heirs after various court cases, to John Closner. At last the ownership of the two porciones came back to Hidalgo County.
Sheriff John Closner, for almost 30 years the boss politically and economically of Hidalgo County, was a native of Wisconsin who ended up in Hidalgo (Edinburg) then the county seat, in 1883, after losing his job on a railroad construction project in Mexico. Penniless, he secured a job as a stagecoach driver, then deputy sheriff. James B. Wells was having a lot of trouble with the politicians in Hidalgo county, so he supported the bid of Closner for sheriff in 1890. Closner stabilized Hidalgo County politics, eradicated cattle rustling, and amassed a fortune by buying up 45,000 acres of pasture, some for as little as 25 an acre, although he paid $2.50 an acre for the 7,521.37 acres he bought in 1904 from the Combe heirs. In 1907 on Feb. 5, James B. Wells paid the Hicks heirs $7,523.73 for their 3,017.5 acres of the porciones, and mortgaged the same to John Closner for $7,920.93. Closner released the mortgage February 21, 1908, and the two men obtained the interest of José Aniceto Hinojosa, only survivor and heir to Juan José Hinojosa, his interest for $150 from Frank C. Pierce who had power of attorney for the sale and had been granted a half interest, also.
Closner and Wells now owned 10,086.35 acres of the porciones, which they sold September 21, 1907 to John J. Conway for $90,777.15, receiving $31,000 cash, and two notes for $29,888.572_1 each, at 8% interest for one and two years each, to be paid to Wells and Closner at the Merchant’s National Bank, Brownsville. This was just seven months after Conway bought-leased porciones 55, 56, and 57. By the way-- you will note that the state of Texas says that porción 54 was traded by the original owner to José Antonio de la Garza, yet the abstract shows descent from the original owner, Ermenegilda Ochoa instead of de la Garza. An interesting question -- do the descendants of José Antonio de la Garza still retain title to porción 54? Wouldn’t that surprise a lot of people!
You’ve often heard that many of the porciones were “stolen” from their owners by sharp attorneys. The porciones had little earning value, or intrinsic value before they were sub-divided and irrigated. But where the lawyers took advantage was in getting the property owners to sign 50% of their lands to the attorney in exchange for his selling the property - an exorbitant percentage, even if, at the time, it represented what a lawyer thought was a fair cash price.
Now let’s consider porciones 55, 56, and 57.
Joseph Antonio Cantu was granted porción 55, Reynosa Vieja distribution in 1767 by King Charles H of Spain. Porción 56, Reynosa Vieja distribution, was granted by the King of Spain to Gabriel Manguilla at the same time; while Porción 55 included the Mission, La Lomita itself was on the line between 56 and 57, the top being just across the Military Telegraph Road; also an impenetrable thicket called “La Seja” and a lime kiln. Porción 57 was allotted to Maria de Luna, but she exchanged it for “El Guajolote”, Porción 80, with José Francisco Cantu. It contained two leagues of pasture land for grazing sheep, and 12 caballerias of 331/3 acres each, and a pool of standing water commonly called “San José.” His son, José Maria Cantu, acting with power of attorney, sold the porcion to Juan José Hinojosa for $30 on July 19, 1794. From him it passed to Domingo de
by Dick D. HeIler, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003
Casteneda, who on May 17, 1806 sold it to Francisco Guerra Chapa, who in turn sold it Feb. 15, 1842 to General Juan Davis Bradburn2 it passed by inheritance to his widow, Maria Josefa Hurtad de Mendoza, who sold it, through her agent Francisco Lojero, to Guillermo Ren’e Guyard, a French merchant of Matamoros, on February 24, 1845.
This was before the United States took over Texas and the Tamaulipas strip on which these porciones rest. It was before the Oblate Fathers came to the United States.
There are many references to Reynosa Vieja - this refers to the original Reynosa, located across the Rio Grande from present-day Penitas, ten or twelve miles upriver from its present, more healthy location across from Hidalgo.
