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									 The History of
   Mission,
Hidalgo County,
    Texas.
 A Historic Lower Rio Grande Valley City




                                      By Dick D. Heller, Jr.
                                       3103 Granite Drive
                                        Mission, TX 78574
                                             July 23, 1994
                                            Aug. 13, 2003
                                                         i




                                  Introduction
         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
                                                 (956) 581-9445
                                               ddheller@aol.com
                                                  April25, 1996
                                                 March 10, 2002
                                                  ii




                                  Table of Contents
Introduction                                                  i
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
                                             iii


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
                                                                  1




                          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@aol.com Oct. 11, 2001
                                                              2



                                                        Chapter 1

                                      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
                                                                  3

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
                                                                     4


         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;



        1
            See 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
                                                                   5

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
                                                                     6

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,


        2
            His 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
                                                                   7

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
                                                                   8

         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
                                                                     9

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   -
                                                                                10

          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
                                                                       11

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



        3
        This 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.
        4
            This 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
                                                                    12

there.
          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.
                                                                                           April24, 1993
                                                                                      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
                                                         13


                                                     Chapter 2


        Local Ranchers help United States win Independence!

         Did you know that Spain and Mexico, including this area of present-day Texas, helped the Americans win
their Independence during the Revolutionary War?

         During the American War for Independence, 1775-1783, the 17 southmost counties of present-day Texas
were apart of northern Tamaulipas, today the Mexican state just south of eastern Texas. But at that time it was
known as the province of Nuevo Santander in Nueva Espana, the northern part of the Western Hemisphere allotted
to Spain by the Pope when he divided up the New World between Spain and Portugal.
         There were, at that time, about 186 large ranches, called porciones, along the Rio Grande and north of that
river, in present-day Hidalgo, Starr, Zapata and Webb Counties. Cameron, Willacy and the other counties in that
part of Tamaulipas were open range, used by the some of the prosperous ranchers as ―summer range.‖ There were
even four little villages--Laredo, Dolores, Los Saenz, and Carnestolendas, the latter two presently known as Roma
and Rio Grande City! These communities were part of the counties then associated with Reynosa Vieja, Camargo,
Mier and Revilla (twenty miles northwest of Nueva Ciudad Guerrero today).
         This 17-county region is the major part of what was known as the ―Cattle Kingdom‖, which at the time
offered almost perfect conditions for raising livestock: the country was generally flat and open, grass was plentiful,
water was sufficient at the time, and the climate was mild.2 The entire area was filled with countless roving herds of
cattle, horses, sheep, goats, donkeys and mules. The birthplace of ranching peopled by the models for numberless
future cowboys, this area had only been settled about a decade, since 1 767 3.
         There were no fences to mark the limits of the ranches, so the cattle were told apart by markings we call
brands today. They were rounded up; most of the cattle were useful only as hides and tallow, because the Indians
and lack of transportation made use of the meat almost impossible.
         Now, most of us think of the first big cattle drive as coming in the period right after the Civil War-- but
historically the first big drive took place in 1779, to provide cattle for the great Governor


        ‗See Guide to Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in South Texas, published in 1988 by the Texas General
Land Office, based on Virginia H. Taylor‘s Index to Spanish and Mexican land Grants published in 1976, it was
revised by William N. Todd IV with an introduced by Galen Greaser.
        2
            See pp. 208-210, Walter Prescott Webb, the Great Plains. Boston: 1931.
        3
         See p. 12, Robert H. Thonhoff, The Texas Connection With The American Revolution.
Austin: Eakin Publications, Inc., 1981.

  Assembled by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheIIer@aoLcom
                                                         14

and General Bernardo de Galvan.4
                  All was not easy for the residents of Nuevo Santander at that time. On the last day of December,
1776, the Pisón Indians rose up and devastated the settlers and settlements in the area of Reynosa, Camargo, Mier
and Revilla (Guerrero). Gov. José de Escandon immediately led an expedition against the Indians, sending 30 in
chains to Havana, and transferring the rest to the vicinity of Laredo, in the neighborhood of the barbarian and
Apache tribes.
         Few of us know about the help given by the Spanish5 to the American colonists in their War of
Independence from Britain. Our schools teach about French, Polish, and Prussian involvement, but almost nothing
of the many contributions of the Spanish crown.
         When the Revolutionary War started, the British shared control of the Mississippi River with Spain, and
they immediately cut off the river to the nascent Americans, and captured all the American boats that tried to use
the River. They also controlled all of present-day Florida, and the south parts of present-day Georgia, Alabama,
and Mississippi. They used the ports in this area to help blockade the Colonies, and to keep them bottled up, away
from possible French or Spanish help.
         But France and Spain were still furious about their defeat in the Seven Years War; 1755-63, and France‘s
loss of all its possessions in North America. They were not anxious for a ―democratic‖ state or states to get started,
but anything that weakened England would help them. Still, they did not want to risk another disastrous war with
England, unless the Colonies had a chance of winning, which hardly seemed possible in 1776.
         Between 1775 and 1782, Spain provided more than $3 million in aid to the American causer With Spanish
weapons, the armies of George Washington fought the British redcoats. Spanish-supported battles in what is now
Illinois (and Indiana!} held that region for the patriots and prevented the British from cutting off supplies coming
up the Mississippi from Spaniards in New Orleans.
         Other Spanish forces captured British forts in present-thy Alabama and Florida [and turned them over to
the Americans.] Spain and her New World colonies opened warehouses and treasuries to American diplomats,
traders and military leaders, giving them whatever they needed to carry out their struggle.
         Spanish ships and armies tied up British operations in Europe and the Americas, thereby preventing
England from using her full might to crush the American revolution. When we celebrate our freedom on July 4, we
should realize that the Spanish people and their American-born descendants share with pride that achievement.
                                       --                                       --


                                                   Spanish Sympathy
         As the War of Independence began in 1775, the 13 original British colonies shared the continent with a
huge Spanish domain, called Nueva Espana, extending from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, and from
Alaska to the tip of South of America. Spain was the world‘s largest



        4
            See p. 57, Thonhoff‘s The Texas Connection With The American Revolution.
        5
            Adopted by Vista July 5, 1992 from ―Spanish Aid to American Independence‖ by Nancy Brown,
published by the Spanish History Museum of Albuquerque, NM.

  Assembled by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com
                                                          15

colonial power.6
         Within that territory was Louisiana, which Louis XV had turned over to his brother, Carlos III in 1763,
when France deserted its possessions in North America.{At the behest of the British, who won the 1756-63 Seven
Years or French & Indian War then.}
         When the Americans turned against their mother country, it was inevitable that fighting would break out
along the western edge of the colonies. It was predictable, too, that the rebels would seek help from Spain. After all,
ever since the Spanish Armada was trounced in 1588 by the ships of Elizabeth I, relations between Madrid and
London had been less than friendly.
         And although Spain was not at war with Britain in 1776, King Carlos III shipped to the Colonies in secret
                                                                                                             --


 one million dollars; worth of armament.
--


         Thick ledgers in the national Historical Archives of Madrid list shipments of gunpowder, muskets,
ammunition, food, tents, tools, cannons, pistols, mortars and boats. Uniforms, too, and medical supplies, blankets,
needles, woolen caps, even shoe buckles. There are hundreds of other items, too varied to describe.
         Weapons and supplies were transported by Spanish ships to warehouses in Bermuda, Havana and New
Orleans, where they could be picked up by the Americans. In fact, the Madrid Archives contain an effusive letter
from Benjamin Franklin to Spain‘s Count Aranda, thanking him for 12,000 muskets delivered to Boston for
Washington‘s men.
         As if materiel were not enough, Spain sent over commanders, artillery experts, engineers and skilled
craftsmen to advise the American rebels. Irishmen who had fled to Spain to escape English domination volunteered
to fight alongside the Americans.
         [[A common trick to circumvent the British blockade of the Mississippi River was for the Spanish
warships to ―seize‖ American vessels in full view of British patrol boats. Once the British had sailed away, the
Spaniards would transfer supplies from their cargo holds to the ―Captured‖ American ships and allow them to go
on their way.]]
         Much of the Spanish support for the Americans came from Louisiana, whose governors Luis de Unzaga
and later Bernardo de Gálvez were not only skilled diplomats but also shrewd military tacticians. Once relations
                                 --


between Britain and Spain collapsed and war between them broke out in 1779, that support became vital.
         Carlos III had promised to equip and pay for a joint Spanish-rebel expedition against the English in
Natchez, Mobile and Pensacola. By 1780, Spain was ready for this endeavor, but the war had gone badly for the
Americans and they could not join the campaign.
         By necessity then, Gálvez alone led his 1,400-man Louisiana Battalion against the English strongholds in
the Natchez area. Forts Manchac and Panmuré fell, and son did Baton Rouge. The British withdrew to Fort
Charlotte, in Mobile.
         Galvez regrouped in new Orleans and organized his attack on Mobile, with 754 fighters reinforced by 567
soldiers from Cuba. Victory was theirs on March 14, 1780. Next objective:
Pensacola.


          6
              See p. 425, Robert Leckie, George Washington „s War The Saga of the American Revolution. New
                                                                   --




York:Harpercollins Publishers. 1993 Harper Perennial Edition.


     Assembled by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com
                                                         16

         Neutralizing the British at Pensacola would free the American forces of pressures from the south and allow
them to fight the remaining British troops at Yorktown, in Virginia.
         The Spanish assault on Pensacola was directed from Cuba, with men and supplies coming from Spain,
Louisiana, Mexico Puerto Rico Santo Domingo, and other Spanish-held lands. After a 60-day siege, British forces
at Fort George surrendered on May 8, 1781.
         The victory was a turning point. The British no longer controlled the Mississippi River or the southern gulf
coast. Free of this danger, Washington‘s army prepared for Yorktown, a battle in which Spain also played an
important part.
                                                 Cuban Money, Too
         Most Americans have learned that the Battle of Yorktown was an American and French victory over the
British, but few know that the people of Cuba provided the money that financed it.
         George Washington‘s men were in poor condition in 1781, in need of clothing, food, guns, ammunition,
medicine, and morale. The general asked his French supporters for aid, but they were short of money, too.
However, French officials in Haiti contacted the Spanish authorities who arranged to get 1.2 million pesos for
Washington from Cuba.
         Cuba‘s Spanish government donated part of the cash; businessmen and society ladies of Havana raised the
rest. The businessmen, not surprisingly, hoped for good trade relations with the nation that would soon be born.
The women donated their jewelry because they sympathized with American ideas of liberty and independence. { {
{????} } }
         Besides, the Cubans resented the British, who had sacked their shores often in the past.
         With the cooperation of the Havana authorities, the money was raised in five hours and placed aboard a
French ship sailing back to Yorktown. Francisco Miranda, the future father of Venezuelan independence, then an
aide to Gov. Juan Manuel de Cagigal of Cuba, delivered the funds to the French commander. [[Earlier, Miranda
and Cagigal had commanded the Cuban forces that fought alongside Galvez at Pensacola]]
         The money thus collected helped finance the American campaign at Yorktown, which ended October 17,
1781, with the British surrender. The American colonists had become truly independent, as later guaranteed by
treaty in 1783, and reaffirmed in 1814 with the treay ending the War of 1812, the Second War for American
Independence..
                                                  Incalculable Help
         The total amount of help that the Spanish gave to the Americans will never be known. Aid was given in a
hundred different ways and receipts were seldom issued. In a 1787 report in Mexico City, the people of New Spain
- including New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas were credited with donating nearly one million pesos to
                                                          --


the Americans‘ war effort.
         But in addition to their material support, we should remember the generous Spanish people who helped the
American patriots in their hour of need- the weavers, the shippers, the soldiers, the boatmen and the farmers who
supplied, fed, clothed and defended the rebels until independence was won. And especially the ranchers and
vaqueros of this area of present-day Texas for supplying beef, goats and sheep for the Louisiana forces of Gov.
Bernardo de Gálvez!
         The people of the United States owe the Spanish, the Mexicans an d the Cubans a debt of gratitude for their
part in the birth of this nation--a debt repaid by theft government with the Spanish-American War, the War with
Mexico and the present Cuban intervention!!!

  Assembled by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.coin
                                                                    17




                                                           CHAPTER 3
                                           Gen. Juan Davis Bradburn

         Did you know that the Mexican official who singlehandedly infuriated the Texans to rebellion against
Mexico in 1832 is buried just south of Mission, on the hill where the Novitiate stands by La Lomita Chapel?
         And that he also was the first to bring a steamboat to the Rio Grande, decades before Kenedy, King or
Stillman?
         And was the man who convinced Gen. Iturbide to change sides from Spain to the Mexican insurgents,
winning theft independence for them?
         Or that he was born in Virginia, raised in Kentucky, ran a business in Tennessee, and was an officer in
several Louisiana-based filibusters, before coming to Mexico? That his wife‘s family had built in Mexico City the
famous blue ―House of Tiles‖, known during the 19th century as Sanborn‘s Restaurant?
         The man we are speaking about is Gen. Juan Davis Bradburn, born in 1787 in Virginia as John Davis
Bradburn! He came to Mexico with Francisco Xavier Mina in 1817. He fought his way across the country, finally
joining (Guerrero and then entered the Mexican Army as a lieutenant colonel.2 He went from Guerrero to Iturbide,
and in 1821 made the arrangements for Iturbide to change sides, and finally win the long war against Spain. He
then prospered under Agustin Iturbide, as his aide. The same year an act of heroism in the Battle of Iguala secured
his promotion to Colonel3, and he married Maria Josefa Hurtado de Mendoza y Caballero de los Olivos, the 5th
Marquise de Ciria and 15th Marshal of Castilla. Her brother, Agustin Hurtado, was 9th Count of the Valley of
Orizaba; he, in turn, had married the sister of Mariano Paredes y Arrillagra, who was President of Mexico briefly in
1846. Bradburn‘s wife‘s family, the Hurtados, owned a large tract of land in Mexico City near the Zocalo and
Cathedral, and their residence was known as the Casa de Azulejos (House of Blue Tiles), better known to this
generation as Sanborn‘s Restaurant.4
         His correspondence with Iturbide and the minister of relations during the years 1822-23 in




             Henson, Margaret Swett. Juan Davis Bradburn. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982.
pp. 20-1.

        2 Webb,    Walter Prescott. p. 203, Vol. I, Handbook of Texas. p.203.


        3
            Henson, op. cit.
        4
            Henson, op. cit., pp. 37-38.

                  by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574~9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug._13, 2003
                                                                        18

connection with the Milam-Wavell land grant in Texas is reported in Bolton (1913), page 353.5 Even after Iturbide
was driven from the country, he prospered in Mexico.
        In 1828 there were three governments in Mexico, but General Anastacio Bustamante, a centralist and
commandant at Laredo, established himself as dictator, overthrowing the Congressional government, which in turn
had ousted the popularly elected president. Among the Army officers loyal to Bustamante, and hence rewarded,
was Col. Juan Davis Bradburn. As one recompense for his long and meritorious service in the cause of Mexican
Independence, he was given the right to steam and ―mule‖ navigation of the Rio Grande by decree of November 4,
1821. He took as his partner Stephen McL. Staples, whose family had a commission house in London and had
established a branch in Mexico.6 The two became the first to navigate the Rio Grande by steam, hoping thus to
make theft fortunes.7
        Twelve persons saw him at the mouth of the Rio Grande in 1829, and he told them that he was just a
―looker-on,‖ but was expecting an appointment any day. He may have been there awaiting the arrival of Captain
Henry Austin, Stephen Austin‘s cousin, who was bringing his steamboat ―Ariel‖ to the river, and was first known
to chum the river‘s muddy waters by steam. Stambaugh believed that Captain Austin was operating under
Bradburn‘s grant.8
        Bradburn and Staples had hoped to make their fortunes, but Fate intervened. In 1829, the
Spanish attempted to reconquer Mexico, and Bradburn was recalled to active duty,9 and sent to New
Orleans to investigate the condition of the colonists there.10 On his return he was ordered to
Galveston to command the military forces at Anahuac.11
        Santa Anna defeated the Spanish, but Col. Bradburn was kept on duty, and soon became the most hated
man in Texas, as far as American settlers were concerned.
        The Act of January 24, 1823, exempted American settlers in Texas from customs taxes for


        5
             Champion, A.A. ltr dtd September 1, 1978, to John V. Clay, Houston, TX, paragraph 2, end.

        6 Kelley,     Pat. River of Lost Dreams: Navigation on the Rio Grande, University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln,
1986.

        7
         Berlandier, Jean Louis. Journey to Mexico in the Years 1828 to 1834. Trans. by
Sheila M. Ohlendorf, Josette M. Bigelow, and Mary M. Standifer. 2 Vols. Austin: Texas State Historical
Association, 1980. I: 267, 268.
        8
             Southwest Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI, page 279.
        9
            lbid.
        10
             Ibid.
        11
          Castaneda, Carlos E. The Mexican Side of the Texan Revolution. Austin & Dallas:
Graphic Ideas Incorporated, 1970., p. 267-8.
                     by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
                                                                      19

six years. By 1825 the commerce between the United States and Texas had grown to such an extent that the
Mexican government extended the customs service over Texas; some necessary articles were placed upon the free
list, but others were taxed to excess, the colonists felt. At the expiration of the ―duty free‖ period for Texans, the
government prepared to collect the taxes.12
          Following Mexico‘s freedom from Spain, the people of Mexico were divided, as those in the United States
had been earlier, between those who, like the American Federalists, preferred a strong, central government, and
those, like the Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, preferred a confederation of states, a de-centralized
government. President Anastacio Bustamante was one of the former, while the American colonists in Texas greatly
preferred the latter, represented at the time by insurrectionists under Gen. Antonio L. de Santa Anna.‘3
          President Bustamante, at a cost of half a million dollars, built custom houses and delineated districts in
Texas, and sent 1,300 troops to garrison posts protecting the custom houses. Col. Bradburn was named collector in
east Texas. He established his headquarters and erected a brick fort at Anáhuac. The American settlers in the area
were there under the provisions of the national colonization law of August 18, 1824; it required each settler to have
a permit from the national government. It required lawyers to have a license obtained at the state capital. Of course
the Americans, used to a decentralized government, often failed to secure the necessary Federal papers. Several of
these ―cornstalk lawyers‖ who had read U.S. law and obtained county licenses in the U.S. were practicing in
Liberty, where Gen. Don Manuel de Mier y Teran described them as a plague of locusts, a bunch of idlers and
troublemakers. Gen. Mier y Terán was the Commandant of Texas and Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, a
staunch Centralist. Among the ―cornstalk‖ lawyers were William B. Travis and Patrick Churchill Jack; apparently
only Thomas Jefferson Chambers had a legal Mexican license to practice law in the colony.‘2
          Col. Bradburn was ordered to restore order (enforce Mexican law), move the settlement of Liberty to
Anahuac where he could keep an eye on troublemakers, and enforce the tariffs. The ―Mexican‖ colonel moved
immediately to follow his orders, which infuriated the Americans, who felt that an ―American‖ like Bradburn
should side with them, and the rebels under Gen. Santa Anna. But Col. Bradburn had cast his lot with the Centrists,
and remained loyal to them until the end of his life. In June, 1832, writing from Matamoros to Samuel May
Williams, Stephen F. Austin had heard of the trouble at Anéhuac, and supposed that Bradburn had acted hastily and
in passion, adding ―The fact is he is incompetent to such a command and is half crazy part of the time.‖ John
Austin, a distant relative of his more famous cousin, and commander of the force that captured Velasco, referred to
Bradburn‘s ―many despotic and arbitrary acts‖.11
          Col. Bradburn had sent George Fisher, a Serb who had professed allegiance first to Turkey, then to the
United States, and finally to Mexico, to run the customhouse, but the Texans, used to exclusion from paying duties,
considered Fisher an obnoxious pettifogger, and they considered Bradburn to be arrogant, officious, humorless and
precipitate in his actions-- jailing the land commissioner, just arrived to issue long-delayed titles to settlers east of
Austin‘s colonies; then he


        12 Gambrell,Herbert.      Anson Jones, The Last President of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2d ed.,
paperback, 1988. pp. 31-32.

                by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13. 2003
                                                                      20

dissolved the ayuntamiento of nearby Liberty, clamped martial law upon the coast country, impressed labor and
supplies, encouraged slaves to run away, and declined to punish his soldiers for offenses against civilians.12
        In May, 1832, he put the Colonist‘s ―Border Reserve‖ under martial law, and arrested William B. Travis,13
Patrick C. Jack, and Ewin Waller, firing on the Sabine, Waller‘s ship. Citizens from all parts of the American
settlements in Texas took up arms, and threatened Bradburn, who agreed to release the prisoners, but then reneged.
Enraged citizens adopted the Turtle Bayou Resolutions,13 and fought the battle of Velasco while bringing cannons
to use against Bradburn.14
        Col. José de las Piedras14 arrived just in time, and was persuaded to relieve Col. Bradburn of his command.
        The former American colonel was scheduled to stand trial at Anáhuac, but he fled to New Orleans, and
returned to Matamoros, Mexico, where he submitted his report to his superior.15

         Now, it will be noted that the tone and many facts in this account are completely at variance with the
account by Virgil Loft in his People and Plots on the Rio Grande, published in 1957. The basic facts in his account
are taken from accounts of Texas patriots, and for many years were accepted as true. For example, in the first
paragraph of ―Renegade Runaway‖ on page 69 of Lott, he tells how Bradburn escapes from jail while awaiting trial
for stealing a Negro. Such was the recollection of one of the Texas patriots16 of 1836 who thought he remembered
Bradburn from Tennessee. This account was carefully checked by Margaret Swett Henson in her 1982 both on
Bradburn, entitled Juan Davis Bradburn. She looked up newspapers for the June date given, and found that a man
with a somewhat similar name had escaped from jail, but not Bradburn. The same account claimed that Bradburn‘s
brother had drowned during the escape. Actually, he had drowned, but it was several days before, and not related to
the jail break.
         The next point, brought out by Mrs. Jenson, was that Col. Bradburn was a Mexican officer, not an
American officer. He followed orders, and did exactly what he was told, in as gentle a manner as was possible. He
was no Benedict Arnold -- Arnold, you will recall, was an American officer who went over to the British. Bradburn
was an American by birth but a Mexican by naturalization, and was a Mexican officer, and stayed loyal to his
government at all times.
         Thus, it turns out, he was far more honorable than the early ―patriots‖ thought, and perhaps more honorable
than the so-called patriots, who had accepted mexican hospitality, then turned


        13
             See p. 125, Lynn L. Perrigo, Texas and Our Spanish Southwest, Dallas: Banks Upsitaw and Company,
198-.
        14
          See p. 69, and pp. 90-92, Vicente Filisola, Memoirs of the war in Texas, Wallace Woolsey, translator.
Austin: Eakin Press, 1985.
        15
          See p. 475, John H. Jenkins, Gen. Ed. The papers of the Texas Revolution 1835-1836,
Austin: Presidial Press, Brig. Gen. Jay A. Matthews, Publisher, 1973.
        16
             See p. 261, Ibid.

                  by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574.9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
                                                                      21

against them, setting up their own government.
         Bradburn was immediately reassigned to join President Bustamante and his Centrist army, arriving in time
to participate in the decisive battle of September 18, 1832 in which Bustamante defeated a much larger santanista
force, partly due to Bradburn‘s outstanding service, and the Colonel was breveted a Brigadier General and assigned
to command a regiment near Reynosa.17
         But Bustamante and Santa Ana made peace in December, 1832, and on January 13, 1833 Bradburn and his
santanista counterpart, Lorenzo Cortina agreed to combine their forces into a single unit commanded by Gen.
Cortina. During the following period of reform, Gen. Bradburn retired to his home just east of Matamoros on the
south side of the river, and lived there with his wife and son, Andrés. He established himself just southeast of
Matamoros, where he had a large farm, and produced vegetables for the city. A description of the place comes
down to us from an 1848 letter from Helen Chapman to her mother:
                     ―…On account of the roads, we put the carriage on board the steamboat, and kept on the boat,
         until we were within 25 miles by water and eight by land from Matamoras, then we took the carriage. The
         place were we left the steamboat is called Arista‘s landing, being the place where he crossed with his army.
                ―I was surprised to see the farms looked so well cultivated and the ranches looked more comfortable
         than they generally do. On this road, was a farm owned by an American gentleman, General Brewburn 18,
         who took an active part in the former Mexican wars, and owned a very large estate.19 He spent immense
         sums of money, married a Spanish Countess under the Empire and was a man of great influence. He
         separated from his wife and died a few years since. There is enough left about the estate to attract curiosity,
         and make one inquire about it, but it is little more than a




        17
             Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of the Mexican People. New York: Bancroft Co., 1914.
        18
             A typical mispelling of Bradburn‘s name, mispronounced locally.
        19
           {footnote in original document] 1. John (or Juan) Davis Bradburn, formerly of
Kentucky, had been Mexico‘s commander and collector of customs in the port of Anáhuac at the head of Galveston
Bay. Conflicts with Texas colonists in 1831 and 1832, culminating in the
arrests of Patrick C. Jack, William B. Travis, and Edwin Wailer, resulted in what is known as the Anahuac
Disturbances. See Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Stephen Branda (eds.), The Handbook of
Texas,(3 vols.; Austin Texas State Historical Association, 1952, 1976), 1203; Nathaniel W. Stephenson, Texas and
the Mexican War (New York: United States Publishers Association, Inc., 1921) 3845; Virgil N. Loft and Virginia
M. Fenwick, People and Plots on the Rio Grande, (San Antonio: Naylor Company, 1957) 69-75.

                  by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003
                                                                     22

          ruin. His wife is still living in the City of Mexico.‖2°
          In 1835, a number of revolts broke out in north Texas, and President Santa Anna sent his brother-in-law,
General Martin Perfecto de Cos, to command the Eastern Interior States, and Col. Bradburn was given the task of
organizing the military government of Coahuila and Texas.28 But the inept General Cos was defeated and
surrendered, and President Santa Anna started north with a column of troops. Bradburn agreed to serve under
General José Urrea, who started north with his troops along the coast on February 17, 1836 to intercept a force of
Anglos hoping to raid Matamoros, and loot the customhouse there. Frank W. Johnson, who had opposed Bradburn
at Anahuac, headed the group, which was defeated, but Johnson escaped to Goliad, where James W. Fannin
commanded U.S. volunteers. Bradburn remained as commander at Copano, just above present-day Corpus Christi.
Thus he missed the baffle of Goliad March 19-20, but was present at the Battle of Coleto, arriving with artillery and
500 men during the night of the 19th,26 probably returning immediately to Copano, and missing the massacre of
Col. Fannin and his men March 27, and the battle of San Jacinto. Gen. Filisola, the new commander of the Mexican
army, retreated south through Texas, meeting Gen. Bradburn and his men at Refugio; General Filisola took all
Bradburn‘s men except five, and sent Gen. Bradburn back to Copano to wait for an expected ship, the Watchman.
On May 25, 1836 he was sent orders from Gen. Vicente Filisola to return with the ship to Matamoros. 27 But two
privateers appeared instead, so he and his men fled south along Padre Island; two of the men deserted the first
night, and the other three were too sick to help in his boat, so he began walking the length of Padre Island, but in
three days expropriated a horse and rode the rest of the way, arriving at Matamoros June 13, exhausted and ill.29 A
Mr. Bradburn is reported to have arrived at the west end of Galveston Island on the evening July 11, according to a
letter from J. C. LaRue, the guard there, to Col. J. Morgan, commander of Galveston. But this does not appear to
have been Juan Davis Bradburn, as he wrote his explanation, as given above, at Matamoros on July 18. Bradburn
returned again to civilian life, and in 1837 witnessed the killing of Frederick Bange, a Matamoros merchant, near
his home on the Matamoros-Mouth of the River Road.25
          He re-entered the army in 1838 when the Federalist War started. In July, 1840, Centrist command was
given to General Pedro de Ampudia, but Bradburn, Adrian Woll and Nicolas Condelle refused to serve under him,
and went instead to Mexico City. By the end of the year Bradburn had returned to Matamoros, where he was under
the command of Gen. Rafael Vásquez. He was not with Vásquez at the attack on San Antonio in March, 1842. In
mid-April the 55-year-old general became ill, made out his will and died April 20, 1842.17
          On February 15, 1842 he had purchased, from Francisco Guerra Chapa Reynosa porción 57, where he was
buried. He called this ranch ―Puertas Verdes‖ and was buried there on the bill where the Novitiate was built 70
years later. No vestige of the grave remains, nor are the Oblates of Mary Immaculate aware of any burial there, but
Frank Cushman Pierce in 1917 wrote that that was the location, and Pierce was right on so many other details he
can hardly be questioned without strong


        20
             Coker, Caleb. Ed. The News front Brownsville Helen Chapman‘s Letters from the Texas Military
                                                                           --



Frontier, 1848-1852. Austin:Texas State Historical Association for the
Barker Texas History Center, 1992. pp. 49-50.

                  by Dick 0. HeIler, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574.9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13, 2003
                                                                    23

contrary evidence18 New metal detectors may soon permit a search of the Novitiate area for signs of a burial.
        Bradburn‘s widow moved back to Mexico City immediately, where on January 28, 1843 she granted
power of attorney to Francisco Lojero, who sold the land on February 24, 1845 to Guillermo René Guyard,
Reynosa merchant, for $600.19
        In 1842 a nephew showed up, and tried to claim the estate, but it was awarded in total to the widow; it
would be interesting to check the Reynosa archives and study the basis of the claim; this might also indicate if the
couple was truly separated, as the Brownsville writer later claimed.
                                                              Endnotes
        7
          Kelly, River of Lost Dreams, op. cit., p. 19.
        8
          Houston, Andrew Jackson. Texas Independence. Houston: The Anson Jones Press, 1938. pp.46-Si.
        9                                                                   10
          Henson, Margaret Swett. Juan Davis Bradburn. oø. cit.. pp. 38-39.    lid., pp. 72-78.
        11
             Ibid., pp.13-14.
        13
             Hatcher, Mattie Austin. Letters of an Early American Traveller Mary Austin    --




Bulky, Her Life and Her Works, 1784-1846. Dallas: Southwest Press, 1933, P. 190.
        14
           Hatcher, op. cit., pp. 198-201.
        15
           Webb, Walter Prescott. Op. cit. p. 43, p. 203.
        17
           Henson, op.cit., pp. 116-124.
        18
           Pierce, Frank Cushman. Texas‟ Last Frontier, A Brief History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Menosha, WT,The Collegiate Press, George Banta Printing Co., 1917. Fr 122-3: ―There is no authentic data of any
boats plying the Rio Grande until Taylor‘s arrival in 1946, although the archives in Mexico show that the Mexican
congress on April28, 1828, granted a concession to John David Bradburn and Stephen H. C. L. Staples to introduce
on the Rio Grande boats propelled by steam or horse-power. This Bradburn is the same who afterwards was
accused of oppressing the Texas Colonists to a degree which caused them to rise in rebellion and make the effort
for independence. Bradburn is buried on the hill three miles south of Mission on which is now built the Oblate
Fathers‘ Theological Seminary.‖ Frank Cushman Pierce was 51 on April 2, 1910 when he so swore by affidavit, so
he was born about I 858/9(p. 27-8, Abstract of Title to Lands out of the West Addition to Sharyland in porciones
Nos. 53,54,55,56, and 57 in Hidalgo County, Texas, published by the Mission Times, Mission, TX c. 1920.218
pp.) He had come to the Rio Grande and Brownsville as a crewman on the Rio Bravo about 1875 while quite
young. (pp. 84, 78, River of Lost Dreams, Navigtion on the Rio Grande, by Pat Kelley, University of Nebraska
Press: Lincoln, 1986; this was taken from Michael G. Webster, ―Intrigue on the Rio Grande: The Rio Bravo Affair,
1875,‖ Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74:2 (October l970):149-164.)
        19
           Hidalgo and Starr Counties Abstract Company. Abstract to Title to Lands out of the West Addition to
Sharyland in porciones Nos. 53, 54,55,56, and 57 in Hidalgo County, Texas. Edinburg: Mission Times, 1919. p.34-
37.




                  by Dick D. HelIer, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003
                                                                  24

                                                       BIBLIOGRAPHY

       Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of the Mexican People. New York: Bancroft Co., 1914.

        Barker,Eugene C.. ed. The Austin Papers October, 1834--January, 1837. Austin: The University of
                                                          -


Texas, 1926.
         Berlandier, Jean Louis. Journey to Mexico in the Years 1828 to 1834. Trans. by Sheila M. Ohlendorf,
Josette M. Bigelow, and Mary M. Standifer. 2 Vols. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1980.
        Casteneda, Carlos E. trans. The Mexican Side of the Texan Revolution. Austin, Dallas:Graphic Ideas,
Incorporated, 1970.
         Coker, Caleb. Ed. The News from Brownsville Helen Chapman‘s Letters from the Texas Military
                                                                  --


Frontier, 1848-1852. Austin: Texas State Historical Society for the Barker Texas History Center, 1992.
         Cruz, Gilberto Rafael and Irby, James Arthur. Texas Bibliography A Manual on History Research
                                                                                            -


Materials. Austin: Eakin Press, 1982.
         Fehrenbach, T. R. Lone Star. A History of Texas and the Texans. New York: Collier Books, A Division
of Macmillian Publishing Company, 1980.
         Filósila, Vicente. Memoirs for the history of the war in Texas. Wallace Woolsey, translator. Austin: The
Eakin Press, 1985.
         Gambrell,Herbert. Anson Jones, The Last President of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2d ed.,
paperback, 1988.
        Hatcher, Mattie Austin. Letters of an Early American Traveller-- Mary Austin Holley, Her Life and
Her Works, 1784-1846. Dallas: Southwest Press, 1933. Henson, Margaret Swett. Juan Davis Bradburn. College
Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982.
         Hidalgo and Starr Counties Abstract Company. Abstract to Title to Lands out of the West Addition to
Sharyland in porciones Nos. 53, 54, 55, 56, and 57 in Hidalgo County, Texas. Edinburg: Mission Times, 1919.
         Holley, Mrs. Mary Austin. Texas. Austin: The Texas State Historical Association in Cooperation with the
Center for Studies in Texas History, The University of Texas at Austin, 1985.

        Hollon, W. Eugene and Butler, Ruth Lapham. William Bollaert‟s Texas. Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, and the Newberry Library, Chicago, 1956. Houston, Andrew Jackson. Texas
Independence. Houston: The Anson Jones Press, 1938.
        James, Marquis. The Raven, A Biography of Sam Houston. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1929. pp.
193-5. University of Texas Press, Austin: 1988.
        Jenkins, John H. General Editor. The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836. Vol. 1 Austin:
Presidial Press, 1973.
        Kelley, Pat. River of Lost Dreams: Navigation on the Rio Grande, University of Nebraska Press:
Lincoln, 1986.
        Loft, Virgil and Fenwick, Virginia M. People and Plots on the Rio Grande. San Antonio:


               by Dick D, HeIler, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743   (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13,2003
                                                                      25

The Naylor Company, 1957.
       McComb, David G. Texas: A Modern History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989.

       Morton, Ohland. Terán and Texas(1948)
       Pearson, P. E. ―Reminiscences of Judge Edwin Wailer‖. Quarterly of the Texas State Historical
Association, IV (1900-1901).
       Perrigo, Lynn I. Texas and Our Spanish Southwest. Dallas: Banks Upshow and Company,

       Pierce, Frank Cushman. Texas‟ Last Frontier, A Brief History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Menosha,
WI. The Collegiate Press, George Banta Printing Co., 1917.
       Rowe, Edna. ―The disturbances at Anahuac in 1832‖, Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association,
VI (1902-1903).
       Webb, Walter Prescott. The Handbook of Texas. 3 vols. Austin: The Texas State Historical Association,
1952.
       Wooten, Dudley G. A Comprehensive History of Texas 1685-1897. Austin: The Texas State Historical
Association in Cooperation with the Center for Studies in Texas History, The University of Texas at Austin, 1986.
       Wortham, Louis J., LL.D. Vol. 1 & 2. A History of Texas from Wilderness to Commonwealth. Fort
Worth: Wortham-Molyneaux Company, 1924.
       Zuber, William Physick. My Eighty Years in Texas. Mayfield, Janis Boyle, editor. Austin & London:
University of Texas Press, 1971




               by Dick D. Helter, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Aug. 13.2003
                                                          26


                                                   Chapter 4

                                 The La Lomita Mission‟

                                               I. Introduction

        To explain the role of the seemingly minor Oblate chapel of la Lomita on the Rio Grande and to illustrate
its importance to the people of that area, it is necessary to understand the state of the Catholic Church in Texas
before the arrival of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1849, and the church‘s total absence from the
17 counties of south Texas which had been part of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas until 1848.

                IA. The 19th Century Catholic Church in Texas-Tamaulipas

          To prevent French intrusion into Spanish territory and to convert and control the Indians, the Spanish
Government established missions in Texas during the late 16th century. Spain had hoped to make loyal citizens of
the Indians, who would thus help consolidate Spain‘s claim to the area. While Spain‘s policies, combined with
international diplomacy, were successful in keeping the French out of what we now call Texas, they were not as
successful in Christianizing and ―civilizing‖ the Indians. The missionary effort was counteracted by the rough
frontier conditions, and lack of interest back in Spain, which caused intervals of abandonment. Also the influx of
migratory Indian tribes who were pushed south by the American frontier, and the insufficient military protection
from Indians who harassed the settlements contributed to the failure of the missions in Christianizing very many of
the natives.2
          The transferral of the mission stations to a secular clergy in the late eighteenth century, which occurred in
most of Spain‘s vast dominions, was very harmful in this remote area of the Spanish Empire. When the Franciscans
left, there were not enough secular priests to replace them. By 1823 there were only two Franciscans and probably
not more than three secular priests left in central


        1
         This entire work is based on, and uses, Robert Hickl O.M.I.‘s ―The Oblate Chapel of Rancho La Lomita‖,
Prepared for History 4348, Senior Research Project, Fall Semester, 1974. This work was entered in the computer,
edited and rearranged by Heller. A series of
interpolations were made, based on newspaper stories, books, etc., not included in the original, which was
primarily based on two documents from the Oblate Archives in San Antonio.

        2
            See p. 2, Sister Mary A. Fitzmorris, Four Decades of Catholocism in Texas, Washington, DC: The
Catholic University of America, 1926.

      Edited by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheIIer@aol.com
                                                          27

Texas.3 But of course the Rio Grande Valley is not a part of what is now central Texas.
         The 17 counties of present-day Texas south of San Antonio were organized much later than Texas, and by
a different method. Instead of Army posts and a few Catholic clergy, Tamaulipas was settled in the mid-18th
Century by a number of criollos, or Mexican-born Hispanics, under the leadership of José de Escandón, the Count
of Cerra Gorda. Escandón arranged for seven columns of settlers, totalling several thousand persons-men, women,
and children-and all their belongings, plus cattle, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, etc., to invade what had been
known as the Seno Mexicano, but which was re-named Nuevo Santander after Escandon‘s home province in Spain.
Eseandón brought Franciscan monks from Mexico City and Zacatecas,4 and tried to station one at each village. In
the north, the villages of Mier and Laredo were served by the Franciscan at Revilla, later renamed Cd. Guerrero.
Camargo and Reynosa had their own churches.
         The Anglo colonization of Texas begun in 1820 by Stephen F. Austin when Spain‘s dominions became
independent, brought in many people, a minority of whom were actually Catholic, despite the Mexican laws
requiring all those children born in Texas to be raised as Catholics. The scarcity of priests and the impossibility of
officials in Mexico to send priests and soldiers to care for the colonists led to greater religious diversity, and the
arrival of Protestant clergy. When in 1821 Mexico became officially independent from Spain, many of the loyalist
bishops who were loyal to the Monarchy were exiled and therefore the province of Coahuila-Texas was without a
bishop for ten years, until 1831. During this time many efforts were made by the new Mexican government to limit
the power of the Church by legislation prohibiting the construction of new church buildings, large donations to the
Church, and ecclesiastical intervention in civil affairs. The declaration of Independence of Texas from Mexico in
1836 practically ended ecclesiastical activity in Texas until the arrival of Father John Timon C .M. in 1838.
Meanwhile, the declaration had little effect in the 17 counties then in Tamaulipas, although some ranchers moved
back south of the Rio Grande, just in case.
            Fr. Timon found the Spanish-speaking Texans to be very devout and ―willing to die for their religion‖,5
   He also sensed they had received very little training in the teachings of the Church. The old abandoned mission
   churches were in very poor condition, and they would have to be rebuilt in order to restructure the Church. Also
   the establishment of a college for the training of priests would be of first priority in the reorganization of the
   Church in Texas.
            In 1840, Texas was raised to the status of Prefecture and Fr. Timon was given almost all the power of a
   bishop in order to care for the needs of the few priests who were working with him at the time. Due to his inability
   to remain in Texas, he appointed Rev, Jean Marie Odin as Vice Prefect
                                                                    -       -




           3
               Seep. 4,Ibid.
           4
         See p. 13, Hubert J. Miller, Jose de Escandon- Colonizer of Nuevo Santander. Edinburg, TX: The New
  Santander Press, 1980.
           5
               Sce p. 27, Carlos B. Castafieda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas. Austin: Von Boeckmann--Jones Co.,
   1958.

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                                                         28

Apostolic, who immediately preceded him to San Antonio in order to restore religious services there. The greatest
problems facing the new Bishop Odin were the lack of funds for repairing the dilapidated churches, and the
scarcity of priests to care for the long neglected Catholics. In 1841 there were only six priests in Texas, including
Bishop Odin, to tend to the approximately 10,000 Catholics scattered throughout the vast area. By 1847, the
Catholic population due to increased U.S. immigration had reached more than 25,000. By this time the energetic
Bishop Odin had ten churches in repair, and twenty Mass stations scattered around Central and East Texas, where
his twelve priests could devoutly celebrate the Eucharist, and instruct the faithful in morals and virtue. He also had
several seminarians preparing to serve the need of the faithful.6 In 1845 Bishop Odin traveled to Europe where he
was able to enlist fifteen priests to work in his newly established Prelate of the U.S. Catholic Church. Bishop Odin
had laid the groundwork but there was still much to be done in establishing a well organized Church in Texas.

                                      IB. The Oblates Come to Texas

        In 1849 Bishop Odin attended the seventh Provincial Council of Baltimore, with the second thought of
seeking material assistance and more priests to work in his newly formed Diocese of Galveston in Texas. After all,
the 17-county area south of San Antonio had just been added officially to Texas, and almost all of its residents,
fromerly citizens of Tamaulipas, were Catholics. It was his good fortune to meet Father Adrien Pierre Telmon
O.M.I. who was visiting at the Sulpician house in Quebec at the same time. Bishop‘s stirring appeal for laborers
aroused Fr. Telmon‘s zeal for the spreading of the Faith, and with quick deliberation, he accepted the mission of
Brownsville, Texas in the name of his superior Msgr. Eugene de Mazenod O.M.I. in France. Fr. Telmon convinced
four of his associates-- Frs. Alexander Soulerin 0.M. I., August Guadet O.M.I., Bro. Henry Menthe, and
Sub-deacon Paul Gelot, to accompany him to the new apostolate.
        The little band accompanied Bishop Odin, leaving Canada in October of 1849, and traveled by way of New
Orleans, where they rested for ten days. Fr. Telmon, Fr. Soulerin, and Bro. Menthe sailed directly for the mouth of
the Rio Grande, while Bishop Odin, Fr. Gaudet and Sub-deacon Gelot proceeded to Galveston a few days later.
The Oblates reached Point Isabel on December 2 of the same year. After two days, Lt. Garesché of the U.S. Army
took the zealous missionaries to Brownsville, twenty-five miles away. They received a warm welcome there as the
whole town turned out to greet the new missionaries, and then provided them with a residence which was an old
shed, previously used to store cotton. A local merchant also let the Oblates use an old unoccupied store building,
which they immediately transformed into a chapel.7 On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, they
formally inaugurated the mission on the Rio Grande with a High Mass in honor of Mary Immaculate. The young
town of Brownsville on the North Bank of the Rio Grande, had grown out of a U.S. Military Installation set up
during the war with Mexico in 1849.


          6
              Seep. 108,Thid.
           7
               See p. 209, Ibid.

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It had a population of about four thousand inhabitants of various cultural backgrounds, many of whom were
nominally Catholics. In Brownsville the good Fathers found themselves in a very harassing situation. All kinds of
difficulties confronted them. There was no church, rectory, or revenue of any kind, and they could not speak the
language of a majority of the people. By their courage, they rose above these difficulties.
         The god of these people was the dollar, and their lax morals left no room for religion. Counting upon help
from Heaven, and using their energy to the utmost, they determined to spend themselves among the swarms of
indifferent people, and even the Free Masons of the city.8 The Oblate missionaries therefore had their work cut out
for them, as they set about getting acquainted with the townspeople, and those living in the nearby ranches. After
overcoming the basic problems of room and board, the Oblates proceeded to care for the spiritual needs of their
flock. The people gathered for Mass out of curiosity at first, but attendance soon dwindled to two or three of the
faithful. The Hispanic Catholics at first distrusted the Oblates, thinking them to be in league with the Americans
because they only spoke in English. This was a great handicap, and so learning Spanish was of primary importance
in gaining the confidence of these stray souls and attracting them to the church and to classes of religious
instruction. Other problems which plagued the missionaries were the upkeep of the chapel, and securing a
permanent residence, as they had moved from one place to another because the others would always find more
profitable uses for their buildings than housing the clergy.
         Because of Fr. Telmon‘ s fame as a preacher, he was slowly able to attract the people back to the church,
and even the ministers of other denominations would slip in among the Catholic congregation. Because of the
increased attendance, one of their first projects was the acquisition of several lots in the town, and the gathering of
materials for the construction of a new and larger church, more suitable for the celebration of the Mass. The new
church was completed on June 29, 1850. Their main labor however was the instruction of the long neglected
Catholics, and preparing them for First Communion, and for Confirmation upon the return of Bishop Odin on
August 15, 1850. Bishop Odin was very happy with the work of the Oblates in this most difficult area, as he wrote
to the founder of the Oblate congregation, Eugene de Mazenod, on March 18, 1850:
                   ―I deem myself very fortunate that Providence has sent me these good Fathers for that part of my
         diocese. More than zealous and exemplary laborers, I needed trained and solidly virtuous men. The Rio
         Grande separates Texas from Mexico and the clergy on the south side of that unhappy border are very lax,
         not to say vicious and dissolute. The exemplary conduct of the two missionaries is such a contrast with the
         life of the priest from the opposite side that it has already produced a most favorable reaction in public
         opinion. I hope they will succeed in establishing a permanent residence, and that later their influence will
         start a salutary reform among the Mexican clergy, and instruct that people so ignorant and coarse in spite of
         its



        8
            See p. 141, Mary Immaculate Magazine, May, 1932, ―The Founder of the Oblate Missions in Texas‖

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                                                          30

          Faith.9
          The work in this area was indeed fruitful and was to set a pattern for further activity in Brownsville. The
Catholic population had grown to be larger than that in and around San Antonio. In the latter part of 1850, Bishop
Odin made a pastoral visit along the Rio Grande, including the south side with permission of the ordinary of
Monterrey, and confirmed 11,000 people on both sides of the river between the cities of Laredo and Brownsville.
He estimated that there were approximately 9,000 Catholics in the Lower Texas Valley, which was under Oblate
care.
          It was Fr. Soulerin who first started to visit the ranches along the river and in the inland areas away from
Brownsville. On Thursdays he would visit the Ranch of Santa Rita, some ten miles from Brownsville, where he
was always warmly welcomed by the devout Catholics, who would kiss his hand ―as a testimony of their respect
for the priest of God‖° and address him as Santo Padre. There were many difficulties which slowed the zeal of the
missionaries, but never dampened theft enthusiasm. In their letters to their brother Oblates, they wrote mostly of
their problems and hardships, but the records of Immaculate Conception Church at Brownsville give good
evidence of many early results from their labors. The Fathers were beginning to make progress until the summer of
their first year, when the tropic heat and poor living conditions began to take their toll on the already overworked
missionaries. Worry and anxiety began to tax theft health. Bishop de Mazenod finally heard about the new work at
Brownsville, the sickness there, and the wild nature of the city. He decided to withdraw the Oblates from Texas.
The main reason for the recall of the Oblates may be found in the character of the Texas venture. There is no
mention of the appointment in the official documents of the Oblate general administration, of Fr. Telmon as
superior of the establishment in Texas. Indeed, the mission was taken up without the Bishop‘s foreknowledge. On
January 14 of 1850, Msgr. De Mazenod wrote to Fr. Braudrant:

               ―This mission upon which Fr. Telmon has launched himself is but a foolhardy undertaking
        comparable only to the naivete which the others showed in co-operating in a project which had no sanction.
        Do you have any information about this whole affair about which I am completely in ignorance? As far as
        I am concerned the only thing I know is that it has .been undertaken.‖

        Fr. Telmon returned to directly to France, where he remained in poor health the rest of his life, deeply
disappointed with the apparent failure of his South Texas venture.
        The decision to withdraw the Oblates from Texas had serious consequences on Bishop Odin‘s plans. He
had decided to broaden the work of the Oblates to include the foundation of a



        9
        See p. 25, Bernard Doyan O.M.I. The Cavalry of Christ on the Rio Grande. Milwaukee:
Bruce Press, 1956.
        10
            See p. 26, Ibid
        11
            See p. 29, Ibid

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                                                            31

seminary, and a day-school for boys. After hearing the regrettable news, Bishop Odin planned to speak personally
with Bishop de Mazenod during his visit to Europe in 1851.
         The plight of Bishop Odin‘s work in Texas is well expressed in a remark by the secretary of the Lyons
―Council of Propagation‖ after his visit there in 1851:
                  ―In the past ten years, the Bishop of Galveston has introduced thirty-five priests to his mission. Of
         these, ten have succumbed to the fatigues and privations; eleven others, Vincentians and Oblates, have
         been recalled by their major superiors; two have returned to their diocese. Therefore the Bishop has only
         twelve collaborators for a population of forty thousand Catholics. In the Rio Grande district there are
         twenty thousand scattered Catholics, only three priests and no school.12
         Bishop Odin‘s plea to Bishop de Mazenod was not in vain, for after he told the founder of the Oblates of all
the good that the first five missionaries had done, and of the real need for zealous priests in that part of God‘s
Creation, Bishop Mazenod selected six other priests and one lay brother to continue the work started by the first
five, to help Bishop Odin in beginning a seminary college at Galveston, and a parish with a school at Brownsville.
Bishop Odin also spoke with other religious orders of priests and nuns, and was able to gather a total of thirty-five
missionaries to work in various parts of his diocese.
         The seven Oblates assigned to Texas were Fathers Jean Marie Casimir Verdet (Superior),
Rigomer Oliver, Etienne Vignolle Pierre Fourrier Parisot, Pierre Ives Keralum, Jean Marie Gaye, and
Coadjutor Brother Pierre Jean Rene Roudet. This second group of Oblates arrived at Galveston on
May 22, 1852, and remained there for awhile, before Frs. Verdet, Gaye, Oliver, Keralum, and Br.
Roudet continued overland to Brownsville, where they arrived on October 14, of the same year.
         There was plenty of work to be done throughout the area, especially in visiting the ranches along the river
between Brownsville and Laredo. In March of 1853, Fr. Gaye traveled to Laredo and back, and visited many of the
small settlements along the way, where he baptized hundreds of children and heard thousands of confessions.
Father Verdet in turn visited the ranches along the coast. The Fathers soon decided that their‘s must be a dual
apostolate, the one parochial in the city, and the other rural in order to reach the people of the outer limits of the
huge territory.

