1749 Texas Iberian Ranches
This page provides a brief glimpse into the history of the men and women who developed the first cattle ranches in Texas. Their ancestors came from Spain and Portugal. They were old Christians and conversos. But they had one thing in common, they want to find a new life in the northern frontier of New Spain where they found wealth, poverty, and challenge.
In 1574 Luis de Carvajal y la Cueva, a descendant of Sephardic Jews, received permission from King Phillip II to explore and conquer new lands north of the Panuco river and west of Zacatecas. This land included present day Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and South Texas. The contract with the monarch failed to include that the Carvajal's colonists had to demonstrate "pureza de sangre" (that they were old Christians for four generations) or that they were Spanish subjects. Thus, many of the colonists were Spanish or Portuguese conversos. Carvajal was appointed Governor Captain General of the lands to be conquered. He outfitted a vessel with his own money and brought his colonists to the New Kingdom of Nuevo León. The Carvajal expedition provided the foundation of Cerralvo, Nuevo León.
In 1746 Jose de Escandón , a prominent soldier from Santander, Spain, received permission from the Spanish Crown to move about 6,000 individuals from Nuevo Léon, Coahuila, and as far south as Queretaro to settle the province of El Nuevo Santander. The new land stretched roughly 300 miles from present day South Texas in the north to Panuco and the Huasteca Tamaulipeca in the south. It extended about 100 miles from the Gulf of México to present day Coahuila and San Luis Potosí.
Escandón and the pioneer families founded the villages of Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana de Camargo and Reynosa in 1749, Revilla 1750, Mier 1753, and Laredo 1755. Life in the northern frontier of New Spain was not easy, but the ranchers were seasoned fighters who had fought Comanche and Apache war parties and French soldiers since the days of Nuevo León in the 1600s. Part of their daily life was to be on the alert for Indian raids and banditry.
One of this men was Blas de la Garza Falcon. In 1766 he established probably the first cattle ranch in Texas, the Rancho Real de Santa Petronila in Nueces County
In 1774 the heirs of José de Escandón offered for sale some of their land holdings east of Camargo to the Gulf of México. Thirteen Camargo families bought 113 cattle ranches which represented about 2.8 million acres stretching 100 miles west from the mouth of the Rio Grande. They founded the Congregación de Nuestra Señora del Refugio de los Esteros later known as Matamoros.
Among the buyers from Camargo were Ramon and Marcelino Longoria Hinojosa two of the sons of Matias Longoria Chapa and Margarita Hinojosa Lopéz and Joseph Santiago Longoria Chapa, a nephew of Matias. The Longorias moved to Matamoros in 1784 with their respective families and with ten other Camargo families closely related to the Longorias. The thirteen pioneer families prospered in their ranches in the Matamoros side and throughout the Texas counties of Starr, Hidalgo, Web, Cameron, Wilacy, Jim Hogg, and Nueces. Horses and cattle thrived in their ranches. Since the rancher families were related among themselves either by blood or marriage of their children, there was no need to brand the livestock which roamed freely throughout the brush country of South Texas and northern Tamaulipas.
The El Nuevo Santander ranches were probably the first ones to organize cattle drives to Coahuila and Louisiana. It was the abundance of horses and cattle that attracted Philip Nolan and other Anglo filibusters to South Texas. Only after newcomers started rounding up the livestock of the pioneer families, the founder ranchers started branding their cattle and horses before the filibusters branded the live stock of the Spanish ranches. In the 1850s several Nuevo Santander ranchers registered their in the Nueces County Court House:
They invented the vaquero or cowboy, who drove cattle and horses in the bush county of 1700 Texas, long before the days of the Santa Fe and Kansas Trails, or the King Ranch.. Yet the history of the pioneers who faced the wilderness of Texas in the 1700s to develop the first cattle ranches of Texas has not been told.
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