A little later, on May 23, 1851, René Guyard purchased for $400, Porcion 55, from Cipriano Vela Cantü, acting for himself and as attorney in fact for Bias Maria Cabazos, Maria Santos Cabazos, and Maria Antonia Cabazos, heirs of José Antonio Cantü. This was after it had become a part of the United States, together with the other porción, 57, which he owned. Thus, Guyard had $1,000 in the transaction. Recalled his two ranches “El Nogalito” and “La Lomita”. Within a year, he discovered that two French-speaking priests were visiting his ranch, and passing through on their way to and from Roma and Brownsville. Being of French parentage, a widower with no children and with parents deceased, and his nearest relatives being his brothers Francisco and Antonio Tibo, or their heirs, in Viscolon, France; otherwise, his heirs would be his cousins, Claudio and Maria Ta. Carrion; so, being a devout Catholic, he naturally thought of the French order that was ministering to his workers on his ranches, and became well acquainted with them. In fact, in 1861, he and Fr. P.F. Parisot exchanged the property for $1,000, and then traded it back, to clear its title.
On February 21, 1871, René Guyard made out his will. Remade a codicil, referring to some private property, on September 19, and on December 8, 1871 the Mayor of Reynosa, Juan N. Trevino, noted that Guyard had died after September, 1871. The will was originally probated in Reynosa, and it was March 17, 1874 before a copy was probated in Hidalgo Co., TX, U.S.A. His will left his two porciones, No. 55, Nogalito, and No. 57, La Lomita, to the Oblates of Mary, “for the propagation of the faith among the savages.” He advised them to notify the priests, Don Francisco Parisot and Don Pedro [Keralum], so they could make due use of the property, including the cattle thereon.
Since this sounded as though he might be leaving it to the two priests, rather than the religious order, P.F. Parisot, of Cameron County, deeded the land to the Missionary Society of Oblate Fathers of Texas on June 18, 1877, even though on Sep. 18,1875, in their incorporation papers, they had claimed the two porciones, as well as the Brownsville Church and the St. Joseph’s College. Fr. Clos of Roma was on the board of directors, but no mention was made of the Rio Grande City, Roma or Salineno properties receipted for in 1867 by Fr. Clos at Roma.
And it should be noted that the Mission La Lomita was located in Porción 55, “El Nogalito”, well to the west of La Lomita, or the “La Lomita” Porción of 57, which with 56 actually included the hillock itself.
This now brings porciones 53, 54, 55 and 57 into the 20th century. Let’s look at porción 56,
2His last name is spelled Blackburn in some copies of the printed abstract.
by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
which had been granted to Gabriel Manguilla in 1767 during the Reynosa distribution. The name is spelled Manguilla in Texas General Land Office records, and Munguilla in property records. Elsewhere it is spelled Munguia. The record of title to porción 56 is very strange. It starts the September 2, 1880 confirmation by Gov. O. M. Roberts for the State of Texas, of Porcion 56 to the heirs and assigns of Gabriel Munguilla.
Now the second item is the puzzler. It conveys Porcion 55, “El Nogalito” from Antonio Cano and Guadalupe Cano, for themselves and for their brother Antonio Cano, and Dionicio Gonzales, for his wife, Maria Hermengilda Cano, to Maria Ysadora Garcia, for $103.25. This was the property of their deceased father, Luis Cano. The porción is transferred by name, not number-- neither the number 55 or 56 appears in the abstract of the deed. This was done July 13, 1854.
The next item is a tax deed, dated May 31, 1854, conveying all interest of Luis Gano, and of every other owner or claimant whatsoever in Porción 56, to Mrs. Isadora Garcia de Garza, in payment of $10.77 back taxes. The taxes were for the year 1852, the year that the property was confirmed by the legislature to Gabriel Manguilla and his descendants. It seems that porciones 55 and 56 were confused, as there is no written record of Luis Cano having any interest in 56.
On July 21, 1854, Mrs. Margarita Garcia, widow of Cayetano de la Garza, by Adam J. McClelland her attorney in fact, sold Porcion 56, which she had purchased for $10.77 just two months before, to Richard King for $300. King, on October 31, 1854, sold half interest in the porción to John Martin for $150 cash.
On December 24, 1856, King and Martin sold the porción for $500 to Jane Mayhew, who later married Samuel C. Thompson; they, in turn, sold the porción to Lewis B. Wakeman June 18, 1870, for $600 cash.