             IC. The Oblates along the Rio Grande in the late 19th Century

        Missionary life on the Rio Grande in those days was anything but enjoyable. They lived among both
Mexicans and North Americans. They lived among revolutionaries and outlaws who caused disturbances along the
border.
        The district was made up of immense farms and ranches, some as large as a quarter of a million acres.
Widely scattered over these tracts were the little settlements of the laborers, containing fifteen or twenty families
each. The settlements were more thickly placed along the Rio Grande, due to its rich and fertile soil.
        Bishop Odin requested that the Oblates establish another residence in 1854 at Roma, boated


        12
          See page 34, Ibid

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                                                           32

halfway between Laredo and Brownsville, where there were about a thousand inhabitants. From this point, they
could more easily visit the distant ranches.
         From the time that the Oblates arrived in Galveston, Bishop Odin began to organize construction of his
college-seminary. In May of 1853, Father Jean Marie Boudrand O.M.I. arrived from Canada to head the college
and supervise the construction; however, he was soon to die of the plague along with four other newly arrived
secular priests and three hundred and thirty other people of Galveston. This great grief caused the good Bishop to
think of postponing the project once again, but despite the hard times and lack of money, the Oblates decided to
continue the construction. Fr. Parisot made two trips to the wealthy plantations of Louisiana to raise funds, and to
students for the new institution. Due to his self-sacrificing efforts, the college opened on January 1, 1855 with
sixty-eight students, only five of whom were seminarians and Fr. Julien Baudre as its superior and president.13
         The college soon gained wide acclaim and on July 26,1856 an act of the Texas State Legislature conferred
on the college the tide of St. Mary‘s University, with full power to confer diplomas and degrees. Despite the great
need for this first accredited college in Texas, and its growing good reputation, the Oblate staff soon became
disillusioned and dissatisfied with this type of work. A letter of Bishop de Mazenod to

        Bishop Odin on June 20, 1857 summarizes their feelings:

                  ―The difficulty lies entirely in the very nature of the work the Oblates are doing in your episcopal
        city. It seems the Galveston College is and shall. be for a very long time nothing but a commercial school,
        where the students of Latin and especially those destined to the clerical state, are in very small number. To
        tech ordinary classes in such a school, there is not a need to employ priests, whose zeal could be better used
        for the service of souls, in a country where there is a lack of laborers in the Lord‘s Vineyard.‖‖

         Bishop Odin knew that the Oblates were missionaries first and foremost, therefore he did not try to deter
them from their vocation. He had sincerely tried to form a seminary, but because of the sparse Catholic population,
it developed into a business college. In the fall of 1857, the oblates were again united in Brownsville. As the
conversions were steadily increasing, the Oblates began the construction of a larger church of brick, in Gothic
style, designed by Fr. Keralum OMI, a former architect. This church was completed in 1859, and stood out as a
landmark in the valley.
         Most of their work was in and around Brownsville, but on occasions of great need, and to help out the
pastor of Matamoros on weekends, they would cross over into Mexico. Later, they preached missions in the larger
terms across the border, and


        13
         See pp. 39-40, Ibid
        14
         See p. 56, Ibid

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finally accepted the parish of Ciudad Victoria, and later on, that of Matamoros until 1866 when they were forced
out by the revolutionaries living along the border.


                                II. The Foundation of La Lomita

                                          IIA. The Original Ranches

        It was this missionary work among the faithful in Mexico which allowed the Oblates to come into contact
with a Frenchman named René Guyard who had come to Texas in the early Eighteen hundreds. Through a generous
loan, Mr. Guyard was able to open a general store in Reynosa, and after some years he became prosperous. In 1845
he was able to buy the fertile ranch of Notalito, Porcion 57,15 for six hundred dollars. Six years later he bought
another near-by ranch called la Lomita which was numbered Porcion 55.16 These ranches were originally
established in 1767 by King Carlos III of Spain, who ordered that the land along the river be portioned equally
among the settlers so that each might have access to the river‘s water supply.17 Thus, they were called ―porciones‖
and were numbered successively, beginning at Laredo, and proceeding eastward. As a natural consequence, the
individual land measurement decided on as most practical for the jurisdiction assumed the shape of an elongated
rectangle, with a width approximately 3/4 of a mile of river front, and the length extending back from the river from
eleven to sixteen miles. There were over four hundred of these ranches established along both sides of the Rio
Grande. They were granted to the settlers in proportion to duration of their residence; those already living on the
newly established ranches were not removed without just cause. Over the years these ranches changed hands, and
continued to be improved upon. The majority of the population was made up of poor Mexican families employed
in the work of these ranches. Some of them lived a nomadic life, wandering from one ranch to another, finding
work where they could, and living in small huts made


        15
          See p. 4, N&D#30, Notes and Document File, Oblate Archives, San Antonio, TX.
Notes on La Lomita Lands, Chapel, Statues, etc.‖ It states that Porcion 55 was allotted to José
Antonio Cantü, who exchanged it with Maria Luna. On May 23, 1851, acting in his own right
and as an agent and Attorney in fact for Bias Maria Cavazos, Mad Santos Cavazos, and Maria
Antonia Cavazos, sold for $400 paid cash, porción 55 to René Guyard. Cf: pp. 4-5,Vol. A,
Deed Records, Hidalgo Co.
        16
          See p. 4, Ibid Porción 57 was allotted to Maria Luna who exchanged it with José
Francisco Cantu. Cantu sold it to Juan José Hinojosa July 19, 1791 for $30. Domingo
Castenada of Saltillo on May 17, 1806 sold it to Francisco Guerra, who in turn sold it to Gen.
Juan Davis Bradburn of Matamoros on Feb. 15, 1842. On February 24, 1845 Francisco Lojero,
attorney of the widow of Juan Davis Bradburn for her son sells porción 57 to René Guyard for
$600.
        17
          See p. 2, Ibid

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of a few poles interwoven with twigs and reeds with a thatch roof of palm leaves. They remained only as long as
they were content or until they heard of a better job elsewhere when they would immediately pick up what few
belongings they had, pack them on their shoulders and walk to another ranch. Other workers were more faithful to
their employer, and having lived in one place for a long time, usually had a more spacious one-room adobe home
that he could call his own, with a small plot of ground on which to grow fruits and vegetables.
         Many of the land owners did not live on their ranches all year round but would live in the nearby towns and
only visit their ranches occasionally. An overseer, or foreman, would be left in charge to make the day-to-day
decisions and keep the other hired hands busy. Since the two ranches of Mr. Guyard together contained over
10,000 acres, he employed several families to work these lands, and as he was a devout Roman Catholic, he begged
the Fathers to book after the spiritual needs of the people who worked on his extensive farm and ranch lands, and
who due to the scarcity of priests, were very ignorant of their Catholic Faith. The missionaries readily agreed since
this was the kind of work for which their congregation had been founded, that is ―to preach the Gospel to the
poorest and most abandoned of God‘s children.‖18 As the French gentleman was of a similar cultural background to
the Oblates, they soon established a close and lasting relationship,
         For several years the Oblates stopped at the ranch of Mr. Guyard, as they made their circuit through the
rough and rugged countryside, to instruct the simple people in the fundamental principles of their Faith and drive
out the deep-rooted superstitions which had crept in during long years of spiritual neglect. Father Parisot was
stationed in Brownsville and visited the ranches between there and La Lomita while Father Keralum, stationed at
Roma, Texas, rode from there up to La Lomita, visiting the many ranches along the way.

                                              II B. The First Chapel
          In about l86519 the Fathers with the help of some of Mr. Guyard‘s ranch hands constructed a small adobe
chapel on his ranch near the little hill, to provide a more appropriate building in which to celebrate the Mass. Soon
after, a small house also of adobe was built for the priests so that they could rest from their long rides, and prepare
for the return trip. The chapel of La Lomita then provided an excellent meeting place for the Fathers since they
timed their missionary visits to the various ranches in order to arrive at La Lomita simultaneously. The chapel then
soon came to be known as the meeting place by the Oblates. Here they would exchange news and betters, as well as
their experiences encountered in this grueling apostolate. Both of the priests were largely dependent upon the
charity of Mr. Guyard in obtaining provisions for their missionary journeys, while he in turn, seemed to have felt it
a privilege to have been able to help in some small way in the work of spreading the Faith.


         18
          See p. 127, Bernard Doyon O.M.B., The Cavalry of Christ on the Rio Grande.
         19
          See p. 1, The Mission Times, January 21, 1960, ―Priests Blazed a Trail of Faith in South

Texas.

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                                       II C. Acquisition of the Lands

          Finally in 1871, after many years of faithful friendship with the Oblate missionaries, René Guyard, who
was then advanced in years, sent for the priest Father Parisot in order that he might prepare for his eternal reward.
Upon receiving the urgent request, Ft. Parisot immediately set out from Brownsville to be with his friend and
benefactor in the last hours. He arrived in sufficient time to administer the sacraments, and to close the old man‘s
eyes in true Christian peace. However, before his death, Mr. Guyard pressed into the hand of Fr. Parisot, a folded
document, which he whispered was his last will and testament. Judging that the dying man was already delirious,
Ft. Parisot simply put the paper in his pocket, and without further thought, went on to administer extreme unction.
Within an hour Rene Guyard breathed his last, and at the age of seventy years met his creator.
          Father Parisot put little stock in that unexpected statement of Mr. Guyard on his death bed. The priest knew
for certain that his friend had many close relatives still living in France, and he presumed that the old man had
distributed his goods among them. Consequently it was days before Ft. Parisot, recounting the story of the old
fellow‘s peaceful death, remembered the incident of the piece of paper, and drew it from his pocket to book at it for
the first time, and to his surprise he read the following:
                  ―I (Rene Guyard) declare as my property two porciones of band on the left bank of the Bravo
          known as the Nogalito and La Lomita and in the Protocol as number 55 and 57, which porciones together
          with the cattle thereon I give to the Missionary Oblates of Mary for the propagation of the Faith among the
          savages. This clause should be made known to the priests Don Francisco Parisot and Don Pedro in order
          that they may make use of the value of the property embraced therein.‖20..,:

         The two priests immediately then took the necessary steps to have this last will ratified by civil law. A
story is rebated of some resourceful men who tried to steal the old man‘s property before the Oblates had the valid
will ratified. It is said that within hours after the old man died, these men raided his home and took his body to the
courthouse along with a forged document of his last will and testament for the Judge. to sign and legalize. They had
propped up the body of Mr. Guyard in a chair and covered his face with a handkerchief, saying that he was asleep.
The Judge however was suspicious from the beginning and upon looking at the body more closely he realized the
plot and promptly sent the men away. The rich bands of Nogalito and La Lomita were so desirable that a more
serious attempt was made to take the bands from the Oblates by arguing that according to Mexican law, the Church
was not able to accept and possess such property. But, since the land was on the Texas side of the river, the
Mexican laws did not apply, although Mr. Guyard lived in Mexico.




        20
          See p. 4, ―Notes on La Lomita....,‖ op. Cit.

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13,2003
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Therefore the judgement was made in favor of the Oblates.21




                            III The History of La Lomita

                           III A. Re-organization of the Ranch

         The question then arose among the Fathers as to what to do with this valuable piece of property, Since they
were constantly in the saddle, visiting the various mission stations, saying Mass, giving religious instructions,
baptizing, and hearing confessions, they had no time to take out from tending to the spiritual needs of the people to
work on a ranch. Since the property was given for the propagation of the Faith among the savages, the Oblates
decided after much deliberation to retain possession of the land, entrusting to look after the interests of the Fathers.
All the profit derived from working the ranch would then be used by the missionaries in theft ministry along the
Rio Grande, and to build new churches and schools.
         Management of the ranch was first entrusted to Francisco Santana, in 1871 and later to
Francisco Dominguez. Neither of the men operated the property for more than a year since they did
not care to book after the Fathers‘ best interests. The Oblates then entrusted the ranch to the care of
J, B. Bourbois, whose brother had been a professor with the Oblates in St Joseph‘s College of
Brownsville, and was then the Judge of Hidalgo County.
         Shortly after the death of Mr. Guyard, when it became known that the Oblates had inherited the ranches of
La Lomita and Nogalito, the owner of the ranch, numbered portion 56,22 between these two, Ruel Hollowell,
offered to sell his ranch to the Oblates for $200. However, they did not care to own still more land and thus refused
the offer. Later on, in 1875, Fr. José Maria Clos O.M.I., who was in charge of the ranch from 1872 to 1884 and
stationed at Roma, was offered the same strip of land for $600 and he accepted the offer. He did not have the money
with him but had to go to Roma to get it. In the meantime, Mr. Bourbois who heard about the agreement went to
Hidalgo and offered Mr. Hollowell $650 and thus bought the band on August 6, before Fr. Clos could complete the
deal.

        From then on he tended to quarrel with the Oblates over the boundaries between the ranches, as there were
no fences to separate them. He tried to make up boundaries by marking out trails for the cattle to follow, Since he
also violated the terms of his contract in many other ways, the Oblates decided to get a new manager when his
contract expired on November 1, 1875. They then engaged




        21
          See p. 2, ―Historical Sketch of La Lomita Lands,‖ N&D #29, Notes and documents File, Oblate Archives.
        22
          See p. 4, ―Notes on La Lomita,‖ op. Cit.

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Julian Vasquez to take charge of their ranch.23 In 1877 Fr. Clos tried to sell the ranches, however he found no
buyer. Many of the Fathers wanted to sell them because they were not paying off as had been expected; others
could foresee better times and opportunities.
         Mr. Bourbois died in 1882 leaving a very heavy mortgage on his property. The Oblates by then were
anxious to acquire the center property and thus make one large single ranch. Hence Frs. Parisot and Malmartel
were sent to the public auction held on August 7, 1883, and kept raising the bid until they were left with the land for
$4,200. This figure was much greater than the original offer of $200; however, considering the land, 5,749 acres, it
was less than a dollar per acre. With this new acquisition, the Oblates then owned a single sizeable ranch of 16,174
acres.24

                           III B. The Work of the Missionaries

         The Oblates continued to visit the little chapel of La Lomita and administer the sacraments to the people
for many years. However the chapel being of adobe was unable to stand the storms and in time became weather
beaten and useless, so that about 1885 the old building was torn down. It was not until 1889 that the chapel was
rebuilt, this time of sand stone taken from the nearby hill. This chapel, still standing, was the work of Fathers
Francis Bugnard and Pescheur with the help of two Lay Brothers, Van Blaer and Curand. The new chapel which
measured 16 feet wide and 30 feet long, was built over the ruins of the previous chapel. It has a double - door front
entrance, six windows and a side entrance to the left of the altar.
         The Fathers had great expectations for the ranch and hoped to produce much of their own food supplies, of
fruits and vegetables and even the Mass wine for the entire province, as well as some cash crops. On March 29,
1889 Father Parisot wrote to Father Marfiuet saying that they had planted ten barrels of potatoes, 1,000 feet of
grape vines, and fifteen acres of cotton. They had also planned to enclose one half of the property with wire fence,
in which to keep their 200 head of cattle. Father Bretault was responsible for the operation of the ranch from 1884
until 1897, and was having great difficulty making ends meet. In a letter to his provincial Father McGrath, on
September 3, 1891, he asked to be released of his responsibility. He stated that between the years 1884 to 1891,
expenses on the ranch were $6,900, while the income for that period was only $1,530. $4,000 had been spent on
fences, and by 1894, that expense had been raised to $6,000.
         As the years passed, the Oblates found that the ranch they had inherited became more of a problem day by
day. It was not the arrangements they had made that were at fault. The idea of retaining ownership of the land and
hiring a manager had been an excellent one; but the majority of ranchmen had been far more eager to fill their own
pockets than to book after the interests of the priests. The situation became so bad that in order to raise fluids to
keep the ranch going, the Fathers were forced to make an agreement with the Wells Fargo Company, renting out a
few of their horses


        23
          See p. 107, Mary Immaculate Magazine, April, 1931, ―Acts of the Apostles oil the Rio Grande.‖
        24
          See p. b, ―Historical Sketch...,‖ op. Cit

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and letting the mission be used as a remount station for the stage coach. This arrangement was far from an ideal
solution, because the priest conducting services in the chapel would be rudely interrupted by the arrival of a stage
coach. Since this was the only apparent solution to their lack of funds, the Oblates reluctantly put up with the
inconvenience. The Wells Fargo line did not last long at La Lomita, but for the time it did, it provided a little
income.25
         In 1897 Father Francis Bugnard O.M.I. was placed in charge of the La Lomita chapel and property. As the
Catholic population in the vicinity was some 10,000 souls, including several different ranches and villages in
Hidalgo County, the Oblates decided to establish a residence on the ranch. Thus in 1899 a five-room building was
constructed behind the chapel to serve as living quarters. There were two other adobe buildings already existing
which served one as a guest house, and the other as a kitchen and dining room. Father Bugnard was superior of the
house, and Father Rene Hubert Pescheur was assigned to the missionary work among the surrounding ranches of
Hidalgo County. The farm and ranch work was done by the Lay Brothers Courand and Van Blaer, in hopes that
with more careful supervision, the property might be more productive. Unfortunately the following years showed
little improvement on the Oblate ranch as such, however there was great progress in the spiritual aspect. By 1903
the Fathers stationed at La Lomita had charge of five other chapels, and visited some seventy-five ranches in the
vicinity. From September 1899 to January, 1905, the La Lomita missionaries administered 1,432 baptisms, and
performed 174 marriages.26

                           III C. The Foundation of the New Town

            On December 3, 1907 the Oblates leased Porciones 55, 56, and 57 except for four-hundred acres
surrounding the chapel to John. J. Conway, a land developer. The lease was for $5,000 a year for five years with
option to buy the part leased if it proved profitable. He established a land office north of the chapel and planned to
dig irrigation canals and sell the property for $17.50 an acre. The chapel was on the south end of the ranch near the
Military Telegraph Road and the river. A busy little village soon developed there with a general store owned by
William Shane. Along either side of the road were corrals, a buggy shed, blacksmith‘s shop, a bunkhouse, and a
sister‘s convent.27 Some of the first families to live in the village were those of Will McShane, Alfredo Garza, S. J.
Rowe, W F. Cummings, and Martin McShane.

        In 1908 the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company extended its line through the Oblate property about five
miles north of the chapel of La Lomita. On January 12, 1909 the Oblates sold the 15,774 acres to Mr. Conway for
$93,502, an average of $6.00 per acre. This money was to be used for the


        25
          See p. 5, The Mission Times, January 21, 1960, ―The Priests...,‖ op. Cit
        26
          See p. 5, ―Notes on La Lomita...,‖ op. Cit., Oblate Archives.
        27
           5ee p. 2, Ibid. The sisters taught in the nearby schools, returning to the mission every Saturday. These
sisters taught at Ojo de Agua and Penitas, among others.

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education of future priests, support of chapels, and schools in the Oblate‘s ministry among the
Mexican-Americans. Mr. Conway then immediately established a town site on his property next to the railroad.

         At the very time that the future of the chapel seemed so bright and secure, it was actually in its last years as
a center of missionary activity. The Oblate Fathers realized that their work, though greatly affected by this change,
must not be allowed to suffer from it. Encouraged by the good will shown by the townspeople in naming the new
settlement ―Mission,‖ in honor of the old mission chapel at La Lomita, the Fathers purchased three plots of land in
town, and by 1911 had built both a church for their parishioners and a rectory for themselves. In a certain sense the
new locations was a blessing for the priests, for it meant the centralization of their previously scattered flock. Now
the people could come to church, rather than have the church go out to them.

                   lv. The Chapel Abandoned -Attempts to Restore
         Insofar as the colorful history of the small chapel at La Lomita was concerned, the coming of the railroad
had terminated its usefulness. The chapel‘s doors and windows were nailed tight, and anything movable of value
was carried off for the new church in town. The chapel was abandoned after the Oblates had moved their center of
activity to the new town of Mission in 1911.

                                             IV A. The 1928 Restoration

          It seemed for a while that the little chapel would be left to the elements of decay, however in 1928 it was to
be used again for a religious function. That year, by order of Father Theodore Laboure, Provincial of the Oblates in
Texas, the brush which had grown so thick that the one bare plaza beside the chapel could not be seen was cleared
off. Its walls were repaired and whitewashed, and a new roof was put on the otherwise still sturdy building. An old
statue of St. Joseph and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe were obtained from Brownsville. That summer the
chapel was used for the first Holy communion of the children of the new settlement of Madero. Plans were then
made to completely restore the building and preserve it as a tribute to past missionary efforts and as a shrine to Our
Lady of Guadalupe. Work on the shrine continued to slowly but steadily progress until 1933 when a fierce
hurricane swept through the Rio Grande Valley, leaving the chapel badly damaged and the grounds in terrible
disorder. The renovation came to a standstill after the hurricane due to a lack of funds.

                        IV B. The Centennial Restoration of 1936

         In 1936 as everyone prepared for the State Centennial celebration, a group of volunteers from Mission
began to clear away the rubble and found that the original altar and benches were still in the chapel. The interior
was surprisingly well preserved, and the people were enthusiastic about restoring their little chapel as a reminder of
their heritage and not-so-distant past. Sufficient work


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was done on the chapel to open it to the public as a historical landmark, but after the celebration of the Texas
Centennial had passed, the project of restoration was once again discontinued by the townspeople.

                   IV C. The Oblate Centennial Restoration of 1949

         In 1949 the Oblates of Mary Immaculate celebrated the 1st 100 years of missionary work in Texas. So once
again the little chapel of La Lomita was looked upon with excitement as a symbol of those many years of fruitful
labor. The old Fathers began to reminisce about their difficult but happy days of riding horseback to visit the
settlements, and about the part that La Lomita played in serving the religious needs of the Catholics in the Valley.
Plans were made to rebuild some of the old chapels along the river. Although La Lomita is not the oldest of such
mission stations, it certainly has the most colorful and memorable history. So once again the chapel and grounds
were cleared of the brush and weeds which had grown up since the centennial celebration. It had deteriorated
slightly in the past ten years of neglect, but not so badly that it could not be repaired. The walls and roof were still
structurally sound. The rectory, guest house, and other buildings, however, which were made of adobe were all in
such poor condition that they had to be removed, and so the chapel once again stood alone as it had when originally
constructed more than sixty years before. As the area was cleared, the well and the outdoor oven were also found to
be salvageabbe.28

                               IV D. Site Restoration 1958-1995

        During the following years, some effort continued to be made in keeping the shrine in good repair. In 1958
the people of Mission felt that the other buildings of the mission station should be reconstructed so that the setting
would be a better reminder of the Oblate activity there at its height. In July of that year, a delegation of more than
sixty Catholic religious and laymen met to discuss plans for a total restoration of the site, which was to include
rebuilding the rectory which had stood behind the chapel, and also of the compound and trading post. This
ambitious restoration program was to be a civic as well as a religious movement with both secular and religious
organizations taking an active part in the project.

         A second meeting was held in April of 1959 at which the twenty-man committee set December 25 as the
tentative completion date. At this meeting :plans were made for the reconstruction of the stables, buggy-shed, guest
house, and the addition of a ―religious goods-store‖ to the compound. Plans also called for re-landscaping the
grounds to include a park and picnic area. An old photograph taken of the mission station in 1909 was to be used as
a basis for the work. Two retired Oblate missionaries, Fr. Henry Janvier and Fr. Paul Halley, who both had resided
at La Lomita between 1905 and 1911, were present to give suggestions and answer questions about the site. A
construction committee chaired by A.M. Longoria and a publicity committee chaired by Don


        28
          See p. 6, The Mission Times, Jan. 21, 1960, ―Priests Blazed a Trail...‖

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O‘Connell, were established to work out the many necessary details. Progress continued to be made on the historic
site.29

         In 1961 La Lomita Mission and Park Corporation was created.3° Its function was to provide for the
historical restoration and preservation of the La Lomita mission station and to operate a public park on the site . A
five-man board of trustees was appointed to serve on two-year terms, and was charged with responsibility for the
operation of the mission and park. This corporation was formed by the City Council of the City of Mission, the
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Board of Directors of the Mission Chamber of Commerce. This
corporation has carried out some of the improvements, and has provided for the general upkeep of the shrine;
however, there is much yet to be done in completing the plans for a total reconstruction of the site.

        At present, the chapel is in good repair, there is a small fence surrounding the property, which is well-kept,
and there are picnic tables set up nearby. Devout residents of the area can often be seen praying in front of a new
statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary located behind the chapel. On the façade of the chapel is a plaque by the Texas
Historical Survey Committee which reads:

                ―First chapel, 1865; Present Chapel, 1889. Headquarters 1865-1904 for missionary Oblate Fathers
        in Hidalgo county.‖

        Presently as Texas prepares for the bi-centennial of the United States, even more attention is being given to
the secluded little chapel of La Lomita. The city of Mission was designated as a Bi-centennial City and received
Federal funds , some of which were used to restore the Oblate mission of La Lomita to its former splendor.



                                                    Epilogue
        La Lomita, which was founded in 1865, is not nearly so old as the famous Franciscan missions in San
Antonio; however, it played an important role in the early history of Texas and most especially in spreading the
Catholic faith along the Rio Grande. The Oblate chapel was in the vanguard of missionary activity in the Valley.
The chapel of Rancho La Lomita can be looked upon proudly as a tribute to the great labor of those early
missionaries along the Rio Grande, and although it was used for only a few short years, it was a first step which
made possible the many other churches which now exist in this area of the state. Hopefully the Catholic heritage
represented by the chapel of La Lomita will never be forgotten, and it will provide an inspiration to the people of
today.


        29
          See ―Catholic Religious, Lay Leaders Plan to restore Historic Mission‖ McAllen Monitor, July 17, 1958.
        30
             5ee ―Articles of Incorporation.‖

   Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743(956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com Aug. 13,2003
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                                                                Chapter 5



                                                    Before Mission
         Today Mission is a prosperous Tip ‗o Texas city of 30,000 persons, located on U. S. Expressway 83, State
Highway 107 and the Missouri Pacific Railway in southwest Hidalgo County, Texas. It lies just west of McAllen,
and is 3 1/2 miles north of the Rio Grande and Mexico, midway between the beaches of South Padre Island and the
cool lake breezes of Falcon Lake. Geographically it is 98 degrees, 19 minutes west longitude and 26 degrees, 12
minutes north latitude, between 100 and 134 feet altitude above sea level.
         Named for La Lomita Mission of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a rendezvous for the Cavalry of Christ
for 40 years, the city is four miles northeast of Anzalduas County Park and seven miles northeast of Bentsen - Rio
Grande State Park. Its 77 mobile home parks have more than 10,000 spaces for Winter Texans. The average
temperature is 74 degrees, the relative avenge humidity is 65% and the rainfall averages 19 inches a year.
         But when the 20th century dawned, the Rio Grande delta, now known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley,
was a great, thorny, overgrown and over-grazed cactus pasture, flooded frequently, and as often too dry to grow
crops. Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Roma, once connected by a vibrant steamboat trade on the Rio Grande,
languished in the heat as farmers in Colorado and New Mexico withdrew so much water that boats could no longer
ply the Rio Grande.‘ An old dirt track, used by the Indians, the Spanish and by the army, known as the Military
Highway, connected the three villages, and other less-used tracks led to the porción rancherias; the ranches
themselves were connected to the city by trade and by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the French Catholic order
that Bishop Jean Marie Odin brought into Texas to replace the Mexican village priests withdrawn when the U.S.
took the north bank of the Rio Grande from the state of Tamaulipas.2
         A typical Anglo farmer of the pre-railroad period was Alexander Wood and his wife Amelia and their eight
children. It was typical in some respects, but not at all typical in one way--three of the sons left written accounts of
those early days, all of them differing on a number of points. We have attempted to blend the accounts of sons
David Gregg, Ben D., and Conan, Sr., into a broad picture of early valley life, but they did remember things in
different ways. Wood was a Civil War refugee from the reconstruction-torn South Carolina, who came to Texas in
1866, settled near Caldwell where he bought land, and installed a sawmill, cotton gin, and a grist mill. Later he
moved to a farm about a mile east of San Marcos. He was a self-made mechanical and civil engineer, as well as a
very successful farmer.
         While living at San Marcos in 1893 he made a trip to the Rio Grande Valley. He studied the possibility of
developing small, irrigated farms using a centrifugal pump powered by steam. He thought he could succeed in
economically and effectively watering a small farm.
         The Anglos in Brownsville discouraged him, saying that ―This country only is fit for goats



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and rattlesnakes.‖ Returning home at the end of July, Wood harvested his crops and sold off his1 surplus livestock,
and prepared to move his large family to the Valley, despite his wife‘s recent bout with malaria. Of five sons, only
one was 16, and there were five daughters.
         On Nov. 10, 1893, the family began a 40-day trek to the Valley from near San Marcos, TX, financed with
their savings of 20 years plus the returns from his crops and the sale converted into $20 gold pieces. They traveled
in two army wagons, pulled by four draft animals, a herd of 12 cows with calves, extra horses, etc.
         Driver of one of the wagons loaded with plows, planters, bedsteads and other family possessions was the
oldest son, David Gregg Wood, aged 17. The Wood cavalcade included, besides his three yoke of oxen, coops of
chickens, cattle and extra horses that reached Brownsville on Dec. 20, in time for an impromptu Christmas dinner.
         ―My father,‖ said the Valley pioneer in a September 5, 1955 interview with Paul Leeper, ―had only $7.65
in cash when we reached Brownsville but he was rich in courage. He traded my oxen and wagon for a year‘s rent on
the old Hudspeth place, near the site of the Modern Charro Courts at Brownsville(in 1955), and we were farming
again.‖
         He immediately planted several acres of garden, and within two months he was selling various kinds of
vegetables - a pleasant surprise to the people of Brownsville. In the early Spring he planted more garden and about
ten acres of corn. A lucky rain brought him bountiful though small crops. But it did attract attention and credibility.
         One day Capt. Kelly of the steamboat ―Bessie‖ brought a man interested in irrigation top see Wood. It was
Hidalgo County Sheriff John Closner, who owned considerable acreage on the river just south of the present city of
San Juan.
         A trip to see the land and check the river bank quickly brought about a working agreement and plans were
made to clear about 100 acres of land, install a steam engine driven by a six-inch centrifugal pump and make the
necessary canals.
         According to son Conan, in August, 1894 a river flood swept the Valley, delaying all movement until the
last of September, when all-out work began. The machinery had been ordered from the Cameron Pump Co., in
New York and because of shipping difficulties did not arrive until March, 1895.
         But the severe 7-year drought was not broken until March 8, 1895, according to son D. Gregg Wood, and
meantime he was employed in hauling pumping machinery to John Closner‘s plantation near the river seven miles
below Hidalgo. ―Shortage of corn caused many ravenous children and grownups to rush our improvised feeding
troughs on several occasions for every grain of corn intended for our mules,‖ Wood recalled.
         ―I have heard and thought much about the pioneer spirit and have experienced some of it,‖ he said. ―We
left reasonable security when we left San Marcos - at least a certainty of making a living, good neighbors, schools
and churches. But there was nothing to conquer, nothing to challenge the spirit of adventure, without which the
soul starves. In a way, the pioneer spirit is born of boredom; unwillingness to submit to the same life day after day.
Despite the bitter setbacks we



        1
            Conan Wood, Sr., account.

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met at first, I would do it again if I could.‖
         ―Setbacks were plentiful. During the Brownsville sojourn, we planted a garden and watered it by hand. The
drought was on. We also planted some corn. As soon as the vegetables came up, the rabbits took after them. We
killed rabbits by day and trapped them by night. We ate rabbit every day, and to this day I don‘t like rabbit any way
you can cook it. We sold butter and eggs and managed to exist.‖
         Meanwhile, at the Closner plantation, everything but the installment of the tardy machinery had been
completed, including the planting of 40 acres of cotton, 40 acres of corn, ten acres of beans (frijoles) and
vegetables. The machinery was installed and tested in time to give the crops their first irrigation in April. A second
watering in May produced what Sheriff Closner described as the best crops he had ever heard of. The family moved
to the Closner plantation, but unfortunately a disagreement over their verbal contract developed, and Wood
decided to move on.
         In 1896, Wood bought 240 acres in Porción 84, Camargo distribution, about four miles east of Rio Grande
City, and immediately ordered another set of machinery. This farm was called Las Placetas‖, according to Ben D.
Wood.2 Farming was successful at this place because there was a good market for vegetables in Rio Grande City
and at Fort Ringgold, with its 400 soldiers. Wood was able to furnish vegetables to the fort, even in summer. In
addition to green corn, cantaloupe, watermelons, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, he was able to furnish such items as
radishes, turnips, etc. In 1898, on February 13, 14, and 15, a hard freeze killed almost all the ebony trees in the
Valley, all the winter crops, and even burst the irrigation system pumps, according to Gregg. ―Despite this, we
were able to pull through in pretty good shape.‖ But he lost several crops of staples because of unusually heavy
floods, according to Conan, so he moved to the Sheely farm at the east edge of Fort Ringgold in the Spring of 1899,
moving the machinery and planting so that farming never missed a step.
         These were the first three irrigation projects in the Rio Grande Valley, according to Conan Wood, Sr., who
was born Nov. 10, 1896 on the Porción 84 farm; a child was added at each farm, he explained.
         Later in 1899, the Wood family rented the Valle house in Rio Grande City, and in 1900 moved into a
two-story brick-and-frame house, the former jail and courthouse,on the bluff in Rio Grande City. ―From that time
until 1911,‖ Ben recalled, ―about half of us lived on the ranch, and the others (those who were not already out on
their own), lived in Rio Grande City, especially during the winter months when school was in session.‖ 3 While
Wood was farming at the Sheely place, a number of interested men visited farm, among them the well-known
attorney Lon C. Hill, of Beeville.
         Greg and his father helped Lon Hill, Sr., install pumping machinery on a tract near Brownsville and in
1901 built a pumping plant on the Rancho Viejo resaca, cleared 75 acres and planted the land to rice. The rice
prospect looked like a bonanza at first and in 1902 construction


        2
            Ben D. Wood. The Early Life of Ben D. Wood New Croton-on-Hudson, NY: 1982.
        1
            Ben D. Wood, op. cit., p. 12.

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of a rice mill was started, Wood having sold his pumping plant earlier that year to Roma merchant Manuel Guerra,
who installed it on his farm five miles west of Roma. At the time, Guerra was well on his way to becoming a
legendary Democratic political leader in Starr County.
          By 1903 Mr. Hill had moved to Brownsville, and, Conan believed, bought or leased a river farm he called
the ―White Ranch‖. He located on a large tract of level land at what is now known as Olmito, planting rice because
there was no quick transportation at the time, and rice would not spoil before it could be moved by boat. A large
pump was installed for the Brownsville Land and Irrigation Company, and 400 acres was cleared and 2-1lanted to
rice, a crop that Wood knew well as it was grown on the family plantation in South Carolina. He invented a large
ditcher or heavy border maker; it was pulled by three yoke of oxen, later by a steam tractor. In that way miles of
ditches and small canals were made to water 800 acres. Bumper crops were grown the first and second years.
          But the story of the rice plantation was short and sad, Conan recalled. By 1904 it was evident that the rich
river silt was underlaid by beach sand well charged with salt, which made the growing of rice impossible. Digging
many drainage ditches did little good, and the 1905 crop was a total failure. An optimistic associate insisted on
planting 400 acres of ―selected‖ land in 1906, but it, too, was a total failure and all of the partners went broke or
were badly bent. Sugar cane for sugar production failed for the same reason.
          Hard times, maybe, but money was ―hard‖ too, and social life in the Brownsville area was not without its
glamor and later romance for Gregg Wood. Port Isabel was a sort of pioneer Riviera. ―You could get a regular
banquet, a ten-course dinner with two kinds of wine for one peso,” he recalled.
          Other early arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Volz. In 1972, Mrs. Volz recalled:
                   ―Mr. Volz came to Brownsville from Indiana in 1902. The following year, 1903, he returned north
          after me. We were married in Cincinnati, OH where I was raised, and then departed on our honeymoon trip
          to Texas by train.
                   ―Arriving in Galveston, we embarked on a steamer, called The Manteo, which ran from Galveston
          to Point Isabel about once a month. Leaving Galveston Friday noon, we reached Point Isabel Monday
          afternoon. The boat was anchored in the Gulf, for the water was very high, and we were forced to remain
          on board until Tuesday afternoon. Then a small sailing vessel was sent to take us to shore. It was quite a
          task going from the steamer to the small boat on a rope ladder, as I had never tried to climb down one
          before and I was very seasick.
                   ―We were very glad to get to shore and in the little train which ran the narrow-guage tracks from
          Point Isabel to Brownsville daily. This train consisted of an engine and two coaches. After traveling for an
          hour or so, the train suddenly stopped. When we asked why it had stopped, we were informed that the train
          had run out of wood and that we had to wait until some trees could be chopped down in order to get enough
          for the train to get to Brownsville. It was getting dark and the coaches were without light most of the time
          for the conductor had but one lantern, and he carried this with him wherever he went. We finally reached
          Brownsville late that night.
                   ―The Mexican people are quite romantic, and upon learning that I was a bride,

                by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574.9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
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        serenaders came every night for over a month to play and sing theft lovely Mexican songs under our
        window. This is an old Spanish custom. Being very fond of Mexican music, I enjoyed these serenades
        immensely.
                ―The beautiful palms and tropical plants impressed me most in Brownsville. The quaint old streets
        were not paved and were very narrow. The city did not have a lighting or sewer system.
                ―The water system consisted of a barrel filled with water. A chain was fastened at each end of the
        barrel allowing it to roll as it was pulled along by a burro. When we wanted water, we ordered it brought to
        us in these barrels which cost 10 cents in Mexican money. We did not use any American money at that
        time. One American dollar was worth three Mexican pesos.
                ―The Mexicans and the Americans too, for that matter, used goat‘s milk, for cow‘s milk was hard to
        get. There was never any complaint about not having sweet milk, for the goats were driven up the streets of
        the city and were milked at our doorsteps. When we had as much milk as we wanted, the goats and their
        owners would move on to the next house.
                ―There were very few American people in Brownsville at that time. Most of them were stationed at
        Fort Brown. Our nearest railroad was 160 miles away, but a stagecoach came into Brownsville with mail
        every night, and took mail out every morning. This stagecoach went as far as Alice.
                ―Land was very cheap. We could buy all we wanted for ten cents an acre. It was all covered with
        cactus and brush. Everything was different from Ohio, but I liked the country.
                ―We lived in Brownsville until the the railroad came to this country. Then everything began to
        change and we moved to Mission in 1907.‖
         From 1903 to 1907, real settlement began as the railroad reached first Brownsville from Corpus Christi,
and then extended west toward Rio Grande City, stopping at Samfordyce, near the western edge of Hidalgo County
near the Starr County line. With a railroad, settlers had easy access to the cheap land; farmers could at last ship their
crops to the city markets; ranchers could ship their beef. But it took men of vision to plan settlements, advertise
them to the land-hungry farmers of the north, set up railroad trips to the valley to visit the right local farms; men
who could buy up the porciones at cheap prices, organize irrigation to bring water to the parched acres, arrange
markets for the produce and railway cars to carry that produce. Yes, the foundation was poured by the railways -       -


the time was ready for settling the Valley. Would men big enough to grasp the opportunity appear on the scene?
Yes, they would!
         One of the several dozen settlements made in the delta was that of Mission, in southwestern Hidalgo
County. This is the story of its settlement and growth.
         The peopling of this section of Tamaulipas by the Spanish under José de Escandon from 1749 until 1776,
including the distribution of the land in porciones to settlers in 1767 and later, is well known, and we will not
belabor the reader by repeating it. The result of the largest migration of settlers in this hemisphere until the
Mormon trek in the 19th century, it was the most successful of the Spanish settlements, substituting small ranches
and churches for Presidios of Spanish soldiers

                by Dick D. Heller. Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (95k) 581-9445 Oct. 11.2001
                                                                    47

protecting huge haciendas worked by Indian slave labor.
        The history of Mission proper does not even start in what is now Mission, but at La Lomita Chapel, for
which Mission is named. The spelling of the city as Mission instead of Mision indicates that it was, unlike La
Lomita, primarily an American settlement.
        In 1767, when the Royal Commission finally reached old Reynosa, the neighboring land was divided
among the settlers. They were mostly ranchers, and needed a source of water for themselves and their cattle, so
each was given a ―front‖ along the Rio Grande of about half a mile, but the porción extended back from the river
from 18 to 22 miles; it was to include any improvements already made by the settler, so the porciones were not
exactly the same size. The longer the settler had been in the delta, the more land he received.
        Our story started with the assignment of the eight porciones which underlie the lots on which modern
Mission sits-- as both Conway & Hoit and later Shary immediately subdivided the porciones, forming sections
which were smaller and could be easily sub-divided.
        Now the city of Mission was so-named for the La Lomita Mission, whose land provided the base for the
creation of Mission and its supporting irrigation system. But what do we know about the actual founding of La
Lomita? Very little.

         We know the story of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and why they came to this Valley; we know of their
years and years of good works here, ministering to the rich and poor alike, but mostly to the poor of the old
porciones.
         When the U.S. took the area in 1848, it left the local people in a real dilemma. They were all cut off from
their mother churches in Mexico, yet the recenty created Bishopric of Texas had no Spanish-speaking fathers to
send into the area south of San Antonio. Jean Marie Odin, the new Bishop, appealed to a representative of the
French Order of Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who on his own took his small group of five, which had just failed in
an effort to establish a college in Philadelphia, to Brownsville. Two of these sickened and died, two deserted the
order, and the unlucky leader was ordered from the Valley, and returned to France, his health destroyed.
         But the next year Bishop Jean-Marie Odin himself went to France on a recruiting trip, and appealed to the
founder of the order, The Servant of God, Charles Joseph Eugene de Mazenrod, Bishop of Marseilles, whose order
was approved by Pope Leo XII Feb. 17, 1826. Bishop de Mazenrod agreed, and a second, hardier group were soon
ministering to the faithful in Brownsville and up the river to Laredo. They were withdrawn from the Upper Valley
in the mid- 1850‘s and sent into Mexico, but with the return of Benito Juarez and the anti-clerical party to power
after the eviction of the Emperor Maximillian in the 1867, the order was returned to the Upper Valley, and remain
here today, successfully establishing churches and missions that serve many of the Catholics of the Valley.
         In 1852, the Frenchman René Guyard, a devout Catholic, soon met the French priests who were traveling
by horseback to the ranches on the north side of the river. He immediately realized the necessity of bringing the
faith to his employees to settle them and make them conscious of morality. He asked the good padres to look over
his vaqueros and their wives, and he built them a chapel on his small hill, midway between Brownsville and Roma,
where the O.M.I. later established a sub-headquarters.
         It will be immediately noted that this historical account is totally at variance with a statement

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
                                                                     48

frequently appearing in previous histories, ―The Mission of La Lomita was founded in 1824 by the Oblate
Fathers.‖ First of all, the Oblate Order was not founded in France until 1826, and did not reach the Mission area
until their 2nd appearance in Brownsville in 1852, after they were formally authorized in the Valley; the property
did not belong to the Oblates until 1871-5. As previously mentioned, they had been withdrawn from the upper
Valley, and sent to various Mexican cities, but returned in March, 1867 after their expulsion from Mexico. It is true
that the secular church, which preceded the Oblates in the Valley, but left in 1848, had unmanned stations on the
north bank where they periodically appeared and performed religious duties. But none of these stations were titled
to the Catholic church of the United States, nor have they been located by archeological digs. The Codex Historicus
of Roma written by Fr. J. M. Clos, inventories what was turned over to the Oblates on March 15, 1867, when
Bishop Dubois of Galveston consigned the area to the Oblates-- but it only included property at Roma, Davis(Rio
Grande City), San Ignacio, and the ranch of Salineno - nothing yet at La Lomita. We have found no justification for
the 1824 date.
         The first chapel was called El Tapadero, but it soon deteriorated, and was replaced by La Lomita about
1865, according to some of the current stories. But it should be remembered that before 1871, when René Guyard
died, and 1875, when his will was finally probated on the American side (he lived in Reynosa which was ―county
seat‖ for the porciones when he bought them), there were two ranches, El Nogalito and La Lomita. But the chapel
was built on El Nogalito, yet called La Lomita - much more likely after the good Oblate Fathers united the two, and
                                                         -


added the connecting porción, and called the new ranch La Lomita. The 1865 date is most likely for the first name,
and 1875 for the second, called La Lomita. Mass was said, marriages affirmed, babies baptized, and prayers
entoned for the deceased as the ―Cavalry of Christ‖ passed back and forth along the river the last half of the 19th
Century. Just two of the faithful padres spent 175,000 miles on horseback in the Valley, equivalent to six times
around the earth at the equator!
         By his will of 1861, Guyard left his two porciones and their cattle to the Missionary Oblates of Mary
Immaculate for the propagation of the faith among the savages. He asked that Fr. Francisco Parisot and Fr. Pedro
Karalum be notified.
         It was July 5, 1877 when a simple deed of warranty was recorded in Book C, page 34, of the real estate
records of Hidalgo County, by Pierre Francisco Parisot, of Cameron County, the remaining O.M.I. priest. Fr.
Keralum had already disappeared in the wilderness. This transferred porciones 55 and 57 to the Missionary Society
of Oblate Fathers of Texas and satisfied René Guyard‘s will of Dec. 18, 1861, and the codicil of September 19,
1871. Alcalde Juan N. Trevino certified December 8, 1871 that Guyard had died after September, 1871. Later the
Order purchased porcion 56, thus owning 55, 56, and 57. But the rich ranches turned out to be a burden rather than
a blessing. The hired ranchers were more interested in turning a profit for themselves than in returning money to
the good fathers. The Oblates asked Wells Fargo to rent their horses and use their mission chapel as a remount
station for the Brownsville- Laredo stagecoaches.
         They discussed possible sale of the land for half a decade without agreeing, the younger fathers wanting to
sell, the older ones, to keep their old chapel and its lands, They even leased space to Wells Fargo, but this
frequently interferred with religious services at the Chapel. They decided to give the ranch one more chance - but it
                                                                                                               -


paid off no better than their other efforts, Funds were getting low, and the priests needed additional money to
expand their mission program.

                by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574—9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct 11. 2001
                                                                    49

         The first real knowledge of the specific building of La Lomita, other than its generally conceded existence,
comes in 1899-1900 when the chapel is rebuilt of stone, carved from the solid rock by the good fathers and brothers
- four of them - involved. After the establishment of the city of Mission, the church moved its interest to the larger,
-              -


growing town, and the mission slipped into disuse, except for some special occasions. Periodically it would be
restored by the faithful of the neighborhood, only to fall again into disuse.
         A small community had grown up at La Lomita by 1902, with several ranch houses and small stores near
the chapel. S. A. McHenry, Jack Robertson and others were already living there by 1903. Albert McHenry, son of
S. A. McHenry, recalled later that some of the pre-Mission settlers of the area included A. P. Wright, Sr., J. A.
Lucas, Fletcher Trittipo, J. F. Vandervort, Charles Volz and the McShanes. In 1972, Mrs. Anne Spurgeon, 90, said
that she had come to the area in 1902, and lived in Mission ever since. Two of her step-children, Charles Langston
and Myrtle Langston Ledbetter, came with their mother, Mrs. Spurgeon‘s sister, in 1907. ―Harold Jefferds, who
later became a U.S. marshal at Brownsville, was here and so was a Dillard family, who lived on a ranch near
Abram,‖ he added. ―When the Dawson family arrived, coming from the west as recorded by Cleo Dawson in She
Came to the Valley, they spent their first few days at the McHenry home, while they were getting located.‖
Activities centered around the church at La Lomita, with a small plaza in front. The Oblates had added a rectory,
guest house, quarters for the lay brothers, a blacksmith shop and buggy shed. Across the plaza were the priests‘
quarters, two or three Mexican stores, and a number of jacales, wood shacks with thatched roofs. Two buildings of
adobe, which had been standing for some time, were used as the dining room and kitchen respectively. A short
distance from the chapel were a large bake oven, a windmill and a well. One father tended grape arbors, and there
was a school, taught by Catholic sisters, on land donated by McHenry. Four Missionary Oblates were located
there-- Fr. Francis Bugnard, Fr. René Pesheur, and brothers Van Blaer and Curran.
         In 1904, shortly after the opening of the Gulf Coast lines from Houston to Brownsville, James W. Hoit,
owner of a chain of grain elevators in the Great Lakes area, stopped at Brownsville while looking for a lost boxcar
of grain. Always on the lookout for real estate opportunites, or trade sites, he traveled upriver to Rio Grande City,
where he became interested in a tract in southeastern Starr County, and took an option on 4,000 acres from the
owner before returning to Minneapolis. Through a friend, he met John J. Conway in 1906 in Minneapolis, and
persuaded him to come to the Valley with him. Conway was then operating a land business in South Dakota. The
two men arrived at the old Mercedes Hotel after Christmas in 1906. They eventually formed a partnership, hoping
to found an agricultural empire along the north bank of the Rio Grande in Starr County. But when they talked to the
owner, they learned he had already sold the land to John Clossner, ignoring Hoit‘s option. They then talked to
Closner, who let the two know, in no uncertain terms, that he had no kind feelings for ―you Yankees coming down
here and horning in on us.‖ To back up his statement, the Hidalgo County sheriff displayed his pistol, quite in the
manner of today‘s western movie heroes.
         Starr County was still a day‘s drive by stagecoach through the brush from Samfordyce, the end of the
railroad line, so Conway favored locating in Hidalgo County. Conway noted the onions and cabbage growing there
in January, quite a sight for a South Dakotan.
         On their way back to Brownsville from Rio Grande City they stopped at La Lomita, and spent

                        _by Diçk D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
                                                                   50

the night with the good padres there. They saw the small community already grown up at the Mission, and that
residents were breeding cattle and horses, and raising grapes, bananas, figs and other crops.
         Fr. Juanito Bretault offered the hospitality of the recently built Novitiate of San Pedro to the two strangers,
who liked what they saw. They spent a few days with Father Juanito and Fr. Francis Bugnard at the little chapel,
rebuilt in 1899, with a small kitchen and a guest room on one side. Conway learned that the land was for sale, and
realizing that it was much better than the land in eastern Starr County, headed for San Antonio, and spent a week
convincing the order‘s board of trustees that they should sell and lease their ranch to the newly formed La Lomita
Land Company. After five days of haggling, terms were agreed to, and on February 27, 1907 the contract was
finalized. The railroad had just gone through the ranch land, four miles north of La Lomita. Father Bretault
continued living at the Novitiate long after it was closed; he was still there, in 1931, past 88 years of age.
         The original contract called for a five-year agreement, renewable at an increased price for a second five
years. At first just porciones 55 and 56 were involved, with 400 acres, to be chosen later, excluded. The annual
rental fee was $5,000, payable in advance March 1 annually. Conway and Hoit had to pay all taxes, maintain and
keep up the fences, and make improvements on the land. At the end of five years, Conway had an Option to
continue at $7,500 a year with the same conditions. Conway also had an option to purchase all three tracts at $12 an
acre for land south of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railroad, and $10 an acre for the land north of the
railroad. The purchase was to be for $50,000 down, and the balance in five equal annual payments. Or he could pay
in advance. Before purchase, he could sell any part of the leased land, advancing the Oblate Fathers $17.50 for each
acre sold. Land sale amounts were credited toward the next rental fee.
         Conway and Hoit eventually bought all of porciones 55, 56 and 57, 17,000 acres, from the Oblate Fathers,
and 10,000 adjacent acres from John Closner and James B. Wells at the cost of $9 an acre, including their townsite
of Mamie.
         What was the rest of the Valley like in 1907? Of course, the old ―city‖ then was Brownsville, founded at
the lime of the Mexican War. J. F. Vandervort described the Valley then as follows: ―I arrived in Brownsville with
my family in December, 1907. Brownsville at that time was predominately Latin American, no paved streets, no
water system, no telephones and the only language on the streets was Spanish. I prospected the Valley for a
location, going to San Benito, Harlingen and Mercedes. I made my headquarters in Brownsville at the Roosevelt
Hotel, long since disappeared. While in Brownsville, I met John Conway of Conway & Hoit, who insisted that I go
to Mission to see what he called, ―The Garden of the Valley.‖ ―The names of the towns in the Valley in 1907 were
Bessie (now San Benito) which consisted of a hotel which had sort of a zoo including a wildcat in a cage. Harlingen
was a town with a Missouri Pacific Railroad round house, Wilson‘s Saloon, with bartender and a room on the
second floor with cots to rent for hotel purposes.
         ―Up the branch you came to Lonsboro, now known as Mercedes, with a good hotel, a grocery store
operated by Mrs. Eva Wotring, an experimental garden, a drug store operated by L.M. Booth. At this time there
was no town of Mission and all activity was centered at La Lomita, the Catholic Mission on the banks of the Rio
Grande, four miles south of the present town of Mission.‖

                        by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct 11.2001
                                                                   51

         Virgil N. Lott, in a Mission Times article January 22, 1959, gave the following description of Harlingen in
1907 when he arrived in the Valley: ―After an all-day journey through country I was familiar with, having been a
brakeman for McCabe & Steen Construction Co. who built the old St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico (now
Missouri Pacific) from Bay City to Refugio to a connection with that part of it built by Sam Robertson, I arrived at
‗Sixshooter Junction‘, now called Harlingen, and waded through water from the depot to the hotel and, tired and
homesick though I was, went to sleep lulled by rain drops on the roof of the hotel which, even in those primitive
days, was a good one.
         ―Next morning I was up betimes and since the branch train didn‘t leave Harlingen until 10 a.m., I had
ample time to look the town over. And that didn‘t require much looking. Harlingen was then just what its detractors
dubbed it-- ―Six Shooter Junction‖ --and a half dozen Texas Rangers and as many deputy sheriffs, all armed to the
teeth, having nothing else to do, met at the depot to welcome arriving visitors from all parts of the world. Naturally,
we tenderfeet were impressed both with the armed residents and the vast expanse of water between the station,
which was on stilts four feet off the ground, and the town proper. I looked with a critical eye on Harlingen‘s ever
becoming the fine city it is today.(1959)‖
         The Wood family, whom we left in the Brownsville area about 1905, went into the merchantile business,
and in 1905 ―spent $25,000 with the Brownsville Irrigation Co. digging drain ditches for a number of farms. We
got the drainage business started in Cameron County,‖ according to Gregg.
         In 1906, Wood planted cotton and vegetables and ―went broke again,‖ .Wood exhausted his savings and
assets, and went back to Starr County, where he homesteaded three sections of School Land. Gregg Wood then
went to Cerralvo, N.L., Mexico, where he was employed by a smelting company. His family remained in Starr
County on the school lands, securing his lands by occupation. He returned to Texas in 1908 to work for Conway &
Hoit, becoming superintendent of the Mission canal system by 1910. In 1911, Gregg married Mary Chanis
Cottingham of Brownsville. Alexander Wood, meanwhile, moved to Mission in 1911, and in 1914 he traded his
three sections to a rancher for 2,200 acres of Porción 84, which included the 240 acres he had owned in 1896. He
was preparing to put in another irrigation system in the same place in Starr County, when he died very suddenly
May 15, 1915,
         Another early story is that of the McHenry family. ―Early in 1907, Dad (S. A. McHenry) came up the Old
Military Highway to La Lomita (Mission was still unborn) to look around and decided to settle here,‖ Albert
McHenry explained. The elder McHenry bought one 240-acre plot and another of 120 acres, about three miles
south of present-day Mission, on the northwest edge of Madero, from Conway & Hoit. The little house, much in
need of repairs, still stood in 1951. The acreage was farmed by the elder McHenry until his death in 1923, and
under the family‘s supervision until it was sold in 1944.
         (The younger McHenry didn‘t move to the area until 1915; his father was a staff member of the
Agricultural Experiment stations at Beeville and Cuero, and the family lived in Cuero while Albert and his three
older sisters completed high school. They visited at the Valley at Santa Maria for the Christmas of 1906, where the
husband was installing an irrigation system for the Louis Brothers, a development firm from St. Louis. They visited
their new farm on summer vacations until the final 1915 move to the Mission area.)

                        by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574.9743 (956)581-9445 Oct 11,2001
                                                                    52

         S.A. McHenry planted alfalfa as his first crop in 1907 after buying his farm-- and marketing was no
problem, as the mules used to construct the canals and irrigation ditches ate the whole crop!
         In July, 1907 engineer Sidney J. Rowe and his crew surveyed the land, and proceeded to divide it into
small 40-acre farming tracts. (In those days, a farmer and his horse or mule could only farm a small acreage, and of
course with irrigation the Valley farms could raise several crops a year.) Conway & Hoit established their
headquarters at La Lomita, Conway bringing in the customers by train and cab, and Hoit running the land company
office. Sales started immediately at $35 to $60 an acre, with the price later rising to $100 and $125 an acre. The
development of the tract began with the construction of the ―first lift station‖, the old pumping house located where
Chimney Park now stands, the beginning of the water improvement system that still serves the cities, farms and
ranches of this area. Canals from the first lift were rapidly extended into the farming area around La Lomita.
         By the Fall of 1907, the following had purchased tracts of varying size: M. A. Whitney, S. J. Rowe, C. M.
Wakeman, E. B. Hurt, E. A. and C. P. Wright, A. P. Wright, Jack Robertson, Charles and William Volz, and S. A.
McHenry. McHenry, Robertson and others were already living at La Lomita when land sales began, and McHenry
and his son Albert stayed with the priests while their home was under construction. The Conway & bit office,
across the plaza from the chapel, included bunkhouses and a kitchen for the employees. Jim Dougherty was in
charge of the company store, and was the first postmaster. The Charles Volz family had the first child born in the
new town, and also were of those claiming to have the first citrus orchard in Mission. J. F. Vandervort arrived in
1907. as did Patrick McShane. The development of the tract began on the first lift land; it was cleared, canals and
laterals built, and a small pump installed. Mr. Conway said, ―I thought when I saw great volumes of water flowing
out through the canals watering the parched land, that I had harnessed the old Rio Grande river.‖ It was a small
beginning, affecting a few farm families, But the end is not yet in sight - the vision of John J. Conway opened the
way whereby thousands of people have profited. Yes, he was a builder who built for those who came after him.
         The A. P. Wright family, which had settled about 1906 at Santa Maria, Cameron County, and later at La
Lomita, moved to the Mission site in 1909 when the townsite had been established on the railroad. Conway was
vitally interested in Wright‘s work with citrus, and encouraged him to move to the new site. Wright had started his
citrus experiments at the Santa Maria site first. The entire Wright family, parents and seven children-- Ewell, ha J.,
Charles P., A. Perry, Lynn A.; Rosalea and Althea stayed at the old hotel until their home was built - on a 40-acre
                                                              --


block of brush and cactus, with coyotes, possums, and other varmints around to raid the henhouse. It was on the
main mad from Rio Grande City to Brownville, now called Old 83, and on the railroad. In 1959 the home still
stood, owned then by the ―Rich‖ Hansens. To the east, the neighbors were the B. A. Davis family, just across the
barbed wire fence, the line being where Highland Avenue is now, the location of the First Presbyterian Church.
Across the road and railroad lived the J. K. Robertson‘s. The canals were just being built in that area in 1909, and
fresh dirt, heaped up by the draglines, was everywhere for the pleasure of the children, and apprehension of the
mothers. The Wright home was bounded on the west by a canal and by what is now Mayberry Road. Neighbors
included the Romes and the Calihans, who lived east of the Davis‘, up Mayberry.
         Loft recalled the family as follows: ―The A. P. Wrights moved here from Mercedes and Mr.

                by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
                                                                        53

Wright established the first nursery early in 1908. Mr. Wright was an enthusiastic advocate of the Valley as a great
citrus fruit empire and backed his faith by setting out the first citrus fruit orchard. Three of his sons Charley, Ewell,
                                                                                                                  -


and I.J. are deceased(1959) as are Mr. and Mrs. Wright, but Lynn, Perry, Althea Richards and Rosalee George,
        -


who lives in California, are still carrying on the traditions of this fine family. C. P. was our first gents‘ furnishing
goods store owner and Hallie, his wife, is the daughter of Dr. Jeffries, our first physician/ Another daughter of Dr.
Jeffries, Lucille, and a brother, H. C., have also joined the great majority. H. C., or as we called him in the old days,
―Hub‖, was the first registered pharmacist in Mission. His widow and one son survive and the drug store he and
John Waite established is now owned in part by the widow, ―Genevieve‖ and the son, Herbert, Jr., and Gilbert
Balli. Althea Wright Richards, in 1959, recalled for the Mission Times‘s 50th anniversary edition of January 22,
what it was like in Mission in those early days.
         ―Many are the times we kids simply walked through the flume under the road to play or visit each other,
until the water was finally turned in. Then we had a favorite swimming hole, just south of the railroad, where the
flume and dirt canal joined. It was our ideal place to meet and was eventually shaded by willow trees. Of course, we
only used this at intervals when the water was low.
         ―I think we enjoyed the water so much because it had been so scarce before. Many friends visited me when
my father let water into the small ditches and we played like ducks and mudhens and made mud slides up and down
the banks.
          And we had a ‗postofficé under a signboard at the corner of the canal, where( 1959) Allen‘s Texaco
Service Station is. Taking a short cut to school from this point we went through and around brush, passing the
original brick home built by Dr. Caldwell. This place having passed through several sales, has recently been
purchased and remodeled by Bill Dondlinger.(1959) It is at 1201 Francisco, just north of the Catholic Church.
              Our friends, the Robertsons, had built a small home by the river before moving to upper Mission.
Having been neighbors at Santa Maria, Ardis Robertson and I were great friends, so I visited her at the river before
our family moved to Mission. She had a pet burro, so she and I proceeded to ride this donkey to town, a distance of
some three miles. As most of you know, this is about the slowest of all slow transportation. The trip consumed most
of a day and we used all the patience possible with this stubborn animal. Anyway, as we look back, it was fun and
real pioneering.
         ―I have a fond memory of visiting Verna Sammons. They lived near the river a little east of the present
(1959) Valley Brick and Tile Company. They had just about the only bathtub for miles around, and naturally we
liked to go there and enjoy the conveniences. This was made possible because they had their own water well.‖
         In 1919, Wright was offered $1,750 an acre for his beautiful orchard and nursery, but backed out of the
sale, and was glad. He had the first nursery stock in the west end of the Valley, experimenting with many things
sent him by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several old trees in the area still stand where he planted them
years ago the large palms at the Shary home on Shary Road north of Three Mile, for example. Wright‘s children
            --


were all successful Ewell was the big produce grower; ha J. established Wright‘s Pure Food Grocery, Charles P.
                      --


and A. Perry were successful farmers of the La Lomita tract in the early days, growing fabulous truck crops; later,

                 by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, „I‟X 78574-9743 (956) 581.9445 Oct. 11,2001
                                                                        54

Charles P. had the latest in Men‘s Wear. As Wright grew older, he sold off city lots from his beautiful nursery site.4




        4
            Written August 23, 1992; Conan Wood material added May 18-19, 1993 to the Ben D. Wood material.

                  by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11. 2001
                                                                                             55


                                                                    Chapter 6
                                                                Founding of Mission

         Victoriano Contreras, Sr., an early lawman in Mission, came to the new town in 1907 to start his own
business; he had been a deputy sheriff in Rio Grande City, Starr County. At that time, most of the area of present
day Mission was rugged brushland. Laborers from Mexico were brought in to clear sites for the new businesses.
Intending to open a dairy and meat market, Contreras set up a corral for his animals on the present-day site of
Roosevelt Elementary School. He also opened up a saloon and billiards parlor on the present site of Barrera‘s
Supply Company. Eventually he gave up his dream of a dairy and opened a grocery and dry goods store on the
corner of Doherty and Third Streets.
         After his businesses were established, Contreras built a fine new home for his family. It had eight rooms,
quite large at that time. They had a large wood-burning stove for cooking, kerosene lamps to light up the house, and
a large barn in back provided shelter for the horses and carriage.
         One day in 1908, Dr. John Jeffries made a house call at the Contreras home. Noticing an old deputy
sheriffs badge, he soon learned that Contreras had been a deputy in Rio Grande City before coming to Mission.
Some time afterwards, Dr. Jeffries came to see Contreras and asked him to become a law officer in Mission. A
civic-minded person, Contreras agreed, and served for more than 20 years. Mission had no jail in those days, and
an arrest meant a ride by horseback to the county seat; sometimes prisoners were taken to San Antonio. Contreras
was proud of the fact that he never had to kill a man in line of duty, nor did he use his gun as a club to inflict
injuries.
         During the First World War, when Gen. John J. Pershing came to Mission recruiting men to go to France,
Contreras enlisted as a captain, and trained troops camped between Sixth and Leo Najo streets. But his family
pressured him to return to his business and family, and after two weeks he resigned. He remained a law official
until his retirement in 1933 at the age of 63, and died Oct. 21, 1943. He is buried in the San José Cemetery. A
self-educated man, he learned to read and write without ever spending a day in the classroom.
         In 1906, Hildalgo County Sheriff John Clossner and Brownsville Democratic leader and attorney James B.
Wells laid out a rival town named Mamie for Clossner‘s daughter, and the railroad built its station there, with a
siding. Wells and Clossner were smart enough to get several of the railroad board members to invest in their town;
thus, the railroad investment there. This was the stop for La Lomita, and a mail hack drawn by mules met the
visitors and homeseekers of La Lomita at the Mamie Station.
         By 1908, Conway was running ads in the Gulf Coast Magazine touting his land sales, with his La Lomita
ranch lands as the best buys in Texas or the United States. And of course the land would be irrigated by his
powerful new 38,000-gallons-an-hour pump. But he hated writing an ad which included the words ―The hack will
meet you at the Mamie Station and take you to the ranch, four miles away.‖
         Of course, the hack ride took the visitors to the Stites, Dustin and Nicholson farms, to view broad acres of
green truck farming, and then stopped at A.W. Daughterty‘s Jardin de Flores, an old


               By Dick D. Heller, Jr, 31-3 Granite Dr. , Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    56

rancho with its old Mexican-style buildings, great trees and flowers, its peace and quiet and the courteous
hospitality so typical of the ranchos of that date. These left an imprint on memory hard to erase.
         The town of Mamie was located at the intersection of old 83 and Inspiration Road, about where the
Expressway exit is today. For many years the Mamie depot and sectionhouse remained unchanged. Sections of
large pipe for pump house smoke stacks littered the grounds between the depot and stock pens.
         Conway immediately asked for a railroad stop on his own land, but was told that his planned site,just a mile
from Mamie, was too close to the other station. Some of the officials of the St. Louis and Brownsville Railroad (the
Border Pacific) owned acreage about where Mission Acres is today, and since that was closer to Mamie, now just a
railway switch a mile west of the Mission stop, they wanted to make Mamie the center of activity, according to Roy
P. Conway, son of the father of Mission. Conway appealed to the Railway Commission; one of the commissioners,
Allison Mayfield, came down and looked over the site. He explained the situation on the railroad‘s board, which
had already rejected the offer, and suggested that Conway negotiate with the railway, offering it something
concrete for its troubles. Years later Albert McHenry recalled that as a small lad he went to the Mamie station,
where his father met with railroad officials discussing another station. Mr McHenry and two others didn‘t care
which site was picked, as they were equi-distant from their farms. But, Conway, of course, cared very much. He
then offered to build the depot himself, deed 20 acres of irrigated land to the railroad, furnished the necessary ties
for a siding, and graded the area. The railroad agreed, and laid out the yard tracks and designated the stop as
―Mission‖, a name picked out by Conway at the suggestion of Mrs. Charles Volz.
         ―After laying out the townsite, a name was necessary for it, although Mr. Rowe (the civil engineer) didn‘t
think it would amount to much more than a cow trailtown or jerkwater village.
         ―Nevertheless, Mr. John Conway, Mr. J.W. Hoit, Mr. Chas. Volz and myself got together in our yard one
day to decide upon a name for the new town. (The first name suggested was that of Conway, but there was already
a Conway in Texas.) I suggested Mission City as an appropriate name since the townsite was near the old Mission
Chapel. But after discovering that there was already a Mission City in Texas, we decided to call the town Mission
instead,‖ Mrs. Charles Volz later recalled.
         As soon as the deal with the railway was cut, teams and scrapers began grading the streets, and the frame
depot was built. (The Samfordyce building had been moved from the end of the railroad to Mamie.) By 1909, Jack
Lehman was depot agent, moving down from Samfordyce. The depot was a small affair, later part of the freight
depot.
         The town originally had 13 east-west streets, and 13 north-south avenues which were cut by August, 1909.
They were, of course, just dirt at the time. Graveling and then paving came much later. The avenues were named
primarily for pioneers Conway, Perkins, Dunlap, Cummings, Miller, Nicholson, Slabaugh, and Dougherty.
                              --


Oblate, St. Marie, Francisco and Keralum reflect the influence of the Oblate order. La Lomita the main north-south
boulevard, was later changed to Conway.
         Originally, only the Oblate names reflected Mexican influence, but the Mexican-American community
had its own names for many of the streets and roads. Stewart Road was known as Calle
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    57

de la Cruz, for a mesquite cross erected by the Oblate fathers to mark the spot of a gun battle. Mayberry Road was
known as Calle de las Gallinas Blancas, for Mr. Riley‘s chicken farm. Bryan Road was called Calle de la Casa de
Ladrillo, for William Jennings Bryan‘s brick home. The Military Highway was called the Calle Real, or Royal
Road, indicating it had been a road before the area became American in 1848.
          By 1908, a number of farmers had settled in the La Lomita area. The first carload of beans was shipped
from Mamie on the fifth day of May, 1908. ―They were raised by Frantz Aber on what was later known as the
Dobbins farm,‖ according to J. F. Vandervort writing many years later, ―and a man by the name of Hurt who owned
the property later owned by Guenther Weiske and myself. We were all newcomers and did not know we should
have shipped the beans in March to get a good price. Shipment was made from Mamie because there was no switch
at Mission, nor had one been considered. We had to guarantee the freight on the car of beans which we eventually
had to pay, costing each of us $150. We had a large hunk of experience and no cash.‖
          Conway and Hoit had formed the Mission Canal Co., which erected a pump plant, built canals and sent
water to the lands they sold. The first unit at the river plant consisted of a vertical pump, which compared to the
monsters later used, looked like a toy. Of course, the present pumps are again smaller but much more efficient. To
the early settlers, this was a big deal. And water tax for the $35-an-acre land was the huge sum of $1 an acre and no
flat rate! Onions, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc., made some big profits for the lucky folks then.
          It was at this period in the history of Mission that folks headed east had to specify East McAllen or West
McAllen when they bought their tickets for those towns; Edinburgh was the county seat, located where Hidalgo is
now-- it dropped the ―h‖ and became Edinburg when it moved inland away from the flooding.
          One of the early pioneer families who had heard about the Valley while farming in the Indian Territory
(later Oklahoma) was Mr. and Mrs. G, M. McMurray; they drove a covered wagon behind a team of mules. He got
a job on the Albert Sammons farm near La Lomita. Farm wages then were 25 cents a day, American money. Mrs.
McMurray‘s sister, the widowed Mrs. Langston, was impressed by the letters they received from the McMurray‘s,
and brought her son Charles and daughter Myrtle on the train to the area. Charles had been born in Arkansas April
5, 1901; his father had died in 1906, and the family moved to Oklahoma to be near Mrs. Langston‘s brother, Taylor
Ross, and her sister, Mrs. McMurray. At La Lomita, the children lived on the Sammons farm with their aunt and
uncle, while Mrs. Langston took a job in Mrs. Dunlap‘s restaurant, earning the luxurious salary of $3 a week.
          Mrs. Langston soon married J. B. Maples, and the children moved in with their new father on another farm
near La Lomita,. Then came the big flood of 1909, and ten feet of water stood in their home! They soon moved to
Mission.
          Later the family moved to the Blalock colony near Tampico, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They returned about
1910, when the Mexican Revolution heated up. Charlie Langston later recalled returning to Mission on an old oil
tanker with about SO other refugees from the revolution. They were caught in a hurricane, and tossed violently for
about five days. Everyone on board got violently seasick except Charlie and one other boy; the two feasted on
bananas the whole way, and the very sight of them eating was enough to drive most of the other passengers to the
rail.
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                   58

         When the family came back from Mexico, Charlie got a job with Western Union as a messenger boy. On
several occasions he delivered messages to William Jennings Bryan‘s home. He always enjoyed this, as Mr. Bryan
would give him a silver dollar tip.
         Ed and Helen Dawson and their two daughters, Cleo and Carrie were homesteading about 90 miles north of
Laredo when they heard about a fertile border country where oranges grew on the trees. They left their dry,
sunbaked homestead and trekked southeast, the ―cut-across‖ route proving to be the long, hard way.
         They arrived in Mission in 1908; the railroad had also just arrived in Mission, and went only to Mamie;
they found a clearing where mesquite brush and cacti were being pulled out to make La Lomita Avenue, Mission‘s
main street. About two blocks running north and south on each side of the railroad soon developed, with frame
structures. The land office and boarding houses were two stories high and the stores were small frame buildings
with board walks in front.
         The other early arrivals were coming by rail, by ox-cart and by covered wagon. Some came from Mexico,
others from the Eastern United States, and some came directly from Europe, working their way along the winding
Rio Grande.
         Life held an excitement for those early settlers, even though the street was deep sand and the air was filled
with clouds of dust constantly being kicked up by horseback riders and the prevailing southeast wind.
         The Dawsons ran a general store, and Cleo was a little girl, flitting in and out between the counters of the
small store while her mother waited on customers, or sat importantly behind the impressive roll-top desk. She took
her naps under the counter, and when she got hungry she ate cookies right out of the big Nabisco box.
         In 1908, Mission life was fraught with the natural fears of living in a frontier country, where ruffians,
bandits and fortune seekers of all classes mixed with the farmers and settlers coming to seek loot or promise. Guns
                                                                                                                --


were used to emphasize opinion and force of arms was a part of the way of life for many. Yes, it was a period of
frontier life for the Rio Grande, from Brownsville to the Pacific Ocean along the border.
         Cleo and her little sister Carrie started their schooling at the first school, went to the first Sunday School
held temporarily in a pool hall. They remembered their first car in Mission and the first piano. At that time drinking
water was brought from the river in a donkey-powered cart with a barrel of water mounted on it. Lights, ice and gas
came years later.
         Cleo and Carrie went away to school; Carrie rode horse bareback, took painting and music lessons and was
as blonde as Cleo was brunette. But shortly after, Ed Dawson and the beautiful little Carrie both died, leaving the
mother Helen and her soon-to-be famous daughter, Cleo.
         When Mrs. Helen Dawson died, the streets were blocked off in front of her home to shut out the noise of
the growing, bustling community she had given so much of her life to. The men who had worked in younger days
stood around with their hands in their pockets, showing real feeling and saying that the town would close up when
the curtain shade was drawn. And the town did close down, a special silence reigning. Another pioneer had joined
the band of others who came to conquer a new country, and left it better and more civilized by their presence. The
Mexican ranch families, the boys who had worked in her ice cream parlor, the lady friends who had gathered in her
memory --all are a part of the book ―She came to the Valley‖ by Dr. Dawson, the story of her mother.
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    59

Women like Mrs. Dawson and the others who settled here helped make the country what it has become.
         The Mission Canal Company moved its offices from La Lomita to Mission in 1909, occupying the brick
building built by J. C. Rowe; this was located on the site of the old C. G. de la Garza store, south of the railroad
tracks.
         Mr. and Mrs. George F. Tanner moved to Mission in 1909; they were both still living here in 1972, Mr.
Tanner then 95 and Mrs. Tanner, 90. Their daughter, Evelyn Keifer, was also living in Mission then.
         On October 6, 1910 M.E. Carson , his wife, and two daughters arrived in Mission by train, and rented a
―hack‖ to carry them to the river where Carson bad a 7-acre farm on the Rio Grande, just north of La Lomita.
         Carson had been born in Fort Atkinson, TA on January 13, 1864, as the Civil War was drawing to a close.
He and his brother ran a trading post at Bemidji, MN ―The Ice Box of the World.‖ Here, on Jan. 1, 1893 he married
Mary Headbird, daughter of a chief of the Chippewa tribe. Their daughters, Laura B. and Myrtle Eva, were born
there.
         About 1907 the Carsons moved to Lawrence KS. Mrs. Carson and her daughters remained there will Mr.
Carson made a trip to Texas. He arrived in Fort Worth on Christmas Day. Everyone was shooting fire crackers or
fireworks. On a train south the next day he met John J. Conway, who lost no time in convincing him that he should
visit the Rio Grande Valley, where Conway had land for sale.
         He went to Brownsville, worked his way up-river to La Lomita, and decided to buy 7 acres there. He got a
job nearby at the pumping station, and started to build on is land. In 1909, Carson went back to Lawrence, KS and
got a job, and decided to stay awhile. However, the area was hit by hard times, and in about a year‘s time Carson
brought his family to Mission to live. He had kept in touch with his neighbor, Will McShane, and knew that the
great flood of 1909 had deposited water up to the window sills on his riverside home!
         October 6 was a very hot day, but the next night a ―blue norther‖ blew in as the Carson girls were sharing
one blanket as they slept on the floor in their house. Mr. Carson had decided on the area because of the warm
climate--and he had some explaining to do!
         The family became very tired of eating Mexican bread, so they begged Mary Carson to try to bake them
some bread. She borrowed some yeast from Mrs. Ratcliff and baked her family bread on the open fireplace. It was
a great success! She found that she could also bake pie on the fireplace that Mr. Carson had fashioned for her.
Things looked a lot better as the food improved.
         Laura and Eva first attended school at the La Lomita School. Later they attended the Mission Schools,
riding the inter-urban on the Spider Web Railway, with Mr. Stephens as its conductor and engineer. The
inter-urban was a single passenger car, often called a ―Toonerville Trolley‖ after the inter-urban car in a popular
old newspaper cartoon.
         Mr. Carson was a Mason and both of his daughters were members of the order of the Eastern Star.
         Laura married William ―Billy‖ Moore on April 15, 1914 and the couple had four children. Win. E. Moore,
their son, married Loterie Lankford. Bill and Loterie live in Hebronville and have three children, two sons and one
daughter. Virginia married Richard Wiesehan and they have three
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                         60

sons. ―Fritz‖ and ―Dick‖ live in McAllen. Margaret married ―Tip‖ Johnson. She has one daughter and they live in
San Antonio. Eva Mae married B. C. Long. They have one daughter and they also live in San Antonio.
         ―Billy‖ Moore, St. was born in Center Point, Texas. He came to Mission in 1912 where he went to work at
the pump. He worked for a time at the ice plant in McAllen. He and Laura lived at Hidalgo then where he was
engineer at the pump there until his retirement in 1963. The couple now live on North Depot Road in McAllen.
   ―Billy‖ Moore, Jr. and his two sisters, Virginia and Margaret lived with their grandparents, Mr. and Mrs.
Carson, during the school weeks so they could attend the Mission Schools. The girls graduated from Mission High
School but ―Billy‖ graduated in 1935 from La Joya where he had transferred in order to play ―outlaw‖ football with
―Brick‘ Decker as his coach.
         Eva married Jimmy Woodson and the couple lived in the Mission-McAllen area. After Mrs. Carson was
getting older and was living alone on the river, Eva and her husband lived with her mother. The Woodson‘s never
had any children on their own, but she was Aunt Eva to all the children in the neighborhood.
         M. E. Carson died in October 1932 and Mary Carson died in January of 1957. Mrs. Eva Woodson died in
April of 1962. All three are buried in Mission.1
         George H. Speer came to Mission in 1910 after two years at a ranch nearby. At 89, he was still living in
1972. His daughter, Juanita Farley, who with her husband gave the land for the Speer Memorial Library, and other
civic gifts, still lives part of the year in Mission.
         There were six members of the W. H. (Will) Drummond family when they moved to Mission
August 20, 1909, from Dalhart: Mr. and Mrs. Drummond, Mamie (Mrs. Eliot M. See of Dallas);
Headrick L., of San Antonio; Pauline(Mrs. J.S. Rodwell of Denver, CO) and Zac (Mrs. George R.
Boyle of Rio Grande City). Mr. Drummond started his furniture store and funeral home here.2
         Mr. Drummond was looking for a warm climate; he had tried Mexico, but things were too unsettled there,
as Porfirio Diaz attempted to win a 7th term, and Francisco I. Madero started his ―no re-election‖ movement. So,
on the way back he stopped in Mission to see Mr. Dixon, a photographer, who lived on the corner of 12th and
Conway. This house was later razed so that the Clinic of Martin, Livengood and Valverde could be built.
         The family first lived in the store building that later housed the first Mission newspaper, but work was
immediately begun on the Drummond home at 1201 La Lomita, now Conway, and the family moved in December
22, 1909, and lived there continuously until December 24, 1953, when Zac Drummond Boyle and her husband
George moved to Rio Grande City. In 1959, Virgil M. Loft remembered the family as ―three beautiful girls and a
son‖; he credited Zac Drummond Boyle with being the first licensed attorney in South Texas as well as Mission. It
was the third home built north



           1
               See ―The M. B. Carson Family‖ by Mrs. Billy (Laura Carson) Moore, Vertical File, Speer memorial
Library.
           2
               See the July 18, 1979 ―Bouquets‖ by Maurine Duncan, Vertical File, Speer Memorial Library
                    by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    61

of the railroad. The Dixons sold their home to the Swartzes when Mr. Swartz came to operate a cotton oil mill.
William Ferguson bought it from them and lived there many years.
         Maurine Duncan‘s ―Bouquets‖ of July 18, 1979 in the Upper Valley Progress, an obituary for Zac Boyle,
who died July 12, 1979, described the main street, then called la Lomita, as‖ the street where all the small stores,
saloon, and bank were, was a dusty or muddy lane, with all the signs of a budding community.
         The Armstrong home on Miller was the second home north of the tracks. M. F., Will, Lee, and Tom H.
Armstrong came early, the latter in 1913. T. H. Armstrong was one of the first feed store dealers. His wife, Ethel,
was the widow of one of the first physicians, Dr. A. Dashiell, who came to Mission from Rio Grande City. Sam
Hargrove was also from Rio Grande City, and a brother-in-law of Mrs. T. H. Armstrong. Jim Gillette, a veteran
mail deliveryman and war veteran, was a son-in-law of Mrs. M. F. Armstrong. The Wrights, Romes, Burgoons,
Lofts, Bixlers, McShanes and many others soon moved to Mission. Mrs. Dawson and her family were already in
Mission and the Knox Lumber Company and Hayes-Sammons Hardware came soon. Jeffries Drug Store,
Dawson‘s Store and the Mission Canal Company Building, later United Irrigation Co. headquarters, and still later
replaced by the Shary Building, now the Mission City Hall( 1992). Drummond had the first furniture store in
Mission, which he owned and operated until the early 1920‘s. In 1922, Zac Drummond Boyle was appointed city
attorney for Mission. After that he was in real estate until he moved to Rio Grande City in 1938 to operate the Hotel
Ringgold, owned by his sons-in-law George Boyle and General Rodwell. Mrs. Drummond died in 1945 and Mr.
Drummond moved to Denver, CO in 1953.
         Setting up housekeeping in a bare store building without partitions presented problems to the Dawsons, but
none that Mrs. Dawson couldn‘t solve. She use curtains as partitions and the furniture shipped from Dalhart. The
large Majestic Range, using coal, was replaced by a kerosene stove. They bought new reed furniture, supposed to
be excellent for the tropics, for their new homes living room in December.
         In 1909 the streets were still filled with stumps from the trees and shrubs grubbed out. All the boys of the
city got bloody toes from stubbing them on the old stumps. When it rained, the streets were a quagmire of slick
mud.
         According to Virgil N. Lott, in 1959, writing nearly half a century after the events, the following were early
Mission settlers:
         The Waites Tom, a retired passenger conductor on the Missouri Pacific. For many years, he was on the
                           -


‗run‘ from Brownsville to Mission, and Bill Waite, who was married to Rachel Hargrove.
         The Boyds Abe, a resident of Las Vegas, Norton and Miss Alma, both of Mission, and another sister lives
                       -


in Eagle Pass, the wife of Rex Collier, one of Mission‘s first dentists.
         Roy Buckley was a pioneer attorney and a historian.
         The C. M. Burks. ‗Shorty‘, we called him, and a ‗first‘ on the old third lift lands.
         John, Roy, Nellie and Mike Conway were here before a new settler arrived, Mr. Conway having been one
of the developers of the Mission lands. Mike, the youngest son, was a veteran of the World War and was still in the
Army when he passed away in Central America. Roy was one of Mission‘s outstanding citizens and headed the
insurance firm of Conway and Dooley.
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    62

         Downey Davis, Sr., came to Mission from Rio Grande City. His father, Henry Clay Davis, founded Davis
Landing (now Rio Grande City) about 1846. There are two Downey Davis‘ living in Mission at this time third and  -


fourth generation descendants of H. Clay, the first. The old Davis home was still standing (1959) in Rio Grande
City but had been converted into a modern funeral home. It was torn down and removed in 1995.
         Samuel M. Duffie was a retired merchant from Arkansas; he came to Mission and at once entered into the
civic and business life of the town when it was just emerging from a shanty town to a modem city. He was president
of the Chamber of Commerce at the time Lott was secretary. During that period they installed the first street lights
in Mission on Conway.
           -


         Hal Ewing was one of the first engineers after Sid Rowe left, on the Mission-Sharyland tracts. Hal was also
one of the original members of Mission‘s first brass band. He and his wife were still living in Mission in 1959.
         The Epprights came to Mission from Orange by way of Donna. The doctor was a pioneer dentist; Mrs.
Eppright still (1959) lives here.
         Among the early merchants who came here were the Fields brothers, Charley and Sam. They were from
Montgomery County. Mrs. Lena Fields and Mrs. H. Strahle survive them and live here.
         The Otto Woods were from Houston, and first went to Monte Cristo, but soon moved to
Mission. Otto, now deceased, was an oil well driller and drilled the discovery well at Sullivan City.
His wife and four daughters survive(1959) Mrs. Glenn Frankhauser, Mrs. G. W. Wheeler, Mrs.
                                                               -


Thomas Pickens and Mrs. Norton Boyd.
         The Logan Duncans came here from Arkansas. Logan has been a civic leader and mayor of the city. M.
Dunlap was the first lumberman, his yard just about opposite the State Bank. His mother was one of the city‘s first
ladies as was his wife. I am sure that every oldtimer will remember Grandma Dunlap, Mrs. Jack Decker, a
daughter, ha now a resident of San Antonio, Joe, of Corpus Christi, Tom, a veteran of the War with Spain, now
deceased, was here for a brief tour of duty with the Conway-Hoit Company and Virginia, also deceased. Jack
Decker, the father of Virginia Harrington, was worthy patron of the Eastern Star longer than any other member of
the local chapter. His daughter, Virginia Harrington, is the present (1959) worthy matron. Mrs. Bessie Decker is a
past worthy matron. Dunlap Avenue is named for Mr. Dunlap.
         Tom Sammons is another veteran who came direct to Mission from a hitch in the Scouts in the Philippines
in which he served as a lieutenant after graduating from A&M. His brother Albert, now deceased, put Tom in
charge of his hardware store, his other duties as contractor taking up much of his time. Tom finally succeeded to the
business and he and Mr. Hayes, a New Englander, formed a partnership and acquired Albert‘s interest. Mrs.
Florence Hayes, the widow of Mr. Hayes, was a member of the firm of Hayes-Sammons for many years, but sold
her stock to Tom and retired. She still (1959) lives in Mission, ―Recently,‖ Loft continued, ―I read an account of a
visit of Tom, Jr., and his wife to New England to see their first grandchild. You can imagine how the news affected
the writer for it doesn‘t seem so very long ago that Tom, Sr., was a smooth-faced young man about my age and now
he is a great-grandfather! Time does surely fly! Congratulations to him and his very fine wife who came to Mission
as a bride from Bryan.‖
         Other early arrivers in Mission were the Emil Duensings, from Oklahoma. Minnie, wife of Harry Dennis,
was the first operator of the telephone exchange established by Hollis Rankin. I
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    63

believe The Mission Times was Hollis‘ first subscriber, for our ‗phone number was the lone unit 1. Mr. and Mrs. H.
         H. Rankin came here from East Texas and he established the telephone
systems at both McAllen and Harlingen, a son Hollis, Jr., is one of the county‘s leading attorneys. Roy Harrell
came to the Russell-East ranch from Oklahoma where he and Hoot Gibson, the famous cowboy star, worked on the
101 ranch. Hoot elected to go to Hollywood. Roy decided on Texas, and you know the rest. Billy Harrell, who lost
both hands in World War II in a battle on one of the Japanese islands, and is now (1959) an employee of the
Veterans Administration in San Antonio, is a son. Billy was born in Rio Grande City while Roy was stationed there
with the Border Patrol. Roy, deceased, was a typical cowboy and would have made good in Hollywood if he had
listened to Hoot Gibson. Another Mission boy, Ken Maynard, made good as a moving picture cowpoke in
Hollywood, joining Hoot Gibson in the Big Four of Western Stars in the silent and early sound movies.
         D. G. Wood has been very active indeed banker, farmer, mayor and a score of other civic and
                                                                                    -


commercial activities. The family were pioneer settlers in Starr County and some of them were active in mining in
Cerralvo and other Mexican locations. D. Holland and Conan were engaged in mining. Holland is now living in
Littlefield, AZ where he is engaged in mining and farming.
         John Rowland and Sawnie B. Smith were early attorneys. Rowland is dead (l 959) but Sawnie is very much
alive and a resident of Edinburg. Mother early pioneer was Abram Dillard who built one of the first brick business
buildings on Conway.
         The Ted Meldens, McShanes, McHenrys, Jack Lehmans, the Levermans, Herbert Melchs, Marcells were
among scores of other pioneer families rate biographies. Ed Oppenheimer and his fine wife, ―Goldie‖ and Mr. and
Mrs. Percy Herman who established the Valley Merchantile Company in Mission, and later established a branch in
McAllen. Ed managed the Mission store and Percy moved to McAllen to head that business. The late Mr.
Oppenheimer was one of the most enthusiastic Mission civic leaders, and is credited ‗with organizing the Texas
Citrus Fiesta. Mrs. Oppenheimer still(l959) carries on her husband‘s activities in civic affairs. The Gus Hunters and
Mrs. Hunter‘s brother, John Burkhart, were also among the firsts.
         Among the other early settlers, listed in a January 27, 1972 Mission Times article, were:
         George Wolfram, the first school teacher; his daughter, Henrietta Vollmer, still lived in Mission in 1972.
         Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Colbath, 1908; theft daughter is Mabyl Johnson.
         Mr. and Mrs. Walter Dooley came in 1909. So did Mr. and Mrs. M.F. Armstrong, whose daughter, Lary
Cary Gillette, still lived in Mission in 1972. Mr. and Mrs. Gus Rome arrived in 1909, and they left three children in
Mission in 1972 Allen Rome, Sadie Brown, and Mamie Bourgeois. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel F. Fielder, who had
                  -


come to Brownsville in 1904 --they leave a daughter, Georgia Osburn.
         The following arrived in 1910: Mr. and Mrs. Gus Hunter, who left a daughter here, Helen Boger. Mr. and
Mrs. Curtis Burk, whose son, Lloyd Burk was still in Mission in 1972. Also Mr. and Mrs. Joe Drolet.
         In 1911: Mr. and Mrs. Henry Duensing, who left a daughter, Minnie Dennis. Mr. and Mrs. John H. Shary
moved to town in 1911.
         And in 1912: Mr. and Mrs. Fred Landry left a son, Ray Landry, and a daughter, Viola
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
                                                                                    64

Bourgeois. Mr. and Mrs. Irvin Bourgoon, left two daughters, Lucille McHenry and Gladys Pratz, and a son, Walter
Bourgoon.
         1913: Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Baker left a son, Earl Baker, in Mission in 1972. Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Armstrong.
Mrs. Juana Morales, 106, came to Mission in 1913, with her husband, who died in the 1930‘s at the age of 102; she
was still living at 313 W. 5th Street in 1972 at the age of 106. She was born June 24, 1866 in San Luis Potosi, and
became an American citizen in 1868. She recalled fixing tortillas for Pancho Villa with whom she and her
husband rode before coining to Mission. By 1972 she had outlived ten of her 14 children, but had 54 grandchildren,
more than 100 great-grandchildren and more than 20 great-great grandchildren. She remained active, attending
church each Sunday. She takes no medicine, and had never been to a dentist; she had pulled all of her teeth
herself. She still had a hearty appetite; she lost her sight in 1969, but hears well and still smoked three or four
cigarettes a day. In 1972 she was living with her widowed daughter, Mrs. Guerra M. Cardenas, grandson George
and his wife Sharon and several great-grandchildren.
         1915: Mr. and Mrs. Eugene H. Norton, who had come to Brownsville in 1904, left a daughter here, Mrs.
Georgia Osburn. Jim Gillette arrived that year, as did Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin M. Coffman, whose daughter is Mrs.
Ray Landry, still in Mission in 1972.
         1918: Mr. and Mrs. Sam Field, son C. J. Field; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Field; Mr. and Mrs.
Charles Murphy, who left three daughters here in 1972 Ruth Langston, Hazel Gerner, and Vlanche
                                                                                    -


Beck; and Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Bourgeous, who left two sons Allen and Lein, and a daughter, Lavenia
Hedges.




               by Dick D. Heller, Jr, 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11, 2001
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                                                           Chapter 7
                                                      The First Years

         In 1908, the first brick building on the town-site was built for the engineer‘s office and used for the
Mission Canal Co. office at first; Rowe built it south of the tracks, where the old C.G. de la Garza store was located,
according to J. F. Vandervort in a letter to W.J. Zeiss when the historical society was founded in the early 1970‘s.
Frame buildings were erected right and left, especially south of the tracks, in the Mexican residential district known
as Mexiquito, Mrs. Dorothy Law built the second brick building, the Law building, which housed the First State
Bank on the ground floor and the Land Improvement Company on the top floor. George Schunior constructed the
third brick building to house his mercantile store.
         Not all of the new settlers in Mission were farmers from the North. Roque Alaniz, of La Lajia, Tamaulipas,
Mexico, moved to Mission, hoping to pick tomatoes and cotton. He remained until his death at the age of 96 in
1995.1 There were only two or three streets then, his 92-year-old sister-in-law Paulina Alaniz, laughed. She moved
to Mission in 1917, and served many years as a midwife. Alaniz himself worked as a porter on the railroad,
operated an ice-making plant—cutting and loading huge blocks of ice into freighters carrying citrus, and he also
drove water tankers.
         While 1908 saw many people arriving in Mission, one boy, later quite famous, was leaving. Ken Maynard,
born in what is now Mission in 1896, left town in 1908, when he was 12 years old, to join a Wild West wagon
show; he was proud of the fact that he learned to ride on the old ranch when most children were still learning to
walk! He joined the Kit Carson wagon show, the Hagenback and Wallace rodeo circuit and appeared in the last
performance of William S. ―Buffalo Bill‖ Cody‘s Wild West Show in 1915. During World War I Maynard served
in the Army Corps of Engineers at Camp Knox, KY, rising through the ranks to earn a commission. After the War
he joined the Ringling Brothers Circus, and in 1919 and 1920 won the National Trick Riding Championship.
         It was Maynard‘s free-style riding in the Wild West event that brought him to the attention of
moviemakers. His first film role, in 1924, was as Paul Revere in ―Janice Meredith,‖ starring Marion Davies. He
retired briefly from movies in 1930 to form his own circus, a 15-car railroad show which he purchased for
$100,000. During the silent era he donned a white ten-gallon Stetson to symbolize the virtue of the American
western hero. He and his film contemporaries, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix and Buck Jones, came to be known as the
―four horsemen of the West.‖ From 1924 until 1948 his career spanned some 300 shoot-em-up westerns; he died
March 23, 1973 after a lengthy illness while staying at the film industry‘s Motion Picture and Television Country
Home in suburban Woodland Hills.
         By the end of 1908, it was obvious that Mission was going to ―go‖, so on February 23, 1909



        ‗See article by Caitlin Francke, March 3, 1995, The Monitor, McAllen, TX, page 1C, ―Man who came to
Valley at turn of century dead at 96.‖

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the townsite on the railway was ―dedicated‖, and the map and dedication filed March 15, 1909 in Volume Z, pages
325-327, Deed Records of Hidalgo County.
         After the land developers had purchased the land, crews with grubbing hoes and axes moved in, and
cleared the brush; the canals were extended into the area, and then came the sale of fertile plots often- to 100-acre
blocks to the northern farmers. Within a decade after the railroad connected the Valley with the nation‘s markets,
tens of thousands of acres of land were thus transformed by hand and mule labor into the nation‘s salad and fruit
bowl. The fertile delta soil underlying the brushy ranches began producing vegetables and citrus fruit in great
quantities.
         The original settlers were all farmers, dependent on the irrigation system. Conway worked hard to get it
started, and to keep it pumping to all the farms. John O‘Kelly was the engineer, operating the irrigation system, and
J.C. Rowe the engineer in charge of building canals. Elmer Dustin was the first engineer at the first pumping plant,
where the 15-inch pump had been installed in a shaft 16 feet deep and 10 feet square and driven by an oil well
boiler, fired by mesquite wood by a Latin-American. It began operating in 1908. Bill Woods, M.E. Carson and
others were assisting, as things started moving pretty fast. Albert Sammons and Bill Schafer built the canals,
assisted by Henry and Fannie Mack, a black couple. Henry ran the team of mules and Fannie kept the boarding
house and cooked. ―She could rope a mule and doctor it for screw worms as well as any man, ―J.F. Vandervort later
testified.
         W. E. Nicholson and his brother-in-law W. B. Stites were among the first ones to grow onions, now a
principal valley crop. Both men were originally railroad men, the former a machinist, the other a locomotive
engineer on the Southern Pacific out of San Antonio. Ed Nicholson erected Mission‘s first cotton gin. Edward C.
Dustin and A.J. Devers also went in for Bermuda onions. The fields in 1908 produced record yields and with the
right price, it gave the onion growers a good profit. And that, in turn, proved a strong selling point in land sales,
badly needed after the Panic of 1907. In 1909, the Gulf Coast Magazine pictured the transition of the Mission area
from a wilderness to fields of Bermuda onions. This first crop was so successful that Stites had accumulated
sufficient finds to emigrate to California, where he went into truck farming on a large scale. Ed Nicholson, on the
other hand, like hundreds of other truck farmers in the Valley, tried another onion crop which did not turn out so
well and succeeding crops which he insisted on growing were not very profitable, either. He left Mission and cast
his lot with associates at Alamo, with the usual varying degree of successes and failures, and died at Alamo some
four or five years after leaving Mission.
         This was not an unusual happening in Valley farming, so dependent on the weather here and in other parts
of the country. Virgil N. Lou recalled in 1959 a big cabbage crop that made a lot of growers a lot of money on third
lift lands a number of years ago. The crop, seemingly, was the only one worth attracting buyers that year since none
were raised in the big growing districts of the northern states. The crop here sold for as high as $160 per ton. A
sauerkraut factory was located in Mission about that time. The widely publicized price of $160 a ton brought in
many new investors in third-lift farms, most of whom planted everything to cabbage. But the next year the price
dropped to $3 a ton, and the farmers lost everything but their will to succeed, and some did, and are farming here
yet today.
         These young pioneers, traveling by horse-drawn wagons with all their possessions, and their

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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children and dogs running alongside, were ready to build a town of the rawest of materials, and pass the stories on
to their children and grandchildren.
          Ventura ―Ben‖ Valadez came to Mission with two wagons and teams to haul wood for the first irrigation
pumping station south of town, where Chimney Park is now located. Throughout his life he met each person with a
smile of friendliness, with gentleness and silence, with appreciation and with humor. He made a mark for his kind
of gentleman as he reflected the fine qualities handed down from old Spanish families.
          Public utilities quickly followed the settlers telephone service began in 1910. The first electric power was
                                                                    -


from a Delco plant, but the first power plant to provide public service went on line in May, 1916, the month that
water service also began. Local ice service began in September, 1916-- before that, blocks of ice were covered with
sawdust and shipped by rail from Brownsville.
          Numerous businesses were located in Mission and grew with the new community. Monroe Dunlap, whom
Bob Jeffries had known in Sabinal, TX, established the first mercantile and grocery store. He purchased several
lots at the opening of the townsite, paying a dollar per front foot. The Hidalgo Mercantile Building was erected on
the front lots and a lumber yard on the rear lots by Mr. Slaybough, later owned by Monroe Dunlap; it was
succeeded by the George Agnew Lumber Company. Dunlap had first run the Conway & Hoit commissary in La
Lomita, which he bought about two months before the townsite opened. Agnew was still in business in 1959.
          ―Few old timers will ever forget the spectacular fire that wiped out the mercantile company and lumber
lard established by Dunlap. There is a hot-shot border yard mixed up in the conflagration that a few special
characters will not forget. This occurred during the days of the early revolutionary period in Mexico, and the
destruction of this yard and store will no doubt be cited by some as proof that bandits or revolutionary soldiers
attacked the town. Far from that, it was a personal matter that misfired, it is held by some,‖ Bob Jeffries wrote in
1934.
          Following Dunlap were Ed and Helen Dawson, who constructed a grocery and mercantile store. J. S. and J.
M. Longoria launched a furniture store. I. J. Wright also opened a grocery Salomon Chapa had a grocery as did
Solaman Ramirez.
          In 1908, the Mission post office opened its doors. The equipment was hauled by buckboard from La
Lomita and set up in the front office of the Dunlap Lumber Company. Mrs. Eva Wotring was postmaster. This post
office, where Ashley‘s service station now ( 1934) stands faced the present (1934) First State Bank building. The
second location of the post office was in the side room of Longoria‘s store, about where the Mission Drug Store
now(1 934) stands. Third location was in the Dawson building formerly used by the Boulevard Cafe, just recently
(1934) vacated. Fourth location was the City Drug Store, facing the First National Bank. From this last location it
was moved into the building adjoining the First National Bank, where it remained for years, then it was housed in
the Miller Hotel building until Parrish erected the present (1934) post office building.
          Shortly after Brown‘s Saloon opened its doors. The first doctor, J. W. Jeffries, opened the Mission Drug
Store, still in existence. Included were mechanical aids for soda jerking, shelves containing the usual standbys --
various brands of liver pills, Epsom Salts, ointments, aspirin, and other patent medicines. The original site was on
what is now the east end of the block occupied by the First State Bank and Trust Co.
          Will Drummond and family moved to Mission in 1909 and established its first furniture

               by   Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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store. That same year A.D. Wright and family came with fruit trees and flowering plants and set up the first nursery
in the Upper Valley.
          The first lumber yard, according to J. F. Vandervort, was that of Mr. Slaybaugh, later owned by M. Dunlap
and succeeded by the George Agnew Lumber Co.
          In 1909, Hiram Knox, Jr., established Knox Lumber Company. The same year Albert Sammons had a food
store and corral. Business was so good that he decided to expand and open up a hardware branch, forming the
nucleus of the future Hayes, Sammons Hardware Store. In south Mission, C.G. de la Garza had a dry goods and
grocery store.
          Banking also came to Mission in 1909 with the organization of the First State Bank in the Law Building by
W. E. Stewart on the ground floor; the Mission Canal Company was located upstairs, with a huge sign outside; later
the Shary Building, now(l 992) the Mission City Hall, was built on the lot and the old Law building torn down. The
First National Bank followed in 1911. H. H. Miyamoto opened a Japanese nursery in south Mission, while Ramón
Garza and Brother operated a brickyard, and Salinas & Cuellar had a meat market. Martin Cavazos had Mission‘s
first bottling works, which supplied beverages. Leopoldo Muniz had an employment agency, and Don Isidro Pena
and son operated Mission‘s first wholesale grocery business. In that same year, 1909, the firm of McHenry and
Devers, Mission Land Company, began operations. S.A. McHenry and A.J. Devers were active in farm and
townsite sales and resales. The firm was dissolved only after several years successful and satisfying work in
developing Mission and the tract.
          In these early days the Edinburg Canal Company constructed a canal to the Rio Grande at
Madero, the old pumping plant being long ago dismantled in place, just south of Chimney Park, site
of the Mission Canal Company pump. This company began development of the land northeast of
Sharyland. The Edinburg company created a large settling basin or artificial lake just east of
Madero, which was a favorite hunting and bathing place for many years.
The Newspapers
    One of the early Mission newspapermen, who was in and out of the Valley, much of it in Starr County, the rest
of his life, was Virgil N. Loft, who came to Monte Christo in 1909, but soon learned that Mission was the growing
city, so settled there.
          Bob Jeffries came to Mission in 1909, started the Missionite October 1st with a set of type, and a small
Gordon job press operated by Hub Jeffries, Ira Dunlap and others who pumped the press by hand while Bob
handfed the sheets. The paper was a three-column, 16-page, and cover, magazine-style weekly. This was too small
an operation for a growing town like Mission, but it was big enough to take all of Lott‘s advertising from his Monte
Christo paper. So, on January 1, 1910, Lott joined Jeffries for a half-interest in the newspaper.. They installed a
Vaughn Ideal hand press, an improvement over the jobber in that it took four forms at a time, instead of only one.
The outside pages were printed in The Times‘ office, while the inside was furnished by the Western Newspaper
Union, which did a land office business in those days furnishing ―ready prints‖ for lazy editors of country weekly
newspapers. ―Our offices were in the old Dixon building, a box house just across the street from the present(l 959)
Times building. Jeffries, in his 1934 Silver edition issue, mentioned that the Times was later housed in a small
building back of the original Mission Drug Store, which was then on the corner of the Mission Hotel grounds,
across the alley from Armstrong‘s Feed Store; in the frame building originally occupied by Anderson‘s Drug Store
(later by C. P.