On Feb. 18, 1874, Wakeman sold the porción to Ruel Hollowell for $479, taking a loss on the land. Hollowell, a widower, sold the land August 6, 1875 to J. B. Bourbois; on December 30, 1879, he mortgaged the land for $1,100 to Alexander J. Leo for one year at 10% interest until paid. John B. Bourbois died July 31, 1882 at the Lomita Ranch at his residence there. Notices of the estate were posted at the Granjeno and Nicolas Caseres ranches, as well as at the courthouse. Bourbois died intestate, and the mortgage still stood against his land. (It is interesting to note that the $1,100 debt was due, not in U.S. money, but Mexican current coin!) F. 0. Rench, administrator of the estate, sold the porción at the courthouse door on Aug. 7, 1882; it was purchased by P. F. Parisot, President of the Missionary Society of Oblate Fathers of Texas for the Society for $4,200, more than satisfying the $1,100 debt The porcion was then measured at 5,759 acres.
Fr. Francis Bugnard rented pastures of the three porciones out to three different farmers, hoping to make some money off the holdings between 1900 and 1902. On June 18, 1906, H. A. Constantineau, president of the Missionary Oblates, sold for $1 a right-of-way through the three porciones to the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway; on March 11, 1908, this right-of-way was again described, this time in terms of the newly platted lots.
The latter transaction took place because on Feb. 27, 1907, shortly after his Christmastime, 1906 arrival in the Valley, John J. Conway had lease-purchased the three porciones, 55, 56, and 57 from the Oblate Fathers. That is, as he sold each parcel of land, he gave the Catholic Fathers full payment for each lot sold, and it was then transferred to the new settler who wanted to buy an irrigated farm.
by Dick D. Helter, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574.9743 (95k) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
There is no doubt that Conway had bad luck - there was no worse time until the Great Depression to contract a debt, and try to finance a canal system for irrigation of the entire five porciones, the other two being bought within six months. It was the year of the Panic of 1907, which closed most banks and stopped financial transactions. That he survived until 1912-14, and got out as well as he did, is a tribute to John J. Conway’s planning and hard work.
As soon as Conway saw that he was going to be forced to sell most of his holdings, he started manipulating transactions to protect his attorney and his son, for all the work they had done, mostly unpaid. D. W. Glasscock was not only working for Conway, but also to bring together porciones 58, 59, and 60, and combine them with the Mission Canal Company, and the lots unsold by Conway, to form Sharyland and the West Addition to the John H. Shary Subdivision, the legal name for Sharyland. John H. Shary was as lucky as Conway was unlucky. Coming in during the boom years preceding and following the First World War, he was able to put together a great land empire, and package it for sale, pushing the development of citrus. During the years from 1912 until 1945, the years he sold thousands of planted citrus orchards, formed the Texas Citrus Exchange, and pushed the grapefruit, by the carloads, into the northern market--there was never a killing freeze! Yet after his death, freezes that wiped out the orchards have occurred regularly, the last two in 1983 and 1989, just six years apart.
Now examine the history of porciones 58, 59 and 60; the former two are known as the Granjeno porciones.
The original grant of porcion 58 was made to Nicolas Bocanegra by the King of Spain in 1767; title was confirmed by the Texas state legislature by an act approved February 10, 1852, and patent issued by the state on May 12, 1884. Porción 58 contains 7,749 acres.
Porción 59 was granted to Ramon Munguia (Manguilla) at the same time, and it was confirmed and patent issued at the same time; it contained only 4,720 acres. But on September 22, 1794, the Governor of Tamaulipas ordered the Chief Justice of Reynosa, Juan José Balli, to transfer the title of land for Porcion 58 to Ramón Munguia, so both porciones were now owned by the same man. He died intestate, and title passed in undivided shares to his seven children, and through seven generations of heirs, with intermarriages, cross-conveyances, etc., between heirs and assigns. Fortunately, the various churches kept family records, and the family free of Ramon Munguia to the 1907 period was 26 typewritten pages, and the list of conveyances was deemed impossible to include in an abstract of reasonable length. But about 1902, John Closner and A. E. Chavez started buying up the interest of the heirs, and transferring them to the Hidalgo Canal Company and the Southern Land and Water Company.