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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Wrights furnishing store and when recently (1934) demolished just vacated by the shoe repair shop); in the Vela
building, originally the Geo. Schunior building, now (1934) occupied by Butler‘s Funeral establishment. The first
location was in a small frame building erected on the corner of M. Dunlap‘s lumber yard property and diagonally
across the street from the filling station first conducted here by Jack Frost. The original Albert Sammons livery
barn, sales barn and hardware store property was just across the street to the west. It was here that the 13 issues of
the Missionite were published. ―And right here,‖ Lott continued, ―my memories begin, memories of early-day
Mission and of its wonderful pioneer ‗first settlers. I recall that, as at Monte (Christo) we lived in the two back
rooms of the print shop, my family and three members of the Aubry Fones family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs.
Fones and their young nephew, Jim King, who, incidentally, was the first practicing attorney in Mission,‖ Virgil N.
Lott recalled in 1959. ―The Fones have long ago joined the great majority, but Jim King, at last accounts, was still
living in Stocksdale, TX. The Fones came to Monte (Christo) while we were there and opened the first grocery
store, subsequently moving to Brownsville to engage in the same business. Both passed away in Stocksdale, their
old home, after retirement from business many years ago. The C.E. Dixons came to Mission in 1908, built an
imposing home on Conway on the corner next to The Times‘ office.‖
         After getting an office together, the two got a loan and the promise of support from John Conway, and went
into business as the Mission Times. Lott didn‘t last a year, but Jeffries stayed until 1913, when he sold to B. J.
Akey, a one-armed newspaperman from Wisconsin. Akey ran the paper for two years, and then Lott having
returned and started the Citizen. ―Being one-armed, he couldn‘t compete with me, since I did all the work on the
Citizen without any help,‖ Lott theorized. ―I was well-supported and did very well, but one day a fast-talking
printer from Bishop convinced me that I ought to sell him the paper on long-time terms. I was tired of the game, so
I turned the sheet over to him. He ran it for a month and one day failed to turn up for work and hasn‘t been seen
since! I sold the plant to a Mexican firm in South Mission, and at last accounts it was dead. I was out of a job until
Eugene Phremmer, a very likable and at the same time a very competent newspaper man, took over the
management of the Times and prevailed on me to take over the editorial desk. He didn‘t have to do much
prevailing, for I‘d been out of work for a long time, was in debt and needed the money. Phremmer managed the
paper until 1916, when he sold out to the Shary interests and went to Kansas to manage a small-town daily, and I
went to Sedalia, Mo., to work for W. B. Stewart.
         ―Sumner E. Streeter, a competent newspaperman who had worked for Mrs. James Watson on a weekly
paper, came here ahead of her and managed the Times, but as soon as Mrs. Watson arrived to take over, Streeter
reverted to an old drug habit and to booze. In the meantime, I had returned to Mission to visit my family, fully
intending to return to Sedalia, but one day Mrs. Watson sent for me and asked me to take over the foremanship of
the Times since Streeter had gone completely haywire. I took over and was with the newspaper until 1917 during
which time we printed The Rio Grande Rattler, house organ of the New York national guard, which is still (1959)
being published in New York. Some of the writers and contributors on the staff of the Rattler were the famed
Father Duffy, Chaplain of a New York Irish regiment; Rupert Hughes, famous novelist, and uncle of the famed
moving picture executive Howard Hughes and a brother of the founder of the Hughes Tool Company of Houston,
manufacturers of oil drilling machinery. There were many

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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other ―Celebs‖ but I can only remember one other. His name was Sachs, and he was the son of one of New York
City‘s merchant princes.
          ―Mrs. Watson continued as manager of the Times Publishing Company until 1926, in which year the
Mission Enterprise was launched. It was a stock company deal, made up of business and professional men, among
them being 0. E. Cannon, F. L. Flynn, Homer Smith, Willard Ferguson, J. B. Hull, Charles Volz, and maybe
others. W. L. Steward, whom I never knew, was named editor. The company was organized for the purpose of
taking over the defunct Pharr Enterprise which had been established in 1 926(?) to compete with the Pharr Clarion,
founded by W. E. Cage, and is now (1959) the Pharr Press. Mrs. Watson joined the staff of the Enterprise in 1928
and in 1929 one R. C. Lowery took over, was succeeded by Ty Cobb with Wilma Burk, now Mrs. S. Glen Perkins
of McAllen, as secretary. Paul Ord, or so the masthead shows, is was editor in 1934, and that is about all I know
about the Enterprise…. The last man, before Joe T. Cook took over the Times 26 years ago(1923), was Ralph Bray
who came to Mission in 1931 to run the Times. He ran it until 1932 and left for the Gulf Coast and died there soon
afterward. Robert, his brother, is still living(1 959) as far as I know. Bob Jeffries ran a paper in Donna until he
suffered a nervous breakdown, went to the Veteran‘s Hospital at Waco, recovered, and is now, or was a year ago,
running a weekly newspaper at Rogers, Bell County, Texas.
          ―Three of us who were with the Times at its founding are still living(1959)-- Bob Jeffries and the writer,
editors and publishers, and Adan Contreras, the compositor who helped set the type and fed the hand press.‖
          The A.P. Wright family moved to Mission in the summer of 1909. They stayed in the old frame hotel while
their first home, on a 40-acre block of brush and cactus, was being built. The house was on the main road from Rio
Grande City to Brownsville, and on the railroad. The homesite was bounded on the West by a canal and by
Mayberry Road; on the East by Highland Avenue, and the First Presbyterian Church are now located. The family to
the east were the F.A. Davis family, separated from their neighbors by a barbed wire fence; To the south, across the
road and railroad lived the J. K. Robertson‘s; the Romes and the Calihans lived east of the Davises, up the road.
The canals were just being built, and fresh dirt was heaped up by the draglines, pulled by mules.
          In August, 1909 the family of future Judge Miller Armstrong arrived when he was just eight years old; his
father, mother, older sister moved by train to their farmsite near Mission, spending their first night in the valley in
Harlingen, waiting for the spur line to Mission. They had lived in Chapel Hill, Washington Co., TX, originally, but
had moved to Houston and Plainview later. His hither, a Texas A&M graduate, never practiced as a civil engineer,
preferring farming and real estate until he became president of the First National Bank in 1911.
          Judge Miller‘s parents were not happy with the one-room school they found in 1909, so they hired a
governess for their two children, and interested neighboring children. This lasted a couple of years the judge had
                                                                                                                -


only had about five months previous schooling, even though he was eight years old in fact, he had attended the
former Chapel Hill Female College in the first year it was used as a public school.
          The judge recalled years later that the only farming done when he arrived in Mission was south of town,
between the railway and the river, where irrigation was in place. The second lift station hadn‘t been completed to
carry water to the area right around present-day Mission. The farms
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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were being clered by Mexican labor, using teams of oxen to haul the stumps. The trees were chopped into
cordwood, which furnished wood for cooking stoves in the humble homes. At night, great brushfires lit up the
countryside as waste material was burned. Miller, op. cit., pp. 3-4.
          There was no gas or oil at the time for cooking or heating that didn‘t come until about 1925. A few
                                                                                       -


farmsteads had wells, but most of the water was hauled from the canals in barrels on two-wheeled carts pulled by
donkeys. In the better homes the water was filtered and boiled for use, but in many homes it was drunk straight
from the canals -- and no one seemed to suffer! Before he left for college in 1917, Mission had a small electric
generator for lights in the homes. About 1911 telephone service had started. They had telephone number 7. You
placed your call through an operator, but there weren‘t many people to call in those days.
                                                     1909 Flood
    In September, 1909 occurred a really bad flood on the Rio Grande when a waterspout fell in the San Juan River
canyon above Monterrey, drowning 10,000 above the city, and another 5,000 in Monterrey. This poured into the
Rio Grande, sending it to a height of 30.8 feet, a height it has seldom reached since. Greg Wood was still working
at lift station 1, when the river suddenly flooded, one of the greatest rises in modern history, and he worked 64
hours straight, with the help of several Mexicans, to save the pumping plant. ―You could look at the river at any
time and see both people and animals, roofs of houses and whatnot, floating by. At the pumping plant the river
reached 31 feet, five inches above normal. Government people estimated that it was flowing 270,000 second-feet,
which is purely a guess, because none of them were down there,‖ Wood stated in his diary.
          This flood took out the Mission flume across the resaca and left the second lift high and dry. There was no
third lift yet. The second lift was being installed and the third lift was being considered, according to J. F.
Vanderwort, who arrived at La Lomita in 1907. The water rose over the railroad tracks near Mercedes, and trains
could not go through it. The roads were very poor, there were no autos, so the mail had to be brought across at
Mercedes by boat, then taken up the valley by horse and buggy; Mail was most uncertain. At Mission, Judge Miller
Armstrong recalled, the water came right up to the edge of town. He also recalled the ―Mercedes boat mail‖ that
first year. 2
          There was no ice company in Mission at the time, and only a very small one in McAllen ice had been             --


brought by train daily from Brownsville. During the flood, a small amount of ice was brought from McAllen to
Mission and delivered to the Soda Fountain. There was not enough to really chill the pop, but since the water
wasn‘t very palatable without ice, Mr. Drummond took his four children every day to the Soda Fountain to drink
lukewarm red soda pops.
          Dr. Thomas Judson Caldwell settled in Mission in 1910. Raised in Lannius, TX, Dr. Caldwell attended
Austin College in Sherman before going to Baylor to begin his medical studies. He graduated in medicine from the
University of the South in Tennessee.
             His father had been a doctor during the Civil War days, when there were few medical


          2
          MilIer Armstrong. Tape interview. p. 4, HeIler abstract of May 18, 1992 of July
   12, 1973 tape.




                        by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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facilities. Life or death depended a great deal on the knowledge and intuition of the physician, rather than test
results from well-equipped hospitals laboratories. It was the kind of challenge that the younger Dr. Caldwell also
desired, so he settled in the Rio Grande Valley, which certainly had the same attractions. He had come to the Valley
in 1908, settling at Mercedes, setting up his practice over a drug store owned by a Mr. Young. For fun, the men
built a boat in the back of the drug store in their spare time; the neighbors thought it was a big joke. The boat was
scarcely finished when the terrible flood of 1909 hit, and for all practical purposes it wiped out the city of
Mercedes. Tall men could stand chest deep in water near the railroad tracks. All but one block of buildings were
under water. The flood victims ran out of all food except bacon and flour. The Mercedes city fathers confiscated
the boat to use in seaching for stranded flood victims. It eventually became necessary to dynamite the canals so the
water could subside. At that time, a repeat of the disaster was a very real threat, so the two men decided to move to
higher ground-- Mission, at 134 feet above sea level.
         Dr. Caldwell opened his first Mission office in the back of a drug store on the present(1977) site of Mission
Hardware. In the beginning he had a real horse-and-buggy practice, sometimes traveling 30 or 40 miles out into the
ranch country to treat patients. In the early days, he even traveled into Mexico, driving his buggy to the river and
cross in a boat; someone would meet him with a horse or mule to continue his journey on the other side. Although
he knew no Spanish when he came to the Valley, he soon became ―ungrammatically fluent‖ in the language.
         In the early days, Dr. Caldwell was, in a medical sense, a ―jack of all trades.‖ He treated the sick, delivered
babies, cared for accident victims, and even carried dental tools, as there were no dentists to ease the pain of the
pioneers. On one occasion he spent five hours sewing up a man who had been attacked by a mountain lion in the
wild country. Having no facilities for operations, he did only emergency surgery, like amputating a leg in the back
room of a downtown store. But persons requiring surgery had to travel to Corpus Christi or San Antonio before
hospitals were founded in the Valley.
         Dr. Caldwell was also active in community affairs, being a charter member of the Mission Rotary Club, a
Mason, and a member of the Church of Christ. He was a member of the Hidalgo County Medical Society and the
AMA. He was married to Bird Alice Holbrook, and they raised two children. At the age of 58 he suffered a heart
attack, and was forced to give up his practice, moving at that time to Dallas where he later died, according to his
daughter Janet, Mrs. Levi Walker.
         Another physician came to Mission in 1910, but he never really practiced here. That was Dr. C.H.
Murphy, originally from Mississippi, but who moved with his family to Mission in May of 1910 from El dorado.
Dr. Murphy‘s eyesight was failing when he moved here, and he had to give up the practice of medicine. He came to
the Valley after hearing the ―pitch‖ for the area from land dealers. He was able to assist Drs. Jeffries and Caldwell
when they needed him, and he often went to help identify unknown persons who had died while pioneering the new
country. He also served on the local school board and on juries, according to his daughter, Laura Frances Murphy,
in a January 22, 1959 article in The Mission Times. Miss Murphy, of Odessa, reported that her mother, although not
a nurse, had much nursing experience, and often assisted the doctors. There were no baby sitters then, so young
Laura always accompanied her parents, and took visits to the morgue, or doctor‘s office, or drug store, as a mailer
of course. She was often rewarded for being quiet and patient by being allowed to see, even hold, the new babies as
they were delivered.

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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         The Murphys lived a mile north of Mission on La Lomita Boulevard-- the land across the road had not yet
been cleared. Several years later Mr. and Mrs. Joe Lage moved there and after that Mr. and Mrs. Fred Volz.
         On December 9, 1910 the Town of Mission was incorporated, with Sam Hargrove as Mayor, George
Tehuimn and M.J. Armstrong as commissioners, George Wolfram, town clerk, tax assessor, and collector and
treasurer; and T. C. Gill, Town Marshal. At the second meeting several ordinances were drafted and accepted.
They defined the duties and authority of the town marshal; provided for the levying of occupation taxes, assessing
a poll tax; levying an ad valorem tax; and a public road, street and bridge tax. The town marshal‘s salary was set at
$50 a month; his deputy was to draw $25 a month.
         The marshal was chief of police, with all the powers and authority given him by Texas law. He could
pursue lawbreakers outside the city limits if the crime was committed inside the town. He also collected all fees in
criminal prosecutions.
         In describing the early settlers, Virgil Lott recalled ―The Tom Gills and Tom needs no introduction to you
old-timers. He was one of our first police chiefs, and brother, I recall how proficient he was, for he kept several
others and myself moving from one mesquite thicket to another in order to hide from him while we enjoyed a
session of ‗draw‘. He also is credited with breaking up the old ‗County Ring‘ when he was elected sheriff of
Hidalgo County.
         ―George Brooks, longtime commissioner of the Mission precinct, was one of the old county political ring,
but kept his record clean and above suspicion‖
         Another ordinance made it unlawflul to allow hogs, goats, cattle, horses, mules or burros to run at large
within the city limits. The open range stopped at the city limits! If impounded, ten days notice was given to the
owner, and then the animal was sold to the highest bidder.
         L. M. Booth, who had operated a drug store in Mercedes before the big flood of 1909, later moved to
Mission and owned the first brick store in Mission, located on the corner which became known as the Strahle
corner.
         The first regular election took place April 11, 1911, and Hargrove, Wolfram. and Gill remained in office,
but George J. Schunior and J.E. Murphy were elected commissioners. Schunior later moved to Edinburg, where he
was still living in 1959, the sole survivor of the first incorporation officials. Murphy was the first automobile
mechanic in Mission, and his shop was on the lot behind the Mission hotel. He moved away shortly after the city
was founded. Wolfram, the first city clerk, and again clerk under Mayor Ferguson, moved to Zapata and after a
short stay there, married an early-day sweetheart, moved to Waxahachie, and died there. On April 14, the Board of
Equalization was picked, with S.H. McHenry, J. W. Storms and Ira J. Wright.
         But all was not well. On May 2, 1911 Hargrove resigned as mayor, and Scott Cawthon was appointed. On
June 21, Cawthon resigned, and T. J. Wright was appointed.
         Street lamps were installed in 1911, and speed limits were set at 15 miles an hour in town and eight miles
an hour at street crossings. Sidewalks, curbs and fire hydrants were also installed.
         Willard Ferguson, school teacher and farmer, moved from a farm near Des Moines, IA in Polk County,
with his family to Mission in 1911. He accumulated fine citrus orchards, city property, served as vice-president of
the First State Bank of Mission; as president of the school board, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and
served three terms as mayor of Mission. He was

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married in Runnels, IA in 1898 to Miss Anna Mary Richardson. The had three children -- William Ray, Ralph
Waldo, and Anna Norma, wife of Granville Moody.
          Elmer Dustin was the first automobile dealer in Mission, with the Brush auto agency. The Brush was a
one-cylinder affair, elaborately decorated with polished brass and coal-oil headlights. According to J. F.
Vandervort, the first automobile in Mission was purchased from Sears, Roebuck & Co. by Albert Sammons. The
steering device was a tiller instead of a wheel. It had high wheels and looked like a carriage a horseless carriage.
                                                                                                                 --


Conway got a car soon afterward, a Carter car that was heralded as the ultimate in ears. Previously, cars had been
chain-driven, but this was a friction drive that would take you as fast as 20 miles an hour! Others recalled the first
car was a Buick that belonged to the water district.
          The first grading of Mission streets took place in 1911; downtown sidewalks were also built at that time.
The first bond issue of$ 15,000 for a waterworks was unanimously voted by 33 votes(?) on July 18, 1911.
          From this period, about 1910-11, is a picture of Mrs. Dunlap‘s two-story wooden Boulevard Hotel and
Cafe; an early auto, with the colored driver, Henry, is in front; while on the spacious front porch are some of the
city‘s notables -- Red Stevens, Claude Franklin, 0. C. Kelly, Frank Dew, John Paul Burton, William Jennings Bryan,
Charlie ―Daddy‖ Butterfield, and H. Peterson. On the bulletin boards, a ―nice, fresh vegetable dinner was 35!
          Another picture from the period is that of the home of the Ed Dawsons, a single story, frame with brick
chimney; a windmill behind, and a white picket fence in front. It stood about a block off Conway, just south of the
railroad, where the H.E.B. Store stands(1992). ―Who doesn‘t remember the Dawsons -- Ed, the first groceryman in
Mission, his wife, his daughters, one of whom, Cleo Dawson Smith, of Lexington, Ky., is a well-known writer, her
book, She Came to the Valley, was highly rated as a best seller. A sister, Carried, died in Mission many years ago,‖
Virgil N. Lott recalled in 1959.
          The Mission Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1913. Dr. Caldwell built the buildings that in 1977
housed the Bonanza Furniture and part of Mission Dry Goods. Originally the corner building had two stories, and
Dr. Caldwell‘s office was on the second story. This was later demolished after being gutted by a fire, leaving only
the first story.
          The first fraternal organization was the Knights of Pythias; it flourished but went into a sudden decline and
died out about 1918. As Virgil N. Lott described it, ―Early in 1910 a young dentist hit the Mission scene like an
avalanche. He came, I believe, from north Louisiana, was married and had two children. Like all enthusiasts, he
wanted to run the town, and one of his first objectives was the organization of a lodge of the Knights of Pythias and
since we were not blessed with a fraternal order of any kind at the time, we cooperated with the dentist and
succeeded in rounding up a sufficient number of young men for a charter, and launched Mission‘s first fraternal
order in the hall over Field‘s Grocery store, with Sam Hargrove as first Chancellor Commander, and Scott
Cawthon as first keep of records and seals, as the secretary is called in the K. of P. Just what office the real father of
the order held I do not recall, but he was something or other, you can bet.
          ―Following the successful organization of the lodge, the wifes, sisters and daughters of the Pythians
organized the Pythian Sisters, the auxiliary of the order, and we were off to a big start. Just about the time that we
were really beginning to flourish, the Masons of the town suddenly conceived

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the idea that they ought to organize and without delay proceeded to do just that, applying for a dispensation to
work, which the Grand Lodge granted in early 1912. The Knights didn‘t last long after that, and neither did the
Sisters for everyone wanted to become charter members of the Eastern Star which was budding and reached full
bloom in July, 1912, with 20 charter members. The Masons were already at work and the K. of P. went out of
existence, most of them affiliating with the older order. As usual the organization of fraternal orders in a new town
encourages other organizations to come in and after the first four had been formed, I recall that the W.O.W. and the
Modern Woodmen organized lodges, and the Odd Fellows were about to organize and may have done so, but I do
not recall now that they did.
          ―And the dentist? Well, one morning we awoke and heard a rumor that he had disappeared and a girl who
had worked for him in the office also had disappeared. His distracted wife was frantic. One day, a newspaper
clipping from Alexandria, La., was sent to the bereft widow and it told how the dentist‘s clothing had been found
on the bridge over Red River and it was feared that he had ended it all by drowning himself in a jump from the
bridge railing and there the matter rested and the widow had quit grieving. One night, about two or three months
after his disappearance, we were having a stated meeting of the Masonic Lodge when a man knocked on the outer
door, the sentinel answered the knock and sent word to the Master, Fitch, that he was wanted outside. Mr. Fitch
went outside, and lo and behold, there stood the dentist, all dressed up and smiling. He wanted Fitch to announce
his resurrection from the dead. Reunited with his family they left town the next day and so far as I know have never
been heard from since. He was not a member of the Masonic Lodge, but he knew Fitch well, was his neighbor and
wanted him to break the good news, if you call it that, to the rest of us. And the girl? She came back to Mission, too,
but did not tary very long.‖
          These are colorful memories fifty years after the fact--but what was Mission really like in 1910? First of
all, it was not incorporated until the end of the year, so the village had no boundaries when the Census of 1910 was
taken May 11, 1910 by Kate Knowles. She entitled the sheet, the last of her section of Justice Precinct 4,
―Supplemental (Mission -unin-corporated)‖. This is undoubtedly just the downtown section, the part that could be
seen from the center, since most of the homes were on the small farms and ranches nearby. The population of this
nucleus --28 persons! And who were they? Those persons made famous or infamous by the various descriptions
given at the time of the 50-year celebration? Well, some have appeared in that script, and many have not.
          The first seven lines were individual boarders in a boarding house. The house was not named, nor the
manager mentioned. We will start with the first line:
          1. Jerome Harris, boarder, 67, white male, the marriage section was marked widower; he was from
Georgia, but his father was from Virginia and his mother from New York. His native language was English, and he
was a farmer, having a general farm and was able to read and write.
          2. Victor W. Haney, boarder, 30, single, white male, a native of New York, his father from New York, his
mother American, but place unknown; English was his native language, and he was the Superintendent of the
Canal Co., and yes, he, too, could read and write!
          3. George W. Lewd, boarder, 41, married for 17 years, a native Texan, his father and mother both from
Mississippi. English was his native language and he was a stock buyer, and could read and write.
          4. Willis Brooks, male, white, 63, boarder, married for 35 years, he was a Georgian, his

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father from Virginia, his mother from South Carolina. English was the native language of this truck farmer, who
could read and write.
         5. T. W. Rampton, male white boarder, 51, married for 27 years. He was from Georgia, his father from
New England and his mother from Michigan. He was a literate general farmer.
         6. Harry L. Carpenter, boarder, male white, 40, divorced, He and his father were natives of Michigan, his
mother from New York. He was bartending a local saloon at the time, and he could read and write.
         7. Fletcher S. Jones, 26, single, male, white, he and his parents were natives of Texas; he was a literate
stenographer for the Mission Land Co.
         8. James D. Lockhart, boarder, white male single and 24, also a native Texan with Texan parents. He
managed a feed store, and was literate.
         9. In the next building was Leroy H. Romig, single white male lodger, age 22, and he and his parents were
all Pennsylvanians. He, too, was literate, and a stenographer for the Land Co.
         10. Next came Robert King, head of family, divorced, 31 years old; he and his parents were from
Mississippi. He was a barber in his own shop.
         11. Seford A. Rock, 21-year-old single white male head of family; a native of Texas his father was German
and his mother was from Texas. He was a clerk in the census office, and was literate.
         12. Jack M. Cochran, a second generation Georgian, was 31, white single male. Literate, he was an
inspector of fruit and vegetables.
         13. Jesse P‘erez, a 2nd generation Texan, spoke English as his native language, was a
36-year-old white single male who was literate. He tended bar in a saloon.
         14. Bartolo Reyes, 25, single white male, was a native Texan, and his parents were natives of Mexico of
Spanish extraction. Spanish was his native language, he was illiterate, and worked as a porter in a saloon.
         15-16. Sidney and Annie R. Rowe, husband and wife, 42 and 30 respectively, he was a second generation
Texan, she a Texan with parents from Louisiana. They had been married 12 years. He was chief of engineers for
the Canal Co., she a housewife, and both were literate.
         17. Charles S. Butterfield, 60-year-old white male widdower, was a second generation New Yorker; he
was then working as a house carpenter. He was literate in English.
         18. William Schafer, white single male of unknown age, a native of Missouri whodid not know where his
parents came from, was a literate contractor in canal construction.
         19. Ira J. Wright, a 33-year-old single white male was a lodger with Schafer. He was a 2nd generation
Texan. He was a literate, English-speaking merchant, owning his own grocery.
         20,21, and 22 are the Stewart family, Naller A., 32, Leila I., his wife of nine years, and their eight-year-old
son, Austin W. Stewart. All three were born in Texas, the father‘s parents being from Georgia and Alabama, and
the wifes from Missouri. He was a banker. All three were literate in English, and the youth attended school.
         23. Robert B. Nunnolly, 30-year-old white single male, was a Texan whose parents were respectively
from West Virginia and Texas. He was literate in English and a surveyor for the Land Co.
         24. Twenty-year-old white single male, Jesse L. Parry, a Texan with a Texan mother and an

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English father. He was a rodman with a survey party and was literate.
        25. Twenty-year-old James F. Hobbs, a Texan with Buckeye parents, also roomed with Parry and
Nunnolly. He was an engineer with the Land Co.
        26. Edmund Eshenberg, 33-year-old single Texan, with a German father and Texan mother, was a farm
foreman. He was literate in English.
        27. William Lenhard, a 41-year-old single white native of Switzerland, as his parents were, had
immigrated to the U.S. in 1880, but was not a citizen. He was literate in English and was a house carpenter.
        28. Next door was another house carpenter, 29-year-old white single male Robert B. Ledbetter, a native of
Missouri, whose parents were from Tennessee. He also was literate in English.
        So -- the ―official‖ Mission of 1910, at least that part so identified on the census, consisted of 28 persons, 26
men, two married women, and 24 single men including one boy, the only child listed for Mission! The only alien
was from Switzerland, and only one put down Spanish as his native language, and he was also the only illiterate
resident! How different from 1920, when about half of the town is made up of Mexican aliens, mostly refugees
from the 1910 revolution.
        And notice that the land company and the canal company were responsible for all of these people being in
Mission -- as farmers, or bankers or whatever.


                     The Old Ranches
     While the town fathers desired irrigation and water so that huge ranches with few inhabitants could be
converted into small farms, each with a family on it, and into towns and cities, life in the old ranches went on pretty
much the same. In 1977, Miss Isadora Cavazos, who had been born April 4, 1896 on La Noria Cárdenas, a ranch
belonging to her maternal grandfather, recalled those early ranch days. Her grandfather‘s ranch was a part of the
original San Salvador de Tale grant from the Spanish king, a grant which included a large part of Hidalgo county.
Soon after her birth, her parents Jorge and Carmen Cavazos took her to the Retama Ranch, owned by her paternal
grandfather, where she spent the first seven years of her life. Then she spent seven years residing on the Cibolo
Ranch, and still another few years on the Cárdenas Ranch before moving to Mission. Of La Noria Cárdenas ranch,
she recalled the two water wells, one used to provide water for the humans, and the other for the livestock. The
water for the latter was pumped into a divided trough, a high one for the horses and cows, and a low one for the
goats and sheep. Buckets on ropes were lowered into the wells to obtain water; horses pulled the water-laden
buckets to the surface.
         As a young girl, Miss Cavazos loved ranch life. She followed Pedrito, the hired hand, around, begging to
be allowed to help with the chores. Her favorite was milking the cows. Often, when thirty, she would take a cup and
go straight to a cow for a truly fresh drink of milk. Another chore she helped with was the slaughter of animals used
for food. On the more pleasant side, she loved horses and enjoyed hitching them up and getting them ready to
travel.
         She received her education while living on the Cibolo Ranch. Since there were no regular schools
available, the parents of the children on the ranch pooled their resources and hired a teacher for the children. The
teacher resided with one of the families while he taught the children, and boarded ―round.

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         On the ranches it was always a special occasion when the Oblate father arrived. In the old days it was
impossible for the people on the outlying ranches to get to church each Sunday, so the Oblate fathers rode the
circuit, visiting the various ranches, staying several days at each. During this time they would read the Bible, hold
masses, baptize new babies, marry the young lovers, and pray for the deceased. There were no roads, so the priests
followed the paths between the ranches. The body of Fr. Peter Keralum, missing for ten years, had been found by a
cowboy on a ranch not far from where the Cavazos family lived.
         Ranch villages, which grew up around the ranch headquarters on the porciones, many as early as 1767,
when the land was finally apportioned to the settlers, continued to develop. Not all of the ranchers moved to town
- many remained as vaqueros. Eventually, many joined Mission people to school their children, bank their money,
and buy their supplies.
         Some of these ranches, like Ramón Vela‘s Chihuahua, had large numbers of ranch hands tending the
animals and property, riding the range on horseback far into the 20th century.




                     by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001
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                                                            Chapter 8

                                               Citrus Development
         Early developers soon saw the possibilities of growing citrus in the Valley, as it was grown in Florida and
California at the time. One of the early Catholic fathers, long before the coming of the Americans, had planted
citrus, and had oranges growing. In Mission, early growers included Charles Volz, Max Melch, A. P. Wright, Jack
Robertson, Mr. Windbigler and others. Charles Volz is said to have planted the first citrus tree in the Upper Valley
in 1908. Volz had arrived in 1902 with his father and two brothers. When their rice crop fizzled out, Volz was
approached by Conway, who proposed that Volz open an experimental farm in the Mission area to show
prospective home seekers what the good river soil would do. While other farmers were concentrating on sweet
potatoes, onions and other vegetables, Volz was planting his first grove. ―People thought we were crazy,‖ Mrs.
Volz said. Even the Federal and state agricultural agency men stationed in the Valley were skeptical about orange
trees. They had come to help farmers grow sugar cane and rice. Volz‘s grove at the beginning was just a hobby.
However, he was impressed with the possibility of growing citrus around Mission. He sent to Florida for orange,
grapefruit and lemon trees to experiment with. Work progressed by trial and error. It seemed that they had freezes
every winter during the early years. To protect the trees, he stacked corn fodder around each. Conway brought his
land company tours to the Volz farm. Volz set up his own retail business, packing and shipping boxes to tourists
who had visited the Valley and sent back orders for fruit. His farm was located where Foy‘s Supermarket stands
today--at Expressway 83 and Conway, on the northeast side.
         In those early years, many of the pioneers did not believe that citrus would prove to be a good Valley crop.
About 1912, Virgil N. Lott featured in the Lower Rio Grande Valley Magazine, as well as in the Valley Times, the
possibilities of citrus fruit growing in the Valley. He was given the Brooklyn cheer for his efforts, and told in no
uncertain terms by the old residents that citrus fruit wouldn‘t grow in the Valley, and that he ought to be hanged for
saying that it could.
         ―The Volz name comes to mind when one thinks of the beautiful plants and the beautiful flowers which
had to be brought into this area from far places,‖ Mrs. Maurine Duncan wrote April 10, 1975. ―Naturally, there
were lots of pretty wild things, cactus blossoms and yucca flower heads, but someone had to prove to the world that
fine things could grow here where there was so much mesquite brush. So Charlie and Rose started their proving. As
bride and groom they came. First, the citrus orchard was planted so that every traveler could marvel at the
sweetness of the oranges and the astounding beauty of the grapefruit. Rose added little children to bloom with her
garden, naming the daughters Iris, Hyacinth and Violet.‖
         The A.P. Wrights moved to La Lomita in 1908 from Santa Maria, Cameron County, , and Wright
established the first nursery in Mission early in 1909. He strongly believed in the future of the Valley in citrus
production, and backed his feelings by setting out one of the early orchards. He had the first stock in the Upper
Valley, experimenting with many things sent him by the government. Several trees that he planted years ago still
stand—the large palms at the Shary Club House, for


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example. His sons E.A. and C.P. were successful farmers of the La Lomita tracts in the early days, growing
fabulous truck crops. His son I.J. established Wright‘s Pure Food Grocery; C.P. had a men‘s wear store. Ewell was
a big produce grower. In 1919, he was offered 1,750 an acre for his orchard and nursery, but backed out of the sale
and was glad. He did sell off city lots from the nursery as he grew older. He also raised a fine large family. He and
Mrs. Wright were deceased before 1959, as were three of his sons Charley, Ewell and I.J. but Lynn, Perry, Althea
                                                                                    --                         --


Richards and Rosalee George were still living in California at that time, still carrying on the traditions of that fine
pioneer family.
         But A. P. Wright, Charley Volt, Jack Robertson and others finally proved that citrus could succeed. And
John H. Shary provided the distribution process.
         In 1911, Harry Thompson came to the Valley and started in citrus production. His son, Tommy Thompson,
farms 900 acres today, about 300 of it in citrus. He pointed out that in the Valley sour-orange rootstock is used as a
base for grafting buds of the best varieties. Three-year-old trees are planted in the groves. They do not produce
profitably until they are six or seven years old. Thompson still plants 40% oranges--his father had planted a Navel
orange at the home place in 1914 and it lasted until the 1989 freeze.
         Meanwhile, in 1915, W. H. Briscoe came to Mission, and bought a farm. He was told to plant corn, alfalfa
and winter vegetables, raise a few hogs and other livestock, and he would prosper. But Briscoe, a Hoosier from
Washington Co., IN, where his father was a nurseryman, had been in the nursery business in Kansas and
California. He examined the soil, climate, and what was presently growing, including the citrus. He was already an
expert citrus nurseryman from his experiences in California, and he immediately saw that the Lower Rio Grande
Valley was well suited to citrus culture. He made up his mind in just the first three weeks here. John Shary, a big
developer in the area, called him in and asked him what he thought about the soil, climate and general conditions.
Briscoe was characteristically frank and said that this was citrus country, the soil incomparable with any in the
U.S., and that the land, rather than worth the $200 it was selling for, should be worth more like $500 an acre.
Briscoe started the Briscoe Nursery Company with his partner T. L. Lanham. His operation was known for the
quality of his young trees. He married Essie Thornton of Mattoon, IL, and their home was one of the most beautiful
showpieces in the Valley. He was a member of the Mission Rotary Club.
         John H. Shary, a developer from North Dakota, had arrived in the Valley, and he immediately saw the
possibilities and attractiveness of citrus. He felt that the prospects of citrus culture held great promise for the future.
He bought the 6,000-acre Swift estate, and three years later the adjacent lands of the Oblate Fathers. He bought out
Conway‘s Mission Canal Company when it went into receivership, and created the United Irrigation Company,
Inc. He bought the Robertson Grove, and began planting around it extensively in an effort to produce scientifically
designed grapefruit on a large scale. He took a great interest in the development of all the Valley citrus groves,
those of Volz, Jack Robertson, V. P. Wright and Roy Conway.
         He organized the John H. Shary Land Train that brought thousands of prospective home seekers and land
speculators interested in buying producing farms to the Valley. He took his acreage and formed Sharyland, a great
tract of about 30,000 acres, and sold off 40-acre citrus farms already growing. Shary would show his visitors
Volz‘s and Melch‘s groves. ―Mr. Shary would pay my father

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not to pick the fruit from a certain tree so that prospective buyers could see it, ―recalled Herbert Melch. Mrs. Volz
kept one tree intact so that everyone could see how it looked and many people at first believed that the fruit was
wired on.
         As Shary sold the land, he urged his purchasers to plant as many citrus trees as possible. In many instances,
he financed them in getting started. As a result, he became known as the ―Father of Commercial Citrus‖ in the
Valley.
         Of course, citrus was not raised from seed, but from grafted stock, and it took nurserymen to raise and keep
on hand a supply of stock before citrus could be successful. One of the earliest nurserymen was Sam J. Baker, who
gave the following account of his arrival on the scene, and his ideas, in 1940, of what was needed for continuing
success.1
         ―At that time [January, 1919] I was with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and had been sent here to
assist a Corps of Inspectors in some groves in the Mission area. Although I was carrying more avoirdupois than I
was entitled to, and, knowing that the Valley was considerably south of the Houston country, I thought it would be
too hot here for me; but to my surprise I found it more comfortable here than there, nor have I ever suffered from
the heat during the more than 20 years I have been here.
         ―The chief inspector had arranged for our accommodation and we were soon at work. After a few days my
car arrived and we used it for our work. At that time there was not a single garage, filling station, nor even a
gasoline or air pump in the Valley and we bought our gasoline directly from the drum and pumped up our tires with
an air pump. There were no paved streets or highways and few graded roads, and there was no getting round in a car
after rains because of deep mud, while during dry weather the dust was so thick at times that about ten miles per
hour was as fast as we dared to drive. But we got around after a fashion and inspected the groves then existing
which were few and small compared to what we now have, there being very few that consisted of as much as five
acres in bearing. Charley Volz, the Windbiglers, and a few others had fine little groves and John Shary was just
starting his huge development.
         ―We were much surprised at the fine quality of the fruit, having never seen grapefruit before that we
considered fit to eat, and we ate it practically all the time, and, wonderful to relate, without sugar! That was the first
thing that caused me to fall in love with the Valley, but I was soon to see several other things equally wonderful and
hard to understand by one not acquainted with this country. For instance, there had been a pretty severe freeze a
few days before we arrived, hard enough to split the bark on young trees and damage the tops severely. This looked
discouraging to me because in my more than 20 years in the citrus business before coming here I had never seen
trees so badly damaged recover; but to my surprise they had recovered by mid-summer so that one would never
suspect they had been hurt. That was the second astonishing thing I noticed and before I had been here many
months I had definitely decided that this was the best natural citrus country in the United States, nor have I ever had
cause for changing my mind.
         ―At that time all sorts of varieties were being planted with imported trees, budded on all


        1
            Taken from story written by Sam J. Baker on page 5, Section 4, Mission Times, January 12, 1940.

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kinds of root-systems, there being no citrus nurseries in the Valley. I soon made note of the fact that those budded
on sour orange stocks were doing the best and began to do what I could do to influence the planting of no other.
That stock is now used almost exclusively. I also noticed that the trees were making good in spite of poor care or
none at all and decided that if good trees were planted and then properly cared for, we would have ‗the world by the
tail‘ as a citrus country, so before the year was out I resigned my position and started in the citrus nursery business,
regardless of the fatherly advice of some of the so-called nurserymen, who were really only dealers in imported
trees, who told me it couldn‘t be done. I made a success of it right from the start and my nursery was the first
successful one in the Valley, except a private one belonging to John Shary, who had a small block of seedlings
ready for bedding that Spring. I have been in the business every since, having grown gray in the service of the
Valley citrus industry. I have seen the industry develop from the experimental stage into one of the major
horticultural developments of the United States, starting with the shipment of a few boxes of seedy fruit, cleaned by
hand with scrub-brush behind the bard and shipped a box at a time by express, and growing into the output of
trainload after trainload of the finest fruit that goes to market, packed by scores of the most up-to-date packing
plants in the country, to say nothing of the hundreds of carloads of canned fruit and juice put out by some of the
largest and best equipped canning plants in the world. The growth of the industry has been truly surprising and has
only been made possible by the supreme quality of our fruit, wich is now recognized as the best grown anywhere.
I has become known in every market of the world and its popularity is increasing every day.
          “But, as is usually the case, there are a few ‗flies in the ointment‘ which must be extricated before we
realize fully on our opportunities for profit. First, in our rush to get in a little money as early as possible, we are
shipping fruit every season that is so immature as to be unfit for use. This is simply suicidal and some way must be
found to prevent such a travesty on the quality of our fruit which ripe justifies. Oh, yes, we have a maturity test, but
it is entirely too low and does not indicate the quality of our fruit when ripe and it often ‗passes the test‘ when it is
not fit to eat. The only thing it is good for, to my mind, is to furnish an excuse for shipping green fruit, and it is
being used for just that, year after year, to the ruin of the market price. It is based on the poor quality of the fruit
grown in other districts and does not represent the high quality of ours. Every one who knows the Valley and is
honest enough to admit it, knows that no fruit is really fit to eat until in November, yet we are rushing it out by the
carload in September and October, when it is really not frill grown, much less ripe, and this can only result in the
ruination of the market, as has been demonstrated year after year. What this Valley needs more than anything else
is brains enough to realize what fools we are. If the Department of Agriculture really wants to help the Valley, let
them send out men in November, after the fruit is ripe, and take samples from every section of the Valley, carefully
analyze it and set the maturity test according to the findings. That would stop the shipment of green fruit and it is
the only thing I can see that will. We ought to be able to see that only a fool would get bitten the second time on
green fruit and there are not enough fools in the United States to take all our crop. If a way could be found to stop
the nefarious practice we would be able to sell all of our fruit at good prices, while that of other sections hung on
the trees until it, too, was ripe. It is really surprising that a set of supposedly intelligent growers should fall over
each other to sell their fruit green when they know by sad experience that it can only mean ruin. They are losing
literally millions of dollars each year

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for want of common, ordinary horse sense. This may be strong language but every honest man will admit that it is
true. Let‘s do something about it before the matter gets any worse.
         ―Another fly in the ointment is the high cost of distribution, which is resulting in the grower getting about
ten percent of the retail price of his fruit. I have recently made some investigations and am sure that the present
retail price of fruit justifies a price to the grower of not less than $20 a ton. This can only be corrected by the
growers organizing and sticking for a decent price; but farmers were never known to stick together as other folks
do; they just go on cutting each other‘s throats on pricing and the devil take the hindmost. However the recent
movement of the shippers quoting uniform prices is a long step in the right direction, and one that should have been
taken long ago; but the growers should also quote uniform prices and they will never realize on their investments as
they should until they do. The shippers would be glad to pay fair prices for good fruit, and would do so if quoted
uniform prices. But only a fool would pay Bill Jones $20 per ton when Tom Smith only asks ten. But, now that the
Bankers Association is willing to help the growers hold fruit for better prices, I expect matters to improve
materially in the near future. Things cannot go on as they are forever and we will at last come to our senses and
correct these evils. We most.
         Another thing that must be done before we can prosper as we should is to get rid of the seedy and obsolete
varieties of trees and substitute trees of the superior sorts, such as the new red-fleshed grapefruit lately found and
proven and the better varieties of oranges, etc., which are now available. These red-fleshed, pink cheeked
grapefruits are so superior to all others in both appearance and quality that they are certain to bring far better returns
than anything we now have, especially as they can only be grown to perfection here where they originated, giving
us a virtual monopoly. And a new grove of these new varieties may be had at little more expense than the cost of
the trees, which is a small item in the cost of growing a grove. This can be, and is being, done by interplanting the
old grove with trees of the better sorts, placing them in the old grove with trees of the better sorts, placing them in
the old rows between the old trees one way, cutting back the old trees on the sides next to the new ones when they
begin to crowd. In this way the old trees will take care of the expense until the new ones are in full bearing, when
they may be removed and you have a new grove of the best varieties for practically nothing. This is being done in
California quite extensively and we have interplanted a few groves here besides our own. It is simply a sound
business proposition and is well worth considering by any one have a grove of obsolete varieties on good citrus
land, and it will pay them to look into it, and turn a poor investment into a good one.‖
         In 1932, Dr. John B. Webb found a natural hybrid in his orchard that had a deep pink flesh color, an
excellent flavor, and a pink blush on the skin. He called it ―Red Blush‖ but the name ―Ruby Red‖ was applied by
others, and stuck. Budwood from the mother tree was used to plant thousands of acres of this grapefruit.
         The citrus development soon earned the city of Mission the title ―Home of the Grapefruit.‖ Mission soon
became a leading shipping point for citrus products. Shary formed the shipping company, and developed methods
for shipping boxcar loads all over the country.
         The first killing freeze recorded in the Valley struck in 1899; the next was in 1941.
         Citrus hit its heyday in the Valley in 1948, when 28.4 million boxes of grapefruit and oranges were
shipped. Acreage was estimated at 125,000 acres planted in citrus. There were a few cooperatives, but no real
organization of citrus growers at that time,

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        Disaster struck in 1951--The 20,000 Valley citrus raisers lost their 11 million trees, worth an estimated
$200 million when a hard freeze killed the trees. That freeze almost killed the industry. There had been 100,000
acres planted to citrus in the Valley--it dropped to 90,000.
        Another severe freeze hit in 1962. In 1979, a minor freeze damaged trees, dropping the 1980 production to
40% normal. This was followed by a number of bumper crops.
        But many farmers replanted, mostly with the newer Ruby Red strain of grapefruit. The Star Ruby variety
was released by Texas A&M in the early 1970‘s, but it bore fruit only every other year.

        By 1982 the production had peaked again at 12 million cartons of grapefruit and 5 million cartons of
oranges. The Valley boasted 75,000 acres in production of grapefruit. The 1983 freeze again shrunk the number of
farmers able and willing to risk their production in citrus. There was a 60% kill of trees, and no nursery stock
available. Many began replacing their Ruby Red trees which had been frozen out with Star Ruby‘s. Then in March
of 1984 there were 105 and 107 degree temperatures, which killed more acreage. The majority of the growers who
pulled out were, as usual, absentee owners. In 1984, A&M came out with the release of Rio Red, which had a
darker red meat, which didn‘t fade as the season progressed. It was also more vigorous, and had a higher
productivity than the Star Ruby. Both Rio Red and Star Ruby are credited to Richard Hensz, the ―Guru of
Grapefruit‖ the director of the Texas A&M Center at Kingsville from 1963 until 1994, He was a native of Indiana.
        By 1989, 36,000 acres were in production. And again that year, a freeze struck, eliminating all commercial
production, and producing an economic loss of $155 million. It also cost the growers $48 million in future
earnings. About half of the 1989 crop had been harvested, the first good crop since the 1983 freeze, when the
temperature dropped to 16 degrees for several hours. The remaining crop was almost immediately reduced to
mush, suitable for nothing. After the freeze, about 12,000 acres of plantings were left, mainly young trees; the Rio
Reds seem to survive better than the others.
        Two Federal programs helped the growers. The Tree Assistance Program, administered by the ASCS,
helped rehabilitate or replant groves on a cost-share basis. And about 75% of the acreage in the Valley was covered
by the Tree Insurance Program , which compensated growers based on the long-term loss of income. Without those
two programs, almost all of the farmers would have gone broke; it allowed most to replant. About 90% of the
pre-1983 trees were lost, and about one-third of those planted after 1983. About two-thirds of the Valley‘s orchards
were destroyed.
        And of the trees replanted after the 1989 freeze, about 80% were Rio Reds, marketed with Star Ruby‘s as
―Rio Star.‖ About two-thirds of the oranges are Mans, and one-third navels.
        In the first half of 1990, nursery stock growers were able to deliver 49,000 new trees to producers. The
1991-2 crop was about 10,000 tons, down 255,200 from the 1988-89 total. About 15,000 acres had been replanted,
with some production expected in October, 1992.
        On August 11, 1993 the red grapefruit became the official fruit of Texas, joining the mockingbird,
bluebonnet and pecan as state symbols. Mission grower Allen Shivers, son of former Texas Governor Allan
Shivers and his wife Maryjo Shary Shivers, gave Gov. Ann Richards a cap proclaiming ―Sharylands Orchards
Numero Uno‖ At this time, about 62% of the groves are producing Rio Star fruit, and Ruby-Sweet accounts for
30%, marking the demise of the Ruby Red which reigned over the Valley for more than 60 years. But red is red, in
grapefruit! By 1993, the

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Valley had 42,000 acres of citrus planted, and 32,000 in production.
         Before the 1989 freeze, density of trees per acre was about 80 to 100 trees. But the newer trees were
planted 150 to 200 to the acres. But freezes aren‘t the biggest threat any more to groves--increased urbanization is!
Groves are more profitable as housing developments.
         The unique delta soil provides Valley fruit with a little better flavor and thinner skin than the Florida and
California fruit, and less acid than the California fruit, too.
         The acreage planted to citrus in the Valley remains small compared to 800,000 acres in Florida and
350,000 acres in Southern California. Of the 750,000 acres of irrigated land in the Valley, only 190,000 are suitable
for citrus, and much of this is now urbanized. Also, Valley farmer are installing microsprayer systems that will
maximize use of irrigation water and provide cold protection by thin even coating of ice,
         By the 1994-95 season, production was back up to 4,000 80-pound cartons. TexaSweet Citrus Advertising
Inc.. Located its headquarters in Mission in 1994.

                                                           Early Churches
    One of the first necessities in the pioneer community of Mission was a church for each religious group, not only
for religion but for social reasons, so that the new settlers could quickly get acquainted with people of their own
faith. The La Lomita mission held Catholic services before the town got well started. In 1908 the Oblates built Our
Lady of Guadalupe Church.
          The first Sunday School was organized by Rev. Samuel Glasglow, of the Presbyterian
Missions in 1909 above a pool hall on La Lomita Boulevard, as Conway Avenue was called then.
It was attended by many denominations.
From this grew many of Mission‘s present-day churches. ―I remember very distinctly how Rev.
Glasglow held meetings on the street, with his wife playing the portable organ. Dr. Glasglow (then
just Reverend, and very young) was the first Protestant minister in the Valley west of Brownsville.
He described Mission as ‗a new-born town, marked by all the liberties of western life; however,
Sunday is observed.‖
          Under the leadership of L. A. McCombs, this Sunday School continued to grow, meeting in various parts
of town, until 1910 when the various denominations began to build their own churches.
          One of Mission‘s early revivals was put on by a Baptist evangelist, the Rev. Sid Williams, brought in by
John Conway for a series of meetings. Even though there was no Baptist Church at the time, the Methodists opened
their hearts and the doors of their church to Rev. Williams and attended and the meetings proved to be very
successful. John Conway, whose family were all devout Catholics, was believed to be a fine old Irish Catholic, but
it is also said that he finally joined the church on his deathbed, at the urging of his wife.
          The Methodist Church was formally organized in late 1909. In 1910 the Baptist Church was organized
with the Rev. J. W. Storms as first minister of the second Mission Church. The Presbyterian Church, whose
minister was first on the scene, was the third Protestant Church to construct a building. In 1908, St. Paul‘s Catholic
Church had already been built. According to the memory of J.S. Vandervort, the first church to be organized was
the Presbyterian, with Rev. S.M. Glasglow as preacher; the second was the Baptist, with Rev. J.W. Storms as
minister.

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         The first Missionite to be ordained as a Baptist preacher was the Rev. Ernest Kelly, who became a
missionary to the Latin people in southwest Texas, according to Virgil N. Lott. He built the first Baptist Church in
Rio Grande City while Lott was living there, and his final active service in the field of Christianity was the
establishment of a mission Baptist church in Zapata in 1953. He retired to Alice, where he was living in 1959.
         The First Christian Church was originally housed in a small building on the west side of town. The Church
of Christ was another early church. One of Mission‘s Chiefs of Police was an ordained Christian minister Ross A    -


.Marcos, according to Virgil N. Lott.
         Mrs. T. J. Candwell started a church with her persistence in holding a small group of people together. She
dedicated herself to teaching within this group, teaching herself first, then conducting Bible classes many times
each week to reach all age levels of the little church. Her efforts bore fruit as the Christian community grew.
         Mrs. Althea Wright Richards, writing from California in 1959, recalled ―Methodist Sunday Schools of the
Valley sponsored an all-day trip to Padre Island in the very early days.
         ―We left extra early by trains, picking up passengers at each stop. At Brownsville we took the narrow
gauge railroad, loading onto flat ears and any others available. We were hanging all over the train top of cars-- etc.
                                                                                                              --


We rode this conveyance to Point Isabel, where we took motor boats across to the island. We had taken our lunch
and most of us were prepared for bathing. We had quite a trek through the sand dunes until we arrived at a bath
house, a long frame affair with a porch along the front.
         ―We started for home at a late hour. The train broke down between Point Isabel and Brownsville, but we
soon had it fixed. This old narrow gage train engine was on display near the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce
and may still (1959) be there. We all had quite an experience.‖
         The 1910 Presbyterian church was a small wooden structure on the corner of 12th and Doherty, on a lot
donated by J. J. Conway and J. W. Hoit. William Linehardt built the first altar. Not being experienced with such
things, he built the pulpit so large it couldn‘t be taken in the door! Hallie Jeffries(Mrs. C.P. Wright) was the first
organist, using an old style pump organ with pull stops. Kerosene lamps provided flickering light, and on cold
winter days, a wood-burning stoves warmed the room. It kept the children busy firing the stoves and filling the
lamps, and ringing the church bell, which hung in a large, bulky belfry. ―I remember it got stuck one cold morning
and one of the boys, Paul Bobb, had to crawl into the belfry. Paul later became a Presbyterian minister and a
chaplain during the First World War,‖ Mrs. Richards wrote in 1959. She also wrote ―Our beloved Mrs. Burgoon
often cleaned the lamp chimneys. ‗Miss Lucy‘ (Mrs. Tom Sammons, Sr.) usually brought the kerosene and
kindling to start the fires.‖
                         Schools
   People soon became concerned about education for their children. The first school had been built at La Lomita,
on the land of S. A. McHenry, 2 1/2 miles south of Mission on Conway, and its first teacher was Miss Corrine
Whitehurst of Sandia, Texas. Her pupils numbered 20 or 25, more Latin than Anglo-Americans, but Charlie and
Myrtle Langston, the Dawson girls and Al Volz were among them. They sat on board seats and the only teaching
aid was the blackboard. Langston recalled that the two Dawson girls often rode to school on a gray mare, while Ira
Dunlap, later a tire dealer in Mission, and Simon de ha Rosa rode burros. Most of the rest walked. One of
Langston‘s prized

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possessions, which he keeps in his bank lockbox, is the little booklet, with the names of the pupils and some little
poems, which the teacher gave each pupil. But that school was closed when the site was practically abandoned for
Mission. The school was across Conway from the old Edwards residence just north of the town of Madero. When
the road was made into a Boulevard for the construction of the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Interurban
several years later, the school building was left in the roadway for months and later removed to Madero.
         During the 1908-09 school year, another school was situated about a half-mile from Madero, with an
average daily attendance of 30-40 children. Conway & Hoit were concentrating on rural sales in this area at the
time.
         The first school on the north side of the railroad tracks was opened in 1909. Classes were conducted by
George Wolfram in a one-story, one-room building originally built for a pool hall. According to Virgil N. Lott, it
was located in the rear of the George Schunior brick building on the highway near the old Knox :Lumber Yard. The
Lotts paid Wolfram $5 a month for instructing their children, ―and it was money well spent, for George really knew
how to teach the young idea.‖ It stood just west of where Bjork‘s new(1959) Conoco Station is, and was just east of
a 2-story brick building which was demolished about 1959. It was also described as being about the site of the old
Lynch Davidson Lumber Company Yard.
         Benches were two-by-twelve planks supported at each end by empty soap boxes. The average daily
attendance was 28 pupils, all new and from different states and backgrounds, and no Mexicans. Many brought their
old textbooks; hence there were many different texts to teach from. The pupils ranged in learning from the first to
seventh grades. The more advanced students were surprised that the curriculum did not include Spanish, geometry
or Latin. Mrs. Althea Wright Richards, who attended the school, described it in 1959 as follows:
         ―Our schoolmaster was very nonchalant. He rested his artificial leg upon his desk and had us copy our
lesson from the book onto the blackboard.‖ (Charles Langston recalled that a favorite prank of the boys was to hide
Mr. Wolfram‘s cane, so he couldn‘t get around. Wolfrum was also justice of the peace for the area, as well as
teacher, and every day when he came in, he removed his gun and put it in his drawer until JP duties again called
him.) ―There were two pupils to a desk, boys sitting with girls, etc.. I, with brothers Perry and Lynn Wright
                                                                                             .


attended this school for a time, with many who are still (1959) around, such as the Rome boys and girls, the
Volz‘s, the Robertsons, the Achees, Gordon Kirkland of Rio Grande City, the Drummond girls, McCombs, Carrie
and Cleo Dawson. I can think of many others but many of the early pioneer families gave up and moved back
north.‖
         Charlie Langston recalled that the facilities at the school were very limited. Water was taken from the
canals or from wells, and stored at the school in barrels. Pupils used the tin cups to dip out water. Every once and
awhile, Langston claimed, a government man would come by and put minnows(gambusia) in the barrel to ―eat up
all the wiggletails‖, as the mosquito larvae were called.
         The restroom facilities at the school consisted of two outhouses on opposite sides of the school.
         ―This school was not too satisfactory for many pioneering families, so about this time the M. F.
Armstrongs brought in a school teacher and started private classes in the upper story of their home,‖ Mrs. Richards
continued. ―Many of us attended these classes. The residence has long since

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been demolished and an apartment stands there now, at 1101 Miller Avenue.‖ Mrs. Zac Drummond Boyle recalled
that it was a group of parents who hired a relative of Mrs. Armstrong‘s to do the teaching.
         ―Then our better school system started to take shape when classes were held in the upper story of a building
on Main Street where a Texaco Station is located across from the City hall ( 1959). The lower part was a feed store
and upstairs used by the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star, as well as for school, Mrs. Richards continued.
         In south Mission, on the other side of the tracks, literally, a school was conducted for some
200 Mexican children. It was in a two-room frame building originally built for the Catholic Church.
Catholic sisters taught the children, but the school was a public, not parochial, school, supported by
tax money. South Mission also had the Colegio Fronterizo, a two-story building on Conway(then
La Lomita), where Mr. Samuel Trevino conducted classes in Spanish with Spanish textbooks.
         During the 1910-11 school year, a two-story frame building, better equipped than the first, was used. Mrs.
Boyle described the school as at Conway and 11th. Her sister Pauline(Mrs. J. S. Rodwell of Denver, CO) started to
school there and was the first person to start in public school in Mission and finish high school there. She graduated
in 1920. According to Virgil Lott, the first teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Estes Rich and his sister, Lulu Rich, who
was later the first wife of Will Wood.
         The schools were then under the county superintendent, and the town decided it should have an
independent school district. Mission voted for it, and Charles Volz became the first president of the board. A new
two-story brick grammar school was built to accommodate the increasing attendance. C. B. Godby was the first
superintendent, and had a corps of four teachers besides himself in North Mission and four teachers in South
Mission. Ben D. Wood, a native of the Valley, wrote in 1982 from Croton-on-Hudson, NY: ―In 1911 we moved
down the valley a few miles from the ranch and Rio Grande City to the new town of Mission, Texas, which was one
of the early land development ventures based on water pumped from the Rio Grande and carried by canals to the
hitherto dry lands bordering on the south Texas desert and from one to five or six miles north of the river. In
Mission there were a lot of white people and white schools and a superintendent. I went to the Mission High School
for nearly two years, when I was about sixteen years old. Ben D. Wood. The Early Life of Ben D. Wood
Croton-on-Hudson, NY: 1982, p. 53. I remember my third school quite clearly. It was a high school administered
and taught with formal curriculum, grades, and the other unfortunately enemies of individualized education. I was
placed in the 11th grade, and graduated from the 12th grade in the Mission, Texas high school in 1912. But since
the principal and teacher of both grades was the same dedicated and universally beloved Mr. Godbey, I was able to
continue my educational efforts despite the schooling formalities of medieval armor which now encased the school
in a legally required time-scheduled mass prescription called the Standard State Curriculum. Mr. Godbey, of
blessed memory, never allowed these bureaucratic anti-educational infections to interfere with his duty to help
pupils achieve an individually appropriate education by individually appropriate means. But his school never
received high school accreditation!‖ His valedictory address to the 3 other class members was ―The
Technological Revolution: Its Astounding Past and Its Immeasurable Future.‖
         As enrollment continued to increase, bigger and better schools were built. In 1914, St. Paul‘s

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Catholic school was built and opened its doors in 1915.
         ―My first two years of school were spent in Miss Nannie Roger‘s room,‖ Miss Laura Frances Murphy
recalled in 1959. ―Miss Rogers‘ mother and my paternal grandmother were schoolgirls together in Mississippi, and
Mrs. Rogers had many stories to tell of the Civil War. Miss Rogers is totally blind now (1959) and lives at the
Eastern Star Home in Arlington, TX, but she remembers with pleasure Mission friends and continues to get letters
from former pupils.
         ―As at our homes, the school drinking water was hauled in barrels pulled by donkeys and transferred to the
school barrels. Each of us carried his own drinking cup - mine was blue enamel. Each first grader also had his own
―Playmates Primer‖ and a speller. Free textbooks were unheard of then. There was no P.T.A., but parents always
took a basket lunch on the first day of school and at the picnic, parents and teachers met and discussed plans for the
year. Parents who could read music were asked to volunteer to help with programs or holidays. My mother had
taught music in Mississippi and in West Texas, so she helped with the Christmas and the Spring programs for the
lower grades. Later on a school band was organized in the same way under the leadership of public spirited
laymen.‖
         Mission‘s first graduating class had four members- Gordon Kirkland, Conan and Ben Wood, and Louise
Dunsing in 1915. Mrs. Zac Drummond Boyle was in the third class in 1916, with Lady Cary Armstrong(Mrs. J. A.
Gillett), Cromwell Pitts, and Louis Alsmeyer.
         Mrs. Althea Wright Williams recalled those years as follows:
         ―Soon a real school building became a certainty and was built where the present(1959) high school stands.
However, the original has been replaced by another building. But I graduated from the original school building in
1917, in a class of four, the other three being Lucille Burgoon, now Mrs. A.C. McHenry; Sara Louise Bixler,
deceased, and Miller Armstrong, an attorney now living at Weslaco.
         ―That year, we put out a high school annual, but we went so far into the red that the schools did not try this
project again until about 15 years ago. Anyway, it was fun and with the expert help of our English and Domestic
Economy teacher, Miss Alma McHenry, we a job we were proud of in those times.
         ―Our teachers that year were E. W. Nance, superintendent and mathematics teacher; F. L. Flynn, principal
and also taught history and Latin; D. V. Schuchardt, agriculture and science; Miss Alma McHenry, domestic
economy and English; Miss Floy Roots and W. H. Edmondson,
         Judge Miller Armstrong graduated from high school in 1917, and he was the handsomest and smartest boy
in his class-- of course, he was the ONLY boy in the class, with three girls! He was 16 when he graduated, turning
17 before entering the University of Texas at Austin that Fall. Spanish hadn‘t been offered at Mission until the
1916-7 year, and the classes were quickly filled by the younger students; previously, Latin was the only language
offered. His best friend at that time was their next-door neighbor, Austin Stewart, whose father was president of the
First State Bank, while his father headed the First National Bank. The two homes were separated by the Armstrong
tenths court.
         (A picture exists of the first ―domestic economy‖ or home economics class, at Mission High School Vina  --


Madsen, Althea Wright, Ardis Robertson, Lucille Burgoon, June Hunter, Cleo Dawson, Christine Simpson, Carrie
Dawson, Mamie Drummond and Ruth Coffman. Mrs. Will

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Wood was the teacher of this class, according to the picture caption.)
         ―About this time the seniors were in the midst of a social whirl. Classes were so small I guess entertaining
was not such a problem, but they really went all out to honor us, each class from juniors down to freshmen, giving
individual parties for us.
         ―We organized our Alpha Delta Phi Literary Society during our sophomore year, 1915, which was fun, too.
We had our amateur hops, our Soccer banquets, our tacky parties and Junior-Senior Party. We had our Girls
Culture Club, our Boys Debating Club and many varied interests. Mission was a small town and most everyone
attended everything....‖
         Students got to school in a variety of ways before school buses. Some rode the old Spiderweb Railroad,
others rode burros, horses or wagons. Burros provided not only transportation but entertainment, too -- boys had
contests to see who could stay on a bucking burro the longest. And of course many walked to school. Mrs. Albert
McHenry once confessed that she stayed at her girlfriend‘s house overnight so that her father could do Mrs. McH‘s
geometry!
         Walter Burgoon went to Mission High School in those days, but reluctantly, he says. When he was in the
9th grade, Ray Landry hit him in the eye with a ―shinny club‖ and he lost out on six months of school because he
was virtually blind during that time. ―I sure was glad,‖ he said. ―I never did see much sense in being there in the
first place. The last year of school was fun, I guess. Played pool the whole year, as I remember.‖ This, and smoking
Bull Durham cigarettes in the boiler room were happy times, Burgoon laughed, in a 1979 interview by Pat
Ownbey.
         Burgoon recalled some of his old teachers very fondly, and Professors Wolfrum and Hendrix brought a
smile as they crossed his memory. But Professor Godbee is the one who stands out best
--it seems Dutch and some of his friends tried to push Godbee out of a second-story window one day. He can‘t
remember why, only that he deserved it and that the attempt failed.
         Cleo Dawson was a classmate of Walter Burgoon, and he remembers many good times with her and her
sister, Carrie Dawson, and Mazie Lopez. He sat behind Mazie in school and tormented her by dipping the ends of
her pigtails in the inkwell on his desk. (In those days before ball-point pens and fountain pens, each student had a
pen that used a changeable steel point that was dipped in an inkwell before writing each word or two. Naturally, the
open well of ink got many a scholar in trouble!)
         Maurine Duncan, in her column ―Bouquets‖ in the Upper Valley Progress in the 1970‘s, wrote:
         ―Fred Flynn must have been a wonderful teacher; he is a wonderful man who has always done big things
for others, taking so little credit for himself. He is spoken of yet ( 1975) with affection.
         Ernest Poteen came to Mission as a young man, giving his time to teaching and being an athletic director.
He has gone to other cities‘ schools and up to the university level to leave his mark of progressive ideas of
education printed on thousands of young lives of the Valley and the State.
         ―Sid Harbin is legend to students who were inspired by his teaching ―Civics‖ and citizen responsibility.
         ―Mission schools and the churches of Mission have had leaden of outstanding qualifications, but the men
moved on from here. It reminds one of the lines from Tennyson‘s ―Brook,‖ ‗For men may come and men may go‘
but Mission goes on forever. Each one who gave thoughtful leadership added to the development in a particular
way to this town.

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        ―Quiet, capable Leo Marcell gave years of his life to this community. His devotion and service to the
schools is good reason for perpetuating his name in the naming of an elementary school.‖




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                                                               Chapter 9
                                                        Entertainment
        No radios, TVs or video games entertained Mission in the early days. In that slower, more relaxed time, the
Mission Booster Band, under the direction of T. A. Humason, took the place of the tape recorders, boom boxes,
Walkmen, and CDs of today. A bunch of boys got together in 1910 and formed the band, but needed a director. One
of the boys got in touch with some other musicians, and secured Humason for a teacher and director; the choice
proved to be a good one.

         Mission never stopped loving the beautiful melodies of life. For many years Gorgonio Barrera dipped into
every heart when his bow dipped across the four strings of his violin with ―Over the Waves‖, ―Fascination‖ or
―Estrellita,‖ Mrs. Maurine Duncan reminisced April 10, 1975 in the Upper Valley Progress.
         The first Christmas on the tract, December, 1908, was celebrated with a tree and the usual trimmings and
program. Fred Vandervort made a pleasing Santa Claus, and W.F. Cummins delivered a good talk. Every
American on the tract was invited and apparently attendance was 100%.
         The Tuesday club erected a bandstand, and the band proudly played. Many community gatherings of the
outdoor type between 1910 and 1920 centered around the bandstand, which was set in a parkway near the old
Missouri Pacific train station. Even the later 4th of July celebrations were held here. At length the band
disintegrated, and later the bandstand was torn down.
         Another form of recreation was the Kodak party- the participants would go to a cemetery, or other unusual
place, and take pictures; these parties were a lot of fun.
         And who can forget Eloisa Vela, who had just married William Dougherty; she knew the need pioneering
people had for sociability, and her Sunday gatherings at El Jardin de Flores, either for picnics of for cabrito
barbecues, gave the Missionites relaxing enjoyment. The picnic area and the old tank which she had turned into a
swimming pool so the children would not have to swim in the river served to show her pleasure-loving spirit, her
feeling for people.
         Although social life in the early days was mostly visiting and picnicking, it was not long before everyone
was having card parties, Mrs. Zac Drummond Boyle pointed out. At first the women‘s parties played ―Forty-two‖,
then ―Five Hundred‖ and finally Auction Bridge. Decorations for these parties were always done by the hostess
and were very elaborate. Tallies and place cards were often hand-decorated.
         Others enjoyed hayrides and dances. A favorite type of recreation was the Saturday night promenade
through town. Families would come to town, park their cars, and get out and walk up and down the streets meeting
and talking to their friends and acquaintances. These walks often ended up at the Palace of Sweets.
         One event that everyone looked forward to was the community dance which came about after Mr.
Humason opened his movie theater. After a movie, the seats would be moved against the wall,


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the floor cleaned and slicked up a bit, and the dance was on. ―One girl that I especially admired always wore a red
dress and red shoes which constituted a very daring costume in those days, and brought many raised eyebrows
among the older dancers,‖ Laura Frances Murphy recalled for the 50-year celebration in 1959.
         ―I don‘t know how traveling shows ever found Mission in those days, but they came,‖ Miss Murphy
continued. ―The night the tent show advertising the authentic story of the Life of Jessie James was setup, it poured
rain throughout the performance, but that didn‘t stop the eager customers. The tent leaked like a sieve and the
performer and spectators were soaked, but the show went on. One time a company presenting melodramas of the
―Little Nell‖ type stayed two weeks and played to a full tent every night. Tent shows lost out to chatauqua and
lyceum programs that came with the growth of the public school system.
         Commercial entertainment included Calmes Confectionery, Harmon‘s Pool Hall, the movie, and Brown‘s
saloon.
         Mission‘s first outstanding eating place was the Boulevard Cafe, opened in the building that housed
Wright‘s second grocery, where the Saxet building later stood.
         The Cinco de Mayo festivals and the Mexican independence celebrations on September 16 were most
enjoyable events. Mexican orchestras played colorful music as the young people marched. It was fun to buy
souvenirs from vendors who set up stands for the occasion. Then, afterward, serenaders with their accordians
passed by the homes.
         Most of the ladies made their own clothes, often original designs inspired by the Ladies Home Journal and
other magazines of the day. Zac Drummond Boyle told of the following:
―Mother‘s ‗best dress‘ when she arrived in Mission was a tightly fitted princess dress of black taffeta heavily
beaded and braided. With it she wore a large picture hat with ostrich plumes. She did not have it on until late Fall on
account of the extreme heat here. Her ‗evening‘ dress for the first evening function of the Kum On Klub was a pink
marquisette elaborately trimmed with lace. Of course, the most beautiful wardrobe that ever came to Mission in the
early days was Mrs. Thomas B. Sammons‘ trousseau. She had beautiful batiste and lace dresses with colored slips
to go with them. Especially beautiful was the one she wore over a yellow slip, with an elaborate hat and yellow
parasol when she went to return her calls in her fancy buggy.
         W. E. Stewart, who founded the First State Bank, was also the first worshipful master of the Free &
Accepted Masons lodge in Mission. He and Josiah Bixler, the first secretary of the lodge, conferred the master‘s
degree on D. G. Wood and Virgil N. Lott on October 18, 1912. Lott stated in 1959 that he thought that M. F.
Armstrong was the first master mason raised in the lodge, which was working under a dispensation from the Grand
Lodge. Stewart founded Weslaco, which is an acronym for W. E. Stewart Land Co.; he founded banks in La Feria
and McAllen, and helped in the organization of other Valley banks. He and Mrs. Stewart, who preceded him in
death by many years, were both very prominent in Methodist Church circles in Mission. He had interests
elsewhere, too--in 1917, Lott became a roving land salesman with W. E. Stewart, working out of Sedalia, MO.
         Josiah Bixler, the first lodge secretary, came to Mission from Hillsboro, IL, in 1911; he and his wife had
been members of the teaching staff at a college there.
         ―The Kum On Klub was a social club started by the men sometime before 1920. They had clubrooms over
the ‗Caldwell when it was built. The clubrooms were nicely furnished and had a

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pool table and card tables so that the men could go there at any time and amuse themselves. That is where Daddy
started playing dominoes, a recreation that he enjoyed with some of these men until the last few years of his life.
They had parties for the ladies on certain occasions, which were very dressy affairs. The Kum On Club was
founded in 1910 by C.E. (Christian Endeavor) Jones, according to Virgil N, Lott. It was, according to Lott, the
first civic organization in the Lower Valley dedicated solely to promoting tourism, sort of an old-time Chamber of
Commerce, Jones was from Hempstead, and one of the first contractors and builders in the city. The club met on
the second floor of the school building where the Masons later met. Jones departed shortly after founding the club
and returned to his old East Texas home, dying there in 1912. But the rest of the Missionites lost their enthusiasm,
and the club slowly died out. Another early building contractor, Lou recalled, was William Martin, who built many
of the first residences.
          “A Priscilla Club met on Saturdays and they really sewed. Later, they also had a luncheon club -don‘t
remember the name of it. The hostesses cooked the meals themselves. Jeanette Swartz taught them how to make
Shrimp Creole, as it was done in Louisiana, so Shrimp Creole and Salmon Croquettes were the favored main dish
at the luncheons,‖ she concluded.
          Baseball in season intrigued many. Leo Najo recalled boys from Ojo de Agua coming to Mission on
horseback to play baseball. Outstanding players were developed by the Mission team, semi-professionals lending
strength to the local youths.
          Parties and barbecues were quite common. One of the first picnics was the Fourth of July Picnic of 1910.
Since Mission was then the leading city of the Valley, it had the honor of celebrating, and the entire Valley came!
A dancing pavillion was constructed, a military company from Brownsville and a band from Matamoros rounded
out the event, which even included a number of speeches. Unfortunately, a sandstorm and then a cloudburst
cancelled the evening entertainment. Mrs. Althea Wright Richards in 1959 described it thusly, ―It might have been
the beginning of our Citrus Fiesta, but no fruit to show, just a few young trees. Anyway, five of us girls, thinking
ourselves about grown, talked a good-looking young fellow into furnishing his fine buggy and fast horse and for us
in the parade. We decorated this vehicle up beautifully with bunting, crepe paper, etc., and wore our prettiest
Sunday dresses. There were many decorated floats, wagons, buggies, one or two early-day cars.
          ―About this time we were half-way to the picnic grounds, a Texas sandstorm blew in. I mean this was the
worst --lasting most of the day and practically ruining our Fourth of July Celebration--1909(?) Location of the
picnic was north of town, on what we called a little hill, in a little ebony grove in front of Roy Conway‘s home.
Mrs. Jeffries‘ Cactus Tea Room is now located there.‖(l 959) J. F. Vandervort described it ―In 1910, the big event
of the year was the Fourth of July celebration in Mission. A big parade was the leading feature, and it was led by
the huge 36-inch pump for the third lift mounted on a flatcar pulled by a steam tractor. A banner on the side of the
pump read, ―One mile per hour and 40,000 gallons per minute‖. Another sign on a milk wagon read, ―This is the
land of milk and honey, and we have BOTH.‖
          Mrs. Zac Drummond Boyle described the Fourth of July Picnic of 1913: ―A rain generally sent the crowd
scurrying home early in the afternoon and sometimes dampened the beauty of the crepe paper costumes as they did
in 1913 when I was ―Miss Mission‖ on a float. That Fourth of July was further saddened by the fact that a careless
driver of one of the few cars in Mission ran down

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and killed the eldest Rigler girl, Mable. This was the first fatal traffic accident in Mission.‖
         When a party or barbecue was thrown, a few beeves were rounded up and a couple of hundred pounds of
ice brought in by train from Brownsville or Corpus Christi. The ice was shipped into Mission in gunny sacks
packed in sawdust and much diminished in weight. Rudolph Rome went into the ice business , erecting an ice
house, and importing ice by the carload and storing it. He delivered only to drug stores, confectioneries, and hotels.
Eventually he withdrew from the business because of the high price of bringing in ice that way.
         ―Most parties for the young people were in the afternoon, but Halloween was an exception. Parents walked
with the girls and their dates, and went back for them at 10 o‖clock. However, about 1912 or 1913,‖ Mrs. Boyle
remembered, ―the Rome girls had the Halloween party and the Fergusons decided to let Ray take their car and
drive his date, sister, Cromwell Pitts and me. When the party was over, he couldn‘t get the acetylene lights to burn
so went around to the tank and struck a match to see what the mailer was, and set the car on fire. The fire was soon
extinguished but the next Halloween Daddy walked us and our dates to the Scoggins for the party.‖
         As early as 1910 a building designed for a movie theater was erected, the necessary machinery being
installed by Rudolph Rome. The piano was played to provide background for the silent movies. As the film ran, it
fell into a gunny sack suspended from the front of the projector; it then had to be untangled and rewound on the
reel. This provided a break between the different reels of a movie, sort of like the commercial breaks in today‘s TV.
This building burned when the carbons in the lamp were being changed, and fell into the mass of unwound
cellulose film. The piano was saved. This was Mission‘s first destructive fire. The theater was adjacent to Bill
Drummond‘s Furniture Store. On the night of the fire the building was packed with viewers, every chair filled. To
the viewers, it seems as if the projector room had exploded, sending a wave of fire to the ceiling. Panic was averted
when Julius Kizer rushed to the closed door at the right side of the theater, and held it open until the building was
evacuated. Everyone rushed next door to the furniture store and removed every stick of furnitures, thus keeping
Drummond ―in business as usual.‖ Julius Kizer, Virgil Lott pointed out, was his wifes brother and also the first
canal rider on the second lift land, and a friend of such oldtimers as the Tom Doughtys, Oscar Perkins, Dr. Murphy,
the Alsmeyers and others who located on both the second and third lift lands.
         The Wrights were known, even then, for more than the orchards and tropical nursery that they established.
The Wright family had their own orchestra and presented programs. A little theater was built and gave the city a
center of entertainment.
         The Electric Theater was the gathering place until movies had to have sound equipment.
Previously, ―Sound equipment” consisted of pianos played by such talented ladies as Ina Mable
Launsberry Taylor and Ruby Humasen. They provided the background music for the wild action and
antics of Charlie Chaplin, and those western greats, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, and
Mission‘s own Ken Maynard.
         Laura Frances Murphy, who moved to Mission in May, 1910 with her parents, Dr. and Mrs. C. H. Murphy,
recalled when William Jennings Bryan address the locals under a big tent. Everyone for miles around on both sides
of the border came to hear the world-famous orator, and Democratic candidate for President in 1896, 1900 and
1908. Later he ran three times on the Prohibition ticket. Perhaps the most reknowned speaker of his time, his
―Cross of Gold‖ speech at the age of 35 to the

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Democratic National Convention in 1896 propelled him into immortality. Miss Murphy recalled in 1959, ―Daddy
curried Dollie, our faithful mare, whose only bad habit was stepping on peoples toes, and Mama dressed in her best
white shirt waist and long, black skirt that swept the ground, literally, the Valley sand. I wore my Sunday outfit sent
by my aunt in Kentucky, except for the long white stockings and the white Baby Doll shoes that had been selected
by Daddy at Mrs. Dawson‟s.
         An airdrome, with beer kegs and wooden boxes supporting the plank seats, was the second
Mission theater. The lucky people on the back row got to lean against the fence! William Jennings
Bryan was a regular customer and even had a reserved seat-- on a beer keg! A strange seat for a
Prohibitionist, but perhaps he felt it was better sitting on the keg than drinking from it.
         In 1912, Rome erected the Electric Theater, which was also used as a skating rink. A second airdrome was
built they were popular in this warm climate- but it closed after Henry Richards built a brick theater. In south
     -


Mission Juan Barbera had a brick building and conducted movies for the Mexican-American population, excluded
from the ―all-white‖ theaters.
         ―Mrs. Willard Ferguson helped the girls organize the Campfire Girls,‖ Mrs. Boyle said, ―which continued
in existence until the original group graduated from high school. Mrs. Roy Conway was her assistant, and her
imagination came into play on many occasions to make this one of the best memories of those teenagers. All-day
hikes and weekend camping parties added to the pleasure of the regular meetings. Many a father was grateful for
the homemaking bead that his daughter earned for cleaning a fowl and many of today‘s mothers credit the fact that
they do not mind cleaning the quail and white-wings their husbands bring in to the skill gained in earning a long
string of beads.
         ―Youngsters did not have far to go to feel that they were camping out in those early years of Mission as
only those lots with houses on them were cleared of brush. 1201 Conway was the only lot cleared on that block for
many years. When the Gus Hunters built on the opposite corner, a path was soon worn in the most direct line
between the two houses part of it through the brush. Children would round up stray burros, take their lunch and
                               --


ride off into another part of town and eat lunch in the woods on Saturdays and holidays.
         “Deer and quail were plentiful in the early days. Daddy more than once walked west on 12th street, across
the canal, and circled around, coming back down Conway Boulevard, after he closed the furniture store in the
afternoon, and come in with a deer,‖ Mrs. Boyle recounted.
                                                      Frontierland
The wild and woolly west was right in Mission in those days, as Mission boomed into a real city. Ranger Sam
McKenzie was wounded in a gun battle with a suspected smuggler on La Lomita, the main street, now Conway.1
Both men fired simultaneously, both hit their targets, and both lived to tell about it. Another shootout took place in
front of Brown‘s saloon, but one of the participants died in that one.
         Victor Haney, an engineer from Upper New York, was driving with Frank Lamb in the Monte Christo area,
both of them working for the Melado Land Co. there, Frank holding the surveying instruments in his lap. Frank
Warnock drove by, and shot Lamb to death, ending a long,


         1
             From Virgil N. Lott‘s Silver Anniversary story in the Mission Times.

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bitter feud. Haney never batted an eye nor showed the least sign of excitement as he drove into Mission with the
dead man.
         Warnock was acquitted, but later killed in front of the Hayes-Sammons Hardware Store by Bill and Ed
Sterling, ending a long, drawn-out feud that resulted in the deaths of two good men and early Mission area
pioneers. Lott witnessed the latter killing from a window just across the street. Strangely enough he had also
witnessed the killing of a young Latin American by Col. Sterling just prior to the Warnock incident.
         Both of these events, as well as a third, are also covered in Roland A. Warnock‘s oral memoirs, recorded
transcribed and edited by his son, Kirby F. Warnock, in Texas Cowboy, published in November, 1992.2 it gives a
different time perspective, but covers the events that caused the arguments, and describes the second killing,
witnessed by Roland, adult son of Frank. But reading Warnock carefully, it is quite easy to see that the events his
father seems to recall as happening all at once, must have happened over a period of days, weeks, or months.
         A man named Jack Hammond owned the Melado Land Co., which had started the town of Monte Christo,
and he was also setting up orange groves, and selling them to people to get them to move to the Valley. He hoped,
of course, that Monte Cristo would become a real city. With more than 23,000 acres they hoped to get enough
water from artesian wells to irrigate the tracts they were selling, and they had a number of pumps and engines, even
a cotton gin, on the property. Frank Warnock was hired as the ―engineer‖ or mechanic to keep all those pumps and
engines running.
         Mechanics were not found on every corner in those days, and big outfits needed to keep theft equipment
men. So Hammond had a two-inch water line run to the home of Warnock, and asked him to keep his yard full of
tropical plants, looking nice, to attract the prospective buyers. Some time later, in 1913, perhaps when he leaned
that his wells were not going to be able to supply the area with water, Hammond decided to sell his operation to
Edward Arthur Sterling, father of Gen. William Warren Sterling and Edward A. Sterling, Jr.,3 already young men.
Bill Sterling was 22 at the time, his brother three years younger. The land was too high and too far from the canals
to irrigate at that time from the Rio Grande, and it was too dry to farm by the methods then used. So young Bill
leased the land from his father, to use as pasture for cattle, and added 15,000 acres, but his good start suffered a
setback during the dry years of 1915-16.
         Frank Warnock continued working for the Sterlings, but felt they were overbearing, and had already gotten
a job elsewhere in the valley, but hated to leave his Mission home. One night he had been ordered to work all night
to keep the cotton gin working; about 3 a.m. the gin broke down with a couple of bales left to process. Frank said it
would take two hours to fix, and there were only a couple of bales left, and he was just too tired to continue. But the
Sterlings wanted to go to Brownsville the next day, and desired to finish up that night. Warnock just handed them
the keys and told them to go ahead and do it themselves, then--he quit!


        2
            Dallas, Fort Stockton: Trans Pecos Press, 1992. See pp. 52-61.
        3
            See p. 20, William Warren Sterling, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger. Norman:

University of Oklahoma Press, 1959 (1986 edition).

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          When he got home the next evening, his wife told him that they had been out of water all day. He went out
to examine the water pipe, and saw that someone had been removing it! He got his rifle, and waited until the men
returned the next morning.
          Otto Woods and Frank Lamb, two Sterling employees, came up and explained that Mr. Sterling had told
him to remove it; that Warnock had quit, and no longer was to get free Sterling water.
          Warnock was furious; he told the two men to start putting it back together, and go back and tell ―those
long-legged sons of bitches‖to try to take it out themselves, referring to the Sterlings, who were all six and half feet
tall, big, rangy Texans.
          Otto Woods stood quietly, but Frank Lamb replied, ―We were sent up here to take this out, and no
son-of-a-bitch like you is going to stop us!‖ According to the younger Warnock, who wasn‘t present at the time,
Lamb was shot dead on the spot. But Lott, a trained newspaperman covering the area at the time, reports that he
shot him later in what would be termed today a drive-by shooting.
          Woods, a brother of the Mayor of Mission about that time, returned, and told the Sterlings what the elder
Warnock had said. They weren‘t happy.
          Roland Warnock, in his oral statement made years later, said that the two Sterling boys must have been
reading the dime novels of the time, because when the arrived they wore boots, spurs and leggings like the book
descriptions of cowboy-gunmen. And it certainly may be said that Sterling‘s book recounts his early experiences
with gunmen, sheriffs and the like in Oklahoma and north Texas. Pictures of Bill Sterling in his own book show
him at that time with a low-slung pistol on his hip.
          Meanwhile, Roland Warnock, Frank‘s son, was working as a cow boy for Sam Lane on the Guadalupe
ranch; he had been there for several years. Lane took him aside one morning and told him that if he‘d stay with him,
he‘d let him take care of the Monte Christo ranch for him , take 25 cows to start his herd, and pay for them with the
increase. Hed‘d even pay him $15 a month to take care of the heifers. Then, after his father had killed White, and
been cleared of it in court, Bill Sterling warned Lane not to do business with the son, Roland, because he was going
to ―come up missing‖ one of these days. That scared Lane, and he suggested that Roland wait awhile before
moving to the Monte Christo ranch, near the Sertling property.
          After he was threatened by the Sterlings, Roland went home to Mission to see his dad, whom he hadn‘t
seen for several months. Frank Warnock was now running a grain mill in Pharr, but he stayed home after lunch and
the two went into town, running into Henry Jeffreys and a man named Cunningham in front of the Hayes Sammon
Hardware Store. An old drug store extended out a dozen feet from the hardware store, and the narrow sidesalk there
widened out, leaving a wide spot for people to stop and talk. A window from the drug store looked out over the
spot.
          Cunningham and the elder Warnock had their backs to the drug store, while Jeffreys and Roland Warnock
faced south, toward the store, Suddenly Bill and Ed, the Sterling boys, came around the corner holding automatic
pistols and emptied their guns, shooting Warnock nine times in the back. He had been standing with his hands
tucked up under his arms in his shirt sleeves, without a gun, according to his son, who had neglected to tell the
father about the Sterling threat to him.
          The Sterlings were tried for murder. But the previous shooting of their employee, White, by Warnock, and
Warnock‘s own belligerent statements, plus the testimony of Roland himself that his

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father was standing with his hands in his armpits, which from the rear might have looked as though he was going
for a gun in his shirt, led to a finding of not guilty.
          Roland went on to become one of the really fine cowboys in Texas, and got his own spread in West Texas
when he got married. His son is now an editor and author. Sterling joined the rangers later, and under Gov. Ross
Sterling was named Adjutant General. The two Sterlings are not mentioned as being related in Bill Sterling‘s book.
It seems that Lott was right--two good Mission pioneers had died needlessly because of heated words, hot tempers
and violent times.
          Lott did not witness another killing of that period-- Sam McKinzie, a mounted customs inspector, mixed it
with a half-breed from Oklahoma named Kirkes. Kirkes was shot through the jaw and received other wounds, but
lived out his life in his native Oklahoma. When Kirkes went down, he shot Sam just above the heart. He was rushed
upstairs to the offices of Drs. Caldwell & Burnett; on lifting Sam‘s shirt to reach the wound, the bullet fell to the
floor having passed through the body and stopped in the folds of Sam‘s heavy duty shirt. Sam had served in the
Rangers under Capt. Bill McDonald, and in the mounted customs service until the above incident. He soon retired
and became a detective at Laredo where he served until his death. On his massive watch chain he wore the bullet
which had gone through him as a watch charm. The fight was the result of alleged cattle smuggling, but nothing
was ever proved.
                       The first autos
    There are a number of claims to ―first auto‖ in Mission, but three of the first were put into service by C. L.
Barnes, Mission pioneer, and his partner, Bill Middleton, who operated a ranch about 55 miles north of Mission
from 1908 to l912; the latter year they moved to Mission to make their year-round home.
          ―So new was the automobile in this country that the idea of licensing them had not been adopted,‖ Barnes
recalled in 1951. ―Bill went back up north for a business trip and came back with the news that we should have
license tags on our cars.
          ―And we went to Edinburg to the court house to see about it. They hadn‘t heard of it either, but they took
our money, gave us receipts and told us we could make our own tags,‖ Barnes continued.
          ―We hammered outsome pieces of tin, somewhere near the size that Bill had seen, painted them and then
drew off the numbers and painted them in contrasting color.
          ―And that‘s how Hidalgo County‘s first license plates were made-- Numbers 1,2, and 3. We placed them
on our 1908 model cars, a Buick, a Cadillac and a Studebaker. I believe there were only five other cars in the Valley
at that time, all in Brownsville, Barnes added. Soon afterward, according to this account, John J. Conway brought
in a car to use in his land sales work and he was followed by George Ortwein and Elmer Dustin, each bringing in a
car.
          At first the gasoline and oil used by the cars was ordered by the individual owners but soon Monroe Dunlap
established a garage - machine shop- blacksmith shop at the corner of East Ninth and Miller and that took care of
the pioneer motorist‘s needs.
          ―We bought gas by the drum, costing nine cents a gallon,‖ Barnes recalled. The quality was very poor but
the best that was made since the refining industry was also in its infancy.
          ―We had to send to St. Louis for our tires and they cost $52.50 each, plus express. Those early tires were
not meant for this country, either. They were smooth tread, with a rather thin coating

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of rubber over a very thin fabric- very easy for these tough mesquite thorns to pierce. A trip to the ranch usually
was interspersed with five or six flat tires along the trail, he recalled.
         A few years later, even the Valley was ready for the motor age when Alois Dondlinger, Mission grocery
store owner bought his first personal car and first delivery car.
         There were still no paved streets and the motorist of that day had many trials and tribulations but the motor
age had arrived and business firms were getting into the swing of it.
         According to J. F. Vandervort,‖ Elmer Dustin was the first automobile dealer, with an agency for the Brush
auto. This was a one-cylinder affair elaborately decorated with polished brass and coal-oil headlights. The first
automoile in Mission was owned by Albert Sammons, who purchased it from Sears, Roebuck & Co. The steering
device was a tiller instead of a wheel. It had high wheels and looked like a carriage - a horseless carriage. Conway
got a car soon afterwards, a Carter car that was heralded as the ultimate word in cars. Previous car models had chain
drives but this Carter car was a friction drive and had all the speeds from nothing to 20 miles per hour.‖
         Charles Langston recalled that his first auto ride was down what is now Conway to school about 1909 by
Mike Conway.
         One of the first auto agencies in Mission was established in 1913 by Tom Gill, Mission pioneer who died
in March, 1951. Soon after Gill established the Ford agency, the bandit troubles began in this section.
         ―And I was so busy chasing horse thieves that I couldn‘t devote much time to the Ford business, Gill often
remarked in telling of his early days when he was a peace officer, businessman and rancher combined.
         Maurine Duncan recalled in 1975 that Gill, Bob Daniel and Victoriano Contreras were among the early
town lawmen.