William P. Dougherty, and his brother James L. Dougherty, also bought up shares, beginning as early as the 1880’s, selling a lot 91 varas wide and 25,000 varas deep, to Guadalupe C. de Vela, who conveyed it to A. B. Chavez, who sold to John Closner, who sold to Briggs and Lanz, who sold to the Hidalgo Canal Company.
By numerous transactions, Mrs. Henrietta M. King, widow of boat captain- rancher Richard King, came into possession of 1,700 acres, which she sold in 1886 to James B. Wells, who conveyed them to William P. Dougherty, who conveyed them to A. B. Chavez, then to John Closner, Briggs & Lantz, and Hidalgo Canal Company.
In 1905 and 1906, the Closner lieutenant, County Judge James H. Edwards, executed powers
by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003
of attorney for a number of the heirs, assuming a one-half interest for himself, and transferred 766 acres to another county judge, D. B. Chapin, for whom the town of Chapin, later Edinburg, was named. Edwards’ wife, L.S. Edwards, received interest in 390 1/2 acres, which she and her husband transferred to D. B. Chapin, to the Hidalgo County Bank, to Southern Land and Water Company. In 1908, D. B. Chapin conveyed to the Hidalgo Canal Company all right, title and interest in porciones 58 and 59 north of the Military Road.
In 1911, John Closner acquired interest in 174.69 acres which he conveyed to the Southern Land and Water Company.
Meanwhile in the late 19th century, Francisco Anzaldua, his wife Estéfana Ruiz de Anzaldua, Eulogio Garza and Ysidro Garza, acquired the interest of various heirs. Then a legal judgement against the four in the sum of $5,013.51, confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1891, led to sheriffs sales, and William H. Mason acquired 1,546 acres of this, which he conveyed to John Closner, who conveyed to Briggs & Lanz, who conveyed to the Hidalgo Canal Company.
As can be seen, most of the land is ending up in the hands of either the Hidalgo Canal Company or the Southern Land and Water Company.
On May 26, 1906 Briggs & Lanz conveyed their 18,399-acre ranch in porciones 58,59 and 60 to the Hidalgo Canal Company. The latter transfered its interest in the land May 15, 1909 to Herbert Harris and J. H. Greene-- this is all of 58 and 59 north of the Military Road, except that still owned by Soledad Garza, Antonio Garza, Pedro Garza, Rita Garza, Narciso Garza, and Porfiria Garza, plus all of porcion 60, a total of 16,600 acres. They conveyed the land to the Colorado Texas Sugar Company, which in 1910 conveyed all this land to the Southern Land and Water Company. And on August 16, 1911, the Hidalgo Canal Company conveyed to the Southern Land and Water Company 18,399 acres out of porciones 58, 59, and 60. This was 34,999 acres--out of porciones totaling 18,400 acres!
So, the courts were asked to partition porciones 58 and 59, which was done on April 8, 1912. The Southern Land and Water Company got all of the two porciones, except for 13 exceptions--Praxedis Garza had 74 acres, plus two Granjeno town lots; Antonio Garza, Pedro Garza and Rita Garza, jointly owned 153 acres, and one Granjeno town lot. Porfiria Garcia had two tracts, one of 182.86 acres north of the Military Road, and one of 53.92 acres south of the Military road. William P. and James L. Dougherty jointly owned 873 acres lying south of Granjeno Banco No. 44; and the following each owned one town lot in Garceno: Virginia de Rueda, Jesus Maria Garza, Cecilia Vela de Garza, Desidoro Garza, Gerónima P. de Garza, heirs of Peter Collins, A. J. Leo, and Clara Garza.
This takes care of seven of the eight porciones - the eighth, Porcion 60 of the Reynosa Vieja distribution of 1767 went to Yldefonso Quiroga; it contained 5,931 acres. In 1828, Yldefonso Quiroga conveyed the porción to his brother, Francisco, who conveyed it to Julián Anzaldua. It then descended through his heirs, undivided, for many years. Rafael Vela acquired 814 acres from heirs, and conveyed to John Closner, who conveyed to Briggs & Lanz, who conveyed to Hidalgo Canal Company. John J. Young acquired interest of other heirs, and he and his wife conveyed to to McAllen & Young, who coveyed to Briggs & Lanz, who conveyed to the Hidalgo Canal Company.
Bulogio Garza acquired 125 varas wide by full depth, and conveyed to through William H. Mason, to Manuel de Rueda, to John Closner, to Briggs & Lanz, to Hidalgo Canal Co.
-- - by Dick D. HelIer,Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003 -
Through sheriff’s sales for taxes, Closner obtained 2,969 acres of porcion 60, and conveyed to Briggs & Lanz, who conveyed to the Hidalgo Canal Company. The Hidalgo Canal Company by deed of May 15, 1909 conveyed to Herbert Harris and J. H. Greene 16,600 acres, including all of Porcion 60, to the Colorado Texas Sugar Company, which on June 20, 1910, conveyed those lands to the Southern Land and Water Company; Greene and Harris quit-claimed their interest to the Southern Land and water Company on June 18. On August 16, 1911, the Hidalgo Can Company conveyed its interests to the Southern Land and Water Company.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 27, 1907 John Closner and William S. Dougherty filed their declaration of intention to appropriate water from the Rio Grande river for a canal system to be call the Rio Grande Valley Reservoir and Irrigation Company, intending to construct a reservoir and canals across Porciones 58,59 and 60. Closner did this again in 1908 and a third time, as President of the Rio Grande Valley Reservoir and Irrigation Company; the company repeated in 1909 and Closner repeated again in 1908.
The Valley Reservoir and Canal Company, a co-partnership of V. A. Albers, J. R. Alamia and D. B. Chapin, filed a similar declaration, and in 1909 filed condenmation suits against the sugar company and Greene-Harris, to condenm a canal right-of-way. This suit was dismissed Nov. 17, 1911. On Feb. 27, 1911 the Southern Land and Water Company filed suit against the Valley Reservoir and Land Company, the Rio Grande Valley Reservoir and Irrigation Company, John Closner, D. B. Chapin, J. R. Alamia and V. A. Albers; on Dec. 5, 1911, the Southern Land and Water company won its suit, and owned 18,379 acres in porciones 58, 59, and 60, the other owned very minor holdings, and had no canal or irrigation rights. -
The Southern Land and Water Company, on January 15, 1912, conveyed 40.7 acres of right of way in Porción 60 to the Valley Reservoir and Canal Company, which built the canal; they conveyed on Dec. 9, 1912, a strip of land 120 feet in width across their three porciones, containing 31.76 acres, plus another 7.62 acres, which was later occupied by canals of La Lomita Irrigation and Construction Company. On July 1, 1913 Southern Land and Water Company conveyed its remaining 16,369.32 acres in the three porciones to the Bankers Trust Company, which was to complete an agreement with the Mission Canal Company to provide water for the three eastern porciones, 58, 59, and 60 , in addition to 53-57. This was done, and combined with Conway’s remaining unsold lots, later to comprise the West Addition to the John H. Shary subdivision (Sharyland).
It was at this point that John H. Shary sat down to decide whether he should buy all this, and spend the rest of his life in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, trying to make it all go. He took out his lucky coin and tossed it three times. It came up heads all three times, so Shary decided to make the purchase from the Bankers Trust Company, and stay in the Valley. Another show of the Shary luck.
And so John H. Shary, the developer from the north, a businessman, started in to do what a bevy of political leaders and local developers could not -- set up the enterprise of the Mission area, and actually carry it out!
Following the Panic of 1907, the Bankers Trust Company was able to consolidate the holdings of John J. Conway and combine them with neighboring property in such a way that the development could be successfully continued, It took more capitalization than Conway, Hoit, Wellcome, and their friends could assemble. But while the others disappear from the story, John J.
_________ — - - by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13.2003
Conway, to his everlasting credit, stayed in Mission, and continued in its development with all his heart and soul as long as he lived, as did his son, Roy P. Conway, and his family.
There are many, many more heroes and heroines in the story of Mission. It took land salesmen, canal-men, ranchers, farmers, citrus developers, and of course their wives and children, to complete the dream.
John J. Conway and James W. Hoit were the first developers; Hoit’s wife died, and he disappeared the day before he was to testify against a Mr. Stewart; whether or not he left voluntarily, with some of the company funds, was never discussed.3 The company did go into receivership shortly after he left. I believe he disappeared in San Antonio.