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                                                 Chapter 10
                                          Characters in the New City

         In 1912, T.J. Gill was fired January 2 as town marshal, on February 5 Schunior was elected
Mayor Pro-tem, and March 4 S.A. Robertson was appointed trustee to amend Ordinance #22. March
11 T.J. Wright resigned as mayor and C.W. Frick succeeded him, and April 10 M. Shafer was
appointed town marshal; he last until October 7, and James D. Lockhart was named marshal
November 4.
         Mission‘s incorporation was declared invalid in 1912, and the last meeting of the original incorporation
was held December 2, 1912. The city kept on running, but it was December 23, 1913 before the new incorporation
was voted into office by a large majority, with Davis Franklin ―Frank‖ Strickland as mayor. Mayor Strickland and
his wife, Olive Brack Strickland, built a home where their son D. F. Strickland, Jr., was born and died. The younger
Strickland trained aviation cadets for the U.S. Army during World War II. He was an active member of the Cleo
Dawson Foundation, which extended the city‘s courtesies to visitors and movie industry representatives when the
movie She Came to the Valley was filmed. He died March 17, 1993 and is buried in the Strickland family crypt at
Laurel hill cemetery.‘
         Armando Goreno started a Spanish-language newspaper, El Progreso, in Mission in 1912, and operated it
until 1929, when it was moved to Monterrey, N.L. Mexico. One of his sons operated El Porvenir here on a
bi-weekly basis until 1969, when it died after a long struggle. The El Mesias Methodist Church was founded in
Mission in 1912, the Rev. Leopoldo F. Castro being the first minister that year.
         When Jorge Cavazos, Sr., died in 1912 on the Cibolo Ranch, Jorge, Jr., a resident of Mission, moved his
mother Carmen, and his sisters Feliciana and Isadora into town. Mission was a new and developing town when
they arrived in a three-seater, horse-drawn carriage. The area of South Mission was sparsely populated, with a few
homes separated by large patches of brush between them. Roosevelt School and the Guadalupe Catholic Church
were both housed in frame buildings, later destroyed in the hurricane of 1919. In 1977, Miss Isadora Cavazos
recalled shopping in those early days at the two big dry goods stores, Valley Mercantile and E. Manatou.
         Jorge, Jr., had come to Mission to manage the Guerra Wholesale. He had worked for the Guerras in
Falfurrias, and when they decided to open a Mission store he was selected with Felix F. Martinez to be co-manager.
Later the two bought the store.
         Mrs. Edward Oppenheimer, in 1970, described her arrival at the Mission railway station in September,
1913. The station was a small, wooden structure with the word ―Mission‖ on the front. A freight train, and several
cars, were on the sidings.
         In 1913, Dr. Caldwell built the buildings that in 1977 housed the Bonanza Furniture and part



        1
            See obit., ―D. F. Strickland Jr. dies‖ in The Monitor April 26, 1993.

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of Mission Dry Goods. Originally the corner building had two stories, and Dr. Caldwell‘s office was on the second
story. This was later demolished after being gutted by a fire, leaving only the first story.
          One of the customs in the old stores of the 1910-14 period was that of issuing special tokens or coins,
exchangeable for goods or services. In 1975, Herbert Jeffries, using a metal detector, located two such tokens on an
early homesite-- one for the I. M. Brown Saloon, and the other for the early general merchantile store, Boyd &
Dawson. The saloon coin was copper, the Boyd & Dawson coin mixed metals, mostly tin. Jeffries, a pharmacist
like his father Hub Jeffries, and his grandfather, Dr. J. W. Jeffries, Mission‘s first physician. The back of the Brown
coin read, ―Good for a smile‖ while the Boyd & Dawson coin was worth $1 in trade. The coins were in general
circulation as an advertising medium until Herb‘s uncle, Bob Jeffries, started the Missionite and later the Mission
                                           --


Times, and advertising changed to paper coupons and punch-out tokens.
          One of the first diners in town was established by an ex-regular Army sergeant named Foster whose wife
was a hula dancer from Hawaii. Foster was a resourceful guy, and talked a number of merchants into hiring him as
night watchman. He was, according to Virgil N. Lott, a regular gumshoe cop, and was doing quite well until
someone got word to him that his job was about to be ended by his contributors. One morning soon after, about 2 or
3 a.m., Sid Copper, the 1959 postmaster of Donna, but then a resident of Mission, and a traveling salesman for a
wholesale house, pulled into town and turned right at the First State Bank. Happening to glance to his left at the
Knox Lumber Co.‘s shed, he noticed a small blaze on top of a pile of lumber. He stopped his car and rushed over to
extinguish it, thus saving the city from disaster. But he also noticed that someone had carefully piled shavings on
top of the lumber and set it on fire. The nightwatchman, his Hula dancing wife, soon disappeared from Mission,
and its first exotic diner closed down permanently.
          One of Mission‘s first barbers was Bob King; Lott explained that he was not particularly noted as being a
civic leader, except that his barber shop had two rooms, the second being used for sleeping and also for the town‘s
first poker club; Bob was the lookout, and received a part of the take-off from each jackpot as remuneration.
          ―The shop,‖ Lott recounted, ―was located immediately in front of the Methodist Church, and the boys had
to be extra alert on Sundays as the best folks in town, en route to Sunday school and preaching, passed the shop.
Some of them, more curious than others, stopped for a moment to peer in. Bob was supposed to report the presence
of a possible deputy sheriff among the peering element. King sold out to Pat and Milton Brooks and when last
heard from, had tangled with the Ku Klux Klan at Liberty, and has not been heard of since.‖ Pat and Milton Brooks
were residents of El Paso in 1959. A sister was the wife of another early Missionite, Jim Lockhart. Another early
barber was Jack Madison, who also operated a pool room. He was reported to have died in an argument with a
police officer in Los Angeles.
          Lott and his family occupied the former barber shop while their home in the Wright Addition was under
construction, and he claims that it was in their home, on a gasoline stove, that Aunt Mary Daughty and Mrs. I baked
the cakes and pies for the first Tuesday Club banquet which was held in the Kum On Club‘s quarters upstairs over
the school room.
          D.F. Strickland was elected mayor December 23, 1913, with C.C. Thompson and Jorge Cavazos as
commissioners, Virgil N. Lott as city clerk, and Captain Alan Walker as city marshal.

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Walker only lasted until January 7, 1914, when A.L. Truitt was named. Cavazos was the first Mexican American  -


to be elected; He worked hard during his tenure to establish the city water system. Previously, Missionites had
depended on wells, windmills or barrels of water hauled from the Rio Grande for the water supply. He remained
active in civic affairs until his death in 1930. During his tenure as city clerk, Lott drew $40 a month, and no
fees--and also served as tax collector and assessor with no increase in pay. M. F. Armstrong and Scott Cawthon
were his bondsmen, and his bond was $5,000. Captain Walker came to Mission directly from the Philippines when
he retired from the U.S. Army. A veteran of the Indian wars in Arizona he was also a holder of the Congressional
Medal of Honor. Cole Thompson, a commissioner, was a manager for one of the Knox Lumber Yards. Elmer E.
Dustin, a retired locomotive fireman from Kansas, was the owner of a repair shop. He returned to Kansas sometime
after 1917 and died there.
          C. W. Frick, according to Virgil N. Lott, was with the Conway & Hoit Co., and he and another land
company clerk, LeRoy H. Romig, were well known as the ―Gold Dust‖ twins, since both were about the same size
and both wore khaki. Frick was postmaster for a short time, and both men were very popular.
          According to Lott, ―Under Willard Ferguson the city progressed. Paving of the streets and the construction
of concrete sidewalks began and a sewer system was installed - and the one-time hick town was on its way.
          Another early Mission pioneer, not always recognized as such, was Florence Johnson Scott, one of the
most beloved women in Texas, author of three or four books on the Lower Rio Grande. She came to Mission at an
early day, the bride of E. Owen Scott, who was with the First National Bank of Mission. But he moved to Rio
Grande City as cashier of the First State Bank there, and died quite young, leaving Mrs. Scott a widow with two
boys to raise. She became a teacher at Rio Grande City, advanced to County Superintendent, and after many
successful years there, accepted the superintendency of Roma‘s Manuel Guerra School. She retired in 1957. She
was President of the Federation of Women‘s Clubs of Texas, and also in other civic work. She left two sons -- E.
Owen, Jr., a geologist in San Antonio, and Herndon of Victoria, an oil man.
          The Ames Cafe was an early eating place, a narrow box shanty resembling a box car, on stilts about four
feet off the ground in a vacant lot about where the Anthony Store was located in 1959 when Virgil Lott wrote about
it. In front of the little beanery was a long bench which accomodated the usual ―sidewalk superintendents‖ who
gathered in the afternoon in the shade outside (there was no air conditioning inside). The office workers, including
the town‘s attorneys and notables, gathered on the cool bench, preventing the regular customers from sitting there,
a fact which irritated Mrs. Ames, a portly and usually good natured lady, but the squatters got the best of her good
nature, and she decided she should do something about it. So, one afternoon when the bench was filled to capacity,
she quietly opened a sliding window, and threw a big dishpan full of greasy water on the loafers, most of which hit
Judge D. B. Chapin. The Judge, who wasn‘t too easy to get along with, was about to invade the cafe and in true
western style mop up on the proprietor, but his friends interceded, and Ames was saved a pistol whipping.
                                                 Charlie Butterfield
    Every generation in every town has its characters, and Mission ranks right with the best. And Virgil Lott‘s
accounts of Charles S. ―Daddy‖ Butterfield, born in 1860 in New York, make him very

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special in the history of Mission. According to Lott, ―Charlie came here very early in the development of the
Mission lands and started out as an onion grower. His first (and last) crop, after harvest and returns, brought him
exactly 25 cents. He borrowed a quarter, bored a hole in it, and nailed it to a mesquite free on the farm - and that
ended Charlie Butterfield‘s career as a truck grower. He devoted the rest of his life to canal dredging. He left one
daughter in Maryland, an only child, and rests in the old Mission cemetery among other very colorful and
resourceful pioneers.
         But back to an earlier time, ―It was a cold morning. A drizzling rain was falling and a bright wood fire
blazed in the fire place. Charlie walked in, and sat down in a chair near the fire and spoke to nobody. His head
gradually sank to his bosom and he apparently was brooding over something. The boys at the bar looked at each
other and at the brooding giant, shook their respective heads and pointed significantly at those same heads, gestures
which indicated pore old Charlie had gone plum nuts. Suddenly, ―pore old Charlie‖ opened his overcoat, reached
inside, and came forth with a dynamite bomb which he nonchalantly tossed into the rippling flames of the fireplace,
You can imagine the rest.
         In less time than it takes to tell it, the saloon was empty. Harry, the barkeep, took one look at the fire and
then jumped to safety through a glass window which was screened with copper wire. George P. Brown, a local
attorney, and one-time county judge of Hidalgo County, got wedged in a door to the little lunch counter with a
Negro cook. Two other stalwart citizens blocked the exit by way of the front door and in seconds Brown‘s
refreshment emporium was as empty as a bottomless well - that is to say, everybody except Charlie Butterfield.
Hearing no explosion the customers returned and found him standing behind the counter enjoying a shot of liquor
and doing his own bartending. The ―dynamite‖ was an exploded giant firecracker wrapped in brown paper with a
fuse protruding and it looked like the real thing. So much, in fact, that it scared the living daylights out of six good
men and true, one of whom was W. B. Nicholson.
         ―A book could be written about Charlie Butterfield,‖ Lott continued, ―beyond doubt one of the most
colorful characters of early-day Mission. He together with another early-day Valley pioneer, Johnnie Lyons of San
Benito, were two of the builders of Edds bridge at St. Louis and well-known railway construction men. Charlie was
a giant physically while Johnnie was thin and not so strong physically but resourceful, as the following true story
will demonstrate.
         ―After the completion of the Edds bridge and when their finds were completely exhausted, the two men
bethought themselves of another Edd‘s man who had gone to Mobile, Ala., as master mechanic on the M. & 0.
They decided to visit him, and arrived in Mobile the next day, broke and hungry. They of course lost no time in
contacting their old buddy, who was glad to see them, and during the course of their visit the master mechanic
suddenly remembered that he had a coal bin to build and offered the job to the two men, who naturally were
delighted to take on the contract.
         ―When they were about ready to begin work, it suddenly dawned on them that to build a coal bin one had to
have a pile driver. They had none, but if you think that little difficulty stymied these two resourceful guys, you are
just plain silly. Charlie, the giant, would be the pile driver. They got together enough heavy timber for the
framework, purloined cable from the railroad and borrowed a hammer from the same supply, rigged up the
machine and Charlie Butterfield was the motive power, pulling the giant hammer to the top of the derrick and
dropping it on the piling. They finished the bin and I‘d like to wager that it is the only coal bin in the United States
built entirely by the hand

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of two broke men, one of whom furnished the brains while the other furnished the brawn.

                                                  Dr. A.J.J. Austin
          Among those who came to Mission to avoid the rigors of the 1910 revolt and its aftermath in Mexico was
Dr. A. J. J. Austin, an Englishman who had enlisted in the U.S. Army at the close of the Civil War, and found
himself at Fort Ringgold with the occupation troops. Teaching at the post when Dr. Austin arrived was one Dr. T.S.
Ryan who had come to the frontier with Taylor‘s army in 1846, married a Mexican girl and had a nice family, one
of whom, Helen Ryan, 15, became the wife of Dr. Austin in 1870, when he was 27.
          Born Alfred Joseph Jonathan Austin on November 1, 1843 on the Isle of Man, Great Britain, to a wealthy
upperclass English family, he was the younger brother in a class system where the oldest son always inherits
everything -- all the land, valuable possessions, titles, and monetary wealth. Dr. Austin considered the system of
primogeniture unjust, and feeling he had no future in England, went to London and boarded a ship for New York at
the age of 16, in 1859. After arriving in New York, he managed to support himself and study medicine at the same
time. Soon after, he became an American citizen. Finishing his medical studies at the outbreak of the civil war, he
traveled south where he became a doctor for the Confederate soldiers. After the War, he became a doctor in the
Fedearl Army, and in 1869 was sent with troops to Fort Ringgold in Rio Grande City. He spent the rest of his life in
that general area.
          Although his wifés maiden name was Ryan, she was Spanish partly by blood and mostly by upbringing. He
couldn‘t speak Spanish at the time, and she spoke no English! They eventually learned each other‘s language. With
a flair for elegance typical of an upperclass Englishman, he insisted upon ordering the brides trousseau and
household furnishings from Paris, France. One of the few remaining possessions of their descendants is a lovely
canopied bed made in Paris especially for the bride; in 1977 it was in the possession of a great-granddaughter, Mrs.
Lillie Johnson, of Edinburg.
          Feeling that Fort Ringgold was not a proper place to raise a family, Dr. Austin gave up his army career and
moved his bride to Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. They lived there and in neighboring Mier for more than 40
years, raising a family of 11 children.
          Giving up his American citizenship, Dr. Austin became a citizen of Mexico, all the while feeling himself
still an Englishman at heart. Influential in community affairs, he once served as alcalde(mayor) of Mier, as well as
holding other respected government positions. He had a personal friendship with Porfirio Diaz, President of
Mexico for more than 30 years. He had an autographed picture of Diaz sitting on a white horse, that hung in his
medical offices for many years.
          It was this friendship with Diaz that made his return to the United States ultimately necessary. When the
revolutionary unrest first began in 1910, Dr. Austin continued to make calls on his patients in the countryside
surrounding Camargo and Mier. On numerous occasions, bandits friendly to the revolution rode alongside of him
on these calls to make sure no harm came to him from persons who did not known him.
          But eventually he was regarded with such great suspicion because of his association with Diaz that it
became wise to leave Mexico, even though he was then Mier city physician. Of all their precious possessions, the
family was able to bring only a prized piano and the elegant canopied bed.

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They almost lost the bed when they crossed the Rio Grande; it fell in, and was retrieved, though little damage ever
showed from the mishap. Upon leaving Mexico in 1913, the family went to Los Ebanos.
        Then in 1915, the Austin family moved en masse to Mission, establishing homes in what is now the 500
block of Conway. Possessed of a fierce love for his family, he kept his children as close to him as possible. Only
one child failed to make the move from Camargo, even though a majority of them were already grown with
families of their own. In addition to raising his own family, he acted as guardian to several grandchildren who lost
their own father. He insisted on education for all of his children. He was delighted when one of his sons followed
him into the practice of Medicine. This son died while serving as a doctor to troops of the Mexican army while
pursuing a band of Indians in Sonora, Mexico. To avoid being caught, the Indians had poisoned a water hole they
knew the troops would use. Many other soldiers also died.
        Dr. Austin once again began practice of medicine in Mission among the people he loved - the poor,
Spanish-speaking people of the community. He served not only as a doctor, he was also a qualified pharmacist,
having passed the examination of the state board of pharmacy.
        He opened up the Austin Drug Store, known as ―La Botica del Paloma‖ to the people whom he served. It
was an elegant, modern building with columns and a balcony. It still stands in the 500 block of Conway in 1999.
        The pharmacy was in the front part of the building while the doctor‘s offices were in the back. The family
had living quarters upstairs. At a time when relatively few medicines were available, the pharmacy sold its own
herbal remedies. These remedies were made by Dr. Austin and his family and were packaged and sold under his
own label. He had a garden where he grew his own herbs.
        Once again an American citizen, Dr. Austin practiced medicine in Mission until his death at the age of 90
in 1933. In the terrible flu epidemic of 1918, he worked long hours aiding its victims regardless of their ability to
pay for his services. In addition to his medical activities he served on the Mission school board, and rose to the
Masonic Order‘s highest honor - the 33rd degree.
        Still hating injustice, he was known throughout the community for his wit and sharp tongue. Once, asked
whom he had voted for in a local election, he replied that he had voted for two men he didn‘t know. Asked why he
would do such a thing, he replied that he knew the two men he didn‘t vote for.
        Although he never returned to his beloved England, Dr. Austin kept in touch with his family. One brother,
Walter, followed him to the United States and eventually settled in Brownsville. Another, Herbert, who was born
after he left for the United States, came for an extended visit during the 1920‘s. No matter where he lived, Dr.
Austin never lost his English mannerisms. He continued to speak with an English accent and observed many
customs considered proper for an upperclass Englishman. He was known among the Spanish-speaking as El
Doctor Paloma, or the little man who always wore white and drove white horses. He was quite small in stature, and
as a youth had flaming red hair and snapping blue eyes. When angered by something he felt unjust, his temper
matched his hair. In his later years, he was remembered for his morning walks to the post office; he refused to
accept home delivery in 1925 when it was established, saying he had no intention of giving up his morning walks to
the post office - that was how he got his exercise.
        One of the things which intrigued Virgil Lott about Dr. Austin was that his demit from the

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Mier lodge to Mission was signed by none other than Don Porfirio Diaz himself, then the Grand Master of Mexico
as well as president for the seventh term. In researching the Rio Grande City Masonic Lodge, Lott found that Ryan
himself was a charter member of Hope Lodge 472, having demitted there from the Brownsville lodge. His wife was
also a Protestant, being a leader in the Methodist Church, and all of Dr. Austin‘s sons and daughters, and
descendants, to the fourth generation, were also Methodists. A granddaughter, Mrs. Caroline Heath, was a native of
Mission, and daughter of a Mexican Methodist minister; she was an ardent member of the Order of the Eastern
Star, of which order she was a past worthy matron; her husband, a Rio Grande City physician, was a 32 d degree
Mason.
                                                   Mission in 1919
          On of the most interesting accounts of Mission before 1919 was written for the Mission Times of Jan. 12,
1940 by the well-known local nurseryman, Sam J. Baker. The story starts at Harlingen, but quickly moves to
Mission!
          ―I came to the Valley early in January 1919, landing at Harlingen, then widely known as ‗Six-Shooter
Junction,‖ so-called because that somewhat eccentric but lovable old-timer, Lon Hill, the ‗Daddy of Harlingen,‘
when once asked how his new town got that name, laughingly said, ‗Well, we had everything here but a cemetery
and as it looked like nobody was ever going to die, I just took my old six-shooter and started one!‘
          ―Since it was considered impossible to drive a car through from Houston, I shipped mine and came on the
train, which managed to stay on the track most of the way, though it rode like it was running on the ties at times, the
road-bed being new and not well settled. Landed well in the night [at Harlingen] and hoofed it all over town in mud
shoe-mouth deep, trying to find a place to sleep, finally being lucky enough to share a bed with a traveling
salesman. And what a bed! It felt like it was stuffed with corn cobs but exhaustion at last overcame us and we got a
little sleep, then went up town for breakfast. There was only one restaurant in town and the lady in charge had to go
out and buy eggs, bacon and coffee before she could feed us. She asked me if I thought the town would ever
support a restaurant and I told her it looked to me like it would to do some growing before it would, but believed it
would do that before long.
          ―At last the train for Mission was ready and I was glad to see it. I hoped to find better accommodations
there and on arrival I was pleased to find it so, Mission having advanced much faster than had Harlingen. I found it
a lively little town, with a very good hotel, stores, restaurants, etc., and was soon comfortably located.‖
                                                     The Ranches
          Ranch villages, which grew up around the ranch headquarters on the porciones, many as early as 1767,
when the land was finally apportioned to the settlers, continued to develop. Not all of the ranchers moved to
town— many remained as vaqueros. Eventually, many joined Mission people to school their children, bank their
money, and buy their supplies.
          Some of these ranches, like Ramon Vela‘s Chihuahua, had large numbers of ranch hands tending the
animals and property, riding the range on horseback far into the 20th century.




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                                               Chapter 11
                                            BORDER TROUBLES

         Another election was held April 7, 1914, and Willard Ferguson was the new mayor, with E.E. Dustin and
A.G. Lozano as commissioners, Lott as city clerk, and Truitt, city marshal. A month later, May 12, Charles Barnes
was appointed city marshal, R. M. Hunter, city engineer, and S.A. Pipe city clerk, succeeding Lott who was just
elected.
         The new mayor had been born on a farm in Polk County, IA, where he graduated from the local schools
and became an educator. In 1898 he married Anna Mary Richardson in Runnels, IA; they had three children--
Willard Ray, Ralph Waldo(deceased) and Anna Norma, wife of Granville Moody. They came to the Valley in
1911. He served as vice president of the First State Bank of Mission, president of the school board, president of the
Chamber of Commerce, he accumulated fine citrus orchards and city property, and served three terms as mayor of
Mission, as well as County Commissioner from Precinct 3 on the Good Government ticket.
         Charles L. Barnes, was born in Cleveland, OH but much of his early life was spent on his father‘s ranch at
Reedley, CA, near the Mexican border. Before he reached legal age, then 21, he had become accustomed to raids
across the border from Mexico, and had participated in many encounters with bandits, fighting together with the
Yaqui Indians, who were at that time employed by his father as cowpunchers. They were great cowboys, but even
better fighters. At 21, Barnes became a peace officer at Reedley. In 1901, he was badly wounded, taking two
bullets through both legs, and one in his shoulder from the guns of six bank robbers, none of whom lived to escape.
In 1908, Barnes was agent for a land purchase of 4,000 acres about 50 miles north of Mission. For two years he
worked at that ranch, keeping other brands off the cattle and horses. In 1910 the excitement of law enforcement
drew him to the border town of Mission, and he spent the next eight years in law enforcement there, part as town
marshal. It is authoritatively claimed that when the smoke cleared he was always going in and never backing away.
In later years he engaged in the citrus nursery business near Mission.
         Six days after his election, Ferguson resigned as mayor, Lozano as city commissioner, and R.M. Hunter
was fired as city engineer. On July 16, D.G. Wood was appointed mayor and Elliott B. Roberts, commissioner.
Three days later H. F. Bishop was named city attorney.
         David Gregg Wood was the first mayor of Mission to last any time at all in office. He had pioneered in the
Valley, and he lived many years after his term.
         In January, 1951, Lucy Wallace obtained the following interview from Wood:
         ―As elected mayor of Mission, I st down and took notes on what we had and didn‘t have. As a matter of
fact, we had nothing. In the community about 2,000 people, mostly Latin-Americans, only 120 votes had been cast
in the election. There were at least 120 ideas on how a city should be run, most of them impractical.
         ―We were pioneers - every one had his ideas and most were stubborn about adjusting them


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to make correlated program.
         ―There were no lights, no sidewalks, no water works, no fire department - and no money and very small
chance of getting any.
         ―On top of that, I had inherited the Bandit trouble. The former mayor and his Commissioners had disagreed
violently on city affairs. J. A. Sadler had been given the franchise for operation of a water and electric system and
an ice plant - all of which I opposed violently. I did not believe the city should give away such franchises,
especially the water system.
         “At this point, the bandit trouble was an advantage, for Sadler had put up $5,000 as a forfeit to guarantee
that he would carry out his part of the agreement with the city and, because of the troubles with the bandits, he
could not proceed with his agreement. We finally agreed that he could give to the city the water tank he had erected
in lieu of the forfeit.
         ―The City Commission then re-wrote the franchise, retaining permanent possession of the 100,000-gallon
water tank. This, I consider, was the best thing accomplished during my administration.
         ―Next, we borrow $6,000 and installed a make-shift water system. We bought two-inch pipe and ran it over
town as far as the money lasted. Prior to this, there had been two little privately-owned systems. One was operated
by Monroe Dunlap and the other by a Mexican blacksmith, each serving five or six customers. The rest of the
people depended on ‗barrelleros‘ who hauled water from the canals, in barrels mounted on carts drawn by burros.
         ―Our next project was sidewalks. About in 1916, we borrowed $25,000 (through selling warrants) and built
sidewalks over town. Mrs. Eloisa V. Flores who owned a half-block of residence property at 13th and Doherty, had
built her own sidewalk and we built a sidewalk to connect with it, routing to the public schools.
         ―My greatest trouble was Elmer Dustin, a City Commissioner I had inherited in my administration. He was
cantankerous and stubborn and there was just one thing in life he loved - a little ‗feisty‘ dog. He was against all
                                                                                               -


improvements unless he originated them. The only was we could get along with him was through his dog. ‗Strick‘
(Judge D. F. Strickland), as usual, had a bulldog which would jump on Elmer‘s dog whenever he had a chance. So
Elmer was continually wanting to pass a dog ordinance. E. B. Roberts, another commissioner, and I would put hi
off, finally ending up by passing some sort of dog ordinance to get Elmer to agree to our propositions on sidewalks
and water system.
         ―That seems silly and laughable now but at that time it was a serious matter.
         ―We organized a Fire Department, bought a chemical cart that cost about $150, and appointed Tom
Humason Fire Chief. From that beginning, our present fine Fire Department has grown. We kept adding to the
equipment and when I quit as Mayor, we had a Ford Fire Truck.
         ―We started out to gravel the streets and found out that was a failure for they were much traveled and kept
getting kicked full of holes. Later, we began paving them.
            ...I had the idea that the Mayor of a town should own his own home so I built a home in 1917. There was
a rumor that I built it with the city‘s money -- a laughable thing as the total tax money taken in by the city that year
was $3,775.50. At that time, the Mayor and each Commissioner received $5 for each meeting, $10 per month....‖
         In 1955, when 80 years old, he summed it up to journalist Paul Leeper as follows: ―I was not

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the first mayor. There were several to precede me and some of them didn‘t last 30 days. Mission was more or less
wide open, stubborn and independent. But I was stubborn, too, and from 1915 until 1920 I was able to get a lot of
sidewalks built, gravelled the streets and built waterworks and a sewage system, despite opposition.‖
                     Border Troubles
    The Revolution of 1910-21 in Mexico not only brought many refugees to the Mission area, it also brought
Squadrons K and L of Frank McCoy‘s Third Cavalry Regiment to the city on June 1, 1915, and later a squadron of
the 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment , which arrived in Mission September 13, 1915. Hundreds of soldiers were quartered
here, and permanent buildings were constructed, the last just having been torn down in 1991. Even some members
of New York‘s Fighting Second regiment, famous later as part of the Fighting 69th Division, were here. The
military hospital was also in Mission as well as a motorcycle corps, the motorcycles having sidecars with mounted
light machine guns. Some of the New Yorkers were greenhorns who had never seen a cow.
          For those interested in a fairly detailed account of the pre-World War I violence in the Valley, Frank
Cushman Pierce‘s Texas‟ Last Frontier, published in Brownsville in 1917 and reprinted by the Hidalgo County
Historical Society in the early 1990‘s, is a timely source, devoting more than 100 pages to the subject, and listing
the units in the Valley.
          There were no actual raids on Mission, but several nearby, so the people were always prepared, and the
Cavalry got a workout, speeding up and down the river, chasing rumors. The women and children were warned to
assemble in the bank if a single blast from the fire siren sounded.
          The fight at Las Norias on August 8, 1915, 68 miles north of Brownsville, resulted in a bloody defeat for
the bandits, who, 80 strong, attacked a handful of ranchers, rangers, and soldiers. The bandits lost 23 killed and 20
wounded, and many pictures still exist showing the cowboys towing the bodies by lariat.
          One interesting thing is that some participants later recall McCoy as a Captain, others as a Major. Of
course, at different times he was both.
                 BATTLE OF CAVAZOS CROSSING
     On September 3, 1915, bandits slipped into the U.S. from Mexico at Cavazos Crossing, and staged a raid
before retreating across the river. This was quite near to Mission.
          The next day, September 4,1915, Captain McCoy was patrolling the river with a detachment from the
Third U.S. Cavalry, accompanied by several Texas Rangers and Sheriff A. Y. Baker. He was riding at the head of
the troop with a color bearer and they rode out to the willows on a sandbar and the Mexicans started firing at him.
They scattered and fired back all that day and up until dark. A good many civilians from Mission who heard the
firing rushed down there with their guns and did a lot of shooting, which didn‘t do any good or any harm. Before
the group left, according to Lott, Sheriff Baker recognized the player of a guitar by the music waiting across the
river, and loudly called out the musician‘s name, knowing that the bandits would recognize his voice as that of the
much-hated sheriff of Hidalgo County.
          ―That night,‖ Wood continued, ―Major McCoy came to me and gave me three sealed letters, borrowed a
couple hundred dollars and gave me three or four checks to send to people he owed money to. Then he showed me
some telegrams he had got from Washington, some five as I recall

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it, which had been given to him after he had gotten back from the skirmish at the river, wanting to know why he
was killing the poor Mexicans. I asked him what he did about it and he showed me a copy of the telegram to the Wr
Department in Washington, saying, ‗At such and such hour I was patrolling the river when the Flag was fired
upon‘- signed Frank M. McCoy, Major Commanding. I said, ‗Mac, they won‘t get much satisfaction out of that.‘
He said, ‗When they find out they (the Mexicans) fired on the Flag, that‘s all they need.‖
         The following morning, September 5, according to Lott, a story teller who never let facts get in the way of
a good story, but who can generally be believed, Baker walked out on a sandbar with his giant Stetson hat and
turned his back to the Mexican side of the river. Almost immediately countless shots rang out from the Mexican
side, and Baker fell forward as if hit. The jubilant bandits leaped from the brush and started dancing about at the
idea of having killed Baker. But the happiness was short-lived as soldiers, Rangers and deputies opened fire from
the brush, and killed three of the raiders. Baker, according to Lott, was unhurt and got up and walked away.
Actually, the official account on the bandits was 11 killed and 40 wounded, but this probably includes the figures
from both days.
         When Major General Frank R. McCoy died June 4, 1954, it was duly reported to the Mission Times by
former editor Virgil Lott of Roma. Lott recalled another incident connected with the September 4 battle by Troops
G and H of the old Third Cavalry commanded by then-Captain McCoy, in a hot battle with about 200 Carrancistas
at Cavazos Crossing on the Rio Grande just above the old Mission First Lift Plant. About 11 a.m., a young Italian
recruit, while attending the wounds of a horse which had been hit by a bullet from the other side, was himself shot
in the right hip from the same source.
         ―Captain McCoy, a very devout Presbyterian and up to this moment cool and collected, suddenly lost his
equanimity and sent for his First Sergeant, Ernest Schaeffer.
         ‗―Sergeant‘, he said as the non-com stood at attention,‘relax, for I have a mission for you. I have, up to this
point in this fight, been at least fair to the enemy, but the enemy doesn‘t want to play fair. He has shot one of my
horses and wounded a recruit. In that tree over there is a sharpshooter or maybe two sharpshooters. You are a
sharpshooter and I want you to clean that nest out. I am going to offer a prayer for your success and at the same time
pray for the misguided souls of the men who are shooting down our horses and our men. Proceed, sergeant.‘
         ―And Schaeffer proceeded with telling effect, for at the crack of his rifle a man came crashing to the ground
out of the tree. Three fell, shot to death by the unerring aim of one of the best sharpshooters in the old ‗regular‘
army.‖
         (Shortly after battle of Cavazos Crossing, Shaeffer met his death in another bloody engagement, which
Lott identified as Ojo de Agua.)
         ―If there is a niche in the Mission Presbyterian Church for Dwight D. Eisenhower, surely there should be
one for Frank R. McCoy, praying Presbyterian officer, who made a lot of history on the border in the Mission
vicinity during the bitter years of 1915-16. He was a regular attendant at services of the church as was William
Jennings Bryan, of blessed memory, who was also a very devout Presbyterian and a lay preacher who often filled
the pulpit of the Mission church,‖ Lott concluded.


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                                           BATTLE OF OJO DE AGUA
    Maurine Duncan assembled the following two stories concerning the Ojo de Agua fight six weeks later.
          Greg Wood, recalling his first 65 years in the Valley, wrote ―Since I was Mayor of Mission, he [Major
McCoy] and I became very close friends. He was really a wonderful man and a wonderful soldier. He had
established a post at Ojo de Agua with a sergeant and 12 men, who lived in tents and kept their stores in a small
building of white pine about four feet off the ground. This Command was in charge of Sgt. Schafton [note Lott‘s
Sgt. Schaeffer may be the same man] and on the night of October 21, 1915, a band of about 50 Mexicans attacked
the post about 3 a.m.
          ―The men had gotten careless, and were all sleeping in the little building, against direct orders of Major
McCoy. About 3 a.m. they were attacked by a band of about 50 Mexicans who killed five soldiers and wounded
several more, among them Sgt. Schafton. The attack was broken off because Captain Scott, who was stationed at
San Fordyce, had taken a bunch of rookies out, (he had just gotten in from New York) on a practice march. In fact,
it was the first time they had seen a horse, and he was trying to teach them to ride. They camped at Penitas, about a
mile and a half from Ojo de Agua. The firing of guns woke him. He immediately got up and put those men on their
horses and got them to the fighting. The Mexicans, of course, could hear him coming and they retreated across the
river. They left three dead men on the field. Reports had it that there were some ten or twelve killed, and some 15 or
20 wounded. However, I could never verify this report. The Mexicans were in force across the river, supposedly
500 of them,‖ Wood concluded.
          A young school teacher at the ranch school at Ojo de Agua, Minnie Lee Milliken, wrote her eye-witness
acount of Ojo de Agua battle much later for a National Retired Teacher‘s magazine, in the July-August 1977 issue,
and it, like the account above, was abstracted some years ago by the Mission historian-writer Maurine Duncan.
          ―Teachers have always faced risks in their occupation, particularly in the early days in one-room schools in
the remote areas. We suspect that few, however, faced anything quite so hazardous as this episode remembered by
a Texas educator; Minnie L. Norton Milliken.
          ―Teaching in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the early days was at times exciting, and maybe a little
dangerous. I taught three years in ‗ranch schools‘. The most memorable one, I suppose, was at Ojo de Agua, about
eight miles southwest of Mission, in 1915…. Two other girls and I did light housekeeping in an old store building
about a block from the two-room school house. I taught first grade and had a room to myse1f; the other two taught
the upper grades in the other room.
          ―We were getting very well organized and acquainted with our pupils and their parents when, on [October
15, Pancho Villa‘s]bandits crossed the Rio Grande and came raiding the ranch… In the middle of the night of
October 15, we were awakened by what seemed like thousands of shots around and over our house and
bloodcurdling yells of ‗Viva Villa!‘ We jumped out of bed and hurriedly dressed. ..We could hardly hear our
voices for the whine of shots around our house. ..I think there were 40 or 50 of the bandits who started the attack on
the Dillard home about a block from us. Mrs. Dillard and her little boy left their house by the back door and went to
the school house and began ringing the bell. As soon as she had left her home, the bandits set fire to it, which
lighted up the whole area. In the meantime, there was a fierce battle being fought. This was around the soldiers‘
camp, a short distance from our house....The firing started, I suppose, about 15 minutes

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before 2 o‘clock. It continued until nearly daybreak... We thought they fired on the Dillards‘ house to attract the
soldiers there. When the first shots were fired, the Signal Corps radioed to Mission to send troops out, that the place
was full of bandits. Just as the message was being sent to Mission a shot burst the radio. As soon as that happened,
a message from somewhere was sent to Mission telling the soldiers not to come as all was quiet at Ojo de Agua,
which was not true.. .The soldiers at the camp realized that something was wrong, and they sent a man on
horseback, then another one, to Mission for help. It was most exciting to hear the pounding of those horses‘ hooves
as they went galloping past our house. They got through, and soon 50 cavalrymen came
         ―All this time were standing in our door shivering, shaking and chattering. We finally decided to go out
into the yard, where we found some of our schoolboys. One of the girls and I had guns, but neither of us had more
than five or six shells. We found four of our soldiers had been killed and several wounded.‖
         The ―school teacher‖ version uses the date of October 15th; the Wood version uses September 4; Brian
Robertson in Wild Horse Desert uses October 21. Lott‘s story joins the other two in vetoing Wood‘s date.
         It was a strange combination of locals, the national guard, the Texas Rangers, the sheriffs deputies and
constables, and regular army men, all trying to locate and destroy the bandits. The horses had trouble in the dry,
sticky borderland, so civilian Model T‘s were often used for reconnaissance. The chance of being ambushed was
always present, so many civilians were not interested, but others, like Tom Gill and Holl Spillman were always
glad to drive a bunch of soldiers or rangers. They served without pay, using their own gas and vehicles.
         In 1951, former Mayor David Gregg Wood remembered it as follows:
         ―I also inherited the Bandit Trouble- mostly forgotten today. Yet I would like to assure my readers that it
was real- and dangerous.
         ―We know now that it began with the Plan of San Diego (Texas) which called for taking all of Southwest
Texas and killing out all ‗gringos‘ under a coordinated plan of attack and robbery. The plan was exposed before it
got underway but it left at loose ends a bunch of bandits and guerrillas who began to mid this side of the Rio
Grande. These raids began in a small way - - a dozen would come over, rob and steal, then race back across the river.
Finally, the Army got interested and sent several regiments to river posts. One Battalion was sent here to Mission
under Major Frank R. McCoy, now a retired Major General.
         ―As Mayor, I was closely connected with Major McCoy in our joint problem. I would get calls from homes
where raids were reported and would get McCoy to send his men to the scene.
         ―But the old Cavalry horses assigned the soldiers were too slow and not used to this guerrilla fighting. We
finally decided on another method. When I would hear of a raid, I would call up the local residents who had Ford
cars, and they would pick up the soldiers and start out.
         ―Needless to say, this was dangerous because they were likely to be ambushed. I had great trouble in
getting volunteers to drive cars. The owners would suddenly get sick or their wives would get heart trouble. I didn‘t
blame them, but on the other hand, it was necessary to go to those people in distress.
         ―There were two men who never failed me when I call on them-- Tom Gill and Holl Spilman. Their wives
and children were never sick and if Tom and Holl were sick with fear, they

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never showed it. As citizens, they served without pay, used their own gas and served without hope of reward or
praise. Both were shot at several times but fortunately were never hit. Even today, I am grateful to them for their
service.
         ―This mode of fighting was only effective when a ranch that was being besieged could hold out until we
got there. As for following into the brush with the Fords, of course we couldn‘t.
         ―(About this time, at Brownsville, near Resaca de las Palmas, 40 or 50 bandits stopped a train, robbed and
killed passengers and then escaped into Mexico. Trains coming into the Valley would run without lights at night,
hoping to by-pass the bandits. There were many small fights around San Benito and Brownsville.)
         ―Here McCoy established an outpost at Ojo de Agua and placed Sgt. Shaeffer in charge with eight men.
They built a camp, throwing a dirt embankment around their tent. There was a thin box house, about four feet off
the ground, near-by and they abandoned their tent to steep in it. On night (October 21, 1915) about 60 bandits
attacted them, killing Sgt. Shaeffer and fous men. They would probably have gotten all of them but Captain W. J.
Scott, stationed at SamFordyce, heard the shots (one and one-half miles away from where he was bivouacking at
Penitas). Captain Scott had gotten in about 20 recruits, boys 19 or 20 years old, straight from New York and New
Jersey without any training. A fine soldier, Captain Scott was so disgusted with these untrained men that he
mounted them and took off from Fordyce, camping out at Penitas. During the night, he heard the shots, put his boys
on horses without saddles and came charging down the road. That scared the bandits away.
         ―It so happened that pressure had been brought on Senator Sheppard and he had come down to the Valley
to see what was going on. He had arrived in the Lower Valley the day before and when he heard about the Ojo de
Agua battle, he came up from Brownsville with three or four Colonels from Brownsville and wanted to go out to
Ojo de Agua and see things for himself. Frank Rabb, in charge of customs at Brownsville, was ramrodding the
party. We were talking in Mission with Senator Shepherd, who said he wanted to go to the battle scene. I asked Dr.
J. S. Simpson (now an Army doctor at Laredo), to take us in his car. After we left, the Senator was missed. So here
came the Army ‗brass‘ and Frank rabb while we were examining the house. Rabb was all excited and said to me,
‗Gregg, my God, haven‘t you got any sense? The Senator might be killed‘
         ―But the Senator got to see it first-hand and admitted he never thought to see such a sight in the United
States
         ―Tom Humason took some photographs and a motion picture (probably the first ever made in Mission) out
at Ojo de Agua that morning. It showed Senator Shepperd and me, Colonel Bullard and some other Army officers
there at the battle scene. It was run off here several times but I do not know what finally became of the film.
         ―I had been out there early in the morning after the fight and there I saw a dead Jap who had been with the
bandits. Seven or eight of them had been killed and left there on the ground. Later I learned that four or five others
died after they re-crossed the river and that about 20 had been wounded. Our soldiers gave a good account of
themselves for several of the party were killed in the first fusillade as they slept.
         ―There were many small raids here and over the Valley. The fight at Norias was the greatest defeat the
bandits had (August 7, 1915). There were two fights here at Cavozos Crossing (south of Mission), between
McCoy‘s men and the bandits. Some citizens were shooting across the Rio

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Grande at each other. We were told on the last day of the fighting that McCoy‘s men killed a lot of them that way,
out of a group of about 100 bandits massed on the other side.
          ―McCoy received a wire from Washington, saying ‗cease killing the Mexican people. He wired back,
‗They fired on our flag.‘
          ―There were numerous small raids but the man that really broke it up was A. Y. Baker, then Sheriff of
Hidalgo County. He took 25 or 30 men he knew were O.K. and when he heard of bandits on this side, he and those
deputies went after them. They caught up with the bandits, killed ‗em and asked questions afterward. On those
raids, he would commandeer fresh horses if necessary.
          ―Some people blamed him for his ‗brutality‘ but War is brutal and you have to fight fire with fire. Some
estimated he and his men did away with some 500 bandits. This, though, was never heralded in the press.
          ―We knew it was going on and we knew its effectiveness. We owe A. Y. Baker a debt of gratitude. I knew
him for years and while I disagreed with him politically, I held him in high regard for his fearlessness. I believe
that, at heart, he was not a bad man.
          All this bandit trouble finally brought us the scourge of the National Guard. They came here by the
thousands. Of course, they brought money into the section, but the harm they did was greater than the good.
Families were broken up, we had to police the town, for the soldiers would get drunk and try to break into the
homes.‖
          The soldiers seemed happy in Mission. Henry Allen, Jr., a first lieutenant of Company E and later adjutant
of the Second Battalion of the Second Regiment, made the following comment to the New York Gazette:
          ―Having just returned from the border, I feel it is my duty to the people of this city who have friends and
relatives at the border to give them some first-hand information on the conditions at the border and to offset in a
measure if possible the bad impression which some people in the city entertain about the condition of the ―Fighting
Second‖ as we are known here. It has been the best-located campsite on the whole border. The people of the village
of Mission have done all in their power for the comfort and pleasure of the Second Regiment men and the local
merchants, instead of raising their prices, as those in many places along the border did, arranged to keep the prices
down with the result that the men came from various other towns to Mission to purchase articles. Taking it as a
whole, the men of the Second Regiment are a happy and contented lot and are rounding into as good fighting men
as any on the border.
          Lawrence McGovern was stationed in the area with the Sixth Cavalry, and retained some postcards of the
period, including two of Mission. One shows the brick business center of town, with lots of open area still; the
other shows the wireless station and military camp- a few wooden buildings and more substantial ones, but mostly
a huge tent city.
          But the troops did not last long in Mission. It was rumored that there were typhoid germs in the Mission
water and that the town refused to do anything about it. Charles Langston explained that the government insisted
that the water be chlorinated, but that the city fathers said no one had ever gotten sick from the water and there was
no need to chlorinate it. The soldiers were ordered to McAllen -.- which was strange since both communities had the
same source of water. Some think it was the result of active McAllen solicitation, and willingness to spend money
purifying their water; other people at the time thought that some Missionites, especially those with young
daughters,

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were glad to see them go.
         Whatever the reason, the soldiers moved to McAllen, setting Mission back at least ten years because of the
bad publicity. McAllen began to grow and grow, and Mission remained a quiet, residential community, even today
being largely a bedroom community for McAllen. Mission had hopes even then of becoming a port of entry to
Mexico after peace was restored, but nothing ever came of those plans, until 1992!
         The Valley was full of frightened refugees from Mexico, and terrified Anglos, who saw bandits in every
bush-- but just think of the old porción ethnic Mexicans. Every Anglo carried a gun, but an ethnic Mexican could
not be told from a Mexican National by a frightened Anglo, and any person who looked like a Mexican and carried
a gun for protection or any reason - was shot or manhandled first, and questioned later. The sheriffs of the Valley
and their deputies were involved, but the 1,000 Texas Rangers that were sworn in by Gov. ―Pa‖ Ferguson to
―maintain the peace‖ were the worst offenders, by far. No record exists of their summary executions, but estimates
range from a low of 200 to more than 5,000! More than 300 bodies were accounted for during the period of
1913-16. The ―Plan of San Diego‖ --that‘s San Diego, Texas-- called for ethnic Mexicans, Indians, Germans and
other foreigners to rise up and return the border states to Mexico, creating a buffer country of blacks between the
new Mexico and the shrunken United States. No sooner was this plan widely publicized than Zimmerman note,
from the German Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to the German ambassador to Mexico, calling for Mexico
to back such a plan, was released! By this time, there were 35,000 U.S. soldiers on-the-border with Mexico; and of
course Mexico was so busy with its own revolution it had neither time nor energy to take part in a Texas fiasco
centered in the unlikely ―capital‖ of San Diego.
         World War I finally settled things down; Carranza got control of Mexico, and quickly realized that
―Yankee Bashing‖ might be good politics, but it was poor economics, and he moved to prevent border incidents.
         The terrible excesses of the Texas Rangers, perhaps necessary in the mid- 1800‘s, but a real anachronism
by 1913, led to their downfall. After World War I, in 1919, J. T. Canales, state representative from Brownsville,
introduced a bill that helped reform the Texas Rangers, removing them from politics, and removing the unqualified
and vicious men. An exhaustive investigation discredited the Rangers, who were reduced to 76 men maximum, and
eliminated them as the main state police force, putting them in charge of investigations. Canales was from an old
porción-owning family, and desired change, not revenge. Enough was enough.
         But it took two more generations to remove residential and other segregation. In fact, perhaps until
recently, the following poem, written by a Texas black, is perhaps more accurate that anyone would want to
believe:
           If you‘re white, well, all right! If you‘re brown, you can stick around. But if you‘re black
 stand back....
--


         As you may note, from this and other works, all of the new towns laid out by Anglo planners had a
designated Mexican quarters across the railroad track. Oh - the Spanish elite had their choice
 they could assimilate or not. But it seldom provided leadership for the downtrodden masses --the Juan N. Cortinas
--


were few and far between.


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                                                  Chapter 12
                                              BORDER TROUBLES II


         The border troubles of 1914-16 greatly affected the growth of the Valley, and of Mission specifically. But
what caused the unrest? A large part had to do with the continuing revolution in Mexico - there was no stable
government to protect the border. Part was due to the wealth that the Americans were accumulating while the
Mexicans were struggling for justice. And part, according to James A. Sandos‘ book, Rebellion in the
Borderlands - Anarchism and the Plan of San Diego 1904-1923.
         According to Sandos, the Flores Magon brothers, Ricardo and Enrique, had transformed the PLM political
party in exile from Mexico from a reform party into a party espousing anarchy. Their publication, Regeneración,
expressed the outrage felt by Tejano/Mexicans over their treatment.
         Aniceto Pizana, of Brownsville, had met the Flores Magon brothers in Laredo in 1904, and had formed a
PLM grupo in Brownsville shortly thereafter. He continued his loyalty to the party through its transformation from
reform to anarchism. He felt the more radical doctrine explained what was happening in south Texas and Mexico
better than the reform doctrine did. Pizana was a poet, and he wrote a poem calling for the release from prison of
PLM leaders serving sentences for the Baja California expedition.
         In 1915, Pizana was 45 years old, a stocky, 5 foot, nine inch Tejano with curly hair, who worked as a
stockman. He had done reasonably well, owned his own ranch called Los Tulitosd, and rented a home for his
mother Celia and his family in Brownsville. But he quickly grasped that the change from ranching to irrigated
farming, and the influx of both Mexican and northern farmers, spelled the end of ranching as he knew and loved it,
the approaching end of his way of life. He left the little town of San Benito after suffering anti-Mexican abuse
there, and wrote a 21-verse poem for Regeneracion that expressed his rage. He called for action to correct injustice
in both Mexico and south Texas. He read Regeneración to his illiterate friends and acquaintances on Sundays,
pointing out the truth of what he read. Reading aloud, a longstanding PLM and anarchist practice, helped spread
Flores Magon‘s ideas throughout the valley. He also distributed PLM propaganda and buttons impressed with the
slogan, ―Land and Liberty.‖
         Sandos researched the less than a dozen Tejanos in the Brownsville area who subscribed to Regeneracion.
He also learned that Pizana‘s closest friend was Luis de la Rosa of Rio Hondo, who had helped Pizana establish
other grupos in south Texas. Before the new arrivals from the north and south took control of politics in the Valley,
James B. Wells had arrived in the Valley in 1878, after failing as a land speculator in Refugio. But he had his
personality and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Judge Stephen Powers, attorney and Democratic
leader since the 1850‘s in Brownsville, was looking for a partner to help him in his practice as he aged. Wells took
the job,
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and immediately defended 21 land titles, winning twenty of the cases. One was for the King Ranch, and when his
friend Robert Kleberg assumed management of the King Ranch, he retained Wells as a legal advisor on land. Wells
quickly learned Spanish and converted to the Catholic religion, attended Mass regularly, and became much
admired by people of both cultures. He was soon handling many land transfers for Tejanos and Americanos alike.
Although he bought land himself occasionally, he never became a rich man through land - but he became a very
powerful one. Acting as a patriarch, he extended his care to many of the poor Mexican/Tejano people; he found
them employment, gave them advice, did their legal work, and during the great drought of 1892-3, provided poor
relief for the poor and homeless. He strongly believed that he acted out of love and respect for his fellow man, and
that if the worker behaved loyally to him, both were well served.
          He married Judge Power‘s niece, acquired the judges political contacts, and turned them into
a political network that included all of south Texas. He insisted that his sons learn Spanish and assist
him by fully participating in Valley life. He and his friends maintained control from the 1880‘s until
1920, when the power shifted to the new arrivals, who looked upon the now elderly Wells and his
political machine as the last vestige of the old political order.
          In Hidalgo County, Wells depended on his compadre, John Closner, to deliver the vote. Closner, in turn,
partly relied on Florencio Saenz, whose powerful family controlled much of eastern Hidalgo county through his
ownership of the Llano Grande grant, which included the later townsites of Mercedes and Weslaco. He operated
out of La Toluca Ranch in eastern Hidalgo County; he won election to the first Hidalgo County Board of
Supervisors and won re-election until his resignation in 1905. His store was a major trading point. The
Saenz-Champion-Solis intermarriages exemplified elite Mexican-Tejano-Anglo intermarriage.
          Another such marriage was that of Manuela Villarreal, who was born in 1873 on the Nueves Ranch near
what later became Mission. She married Abraham Dillard, a Texas Ranger and deputy collector of customs,
accumulating enough capital to buy the Nueves Ranch. He later built a store there and a permanent home. Their
bilingual son, George Dillard, served as a Hidalgo County deputy sheriff and acted as a scout for the U.S Army
during the troubles of 1915-16. George had a small place at Ojo de Agua, near Mission, and raiders sacked it twice,
the second time in retaliation for Georges assistance to Anglos.
          While there was much Mexican/Tejano discontent, most Anglo new arrivals saw little of it, and hardly
realized it existed. They were interested in Mexican/Tejanos for their labor, not for their culture. The readers of
Regeneration constituted a sort of intellectual elite - they were much better off than the average workers. Those
who lived in Brownsville, for example, had wooden frame homes worth insuring, while their compatriots lived in
simple thatched jacales.
          There were at this time 165 persons in Hidalgo and Cameron counties in Floresmagonista clubs, five times
the number of subscribers. Although publication of Regeneration was suspended in 1914, the South Texas
supporters were ready for direct action.
          The preamble to the Plan of San Diego reads:
          In Texas, [whites] have paid their workers with an unjustified race hatred that closes to the Mexican, the
Negro, the Asian, the doors of the schools, the hotels, the theaters, of every public place; that segregates them on
railroad cars and keeps them out of the meeting places of the ―white-skinned‖ savages who constitute a superior
caste.

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         And this remained true in Texas for forty more years.
         Mentioned above is the ―Plan of San Diego.‖ The word ―plan‖ has a totally different connotation to the
Tejano/Mexican than it has to the Anglo, a ―plan‖ is a design, a blueprint, to peacefully follow in ones work. But in
Spanish a ―plan‖ political call to armed rebellion. Its success or failure depends on whether it is put into action by
armed force, or immediately overcome by its enemies. The plan of San Diego --and that‘s San Diego, Texas, not
California!-- was exactly that. It called for an armed rebellion in Texas to return Texas to Mexican control.
         San Diego is a quiet farm community, hardly a likely spot for armed resentment. There had been a PLM
grupo there for five years. San Diego‘s 2,500 inhabitants were 75% of Mexican origin, and bitterly anti-American,
according to Sandos.
         In the late summer of 1914, three Mexican nationals arrived and opened a wholesale-retail beer
establishment two blocks from the Main Plaza on Victoria Street in San Diego. They were A.A. Saenz, Augustin S.
Garza, and Basilio Ramos, Jr. They talked the local Masonic Lodge into putting up their surety bond to start the
store. They used the bar as a forum to vent anti-American feelings, but they were not too successful, and in
December skipped town, leaving the rent unpaid, and forfeiting the Masonic bond. De la Rosa, one of those who
had listened to the three Huertistas, was moved to action, but no one else seemed much affected.
         All three skipped to Mexico individually, but they were all arrested and sent to Monterrey, where on
January 6, 1915, they, and six other low-level Huertistas signed the original document known as the Plan of San
Diego. The author is unknown, but had smuggled it to them with their meals.
         According to the plan, an armed uprising against the United States was to start February 20, 1915, and,
marching under a run banner bearing a white diagonal stripe, proclaiming equality and independence, they would
reclaim Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California. A race war was envisioned, with all white males
over 16 put to death! Membership was restricted to the Latin, Negro and Japanese races. Indians were promised the
return of their ancestral territory, if they supported the plan.
         Garza was named commander of the military forces, called the Liberating Army for Races and Peoples. No
Mexican aid would be accepted, and volunteers from any faction in Mexico could join. Ramos was to create juntas
throughout northern Mexico and southwest U.S. They were released from prison, and Ramos went directly to
Matamoros and crossed the bridge into Brownsville; he continued to McAllen, where he contacted a medical
doctor named Andres Villarreal about the plan. Villarreal told Deodoro Guerra, a local merchant, of Ramos, but
disavowed all interest in such a plan.
         Guerra, under investigation for receiving smuggled goods, immediately notified Sheriff A.Y. Baker, but
Ramos failed to appear at an arranged meeting, and Baker left, telling Guerra to arrest Ramos if he should appear.
Deodoro and his son Modesto arrested Ramos, and confiscated his papers, which included his commission, a copy
of the Plan of San Diego, a codebook, and a safe conduct through Constitutionalist lines signed by local border
commander General Emiliano P. Nafarrate. Deputy U.S. Mrshal T.P. Bishop picked up Ramos and took him to jail.
It seems that Mexican nationals were to encounter great difficulty in persuading their counterparts in Texas to
support a movement ostensibly for their own liberation!

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         So, Basilio Ramos was in a texas jail at 2 a.m. February 20, 1915, the hour and day the uprising was to
begin. Nothing violent occurred, but the Plan of San Diego was drastically revised that day-- without Ramos. The
new document appeared to be more anarchist in nature, but somewhat confused. The new group went underground
and established some juntas in south Texas, but Americans could not take it seriously. In May, when Basilio
Ramos came to trial in Brownsville, the judge stated that the defendant ―ought to be tried for lunacy, not conspiracy
against the United States.‖ Ramos was released on bail, and quickly skipped to Mexico.
         Obviously, there was much going on, with huge populations displaced from Mexico to south Texas, with
much stealing by the have-nots from the haves, and occasional border incidents.
         Gov. James B. ―Pa‖ Ferguson appealed to President Wilson for troops, complaining of raids from Mexico
―amost daily‖. He wanted $30,000 to hire 30 more Texas rangers. The American commander in the south called
Gov. Ferguson‘s charges ―an egregrious exaggeration‖; The War Department considered that Texas wanted the
U.S. forces to do a Texas job. Wilson ordered the southern Commander to stop all such raids, but gave no funds for
rangers.
         There are two general views of the rangers. The Anglo view is that they are the ―white hat‖ saviors of the
border, protecting settlers and ranchers from marauding Indians and bandits. But there is a strong second opinion
that when it came to Mexican-appearing cowboys, they shot first, and asked questions later-- if the man survived.
There are many, many cases of perfectly innocent ranchers, branding their own cattle on their own range, being
shot by rangers who spoke no Spanish, and took no time at all to find out if the man was ―legal‖ or not. If he was
Mexican, he was presumed to be stealing cattle!
         According to Sandos‘ well-documented account, the PSD-initiated violence began July 4, 1915 when 40
Mexican irregulars crossed the border and shot two Anglos to death on their ranch near Lyford. The raiders eluded
their pursuers throught he Chaparral for two weeks, killing an 18-year-old Anglo boy near Raymondville, and
losing two of their own to the posse. On July 24, in two separate incidents, two Mexicans were killed ―resisting
arrest.‖ On July 25, a railroad bridge was burned near Harlingen and surrounding telegraph wires were cut. On July
28, a group of masked armed men stopped sheriffs officers transporting Adolpho Munoz from San Benito to the
jail at Brownsville, and hanged Munoz. Ranger L.J. Engelking then arrested Munoz‘s brother and half-brother,
fearing that they might attempt revenge.
         On August 2, 20 Mexicans crossed the Rio Grande five miles above Brownsville, stole some horses, fired
upon an auto, and then disappeared. A posse composed of Texas Rangers, local sheriffs officers, a mounted
customs inspector, a cavalry officer and private citizens, set out after the marauders. They spent that night at John
Scrivner‘s ranch, where he told them they should investigate Aniceto Pizana‘s nearby ―Los Tulitos‖ which he
personally thought harbored a nest of cattle and horse thieves. He offered to guide them, and a furloughed U.S.
army private named McGuire volunteered to accompany them.
         At daybreak on August 3, 1915, a month after the serious trouble had started, the posse approached Los
Tulitos. As they approached the two ranch houses, the customs inspector, Joe Taylor, a well-known Mexican
hunter, drew his rifle from its scabbard as he started to dismount. Gunshots instantly rang from the buildings and
killed Private McGuire. In an extended exchange of fire, three other posses members were wounded. Aniceto
Pizana and others escaped, The posse

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captured Jos‘e Buenrosto and Aniceto‘s wife, brother, and 12-year-old son Guadalupe who was wounded in the
leg, which he lost due to delayed medical attention. They had gone hunting 20 Mexicans and had found four
Tejanos instead.
        In the house, of course, they found his poetry, letters to PLM leaders and Ricardo Flores Magon, ten years
of Regeneration, and other ―inflammatory‖ literature, they wrongly concluded that he was an adherent of the
now-infamous ―Plan de San Diego.‖ However, Aniceto had been well-regarded by his other neighbors as an
industrious, honorable, and high-class native-born Tejano.

        Later reports from Aniceto and his wife claimed that the unprovoked attack on his home drove him to join
the PSD, and the loss of his son‘s leg prompted him to seek revenge and lead the forces against Texas. Ramon
Pizana was convicted for murder of Private McGuire, but Brownsville attorney Jos‘e T. Canales, arguing
self-defense, obtained a reversal. No doubt Aniceto could have also obtained exoneration, but by that time, pushed
into lawlessness by the conimunity‘s ―lawmen‖, he had made the Pizana name a terror to the Anglos.
        Luis de la Rosa, mentioned previously, had been conspiring to revolt, and had removed his family to
Matamoros before he led any raids. He was strictly PSD-- Plan of San Diego. He had not been PLM- Mexican
Liberal Party-- for several years. He, or others, ripped up rail trestles, set fire to railroad bridges, and cut telegraph
lines near Sabastian the same day the posse attacked Pizana. The following day, August 4, PSD raiders did the
same thing around Harlingen. General Funston, commander of the Southern Front, assigned five-man guards to
each train between Harlingen and Raymondville.
        Then on August 6, De la Rosa and about 14 other well-armed an mounted men rode into Sabastian. They
robbed Thomas alexander‘s small store, Beda Schultz‘s store, and burned some of her buildings, stealing her
livestock. They crossed the railroad tracks toward the Austin corn sheller. There de la Rosa seized the president of
the Sebastian Law and Order League, his son Charles and another man. De la Rosa esecuted the Austins, but
released the other, apparently innocent, Anglo.

          The August 6 killing, which cost the Austins, Alexander, Schultz and the Wagners all they had, prompted
a letter to the War Department signed by 51 Valley residents calling for more troops and artillery for their defense.
They valued their property at more than $100 million. Three days later, the Brownsville Merchants Association
added its request for more federal troops.
          The Texas adjutant general Hutckings took the train to Brownsville and immediately joined a posse of
Rangers and local officials. That evening they rode up to a farmhouse, shot down two Mexican sitting on their front
porch, and killed another as he tried to flee. The posse left the bodies where they lay. Within 10 hours, Anglos had
retaliated for the attack on the Austins by killing three Tejanos.
          De la Rosa rode 75 miles north to strike at one of the oldest symbols of Anglo power in South Texas- the
King Ranch. On August 7, he joined a force of 25 Mexicans led by a Constitutionalist major and captain. They
seized Manuel Rincones, a King Ranch employee in his late 70‘s, to act as guide. Rincones recognized eight of the
men as valley workers. The officers termed the invasion an act of war to reclaim Mexican land, and that it had the
approval of Venustiano Carranza. On August 8, the band pushed farther north, taking 8 horses from a Tejano
pasture before proceeding to the

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Norias headquarters of the King Ranch. There, without reconnaissance an attack was ordered.
        In those troubled times, a substantial guard of U.S. Army troopers, Texas rangers deputy sheriffs and
King Ranch employees patrolled the ranch house and railroad shed at Norias, named for the attorney Wells. A
two-hour fight, in which two troopers and five raiders were killed, led to the raiders leaving. Rincones later
reported that the officers fought well, but the Mexican soldiers fled.

         The surviving raiders assembed in the brush August 9, and a coyboy whom Rincones recognized joined
them and led the men to water and food. On the next day, part of the band fled toward Mercedes; they skirmished
with an army patrol there, killing one of the troopers, and then disappeared across the river. The remaining
members of the band marched to the river by a different route, and released Rincones before crossing into Mexico.
         Rincones had heard men talk of Aniceto Pizana and the fight at Los Tulitos, but he did not see Pizana at
Norias. A popular Mexican corrido of the time mentions Pizana but claimed he avoided Norias-- fearing death. In
a verse more descriptive of the general period, the song told of Rangers surrounding and shooting down Mexicans
with few survivors.
         The Revolution of 1910-21 in Mexico not only brought many refugees to the Mission area, it also brought
Squadrons K and L of Frank McCoy‘s Third Cavalry Regiment to the city on June 1, 1915, and later a squadron of
the 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment , which arrived in Mission September
13, 1915. Hundreds of soldiers were quartered here, and permanent buildings were constructed, the last just having
been torn down in 1991. Even some members of New York‘s Fighting Second regiment, famous later as part of the
Fighting 69th Division, were here. The military hospital was also in Mission. as well as a motorcycle corps, the
motorcycles having sidecars with mounted light machine guns. Some of the New Yorkers were greenhorns who
had never seen a cow.
         For those interested in a fairly detailed account of the pre-World War I violence in the Valley, Frank
Cushman Pierces Texas‟ Last Frontier, published in Brownsville in 1917 and reprinted by the Hidalgo County
Historical Society in the early 1990‘s, is a timely source, devoting more than 100 pages to the subject, and listing
the units in the Valley.
         There were no actual raids on Mission, but several nearby, so the people were always prepared, and the
Cavalry got a workout, speeding up and down the river, chasing rumors. The women and children were warned to
assemble in the bank if a single blast from the fire siren sounded.
         The fight at Las Norias on August 8, 1915, 68 miles north of Brownsville, resulted in a bloody defeat for
the bandits, who, 80 strong, attacked a handful of ranchers, rangers, and soldiers. The bandits lost 23 killed and 20
wounded, and many pictures still exist showing the cowboys towing the bodies by lariat.
         One interesting thing is that some participants later recall McCoy as a Captain, others as a Major. Of
course, at different times he was both.
                BATTLE OF CAVAZOS CROSSING
     On September 3, 1915, bandits slipped into the U.S. from Mexico at Cavazos Crossing, and staged a raid
before retreating across the river. This was quite near to Mission.
         The next day, September 4, 1915, Captain McCoy was patrolling the river with a detachment from the
Third U.S. Cavalry, accompanied by several Texas Rangers and Sheriff A. Y. Baker. He

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was riding at the head of the troop with a color bearer and they rode out to the willows on a sandbar and the
Mexicans started firing at him. They scattered and fired back all that day and up until dark. A good many civilians
from Mission who heard the firing rushed down there with their guns and did a lot of shooting, which didn‘t do any
good or any harm. Before the group left, according to Lott, Sheriff Baker recognized the player of a guitar by the
music wafting across the river, and loudly called out the musician‘s name, knowing that the bandits would
recognize his voice as that of the much-hated sheriff of Hidalgo County.
         ―That night,‖ Wood continued, ―Major McCoy came to me and gave me three sealed letters, borrowed a
couple hundred dollars and gave me three or four checks to send to people he owed money to. Then he showed me
some telegrams he had got from Washington, some five as I recall it, which had been given to him after he had
gotten back from the skirmish at the river, wanting to know why he was killing the poor Mexicans. I asked him
what he did about it and he showed me a copy of the telegram to the Wr Department in Washington, saying, ‗At
such and such hour I was patrolling the river when the Flag was fired upon‘ signed Frank M. McCoy, Major
                                                                                                     --


Commanding. I said, ‗Mac, they won‘t get much satisfaction out of that.‘ He said, ‗When they find out they (the
Mexicans) fired on the Flag, that‘s all they need.‖
         The following morning, September 5, according to Lott, a story teller who never let facts get in the way of
a good story, but who can generally be believed, Baker walked out on a sandbar with his giant Stetson hat and
turned his back to the Mexican side of the river. Almost immediately countless shots rang out from the Mexican
side, and Baker fell forward as if hit. The jubilant bandits leaped from the brush and started dancing about at the
idea of having killed Baker. But the happiness was short-lived as soldiers, Rangers and deputies opened fire from
the brush, and killed three of the raiders. Baker, according to Loft, was unhurt and got up and walked away.
Actually, the official account on the bandits was 11 killed and 40 wounded, but this probably includes the figures
from both days.
         When Major General Frank R. McCoy died June 4, 1954, it was duly reported to the Mission Times by
former editor Virgil Lott of Roma. Lott recalled another incident connected with the September 4 battle by Troops
G and H of the old Third Cavalry commanded by then-Captain McCoy, in a hot battle with about 200 Carrancistas
at Cavazos Crossing on the Rio Grande just above the old Mission First Lift Plant. About 11 a.m., a young Italian
recruit, while attending the wounds of a horse which had been hit by a bullet from the other side, was himself shot
in the right hip from the same source.
         ―Captain McCoy, a very devout Presbyterian and up to this moment cool and collected, suddenly lost his
equanimity and sent for his First Sergeant, Ernest Schaeffer.
         ―Sergeant‘, he said as the non-com stood at attention, ‗relax, for I have a mission for you. I have, up to this
point in this fight, been at least fair to the enemy, but the enemy doesn‘t want to play fair. He has shot one of my
horses and wounded a recruit. In that tree over there is a sharpshooter or maybe two sharpshooters. You are a
sharpshooter and I want you to clean that nest out. I am going to offer a prayer for your success and at the same time
pray for the misguided souls of the men who are shooting down our horses and our men. Proceed, sergeant.‘
         ―And Schaeffer proceeded with telling effect, for at the crack of his rifle a man came crashing to the ground
out of the tree. Three fell, shot to death by the unerring aim of one of the best

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sharpshooters in the old ‗regular‘ army.‖
         (Shortly after battle of Cavazos Crossing, Shaeffer met his death in another bloody engagement, which
Lott identified as Ojo de Agua.)
         ―If there is a niche in the Mission Presbyterian Church for Dwight D. Eisenhower, surely there should be
one for Frank R. McCoy, praying Presbyterian officer, who made a lot of history on the border in the Mission
vicinity during the bitter years of 1915-16. He was a regular attendant at services of the church as was William
Jennings Bryan, of blessed memory, who was also a very devout Presbyterian and a lay preacher who often filled
the pulpit of the Mission church,‖ Lott concluded.
                  BATTLE OF OJO DE AGUA
     Three days after the train wreck, Pizana and 60 men crossed the river south of Mission and attacked the small
Army detachment at Ojo de Agua. During the protracted skirmish, Americans saw at least four Japanese in the
attacking party and many raiders wearing hatbands labeled :Viva la Independencia de Tejas!‖ Pizana and his force
killed three and wounded 8 of the 18 soldiers before finally being driven off. They suffered nine wounded and left
five of their dead behind, along with documents, including a diary and handbills, linking them to De la Rosa and
the PSD. Before returning to Mexico, the band burned the home of




Tejano George Dillard, as a reprisal for serving as deputy sheriff in Hidalgo County.
         General Funston described his guard at Ojo de Agua as ―nearly annihilated‖ and demanded more troops
and a tougher policy. The Army, however, wanted disciplined and controlled army behavior, and refused more
troops.
         More handbills began to circulate on both sides of the border in Spanish, calling for uprisings and social
war in Texas.
         Maurine Duncan assembled the following two stories concerning the Ojo de Agua fight.
         Greg Wood, recalling his first 65 years in the Valley, wrote ―Since I was Mayor of Mission, he [Major
McCoy] and I became very close friends. He was really a wonderful man and a wonderful soldier. He had
established a post at Ojo de Agua with a sergeant and 12 men, who lived in tents and kept their stores in a small
building of white pine about four feet off the ground. This Command was in charge of Sgt. Schafton [note Lott‘s
Sgt. Schaeffer may be the same man] and on the night of October 21, 1915, a band of about 50 Mexicans attacked
the post about 3 a.m.
         ―The men had gotten careless, and were all sleeping in the little building, against direct orders of Major
McCoy. About 3 a.m. they were attacked by a band of about 50 Mexicans who killed five soldiers and wounded
several more, among them Sgt. Schafton. The attack was broken off because Captain Scott, who was stationed at
San Fordyce, had taken a bunch of rookies out, (he had just gotten in from New York) on a practice march. In fact,
it was the first time they had seen a horse, and he was trying to teach them to ride. They camped at Penitas, about a
mile and a half from Ojo

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de Agua. The firing of guns woke him. He immediately got up and put those men on their horses and got them to
the fighting. The Mexicans, of course, could hear him coming and they retreated across the river. They left three
dead men on the field. Reports had it that there were some ten or twelve killed, and some 15 or 20 wounded.
However, I could never verify this report. The Mexicans were in force across the river, supposedly 500 of them,‖
Wood concluded.
          A young school teacher at the ranch school at Ojo de Agua, Minnie Lee Milliken, wrote her eye-witness
acount of Ojo de Agua battle much later for a National Retired Teacher‘s magazine, in the July-August 1977 issue,
and it, like the account above, was abstracted some years ago by the Mission historian-writer Maurine Duncan.
          ―Teachers have always faced risks in their occupation, particularly in the early days in one-room schools in
the remote areas. We suspect that few, however, faced anything quite so hazardous as this episode remembered by
a Texas educator, Minnie L. Norton Milliken.
          ―Teaching in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the early days was at times exciting, and maybe a little
dangerous. I taught three years in ‗ranch schools‘. The most memorable one, I suppose, was at Ojo de Agua, about
eight miles southwest of Mission, in 1915. Two other girls and I did light houskeeping in an old store building
about a block from the two-room school house. I taught first grade and had a room to myself; the other two taught
the upper grades in the other room,
          ―We were getting very well organized and acquainted our pupils and their parents when, on [October 15,
Pancho Villa‘s]bandits crossed the Rio Grande and came raiding the ranch. In the middle of the night of October
15, we were awakened by what seemed like thousands of shots around and over our house and bloodcurdling yells
of Viva Villa!‘ We jumped out of bed and hurriedly dressed.. .We could hardly hear our voices for the whine of
shots around our house...I think there were 40 or 50 of the bandits who started the attack on the Dillard home about
a block from us. Mrs. Dillard and her little boy left their house by the back door and went to the school house and
began ringing the bell. As soon as she had left her home, the bandits set fire to it, which lighted up the whole area.
In the meantime, there was a fierce battle being fought. This was around the soldiers‘ camp, a short distance from
our house... .The firing started, I suppose, about 15 minutes before 2 o‘clock. It continued until nearly daybreak....
We thought they fired on the Dillards‘ house to attract the soldiers there. When the first shots were fired, the Signal
Corps radioed to Mission to send troops out, that the place was full of bandits. Just as the message was being sent to
Mission a shot burst the radio. As soon as that happened, a message from somewhere was sent to Mission telling
the soldiers not to come as all was quiet at Ojo de Agua, which was not true. ..The soldiers at the camp realized that
something was wrong, and they sent a man on horseback, then another one, to Mission for help. It was most
exciting to hear the pounding of those horses‘ hooves as they went galloping past our house. They got through, and
soon 50 cavalrymen came
          ―All this time were standing in our door shivering, shaking and chattering. We finally decided to go out
into the yard, where we found some of our schoolboys. One of the girls and I had guns, but neither of us had more
than five or six shells. We found four of our soldiers had been killed and several wounded.‖
          The ―school teacher‖ version uses the date of October 15th; the Wood version uses September 4; Brian
Robertson in Wild Horse Desert uses October 21. Lott‘s story joins the other two in vetoing Wood‘s date.

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         It was a strange combination of locals, the national guard, the Texas Rangers, the sheriffs deputies and
constables, and regular army men, all trying to locate and destroy the bandits. The horses had trouble in the dry,
sticky borderland, so civilian Model T‘s were often used for reconnaissance. The chance of being ambushed was
always present, so many civilians were not interested, but others, like Tom Gill and Holl Spillman were always
glad to drive a bunch of soldiers or rangers. They served without pay, using their own gas and vehicles.
         In 1951, former Mayor David Gregg Wood remembered it as follows:
         ―I also inherited the Bandit Trouble -- mostly forgotten today. Yet I would like to assure my readers that it
was real -- and dangerous.
         ―We know now that it began with the Plan of San Diego (Texas) which called for taking all of Southwest
Texas and killing out all ‗gringos‘ under a coordinated plan of attack and robbery. The lan was exposed before it
got underway but it left at loose ends a bunch of bandits and guerrillas who began to raid this side of the Rio
Grande. These raids began in a small way -- a dozen would come over, rob and steal, then race back across the
                                                       -


river. Finally, the Army got interested and sent several regiments to river posts. One Battalion was sent here to
Mission under Major Frank R. McCoy, now a retired Major General.
         ―As Mayor, I was closely connected with Major McCoy in our joint problem. I would get calls from homes
where raids were reported and would get McCoy to send his men to the scene.
         ―But the old Cavalry horses assigned the soldiers were too slow and not used to this guerrilla fighting. We
finally decided on another method. When I would hear of a raid, I would call up the local residents who had Ford
cars, and they would pick up the soldiers and start out.
         ―Needless to say, this was dangerous because they were likely to be ambushed. I had great trouble in
getting volunteers to drive cars. The owners would suddenly get sick or their wives would get heart trouble. I didn‘t
blame them, but on the other hand, it was necessary to go to those people in distress.
         ―There were two men who lever failed me when I call on them -- Tom Gill and Holl Spilman. Their wives
                                                                                           -


and children were never sick and if Tom and Holl were sick with fear, they never showed it. As citizens, they
served without pay, used their own gas and served without hope of reward or praise. Both were shot at several
times but fortunately were never hit. Even today, I am grateful to them for their service.
         ―This mode of fighting was only effective when a ranch that was being besieged could hold out until we
got there. As for following into the brush with the Fords, of course we couldn‘t.
         ―(About this time, at Brownsville, near Resaca de las Palmas, 40 or 50 bandits stopped a train, robbed and
killed passengers and then escaped into Mexico. Trains coming into the Valley would run without lights at night,
hoping to by-pass the bandits. There were many small fights around San Benito and Brownsville.)
         ―Here McCoy established an outpost at Ojo de Agua and placed Sgt. Shaeffer in charge with eight men.
They built a camp, throwing a dirt embankment around their tent. There was a thin box house, about four feet off
the ground, near-by and they abandoned their tent to sleep in it. On night (October 21, 1915) about 60 bandits
attacted them, killing Sgt. Shaeffer and four men. They would probably have gotten all of them but Captain W. J.
Scott, stationed at SamFordyce, heard the shots (one and one-half miles away from where he was bivouacking at
Penitas). Captain Scott had gotten

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in about 20 recruits, boys 19 or 20 years old, straight from New York and New Jersey without any training. A fine
soldier, Captain Scott was so disgusted with these untrained men that he mounted them and took off from Fordyce,
camping out at Penitas. During the night, he heard the shots, put his boys on horses without saddles and came
charging down the road. That scared the bandits away.
         ―It so happened that pressure had been brought on Senator Sheppard and he had come down to the Valley
to see what was going on. He had arrived in the Lower Valley the day before and when he heard about the Ojo de
Agua battle, he came up from Brownsville with three or four Colonels from Brownsville and wanted to go out to
Ojo de Agua and see things for himself. Frank Rabb, in charge of customs at Brownsville, was ramrodding the
party. We were talking in Mission with Senator Shepherd, who said he wanted to go to the battle scene. I asked Dr.
J. S. Simpson (now an Army doctor at Laredo), to take us in his car. After we left, the Senator was missed. So here
came the Army ‗brass‘ and Frank rabb while we were examining the house. Rabb was all excited and said to me,
‗Gregg, my God, haven‘t you got any sense? The Senator might be killed‘
         ―But the Senator got to see it first-hand and admitted he never thought to see such a sight in the United
States
         ―Tom Humason took some photographs and a motion picture (probably the first ever made in Mission) out
at Ojo de Agua that morning. It showed Senator Shepperd and me, Colonel Bullard and some other Army officers
there at the battle scene. It was run off here several times but I do not know what finally became of the film.
         ―I had been out there early in the morning after the fight and there I saw a dead Jap who had been with the
bandits. Seven or eight of them had been killed and left there on the ground. Later I learned that four or five others
died after they re-crossed the river and that about 20 had been wounded. Our soldiers gave a good account of
themselves for several of the party were killed in the first fusillade as they slept.
         ―There were many small raids here and over the Valley. The fight at Norias was the greatest defeat the
bandits had (August 7, 1915). There were two fights here at Cavozos Crossing (south of Mission), between
McCoy‘s men and the bandits. Some citizens were shooting across the Rio Grande at each other. We were told on
the last day of the fighting that McCoy‘s men killed a lot of then that way, out of a group of about 100 bandits
massed on the other side.
         ―McCoy received a wire from Washington, saying ‗cease killing the Mexican people. He wired back,
‗They fired on our flag.‘ A great meeting was held in Brownsville the evening of October 23, and Brownsville
Mayor A.A. Browne called on both pro and anti-Wells groups to join a committee to see the governor. The group
selected a representative committee from the larger townships, headed by long-time Wells antagonist D.W.
Glasscock, prominent Mission-area attorney for whom Glasscock Road is named. Although the newspapers called
this a bi-partisan committee, Wells recognized it as the first grass-roots challenge to his power, and with Judge
Yates went to Austin on the same mission as the Glasscock committee. ―Pa‖ Ferguson met with both groups, and
appointed more Special Rangers, who served at no expense to the state; he also pressed Washington for more
troops.
         Glasscock‘s committee carried on, and all members signed a petition to President Woodrow Wilson calling
for help. They called the Hidalgo-Cameron situation an international problem because of the Plan of San Diego,
and pointed out that raids would continue as long as the raiders

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found safety in Mexico. Wells did not sign the petition, but John Closner did, as did Caesar Kleberg of the King
Ranch, the erratic Lon C. Hill, and others.
         Sam Robertson, the railroad builder, tried to get the Tejano population to disarm voluntarily for their own
safety. He had some initial success, but by late October Mexicans and Tejanos needed their weapons. After a
discouraging meeting, he was driving through the chaparral in his auto with a Mexican goatherder when a group
opened fire on him; he recognized five of the assailants, and with the goatherd‘s help, he repulsed them.
         The Brownsville attorney Jos‘e T. Canales, a former Wells protege and descendant of Juan Nepomuceno
Cortina, suspended his law practice and organized a force of 30 Mexican and Tejano scouts to patrol the Rio
Grande. They operated in pairs-- scouting and reporting to the nearest U.S. Army detachment. Canales hoped this
service would protect all valley residents. The Army appreciated the Scout‘s work, but some local authorities,
disliking the monitoring of their behavior, didn‘t.
         The Special Rangers, with the backing of wealthy ranchers, presented as many problems as solutions.
Casar Kleberg obtained a commission for former ranger Paul McAllister, and sent him to San Diego to chase cattle
thieves and watch the community which supposedly had spawned the PSD. Within six weeks, Kleberg received
complaints of McAllister‘s drunkenness and excessive use of force against Mexican suspects, but McAllister
received no reprimand.
         On October 21, at Brownsville, the head of the U.S. Immigration Service confiscated the entire deliver of
El Demócrata, the Constitutionalist newspaper, on the grounds it contained inflammatory articles. This amounted
to some 100 newspapers, a considerable circulation for Brownsville in those days.
         By late October, 1915, Gen. Funston estimated that more than 150 Mexicans and Tejanos had been
executed by local lawmen and vigilantes. Many of the Valley communities were empty and abandoned by their
Tejano owners who were afraid of the Rangers and their brand of law.
         Meanwhile, the Germans, deeply embroiled in War with France and England, wanted to neutralize
American influence the Americans were arming the Triple Entente, enemies of Germany. Gen. Huerta was
                        -


approached by Enrique Creel, who represented himself and his father-in-law, Luis Terrazas, who had funded
Orozco‘s revolt against Madero. They wanted Huerta to rule Mexico with Orozco as his field commander,
destroying the Constitutionalists. Creel introduced Huerta to a German Captain on special assignment, who
promised German arms, money and diplomatic recognition if Huerta would in turn, occupy America with a second
Mexican-American War. Meanwhile, Felix A. Sommerfeld, in New York, had dispensed some 380,000 in arms to
Villa, in hope he could also embroil the U.S.
         Don Venustiano Carranza, First Chief of the Constitutionalists, desperately needed American recognition;
President Wilson was hesitant to give it, since it seemed that Cannazista officers were helping in the border
disturbances. Secretary of State Lansing observed that Germany wanted us to intervene in Mexico, thus we should
not; Germany didn‘t want any faction dominant in Mexico, so we should recognize one faction; Germany wants a
quarrel between us and Mexico, therefore we should avoid it.
         Americans complained about the lack of cooperation beween General Emiliano P. Nafarrate, commander
of Carranza‘s forces across from Cameron and Hidalgo couinties. Nafarrate was one of

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Carranza‘s earliest supporters, having signed the original Plan of Guadalupe. He had arrived in Tamaulipas early in
the campaign, and although he was actually from Sonora, the people regarded him as a Tamaulipeco. He defended
Matamoros brilliantly against Pancho Villa‘s men, luring them into a trap, and as they exhausted themselves, he
knocked holes in the surrounding dikes, leaving Villa‘s men struggling in chest-deep water, retreating without
cannon or weapons. Three times Carranza had ordered him to evacuate the city, three times he refused,,but his
victory earned him recognition and promotion, despite his disobedience to orders. But he tended toward
independent action, retained cronies and profited from graft and illegal financial transactions. One of his cronies
was Francisco Barren y Guerra, a Tejano, who got one of his Tejano sons appointed military commander (Jefe de
las Armas) at Ciudad Mier. Francisco used his Mexican connections to export Mexican cattle to Texas- tax free.
Another of his sons, Aguirre, had made 27,000 seling Constitutionalist ammunition when Carranza had only
26,400 cartridges in reserve.
Nafarrate was closely in link with the PSD, as he generally disliked Americans, and expressed a socialist
radicalism close to anarchism, according to Sandos. He encouraged the Constitutionalist newspapers in his area to
criticize social discrimination on the United States. He atributed the raids as coming from ―los revolucionarios in
Texas‖, a term signifying a legitimacy that most Constitutionalists reserved for themselves. He considered Villa
―bandolero‖ after the Aguascalientes convention. The reporting was additionally very inaccurate, which led most
Americans to believe that Nafarrate was conspiring against them. Carranza sent Gen. Trevino on a confidential
inspection, and two nights later the final incident took place that ensured Nafarratés removal to the interior.
         On the night of Sept. 23, 1915, approximately 80 uniformed Constitutionalist soldiers crossed the river
near Progreso and proceeded to loot the large store of Florencio Saenz at Toluca. His store had been looted a year
earlier and, despite his key role in the Wells political machine, he did not feel safe there and had retreated in
mid-August to Brownsville. The Carrancistas took arms, liquor, food and mules, and then set the store ablaze. They
tried to burn the house and chapel, but Saenz had been among the first to build with brick in eastern Hidalgo
County, and the fire failed. A U.S. patrol happened on them at 7 am. the next day as they finished up, and a
skirmish ensured. The retreating Carrancistas reached the river, and their compatriots on the other side set up a
covering fire to cover their retreat across the water. In the course of the fighting, they took a prisoner, Private
Richard J. Johnson, whom they took to Mexico with them. They tortured the American, cutting off his ears before
decapitating him, then posted his head on a spike, and paraded it along the riverbank, imitating an old Spanish
practice.
         The State Department protested vigorously, but unbeknownst to them, Carranza had already begun the
delicate maneuver to oust Nafarrate, which he accomplished by promoting him to the critical Tampico post. The oil
that kept the British navy moving flowed through that city, and Nafarrates military prowess was to help defend it
from attack. But many Americans believed he had been rewarded for services rendered and that Nafarrate had
supported the PSD on Carranza‘s orders. Gen. Eugenio Lopez assumed the post with troops from the interior. Eight
days later De la Rosa and his forces crossed the river and wrecked the train, but Gen. Lopez, unsure of himself,
moved slowly and even though De la Rosa was seen in Reynosa, and information concerning the location of De la
Rosa‘s camp was given to him, the General did not get him arrested. Finally, on Oct. 29, Carranza sent a public
letter giving standing orders to his local commanders to arrest De la Rosa, Pizana and

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any other who might enter Mexico.
        On Nov. 1, Carranza‘s personal representative, Robert Pesquiera, met in San Antonio with D.W.
Glasscock, Caesar Kleberg and the rest of the committee, promising that Carranza would conduct a fill
investigation. Ten days later, the entire editorial staff of El Democrata, Matamoros, was replaced, and the local
leaders were referred to as bandits, not revolutionaries. On Nov. 23 Carranza met with Gov. Ferguson in a home in
Nuevo Laredo, and announced that his nephew, Gen. Recaut would succeed Gen. Lopez on the border. He
continued to Matamoros, where he stayed Nov. 28 to 30, with 2,000 troops, doing all in his power to suppress the
bandit raids. Order returned to the border.
        De la Rosa, Pizana, and other PSD adherents and leaders withdrew into northern Mexico, and their
fallback and Gen. Recaut‘s patrolling brought temporary peace.




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                                  CHAPTER 13
                         WORLD WAR I AND THE ROARING 20’S

          A year after Wood took office, on March 21, 1916, C. W. Beale was named city secretary, and Dr. T. R.
Burnett was appointed health officer. City secretary must have been a terrible job--on April 12, 1916 T. Hall
Spillman got the nod; on November 15, 1917. G. H. Barter was named, and on Dec. 6, 1917, A. L. Truitt.
Meanwhile, on August 2, 1917, F. L. Peterson was named fire marshal.
          George and Maggie Bridges arrived from Nebraska in 1917 with their tiny son Charles, then less than two
years old, and his six brothers and sisters. The family settled on a 20-acre farm at Two Mile and Taylor Road. The
family made the trip from Nebraska in an old Cole motorcar, pulling their household possessions behind them in a
trailer. They shipped their livestock to Texas aboard a train. The family had a large tent they used for camping out
along the way. The tent also served temporarily as their home when they first arrived.
          Their first building was an old-fashioned washhouse. In the old days, the washhouse was separate from the
house, because it necessitated a lot of hot water, and heat was not usually needed in South Texas. When it was
completed, the family forsook the tent, and moved into the washhouse, while they built their second building, a
barn to house the livestock, and keep them safe from the sun. It was a large, Middle-West-type, barn with hayloft
and plenty of room. When it was completed, the family moved to the barn from the washhouse, and shared their
accomodations with the animals until their home was completed.
          Their house, when built, was large for the times, having a kitchen, living room, dining room, three
bedrooms, and a large porch which nearly surrounded the house. The home also had a cellar, but it wasn‘t used
much because of the high water table in the Valley. They also had their own electric system, provided by a Delco
battery system. Not only did they have electricity, unusual at the time, but they had running water. River water was
passed through charcoal, sand, and gravel filters to purify it, and it was then collected in a cistern. A windmill was
used to pump the water into an elevated storage tank, which provided the pressure needed to pump the water, a very
modern system for a south Texas home built in the teens. The house was also equipped with large rain gutters that
ran around the eaves of the house. The gutters collected the rainwater, which was used for washing clothes, the soft
rainwater being superior to hard river water for that purpose.
          The Bridges, a farming family, raised nearly all their food on their 20 acres, plus a 5-acre field they leased.
They had citrus, vegetables, and even hay for the animals. They sometimes raised cotton, but their primary cash
crop was from seven acres of strawberries. They also had income from fees from land developers who used their
farm as a showplace for prospective land buyers to convince them of how easy it was to farm in the Valley. George
Bridges always used the most modern farming techniques available. His strawberries needed more water than he
could obtain by irrigation, so he built a cement-bottomed reservoir, which provided him with the first overhead


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sprinkling system in the Valley.
         Livestock was essential to any farming operation at the time. Everyone kept six or eight cows, two to four
mules or horses as well as pigs and chickens. Diversification was needed to provide all of ones needs with as little
cash as possible. The Bridges‘ brought a pair of white mules, Maude and Jennie, when they came from Nebraska.
They were cared for by a veterinarian even more carefully than family members—even their teeth were cleaned on
a regular basis, uncommon for animals or people at the time! They were intelligent and gentle enough to use to
work all day in the strawberry fields without guidelines, responding to the gee and haw commands. They both lived
more than 35 years, uncommon for animals at the time. Eventually they were retired and kept more as pets.
         There was a large spot in Taylor Road which turned into a mud hole when it rained. Countless cars and
trucks got stuck in it, and their owners invariably came to the Bridges for help getting out of the mud. The two
mules proved invaluable pulling out the cars. But one day a lumber truck got stuck, and as Bridges and the mules
approached the truck, the driver said he did not think the two old mules would be able to budge the heavily loaded
truck. Bridges, as offended as if someone had something bad about one of his children, turned the animals around
and headed them for the barn. The driver hurriedly apologized, and asked him to try. He did, and the mules pulled
the truck out easily. Bridges charged the man $20 for his services, perhaps the only time he ever charged anyone.
         Not wishing to spend time away from the farm, when the elder Bridges took his family to the doctor or
dentist, he took all seven siblings; even when it was time to take their tonsils out, he had four done one day, and
three the next, taking them home immediately after surgery so he could continue farming.
         Today, farming has changed. It is no longer a family affair. Specialization has turned it into a very real
business. Much good farmland has been swallowed up by housing developments as manufacturing increases, and
retirees flood the Valley. Even the citrus groves are being swallowed up by homesites.
         April 4, 1918 the city election was held, and D. G. Wood continued as mayor, and new commissioners S.
H. Fields and Logan Duncan were elected commissioners; A. L. Truitt continued as city secretary. Duncan
continued his interest in politics for more than 30 years, serving longer as mayor than any other Missionite.
         On April 23, 1918 Ed C. Sturgis was named city clerk; on May 2, AL. Truitt was moved from secretary to
city marshal; and H.F. Bishop was reappointed city attorney. On July 18, 1918 R. H. Hardin was named city
secretary.
         Allen Bourgeois was born April 20, 1901 in the Louisiana town of Brooks, named for his maternal
grandfather. He moved to Mission with his parents, brothers, and sisters in 1918 at the insistence of his father‘s
sister and family, the Gus Romes, He had three sisters: Lavinia (Mrs. Fred Hedges), Ivy (Mrs. Edwin Laurent) and
Nita (Mrs. Walter Eulenfield) and four brothers: Clarence, Leinster, Eddie, Jr., and Roland. Eddie, Sr., started a
blacksmith shop on W. 9th Street, and the boys all helped. The Landry children passed by each day, so the two sets
of children became well acquainted. Viola Landry was a sophomore at Mission High School when she met Allen;
she graduated as valedictorian in 1920. Allen worked in Peterson‘s Drug Store, ran films at the Electric

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Theater in the evenings, and also delivered bread for Melancon‘s Bakery.
         City commissioner S. H. Fields, who had been elected April 4, died October 3, 1918, and H. H. Rankin was
named to succeed him.
         There was a very important arrival in Mission on February 26, 1919, when the children of Mr. and Mrs.
Peter Bentsen arrived from White, South Dakota. They were Alton, A.A. ―Dietz‖, Lloyd and Elmer Bentsen, Edna
Sloan and Laurel Norton.
         Dietz was the youngest child. He was first employed by John H. Shary, and later went to work for the
United Irrigation Company, also owned by Mr. Shary.
         On October 27, 1923 he met Ruth Hudgins, who had come to Mission with her sister and brother-in-law,
Mr. and Mrs. George D. Guest. They kept company until Ruth returned to her former home at Wilson, OK in
December. During the month of March, 1924, Dietz visited Ruth in Oklahoma, and in June, 1924 she moved to
Harlingen with another sister, Mrs. B. A. McClendon. Dietz drove from Mission to Harlingen almost every night
during their courtship, no mean feat in 1924. In 1925 the two were married on January 14. They established their
home in Mission, where Dietz was employed by Hayes Sammons Hardware in the late ‗20‘s, and then from 1932
until his retirement in 1973, by Bentsen Brothers and Bentsen Development Company. After retirement they
moved to a cottage on Lake Tawakoni near Quinlan, TX, fifty miles from Dallas where their son Neil and
daughter-in-law Billie Barker Bentsen have lived since their married June 18, 1947. There are three grandchildren:
William Neil, Jr., Robert Barker, and Judith Aim Bentsen.
         While in Mission, the Bentsens were active in the First Methodist church, Masonic Lodge, and Eastern
Star. Dietz served as assistant fire chief to Chief Ray Landry for several years. Ruth was a charter member of the
Fireman‘s Auxiliary, the City Federation of Clubs, the first Garden Club and the Mission Study club.
         During the terrible flu epidemic of 1919, the physicians were worked overtime. Dr. Caldwell had so many
calls he couldn‘t go to bed. He went until he was completely exhausted, then pulled his car over to the side of the
road, and napped until he got the strength to go on. Eventually he took Dr. M. Smith as a partner.
         In 1919, Charles Langston went to work for the Mission Ice, Light and Water Company. This was back in
the era when residents, who could afford them, had true ice boxes, putting a sign in their window denoting the size
block of ice needed. The iceman would ride in a horse-drawn inclosed cart, and he would jump off with the size
block indicated, and knock on the door, enter, placing the ice in the ice box. (Of course, this led to jokes about
children who didn‘t look like their fathers possibly being more closely related to the local iceman!) The horse, who
usually knew the route as well as the iceman, would stop in front of the next home.
         Elections were now held every two years, and April 8, 1920 city attorney H. F. Bishop was elected mayor
to succeed Wood, the first mayor to finish his term. Logan Duncan continued as city commissioner and E. V.
Sproul was elected to serve with him; R. H. Hardin advanced from city secretary to city clerk.

                                                       MISSION IN 1920

    The 1910 Census showed a tiny village of 28 persons, all literate except one person, the only

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Spanish-speaker. Only alien in town was a Swiss German. By 1920, a city of 4,000 had taken the place of the
former village. Two census takers, George W. Wolfram apparently for the north part of the city, and Martin D.
Cavazos for the south part. For the historian, Cavazos did the better job, since he recorded the name of the street he
was working as he registered citizens.
         Cavozos worked from January 2 until January 20, completing 51 sheets, each with 50 persons on it except
the last, which had 21. Wolfram worked from the 7th until the 27th of January, completing 28 sheets, 27 with 50,
and the last sheet with 26. Thus, Cavazos censused 2,571 persons, Wolfram, 1,326, for a total of 3,846 persons.
         Of Wolfram‘s 1,376, 177 spoke Spanish as their native language; 106 others spoke 11 different languages
- 1 Bohemian, 3 Danish, 1 Dutch, 12 French, 57 German, 1 Manx, 13 Norwegian, 7 Russian, 4 Scotch, 2 Swede,
and 5 Syrian. This meant that 1,093 spoke English as their native language in the north part of town.
         Of the part lying south of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway, we have a different picture. In
this area, 79 spoke English as their native language, nine spoke German, two spoke French, and one each spoke
Irish and Russian. Thus, of Cavazos‘ 2,571, 92 spoke English and 4 other languages, and 2,479 spoke Spanish. So,
2,656 of Mission‘s 3,846 inhabitants spoke Spanish as their native language. Almost 70% were Hispanic.
         How many were American citizens, how many were foreign aliens, and from where? How many were
naturalized?
         North of the railroad, 76 aliens lived, of the 177 Spanish speakers. Sixteen of the 177 had
been naturalized; the rest had been born in Texas. There were also three English, one Irish, and four
Canadian aliens. The naturalized included a Bohemian, a Swiss, ten Germans, six Austrians, two
Scotch, four Canadians, two Syrians, a Russian, four Irish, one Dane, one Swede, and two English.
That means 135 of the 1 326 surveyed by Wolfram had been born in 13 foreign countries.
         South of the railroad, of the 2, 571, 1,561 were actually aliens; only 11 were naturalized, and several of
these were not of Mexican origin. Of Mission‘s population of 3,846, 1,637 were aliens, 42% of the popuation!
         The 1920 U.S. Census indicated that the village had grown into a respectable small city with a population
of 3, 847. The Mission Rotary Club was founded in 1920.
         The slogan, ―Mission, Home of the Grapefruit‖ was suggested by Edward Oppenheimer and E. W. Keyes
in 1921. This was also a big year for the new Rotary Club, which had 24 members, all with 100% attendance
records. They were: Samuel M. Duffie, shipper; Owen Council, orchard care; Tom Sammons, hardware; Jack
Lehman, Western Union telegraph; John Waite, druggist; H.H. Rankin, telephone company; Dr. Thomas J.
Caldwell, general medicine; Judge W. L. Dawson, lawyer; Sid Hardin, public schools; Howard Smith,
Presbyterian Minister; Edward Oppenheimer, merchant; Dr. C. D. Eppright, dentist; John P. Gordon, bank; Greg
Wood, bank and real estate; Conan Wood, mining; Willard Ferguson, real estate; George Agnew, lumber yard;
Logan Duncan, produce and insurance; Harold E. Moore, men‘s clothing; H. F. Bishop, lawyer; Edgar Sproul,
shipper; Bill Drummond, furniture; Fred Flynn, bank; Paul Matthews, Mission Hotel.
         H.E. Smith was named city secretary February 18, 1921 but didn‘t last long, W.E. Lake succeeding him
two weeks later on March 1. Roy Buckley became city attorney April 9, 1921, and on April27 Miss Gwendolyn
Moore was named assistant city clerk. On December 13, 1921 E. V.