Conway continued, on a much reduced basis, to develop land after he lost the Mission Canal Company, and much of his remaining property, but to the end of his life in 1931 he brought down groups of land buyers from the north to look at Mission farms and orchards.
The canal company was purchased by John H. Shary who combined the canal company with Conway’s lost lands and the Granjeno Land Company to form Sharyland.
In the 1910’s and early 1920’s, they were the big land developers. Later came Lloyd Bentsen and his brother, who developed between 50,000 and 70,000 acres in the Valley area, probably more than Conway and Shary combined.4 Bentsen started with Bentsen Grove, west of Mission, one porción wide from the river back 12 or 14 miles. He also developed huge tracts northeast and northwest of Edinburg, along 281. Nick Dolffing had a large addition west of Mission, from 3-mile to 9 or 10-mile, between Dolffing and Minnesota Roads.
E. M. Goodwin had large tract.
Mr. Renfro developed Mission Grove Estates west of Mission.
Howard Moffitt and Tom Cross developed Texas Gardens, about 15,000 acres from the old Vela Ranch; they bought out the Bentsen Club house and interests, which stretched from the river to about two miles south of McCook,
Rudolfo and Raul Vela have about 7,000 acres, not a part of the old ranch, which may be up for sale now. Rudolfo never married, but Raul leaves a son. The Stewarts developed the Lahoma addition --they were from Oklahoma City, and Lahoma is the last part of Oklahoma. This was a large citrus development west of Alton.
LeRoy Bell developed Bell’s Woods and two or three other 300 - 400 acre tracts in the 1 920”s.
The Homewood Subdivisions, A, B, C, and D -- were made between 1910 and 1916, and were 99% bought up by mid-westerners. However, they never got enough water to farm.
Monte Christo (Melado Tract) failed as a town development because theft wells failed, but later they did get water rights, from District 15. A Jewish man, named Hexter, formed a company
3This information came from Roy conway’s daughter and son-in-law, implying that there well might have been other reasons for Hoit leaving. In researching hoit-- be careful. there is another Hoit, usually spelled hoyt, in Brownsville, just a little earlier than this one, and he is buried there.
4This information was given to me by land developer
by DickD. Heller, Jr., 3103 GranIte Dr., Missinn, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug.13,2OO3
Woods Christian, brother-in-law of the owner of the First National Bank of Fort Worth (his second wife is still living in McAllen( 1992)) bought 10,000 acres north of McCook from some Houston interests, and was land-poor and unable to develop until he finally leased enough land for oil wells to pay off his mortgage.
W. R. Montague formed the Edinburg Improvement Association.
Later, it took the military -- both Army and air force - and then the winter tourists -- to finish the picture. And the local politicians who got the roads, water lines, sewers, water treatment plants, planning and zoning regulations, that make it such a pleasure to live here. And not to mention the invention of air conditioning! Fine restaurants, universities, orchestras, theaters and libraries fill in the refinements of complete, fruitful living. All this while maintaining the quality of the environment for the native plants and animals make the valley what it is becoming today.
And so what has happened to the porciones? The developers, like Conway and Hoit, John H. Shary, and later the Bentsens, subdivided the land, obliterating the old porcion lines. They are no longer “visible’ -- but you can still find them, if you want to. The lines between the porciones run north and south from the river, paralleling the north-south streets. And so the following roads are the porcion boundaries, as they were originally assigned by the King of Spain:
The east boundary of Porción 60 is Bentsen Road.
The east boundary of porcion 59 is just west of Taylor Road, and Shary is about the center.
Glasscock Road is the center of porción 58.
Stewart Road or Rincon, is the west boundary of porcion 58.
The east boundary of porcion 58 is Stewart Road, while Bryan is the center. Higheland Park-Mayberry form the center of porcion 56.
Highway 107 is the center of porción 55.
Trosper Road is the east-central of porción 54.
Los Ebanos forms the east boundary of porción 53, and Inspiration Road is the west boundary.
Moore Field Road is the west boundary of 52, and Lahoma is the west boundary of 51. Porciones 57 to 62 extend half a mile north of 107.
Rev. May 21, 1993
Proofread July 14, 1994
Re-read March 16, 1998
by Dick B. Helter, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574.9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
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