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Sproul resigned as city commissioner and J. P. Waite took his place.
          The first purchasing agent was M. L. Paden, named April 8, 1922.
          In the 1 920ts, Roque Alaniz1 ran the only taxi that served Mission, with an eight-car fleet of Model A Ford
taxis. He even carried workers to the oil fields, and politicians to Austin, during his taxi career. Although he was
illiterate in both English and Spanish, he ensured that his children had more education and better opportunities.
          The biennial election was held April 14, 1922, Willard Ferguson was elected mayor, J. P. Waite continued
as commissioner, and A.S. Broyles succeeded Logan Duncan. G. Moore was elected city secretary and the
following week Zac Drummond was chosen city attorney. The same day, April 20, Dr. J. W. Jefferies was
appointed city health officer.
          On July 6, 1922 Miss Gwendolyne Moore resigned as city clerk and J. M. Williamson was named acting
clerk in her place. J. P. Waite resigned as city commissioner and was replaced with J.R. Lehman, who lasted until
March 23, 1923, when J. F. Ewers was named to succeed him.
          Grace Doherty was named acting clerk on July 8, 1923; she was still living in 1984.
          On April 9, 1924 Willard Ferguson was re-elected mayor, with A.S. Broyles and J.F. Ewers as
commissioners, J.M. Williamson as city clerk, and Zac Drummond as city attorney. Broyles resigned as city
councilman March 6, 1925 and G. F. Dohrn was appointed. On April 17 Dohrn was named mayor pro tem.
          Mission‘s first paved highway, other than small town segments, was state highway #4, the predecessor of
U.S. 83. It was extended from Pharr to Mamie, just west of Mission, in 1924, under Federal Aid Project #375. This
construction consisted of concrete base and limestone rock asphalt surface. The roadway section of this road was
built on a 60-foot right-of-way with narrow shoulders, steep slopes and deep ditches, which soon proved quite
hazardous. Direct supervision and control of this highway, and state highway 48, from Mission south to Madero
and on east to the Cameron county line, along the old Military Highway, took place in passing from the county to
the state.
          When door-to-door delivery of mail started in 1925, and house numbering began, the named east-west
streets were numbered. Garcia became 1st, Garden became 2nd, Park became 3rd, Mesquite became 4th, Walnut
became 5th, Retama, 6th; Palma, 7th; Pecan, 8th; Orange, 9th or Business 83; Guayacan, 10th; Frenso, 11th;
Ebano, 12th; and Cider, 13th. Brazil, Anacua and Colgan had been added later, and they became 14th, 15th and
16th.
          The year 1925 will always be remembered as the year in which the Valley, Mission included, was
blanketed in snow and ice. Fortunately, the citrus frees were not seriously damaged.
          H.H. Ewing and E. P. Congdon were named city engineers on November 17, 1925; J. W. Albertson was
named water superintendent on February 4, 1926, and Ross A. Marcus was named acting clerk on March 6, 1926.
Albertson and his wife had moved to Mission in 1908 after living three years in Hidalgo. She was still living in
Mission at the age of 88 in 1972, as did their son, James Albertson, Jr. The Albertsons came to Galveston by ship
from New York, and then to Hidalgo in 1905.


        1
         See article by Caitlin Francke, March 3, 1995, The Monitor, page IB, ―Man who came to Valley at turn of
century dead at 96.‖

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
                                                                   137

         Perhaps the most important event of 1926 was the completion of the new state highway #4( now U.S. 83)
from the Starr County Line to Mamie, then a railway switch on the Missouri Pacific Railroad 1 and 1/2 miles west
of downtown Mission, approximately where the expressway exchange at the west edge of Mission is located today,
leading to business 83 from the west, It was built with Federal Aid Project #376, with a flexible base and limestone
rock asphalt surface.
         At the April 9, 1926 city election, G. F. Dohrn was elected mayor, and R. R. Stephens and
J.J. Cavazos were named commissioners. J. F. Ewers succeeded Zac Drummond as city attorney.
J. M. Williamson was named city clerk, Ewing & Congdon were continued as city engineers, and
     J. W. Albertson as water superintendent.
        For the first time since the city was established in 1910, the entire ticket remained intact for two years, and
     were re-elected on April 5, 1928.
         La Lomita chapel, which had fallen into disuse with the establishment of the city of Mission, was cleaned
up and repainted in 1928, and the brush was cleared away from the building.
         In September, 1928, a new city charter was adopted, with the mayor and four commissioners to be elected
by the people, on a staggered basis. All other officers were appointed by the commission and subject to discharge
for sufficient cause at any time, or a hearing before the city commission. All elective officers could be recalled.
Initiative and referendum were provided for grants of franchises and on adoption or repeal of ordinances. The fee
system in the courts was abolished. The city was empowered to own, buy, build and operate its own public utilities.
The plan called for a city manager form of government, but the mayor could, and did during the early years, act as
city manager. A tax-supported Board of City Development was to act as a Chamber of Commerce. The city‘s right
to levy taxes was enlarged.
         On March], 1929, A.C. McHenry and J. J. Frost were added as 3rd and 4th commissioners, and on April
18, 1929 J. Q. Henry was named city attorney. Ross A. Marcus resigned as fire chief on May 23, 1929.
         In 1929, Charles Langston married Nadine Marcus, daughter of Ross Marcus, the minister of the First
Christian Church at the time. They had one son, Charles, Jr. His first wife died.
         John Shary, the leading citrus producer, boosted the community in many ways. He owned the local weekly
newspaper, The Mission Times, for many years, and promoted the community every issue. He deeded a one-acre
lot in south Mission to the city for a park, but it was not developed at the time. He deeded another acre to the La
Lomita Community Club for the people who lived near the chapel. He donated the 33-acre lot for the Shary Golf
Course. He donated land west of Mission to the American Legion post, who built a park there for the Mission
Rifles, the city‘s baseball team. He even donated 70 acres northwest of the city to Mission for an airport.
Nationwide publicity was gained through it, as it was the largest municipal flying field in the Lower Rio Grande
Valley. It was about ten miles from the business district, and was the headquarters for one of the largest
crop-dusting services in the entire Southwest. The oil men used it extensively. It had an active student training
program. When World War II approached, he got together the leaders of Mission, McAllen and Edinburg, and they
offered it and other land to the U.S. Government, which leased it, renamed it Moore Field, and used it as a stopover
for training flights from Kelley and Randolph Fields in San Antonio; later in the war, it was used to train thousands
of low-flying aviators trained to skirt the baffles of France and Germany on low-flying missions.

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
                                                                   138




                                       Chapter 14
                              SHARY MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE

         In December, 1932 about 78 Mission men subscribed to develop the Shary Municipal Golf Course, after
getting John H. Shary to donate enough land for nine holes and naming it for him, (A note in the Roy Conway
papers states that the ―Shary option from city of Mission expires 25 years from March 30, 1933. Dated March 30,
1933. Recorded page 354, Volume P, Miscellaneous Records.)
         Young Arthur Moore, a civil engineer who moved from Mission to San Benito within a year, did the
engineering work for the golf course, which was designed by Roy Buckley, Dave Johnson and several others, using
a copy of the prize-winning golf course layouts pictured in the August, 1931 copy of Golfer‘s Magazine. They
could not afford an architect, but theft work was so accepted that Conway recommended the method to Pharr the
next year, when that city planned to build a golf course. On March 30, 1933 they measured off the original chained
distances from center of tee to center of green. Work started on April 4, but some changes had to be made on April
24.
         The first hole was 282 yards; the second hole was 520 yards, with the first leg being 978.6 feet, and the
second, 581.9, for a total of 1,560.5 feet. The third was measured at 325 yards, the first leg being 592.3 feet, the
second, 383.2, for a total of 975.5 feet. The fourth was 383 yards, 542,5 in the first leg, and 605.7 in the second, for
1,148.2.
         The fifth hole was 390 feet, or 130 yards. The sixth was 607.4 feet for the first leg, 600 for the second, a
total of 1,207.4, or 402 yards. The seventh was 731.5 the first leg, 519.3 the second, for a total of 1,250.8 feet, or
417 yards. The eighth was 464 yards, or 778.8 feet the first leg, then 612.8 the second, a total of 1,391.6 feet.
         The final hole was measured at 205 yards.
         On April 25th, the 3,128-yard course was reduced to 3,118 yards by modifying holes 2, 3,
4, 5, and 8. The first leg of 2 was reduced to 829.1 feet, the second increased to 658.3 feet, for a new
total of 1,487.4 feet, or 496 yards instead of 520. The third hole was reduced five yards in length to
320 by cutting the first leg to 576 feet. On 4, two yards were added, by decreasing the first leg to 508
feet but the second increased to 648, or 1,156 total. The fifth was enlarged from 390 to 436 feet, or
15 yards to 145. On the eighth the second leg was cut from 612.8 to 603, a total of 461 yards. This
left the course 3,113 yards long.
         The land available wasn‘t shaped to copying the exact magazine plan, but the design was used to shape the
greens. Conway placed four or five inches of cotton seed hulls on the built-up greens, then a little soil, and then
planted the grass. Using R.F.C. labor when possible, they piped city water to all the greens. By July the course was
80% completed, and they expected to be playing on it by August 1, 1933. All the listed persons were paying $2 a
month into a fund with which water pipe, hose, sprinklers, greens mower and other supplies were bought. About
75% of the men subscribing were just taking up golf, so the local sale of golf club sets was booming.


               by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
                                                                   139

         Those initially subscribing were listed alphabetically: K. C. Adkins, George S. Agnew, B.L.
Brandt, Loyd Brasher, Ralph G. Bray, George Brooks, Sr., George J. Brooks, Leon H. Brown, W.O.
Brown, Roy Buckley, Thos. R. Burnett, O.E. Cannon, O.E. Cannon, Jr., Ty Cobb, Roy P.
Conway, Owen Council, H. H. Dennis, A. Dondlinger, F. W. Dooley, C. O. Dunbar, J. F. Ewers,
Willard Ferguson, L. T. Friedrichs, W. T. Gibbs, J. A. Gillett, Ira H. Gobble, EM. Goodwin, Ray
D. Goodwin, Al Halla, H. R. Hannes, R. M. Hanson, J. Q. Henry, Dade Hiester, R.G. Hodge, H. C.
Jefflies, David R. johnson, G. E. Johnson, J. H. Lair, J. R. Lehman, E. E. Marburger, A. C.
McHenry, H. H. Mehrens, H. R. Melch, T. M. Melden, W. G. Morris, Don Murphy, Ed
Oppenheimer, Paul Ord, W. R. Parrish, L. G. Plyler, H. H. Presnall, Hugh C. Proctor, L. A. Ramey,
Roger Ray, H. R. Raymond, Roy W. Reed, Maurice A. Rome, Thos. B. Sammons, Walter
Scoggins, R. R. Sheeler, D. 0. Sikes, H. E. Smith, W. M. Splawn, H. L. Starr, R. R. Stephens, H.
H. Strahle, D. F. Strickland, B. M. Strong, J. P. Tipton, J. P. Waite, R. P. Walker, J. E. Walsh, D.
B. Webb, J. W. Webb, A. J. Whittlesey, J. E. Wilkins, and A. P. Wright.
         Roy P. Conroy, president of Conway-Dooley Insurance Company, was the organizer of the club, and kept
the records until about 1940. Tucker Bowles was the club professional. W. H. Foster kept the books. They used
greens cards and entry blanks printed by the Mission Times. The ditto machine was freely used to make printings.
         Perhaps the first tournament held at the new course was a 72-hole handicap tournament held
at Shary Municipal Golf Course Oct. 14-29, 1933. Scores were: J.Q. Henry, winner with 273; J.E.
Hull, 275; Put Johnson, 278; Eddie Marburger, 279; O.E. Cannon, Sr., 283; Ransome Walker, 285;
Grady Walker, 285; L. G. Plyler, 287; Dr. T. it Burnett, 288; Phil Shrader, 289; Hugh Proctor, 291;
Al Halla, 292; Russell Armstrong, 293; Roger Ray, 298; W.O. Brown, 298; Roy Conway, 306.
         The following entered the tournament, but did not turn in scores for the fill 72 holes: LLoyd Brasher, Ralph
Bray, Roy Buckley, O.E. Cannon, Jr., A. Dondlinger, F.W. Dooley, J. F. Ewers, Sam Greer, Dave Johnson, E.S.
Marek, Jim Parrish, W. R. Parrish, Mr. Phelps, Junior Shary, R. R. Sheeler, and J. E. Walsh.
         That first year, December 10, they held theft first of several annual tournaments, the Golden Grapefruit,
and staged it in December to coincide with the Texas Citrus Fiesta, which coordinated the dates. R. S. Gibbs, a
Trinity Universal Insurance Co. adjuster in the Milam Building in San Antonio, sent Conway a 4-page list of the
golf courses in Texas, and Conway contacted some of them to work up interest in the first tournament. The first
tournament was won by it L. Chamberlain of Harlingen with scores of 36-37-38-36--147, winning by a single
stroke over Dick Turner of McAllen, who shot 41 -34-35-38--148. Third prize went to Ed Brady of San Benito,
where a course was started the next year-- 39-36-41-35--151.

   In the second flight, with 27 holes of play, The silver medal went to Lee Davis of Laredo, who shot
43-32-39-124; second was Mission‘s own Dr. T. R. Burnett, who scored 42-44-39--125. Bethel Cole, of Donna,
was third, with a 45-41-40--126.
        Monte Talcott of Mission won the bronze medal for taking the third flight, 47-49-43--139. Missionites W0.
Brown and Paul Johnson, with 47-48-45-140 and 50-44-46--140 tied for second-third, making the third flight a
Mission affair, while the first two flights were well dispersed.
        Hill Cocke of Harlingen won the driving contest; Ed Brady of San Benito had the most

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
                                                                  140

birdies on first 18 holes; Dick Turner of McAllen won low score on the blind hole; Bill Wainright of Brownsville
had the poorest score on the blind hole; and William Minea of St. Paul, Minn., had the most sixes on the first 27
holes.
         W. O. Brown, TCF-appointed entries chairman, had collected 37 entries at $37 up to noon Saturday, the
9th; Conway took in 19 more on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, for an additional $19, or a total of 56 people
paying $56. Expenses of Conway for the tournament were 30 in stamps, $1.19 in score sheets, 25 in pencils, 64 in
telegrams, 20 for envelopes and tacks, $2.65 for phone calls, $5 tip to Demis, and $8.50 to Mission Times Printing.
The Young Men‘s Business League, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and Lions put up $10 each, to help with the
medals, at $27.50, the die at $20, leaving a profit on the first Golden Grapefruit
Tournament in 1933 of $29.77.
         Winner of that first tournament, R. L. Chamberlain, was the manager of the Harlingen Postal
Telegraph-Cable Company. He won a gold grapefruit-shaped medal engraved with his name and score. Jimmy
Tipton was scorekeeper, and Sammy Spear was a caddy, while John Barnum was in the tourney, but later turned
pro. John H. Shary made the awards, and Judge Henry did the speaking, according to Conway‘s 1958 notes.
         Conway‘s secretary had the initials M. F. F. - who was
she?
         Rules for the early tournaments included all putts must be holed out, while the ground rules included
special winter rules in your fairway only, and improve your lie with clubhead only. Penalties were loss of distance
                    --


for either out of bounds or lost ball.
         Out of bounds on hole number one was the road on right and the canal back of green; for No. 2, fence on
right, ditch on left, water on right; for No. 5, Levee on right; and for No. 8, large canal on right.
         Players were permitted to change balls on greens, drop back of ant hills without penalty, and drop out of
free holes without penalty.
         Lt. Ken Rogers of Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, won the gold medal in the Second
Annual Golden Grapefruit Golf Tournament December 9, 1934. He flew into Mission airport shortly
before the tournament started, took four practice swings, and started playing, and besides winning
the gold medal, received three club-head wrappers for making the most birdies- nine in the first -      --


27 holes, and made six boogies and 21 holes in par. He left immediately after the tournament to keep
a Sunday night dinner engagement in San Antonio. Who said life was slower in the 1930‘s?
         The early golden grapefruit gold medals were made by Joe C. Bettencourt of San Antonio,
Texas, but purchased through local jeweler W. H. Foster, the three medals costing $40. The
Samuel M. Duffie Co. sold Conway the grapefruit used for the tournament. In 1934, the TCF ran a
90-day Valley Citrus Show. The entry fee was still $1; it didn‘t go to $2 until the following year.
         Al Escalante of Brownsville was second, with 147 for four rounds, to Rogers‘ 144. Charles Puckett of
Brownsville won second flight, of three rounds, and Charles D. Turner of McAllen won the third flight, with
rounds of 44, 43, and 42, for 129.
         During the first six months of 1935, green fees brought in $1,023.10, but expenses were $1,120.33, $97.23
over. It was unclassified expenses of $l04.26 that put the course in debt.
         On Dec. 8, 1935 the Third Annual Gold Grapefruit Golf Tournament was held at the Shary

              by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
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Municipal Golf Course, Mission, Texas. There were 41 entrants, paying $82 fees, and with cash on hand of $28.75,
the course had $110.75; metal golf balls for runner-up prizes cost $8.84; pictures of medals, $3; medalist cup,
$4.26; film and developing, $2.10; printing bill, $16.65; a dozen golf balls, $9; and a donation to T. Bowles of $
19.07, meant expenses of $62.92, so that $47.83 remained on hand. Lt. Ken Rogers of Kelly Field repeated as
winner with a 144, two strokes better than J. T. Chenoweth‘s 146; Lee Davis was third with a 148. In the second
flight, Hill Cocke shot a 116, Jack Wilson a 118, and J. A. Bartlett of Laredo won four golf balls for third with a
119. Grady Hight was first in the third flight with a 126 to Parker Spence and Charles Turner with a 128 each. Roy
P. Porter of Harlingen had the highest score on the blind hole in the Second Flight, and won an iron club.
          The 1936 roster of members of the Shary Municipal Golf Association included: K. C.
Adkins, R. D. Armstrong, George S. Agnew, Sam Bennett, A. A. Bentsen, J. D. Boone, Tucker
Bowers, George R. Boyle, B.L. Brandt, John Brannon, Lloyd Brashier, George J. Brooks, Jr., W.O.
Brown, Roy D. Buckley, H. E. Buescher, R. L. Bull, Thos. R. Burnett, B. P. Butler, T. J. Caldwell,
0.E. Cannon, B. P. Congdon, Roy P. Conway, Joe T. Cook, D. W. Cott, Owen Council, Claude
Daily, Don Danvers, Lee Davis, H. H. Dennis, C. E. DeViney, Nick Doffing, A. Dondlinger, F. W.
Dooley, A. L. Douglas, E. A. Dugat, C. 0. Dunbar, R. M. Edwards, C. D. Eppwright, Bob Euler, J.
F. Ewers, Willard Ferguson, Mr. Lena Field, Julius Franke, J. A. Gillerr, F.M. Goodwin, Ray D.
Goodwin, Al Graham, W. H. Gunderson, H. A. Hannes, Clelland Harris, W. B. Harris, K. D.
Harrison, Mrs. F. M. Hayes, J. Q. Henry, Dade Heister, R.G. Hodge, H. C. Jeffries, B. A. Johnson,
F. C. Johnson, Sam Keith, Jr., Vivian Lambert, Mrs. J. S. Lyons, B. E. Marburger, G. P. Martin,
Will Martin, A. C. McFlemy, H. R. Melch, C. L. Melden, T.M. Melden, Elwood Moore, W. G.
Morris, Don Murphy, Ed Oppenheimer, Paul Ord, W. R. Parrish, Lawrence Peterson, L. G.
Plyler, M. P. Polhemus, Hugh C. Proctor, L. H. Ramey, Roger Ray, Roy W. Reed, Maurice A. Rome,
Ollen G. Rome, Maurice A. Rome, Thos. B. Sammons, Sr., Thomas B. Sammons, Jr., Bob Seeling,
John H. Shary, R. R. Sheeler, D. 0. Sikes, H. E. Smith, Mrs. M. Smith, R. N. Smith, W. M. Splawn,
Parker Spence, H. L. Starr, A. H. Strahle, D. F. Strickland, B. M. Stromg, B. J. Teragarden, Jr., J.
P. Tipton, J. P. Waite, J. E. Walsh, A. J. Whittlesey, J. E. Wilkins, H. O. Williams, Dr. A. D.
Wilson, Jack Wilson, M. P. Wilson, and A. P. Wright.
          All of the above members were from Mission; out-of-town members included R.W. Briggs, of Pharr;
Bethel Cole, of McAllen; E.B. Darby of Pharr; George Holliday, Jones Store, Paul Jones, Charles and Dick Turner,
all of McAllen.
          Each year, Conway sent these rosters to Golfing Magazine, which sent free copies to each member! The
1935 list was similar, but not in alphabetical order, so we did not copy it
          On November 3, 1936 Smith Kirby, chairman of the San Antonio Amateur Invitation Open Golf
Tournament for the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce, wrote to Conway, informing him that their
tournament was to be Dec. 3-6, while the Golden Grapefruit was to be Dec. 4-6, and they would overlap; he
suggested that Mission change their date. Conway replied that he tried to change the date, but that
Mercedes-Weslaco had a tournament the next weekend. Also, the San Antonio tournament was match play, taking
four days, while the Mission tournament was Medal play on Sunday only, and by that lime only the finalists would
still be in play at San Antonio. Also, the Golden Grapefruit was a part of the Citrus Fiesta, and the dates were set in
May. Tucker Bowles was the course pro.

               by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
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        In 1936, 500 invitations were mailed, and the card of the Corpus Christi Golf and Country Club for their
fourth annual Amateur Men and Women‘s Golf Tournament Nov. 6-8, 1936 was copied.
        Apparently no tournament was held in 1937, the 5th Golden Grapefruit Golf Tournament being held
January 2, 1938, shifting from December, 1937 to January, 1938 as the Texas Citrus Fiesta also made the change.
Entry fees remained at $2. Free green fees Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 1 to entrants for practice rounds, but entrants had to
furnish their own caddies. There were 57 entrants, bringing in $114; expenses included $57.67 and $45.75 for
clubs, $11.67 for balls, and $7.25 for printing, so there was a $8.34 loss.
        There were 63 entrants at $2 for the 6th annual tournament January 15, 1939. Expenses were $43.48 for
three golf bags including name printing; $18.80 for 3 dozen golfballs; $20.27 for three pair shoes; $5 for printing;
$1.43 for postage and envelopes; 30—‘ for ice, 25-‘ for pencils, and $10 paid to Tucker Bowles, for a total of
$99.53; leaving a profit of $26.47; but $68.45 was deposited in the Tournament Fund at the First National Bank to
repay $41.98 withdrawn to pay for golf bags. The report was submitted by the committee- Tucker Bowles, W. O.     -


Brown, and Roy P. Conway.

        The 7th annual Grapefruit Golf Tournament was held January 14, 1940, the Texas Citrus Fiesta having
changed from before until after Christmas. There were 53 entrants, and the fee had gone up to $2.50 each. A total of
$74.88 was received from the bank account, and a contribution of $10 from the Conway-Dooley Agency, for a total
of $217.38. Expenses included $50 for a golf bag, $48 for two sets of irons; $26.50 for 51 golf balls, $24.88 for a
second golf bag, while the first golf bag included expenses for a bowling bag; the pro received $14 in expenses for
traveling, and printing cost $4.75, leaving a total of $49.25 to be returned to the bank, an actual loss of $25.63.

   Fifty-two years later, on August 13, 1992, the Mission City Council approved a plan to add a driving range to
Shary Golf Course by tearing down holes 8 and 9 to make room for the range, while new holes 5 and 6 would be
added on land obtained from Mr. and Mrs. Scott Martin from original John J. Conway land. The new holes will be
substantially longer than existing holes 8 and 9, and will have a little more contour a few hills. A 10-foot-deep lake
                                                                                                     --


will separate the holes, according to Golf Pro Mike Fernuik.
         At the same tine, the council raised the ceiling on the course memberships from the present 450 to 550, but
the, annual fee of $325 will remain the same. Current fees for the public to play are
$6 for 9 holes and $7.50 for 18 on week days, and $6.50 and $8 on weekends. Cart fees for members or public are
$15 for 18 holes. The City finance director projected revenues of $824,000 for 1993 at current pace. About $90,000
is estimated from the driving range. Also, about $350,000 was expected from the $420,000 in certificates of
obligation sold in July to finance the golf-course expansion. Only about $70,000 will be spent this year. Income
from the restaurant is not included, as City Manager Mike Talbot is looking into the prospect of putting it out to the
private sector. Expenses to continue operations at the same level would be $977,304. An additional $32,525 will be
spent to replace clubhouse carpet, partially remodel the pro shop, and purchase a Cushman truckster.


               by Dick D. Heller, Jr. 3103 Granite Dr. Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddheller@aol.com March 10, 2002
                                                                 146




                                                       Chapter 15
                         Oil near Mission-Moore Field 1930-1945

         On April 1, 1930 Ray Landry was named fire chief, with R. E. Krieger as his assistant. Landry, a legend in
Mission, served 40 years with the department in one capacity or another.
         A new city administration took office after the April 9, 1930 election. The farm depression was eight years
old, and the collapse of Wall Street in 1929 was just making itself felt throughout the country. Ross A. Marcus was
elected mayor, and city commissioners were T. R. Card, A. C. McHenry, J. D. Lockhart and W. H. Braden. J. Q .
Henry continued as city attorney, J. M. Williamson as city clerk and J.W. Albertson as water superintendent. But
on June 19, 1930 W. R. Blalock was named city attorney.
         On January 8, 1931, A. A. Bentson, Dallion Killinger, and E. Gomy were added as fire captains.
         The father of Mission, John J. Conway, died February 11, 1931; he is memorialized by Conway
Boulevard, the main street of Mission. It was his vision that led to the purchase and farm development of the
Mission area from a minor cattle ranch to beautiful, productive farms, supporting thousands of people where
formerly thousands of acres were necessary for a few families to eke out an existence. Conway brought a railway
station, canals fill of life-giving water, and subdivided the old porciones of the area. Badly hurt by the panic of
1907, he was never able to recover economically, and sold out his canal company to the bank, which promptly sold
it to John H. Shary, a new developer interested in citrus. The Conway family remained in Mission and have been a
force in its development for nearly a century.
         The creation of state highway district 21 on April 1, 1932, with J. W. Puckett as District engineer, greatly
affected Mission, even though district headquarters was in Pharr.
         J. J. ―Jack‖ Frost was elected mayor April 12, 1932, and his commissioners were W. M. Dooley, A. C.
McHenry, John Brannon, and Felipe Garcia. W. R. Blalock continued as city attorney and J. M. Williamson as city
clerk, until November 3, when K. C. Adkins was named.
         In September, and again in October, 1932, two great floods in the Rio Grande tried out the new floodway
systems constructed by Hidalgo and Cameron counties to provide flood relief. One leg of the floodway began at a
very low area near the river southwest of Mission and was called the Mission floodway. Levees were built here to
lead overflow water to the east and northeast, where it met a second floodway that had started at a low area called
Hackney Lake, just northwest of Hidalgo, to a point south of and between McAllen and Pharr, where they joined
and headed east, before splitting again between Weslaco and Mercedes. The International Boundary and Water
Commission soon took over the responsibilities for the floodway, still maintained today. The dikes held in the
Mission area, and no serious flooding occurred north of the highway.
         The successful citrus industry around Mission led, on December 9, 1932, to the creation of the city‘s
outstanding community function, the annual Texas Citrus Fiesta. This first celebration was


            by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                                   147

sponsored by the Young Men‘s Business League and drew Valley-wide participation. The one-day affair included
a half-hour concert by the Ipana Troubadors and climaxed later that same night with the Queen‘s Ball. Events
during the day included a parade, a flying circus, a high school band contest, a style show, a fruit-packing contest,
a football game, and a box-making contest. The activities culminated with the crowning of W. D. Toland as King
Citrus and Marguerite Daniel as Queen Citriana.
         Queen Citriana, who reigns over each year‘s court, is selected by a panel of judges from duchesses and first
and second princesses representing most Valley communities. The identity of each new queen is kept a secret until
the Queen‘s Ball, and then she is crowned on the opening night of the next year‘s Fiesta. King Citrus is selected by
former Kings and must be from the Mission trade area and must be associated with the citrus industry. His identity
is also kept secret until the night of the Coronation.
         The 1933 Fiesta was cancelled because a great hurricane swept the Valley, flooding the communities and
doing untold damage.
         April 13, 1934 John P. Waite was elected mayor, and commissioners were John Brannan, Dade Heister, W.
O. Brown, and Felipe Garcia. Adkins continued as city clerk, but on April 19 the new council chose Roy Buckley
as city attorney, succeeding W. R. Blalock. John Powers Waite came to Mission about 191 6he ran a little flower
nursery, and later farmed extensively, partly with his nephew Thomas Benjamin Waite, Jr. They had tenants who
did most of the work at first.1
         In 1934-5, the state highway department district 21 widened the crown and flattened the slopes of highway
#4, now U.S. 83, under a National Recovery Work Relief Project, as one of many Federal projects during the Great
Depression to provide jobs while improving living conditions, from Mission west to the county line.

                                                         Hidalgo County Oil

        Tuesday, September 18, 1934 was a red-letter day for Otto Woods of Mission, and Ben King, and for
Mission itself, as Hidalgo County‘s first commercial oil well, Otto Woods No. 1 J.M. Lawrence, began production
at Samfordyce, 17 miles west of Mission. It was a 4,800-barrel well. Woods, a 30-year veteran in wildcatting, had
spent 22 years trying to start a well in Hidalgo county. He had drilled six dry holes in Starr County and a seventh in
Hidalgo; commercial production had started in Starr County in 1930.
        On September 10, 1934, the Edinburg Valley Review had foretold the future with the following article:
                 ―Showing most promise was Otto Woods‘ No. 1 J. M. Lawrence test in the Sam Fordyce section of
        Hidalgo. This well cored a saturated oil sand last week at 2,738 feet.‖
        The early cowboys out on the range near Mission had seen many autos, but never did they, in theft wildest
dreams, imagine that the pickup truck and four-wheeler would someday replace the


        1
            Taken from printed text of March 31, 1985 interview of Thomas Benjamin Waite, Jr.

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trusty horse! Nor could they have possibly forecast that lying under those dry pastures and cacti was the oil needed
to fuel the auto.
          Expectation had surrounded the well for eight days.
          Within a few weeks, more than 30 well locations in the Fordyce field were spotted. Major oil companies
held the two chief blocks in the county from the standpoint of geological importance, but the wildcat field was the
first in which the public had participated. About 250 were on hand when the drillers swabbed the well in tract 234,
Porcion 39, Ancient Jurisdiction of Reynosa. The well topped the sand at 2,733 feet and took in 15 feet of heavily
saturated sand. George Boyle, Mission geologist, ran the tests and Tim Barlow was the driller. (The field stayed in
good production for four or five years; there are still a few pumpers in the field, but they total little production. You
might not think so now, but a town of 5,000 people furnished the manpower to drill and set up the many, many dry
wells between the producers.)
          Mission was the first boom town resulting from the oil rush, but the businesses soon moved their
headquarters to McAllen, and Mission slowed down again to its usual pace, as the workers moved closer to the
drilling sites.
          But it was what the little city of Mission needed at the time. It was a turning point in the Great Depression
for the local economy. Telephone and telegraph companies showed a great increase in volume of business; ―no
vacancy‖ signs quickly replaced the dusty ―room for rent‖ signs on hotels and boarding houses--there were no
motels then. Office space was quickly at a premium.
          There was no television, no local radio stations. Upper Valley newspapers quickly issued ―extras‖ to report
each new drilling, each dry well, each good one.
          The town-site of Sullivan City, named for its proprietor Captain Sullivan, was staked off a mile or so from
the site, and dedicated with fitting ceremony, and it quickly grew into a small city. Hundreds of acres of land were
blocked out in oil leases and sold for $35 to $300 an acre. The public rushed to secure these leases,
          The pioneers laughed for years about the day the Jones Storage Company sent a moving van to re-locate a
derrick! The public knew nothing of the oil business, but everyone wanted in on the ―black Gold‖ rush.
          After 250 spectators showed up for the drilling, the new well was soon surrounded by a fence, and policed
to protect the crowds, standing in the narrow, dusty lane that led south through a mesquite brush pasture to the site.
          The silhouette of the small wooden derrick pieced together by hand on location, stood alone, foreign
against the blue and white of the South Texas sky and gray-green mesquite. The location was almost at the old
railroad head of Sam Fordyce, which had almost disappeared since 1925, when the road was extended on to Rio
Grande City.
          Those who had arrived early saw the bottle of acid within a pipe lowered to test the straightness of the hole,
and the casing lowered by a wench truck and swung into place by manual labor with a chain. The core had been cut
a week earlier with the unhandy ―core barrel,‖ a steel, three-way bit that cur deeper through the oil-soaked sand.
          Oil had been the poor man‘s dream in the Valley, but now it became the fortune-maker for many a
hardened old rancher; others, with dry holes, lost the small amount they had gambled on a strike. Roughnecks spent
their last penny to secure a lease, then got lumber by issuing out shares,

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according to Bud Martin, who was 69 in 1959 when he gave his story to Sandra Walker of the Mission Times.
Some worked on a ―double or nothing‖ basis. If the well came in, the roughnecks received double pay; if not, they
got nothing! Yes, that was before the Labor Department days!
         Phillips, Skelly and Union Sulphur were the primary companies operating in the valley, but most of the
work was financed and accomplished by wildcatters--individuals as wild as race track gamblers, but much harder
workers. All hoped to promote themselves a fortune through oil, and a few of these latter-day adventurers did—a
$200 share might suddenly be worth $3,000 or $4,000--or it might be totally worthless--depending on what was
found.
         If the well came up a dry hole, the shares were sold for almost nothing to the roughnecks, who kept on
drilling deeper and deeper until they struck oil or money finally ran out!
         The Jackson formation of the Eocene Epoch at the start of the Tertiary period is the deepest oil-producing
formation for Valley wells. This may be as shallow as 1,000 feet in western Starr County, or it may be 11,000 feet
or more in Hidalgo. The depths indicate the slope of the formation downward toward the Gulf.
         A string of major oil fields, beginning at the southern end with Sam Fordyce Field, and continuing through
the major Rincon, Sun and Kelsey Fields, follows this fault or break in the earth‘s crush north and eastward.2
         In 1935 tragedy struck when a well being drilled by Halliburton at Engleman Gardens cratered when the
gas was blown. The entire derrick, most of the equipment, fell in and were covered. Roy Cullen, son of the oil
millionaire Hugh Roy Cullen, was killed.
         The next year, 1936, a well in the la Blanca Field cratered and caught fire. A 7-inch stream of gas hissing
from the hole was capped by lowering valves into the hole. The fire was finally extinguished by firefighters from
Kinley, Houston and Tulsa, and continued to produce until the Railroad Commission closed it down.
         With World War II came the maturing of this local industry. New equipment, new methods, and new, wells
turned the two original fields into 81 fields, with 125 operators. Most important fields in Hidalgo County were the
McAllen, Sinclair Oil and Gas, South Weslaco Area, La Blanca and San Salvador.
         Surveying equipment replaced acid bottles; air tong crews developed from the old casing crews; huge steel
derricks replaced the wooden ones of the old days. A few thousand pounds of equipment was now tens of
thousands of pounds. Dobbs Trucking Company became many companies. The few original workers became
thousands. In 1949, the oil industry in the Valley amounted to $66 million--not far behind cotton. In 1950,
production peaked at 9 million barrels a year.
         Today, many of the old wells are being re-drilled, and there is again much interest in oil and gas under the
fertile plains. But the local newspapers don‘t even carry the news-- you have to read the San Antonio or Zapata
newspapers to learn of the drilling, recapping, etc., in the area.
         Helen Duncan was named assistant city clerk on January 25,1935, and on February 7 the city


        2
            See p. 40, Valley Evening Monitor, McAllen TX; November 27, 1949; ―Black Gold‘--Not Citrus--Is
Richest Rio Grande Valley Crop‖ by Jim Conner, Monitor Staff

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secretary, R. J. Rome was named clerk succeeding Adkins. W. C. Brown resigned as commissioner, and Roy
Hooks was appointed.
         It was in 1935 that the city commission changed the name of La Lomita Street to Conway, in honor of the
city‘s founder.
         Charles D. Turner was appointed city auditor on March 19, 1936.
         Dr. Thomas J. Caldwell, who had been practicing medicine in Mission for 26 years, suffered a severe heart
attack this year, and had to give up his practice at the age of 58. He couldn‘t stand seeing his old patients without
being able to treat them, so he moved to Dallas, where he lived the rest of his life, dying in 1950 at the age of 74.
         About 1934-5, an NRWR project was approved to flatten the slopes and fill the ditches to a shallow depth
the deep, steep-walled ditches constructed in 1924 along U.S. 83 from Mission east to Pharr. In this flat delta area
the drainage was very poor, so a shallow ditch served as well as a deep one, and collected less stagnant water. After
borrow sources for dirt were secured, trucks were loaded by hand shoveling, dumped on shoulders and slopes
along the road, and spread by hundred of men working with their shovels. This sort of work took place all over the
United States at the time, and the symbol of the relief workers was a man leaning on one of these shovels. But the
amount of work completed cannot even be estimated across the entire nation. It was a big factor in the successful
prosecution of the Second World War, a few years later.
         At the April 16, 1936 city election, J. P. Waite was re -elected as were commissioners Brannan, Hooks, and
Garcia; Vivian Lambert succeeded Dade Heister. Roy Bucidey was continued as city attorney, R. J. Rome as city
secretary, and Turner as auditor. Ray Landry was named fire chief On May 7, 1936 Dr. T. R. Burnett was named
city health officer.
         Meanwhile, Charles Langston had moved away from Mission several times, but he always returned. He
worked in several of the power plants of the Valley, in the oil fields of west Texas and Oklahoma, and in the lead
and zinc mines of Missouri. In 1936, he returned to Mission and began working for the City of Mission. He retired
in 1967 after 30 years‘ service, but then took a job as a McAllen city inspector; he said in a 1977 story that he was
planning to retire again ―soon‖. Always active in community affairs, he had been an active member of both the
Christian and Methodist churches. He also has received a 50-year pin from the Masons. He got a beautification
program started in Laurel Hill Cemetery, and planted all the lovely shade trees found their today. His hobby is
growing and showing roses, for which he is well known.
         Again in 1936 La Lomita chapel south of Mission was refurbished, the brush cut away from the building,
and the chapel itself repainted.
         Planning for a major highway running east and west paralleling U.S. highway 33 from Mission to
Brownsville began in 1936 with the Washington Report. City and county officials were given a copy of the report.
District 21 began collecting traffic data, and by 1940 had accumulated enough to know what was needed, but
World War II soon interfered with any planning or building other than for the War effort. About 75% of the
population and 80% of the industry was located in a three-mile wide strip between Mission and Harlingen. It was
obvious that the most useful facility would be a four-lane, limited access expressway. In 1946 the Valley Chamber
of Commerce asked the state highway department for a four-lane highway; in 1948, the state highway commission
passed a minute order designating an expressway at-grade from Mission to Harlingen.

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         In 1937 another NRWR project allowed District 21 to widen the base of U.S. 83 two feet on each side, and
the pavement one foot on each side, from Mission east to Weslaco.
         On April 3, 1938 Brannan resigned as commissioner, and J. P. Tipton succeeded him; but new officials
came in on April 7, 1938 with the first election of Logan Duncan as mayor, V. Lambert, Roy Hooks, P. H.
Longoria, and Joe W. Graham as commissioners (Hook was mayor pro-tem); H.H. Rankin was the new city
attorney and R. J. Rome continued as city secretary. On August 30, 1938 Roy Boger was named city engineer.
         In 1938, the date of the Citrus Fiesta was changed from December to January.
         The board of equalization was appointed July 20, 1939: W. 0. Brown, R. R. Sheeler, and M. D. Cavazos.
         Drainage structures were widened on U.S. 83 west to the county line in 1939. At the same time, 1939-40,
U.S. 83 was widened on the railroad (north) side by 14 feet from Mission to Weslaco, and surfaced with asphalt to
make it a three-lane highway.
         On September 7, 1939 J. W. Albertson, who had been water superintendent since February 4, 1926, retired,
and was succeeded by Charles Langston. On November 16, 1939 H. H. Rankin, Jr., resigned as city attorney and
Julius Franki was named to succeed him.
         In 1940, the base and pavement of U.S. 83 west to the county line were improved; the base had not been
cement when originally built.
         Logan Duncan was re-elected mayor on April 4, 1940, and Hooks, Longoria, Graham and Lambert, also.
Franki continued as city attorney and Rome as city secretary. Dr. T.R. Burnett resigned as city health officer on
January 16, 1941, and Dr. N. I. North was appointed.
         By 1940, Mission had grown from 3,847 in 1920 to 5,982 in 1940. The town had 220
business establishments, of which 130 were retail stores, with $2,098,000 in sales in 1940.
Approximately 1,600 students were enrolled in the Mission Independent School District, with 44
teachers.
         Mission did not yet have a separate public library, having the only public library connected to a public
school in Hidalgo County; it had 6,162 volumes.
         The city then had four canning plants, a concrete pipe plant and a brick-and-tile plant.
         Life in the small city was quite different from today. Tom Landry, the reknowned coach of the Dallas
Cowboys, recalled his youth in Mission in 1994 when he returned to dedicate a 100-foot mural of his life, painted
on the O‘Neall School and Office Supplies store at Tom Landry and Conway.
         Born here in 1924, his father a popular fireman, Landry recalls Mission as a sleepy city of 6,000 or so,
where the school kids mostly walked to school along the unpaved city streets. His home on Doherty near the old
post office had its front and back door open, and all their friends walked through on their way to town! On Saturday
night he hung out with friends at the local drug store, and tried to stir up mischief.3
                                                     Moore Field
         In 1941, when the U.S. military was expanding preparatory for World War II, it became


        3
            Page I story, The Monitor, by Caitlin Francke, Dec. 5, 1994.

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known January 7 that the U.S. Army wanted to locate a second air corps training station in the Lower Rio Grande
Valley. An airport committee was formed by Mayors Logan Duncan of Mission, Horace Etichison of McAllen, and
A. A. Aldrich of Edinburg. They each promised to raise $10,000 in their own communities to purchase the site.
John H. Shary and John N. Smith, a local theater chain operator, purchased 1,000 acres of land for an air base and
leased it to the government at cost, and on July 15, 1941 construction started on Moore Field, 12 miles northwest of
Mission in the flat, arid unirrigated land of low population density. The land was purchased at $7.50 an acre, and it
cost an additional $10 a acre for R.W. Briggs of Pharr and San Antonio to clear it of native brush. On July 16, 1941,
Sen. Tom Connally announced to Mayor Duncan that $4 million had been appropriated for construction of the
base. Much of the early engineering, construction and approval process was through Col. D. H. Hewitt of the U.S.
Corps of Engineers, Galveston. By this time, initial work was well in progress, and a bulldozer tore the first brush
from the future field on July 7, 1941, five months before Pearl Harbor. Major Oscar L. Beal was the first Army
officer assigned to permanent duty at the field; he was the construction officer.
          Although the War Department had $4 million to invest, it was all used for the field--the land was owned by
the three-city committee, and leased to the government under the terms of a lease dated September 15, 1941. All
tracts totaled 1,158.33 acres. By mid-November, approximately 1, 400 workers had the field about half-finished.
          But 1941 was not just notable because of the founding of Moore field--the city‘s high school football team
went undefeated, untied, and unscored upon in the regular season, winning the state honors with Tom Landry as
starting quarterback. When the Mission team played in Aransas Pass, nearly every resident of the city crowded
onto a train to see the Mission Eagles play.
          Lt. Col. A. C. Foulk assumed command of Moore Field at the dedication ceremonies Nov.
22, 1941, about two weeks before Pearl Harbor. The facility was then termed the Single Engine
Advanced Flying School, Mission, TX. It was named Moore Field at the official dedication. Major
(later Colonel) Frank G. Jamison was the first director of training, and in September, 1942, was
named commanding officer.
          The field was named for Frank Murchison Moore, a native of Texas, killed in World War I combat over
France in battle with eight German pursuit planes. During World War II approximately 3,000 men were in training
at all times and many families grew familiar with Mission, greatly swelling its population.
          As construction neared completion in January, 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, the first training aircraft
were ferried to the location.
          A month later, Feb. 22, 1942, the first group of aviation cadets, Class 42-D, arrived for training. Instructors
and cadets operated AT-6 aircraft, affectionately known as T-6 Texans. The mission of the base was to produce
fighter pilots. Aviation cadets came to Moore Field after finishing their pre-flight, primary, and basic training. Here
the Ground School instructors put the finishing touches on their knowledge of navigation, aircraft and naval
recognition, gunnery, armament, pilot‘s information file (PIF) and duties of officers, including their personal
affairs. The flying instructors flew with them on dual controls until the cadets were ready to solo the advanced
trainer, the AT-6 Texan; then they were on theft own. With instructors leading flights, the cadets flew formations,
rat races, ―combat‖ missions with gunsight aiming point cameras, and aerial

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gunnery missions at Matagorda Island and Peninsula, firing at ground and towed targets. They made cross-country
flights. Instructors in the instrument training section put the finishing touches on their ―blind‖ flying, or piloting
with the aid of instruments only. They worked out problems first in Link trainers, the bobtail groundlings, and then
in the air. In their gunnery program they also flew the Links on the BB gunnery range, a synthetic training device
developed at Moore Field and used at many other fields. Air-operated BB machine guns were fired at moving
paper targets of miniature enemy aircraft.
         While the production of fighter pilots was the mission of Moore Field, aviation cadets formed a relatively
small part of the field‘s personnel, all of which participated in a continuous program to keep them combat-ready, in
case they were called for overseas duty. There were also 250 civilian employees on the base. The combined civilian
and military payroll, plus the purchase of supplies, led to a steady growth during this period in the local economy.
Also, the mild climate and economic opportunities led many of the civilian and military personnel to return to the
Mission area after the war,
         A portable sprinkling system was used to keep the lawns watered, sprinkling several acres at a time.
         These were exciting times for the aviators, most of them away from home for the first time. In addition to
the military assignment, socializing with the townspeople and local young ladies during off-duty hours led to many
fond memories of the Mission area. Approximately 6,000 pilots in 33 classes took part in the Moore Field training
program, the final class graduating in April, 1945. The air base was closed down in October, 1945, the planes
ferried away and only a minimal caretaker force remaining. After two years, a state facility, the Weaver H. Baker
Memorial Tuberculosis Hospital was established on one part of the field, and a commercial airport on the other.
The hospital, established about 1947, had 950 patients in its care, and was an important South Texas health care
factor.
         The 1950 declaration of war against North Korea led to calls to re-open Moore Field. In 1951, air force
officers inspected Tri-Cities Airport to see if it was feasible. Mayor Logan Duncan, who had been mayor a decade
earlier, led the group, accompanied by Clark Spikes and Charles Langston; Al Ady, Mission Chamber of
Commerce manager, and George Boyle, Housing authority chairman. A housing project was underway which
would accomo date 300 men, women, and children, and that the city of Mission, could, on short notice, furnish
rooms for 1,000. The tour was extremely thorough, including not only the primary strips at Moore Field, but the
auxiliary landing strips near Sullivan City.
         On May 7, 1952 the new U.S. Air Force asked Congress for an appropriation to activate Moore Field under
the public works bill for 1953, and on October 10, 1953 tracts 4,6, and 7 were deeded to the U.S.A. by the three
cities who had been operating a joint airport, and on April 6, 1954 the remaining tracts 1,2,3, and 5 were deeded to
the U.S. by the state of Texas, after the closing and evacuation of the TB hospital. The state was reimbursed
$800,000 for the loss of the facility.
         Moore Field was rehabilitated and renamed Moore Air Force Base in the fall of 1954, for use during the
Korean War. Primary contract training for the Air Force was started in January, 1955 by California Eastern
Aviation, Inc. This civilian operation for training military pilots was not unique at the time. Col. Marion B.
Caruthers, USAF, was Base Commander. J. Dudley Watson, Jr., was

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Resident Director. A military training section responsible to the Base Commander, consisting of a Major, a
Captain, and 4 Military Training Officers, also Captains, supervised the training of the four squadrons set up for the
training. Academic classes, drill, ceremonies and inspections were conducted by the military, but the primary flight
training was done under contract by the staff and personnel furnished by California Eastern.
         From the Fall of 1954 until the program was terminated in December, 1960, 4,000 air force pilots received
their training, military and academic instruction during 6-month sessions. The contract was transferred to Beiser
Aviation in September, 1960, and training ceased with the closing of the contract school in December, 1960. In the
beginning training had been conducted primarily in T-28 and T-34 propeller aircraft, changing to T-37 jets after
July, 1959.
         After closing, ownership of the field remained with the U.S. Government, but responsibility was
transferred from the Air Force to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
         With the start of World War II, many events were canceled, including the Citrus Fiesta, from
1942 through 1946. It has not been canceled since. During the depression the introduction of
canning in Mission had stabilized the citrus market, but the greatest prosperity came during the war
years. Also the during the 1930‘s and 1940‘s, the oil and gas industry with their large payrolls, were
a great economic asset to Mission and surrounding communities.
         The same city officials were re-elected April 16, 1942. On August 2, 1942 Julius Frank resigned as city
attorney and Vernon B. Hill was named in his place. On January 7, 1943 Joe W. Graham resigned as commissioner,
and J. P. Tipton succeeded him.
         Farm to Market Road 681 from Cantu, north of Mission, to Moore Field, was built in 1942
as a war highway by the state highway department. It was to be built and maintained by the state
until six months after the war; in April, 1946 the state assumed jurisdiction, designating it FM 681.
A two-mile section of the road west from Cantu had been built by Hidalgo County in 1929.
         The concept of the Farm-to-Market mad developed in the State Highway Department during World War II,
1941-45, but roads, other than for war purposes, could not then be built. The department came up with a three-year
program, which was implemented by the Colson-Brisco Act of 1949, giving rise to the most important rural
road-building program in the state‘s history. When you see FM on a road designation near or in Mission, you will
know that this road was developed and paved as a result of this 50-year-old program.
         Highway 83, from Mission west to the county line, was resurfaced in 1944 during World War II; since little
work was done during the war unless absolutely necessary, the road must have been in very poor condition, and
actually interfered with the War effort.
         Again the same city officials were re-elected April 6, 1944--this was during the war, and everyone liked to
keep the status quo at home, and worry about their relatives in service. On February 1, 1945 H. H. Ewing was
named city engineer.
         At the 1946 election, L. E. Gilmer succeeded Vivian Lambert, but the rest were re-elected, for the last time.
The war was over, and people began to think about change, and improvements with theft money saved during the
war. On December 4, 1946 Vera Price was named assistant secretary.
         When Moore Field was deactivated in 1946, it became the Tri-Cities Airport, with a part of it leased to the
state of Texas.


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                                                        Chapter 16

                                                        Since 1948
     W. H. Braden was elected mayor April 15, 1948, and he brought in a whole new group. The commissioners
were Ramon de la Garza, Edgar Walsh, O. V. Bridges, and Felipe Garcia, who returned to the council and was
chosen mayor pro tem. The eternal R. J. Rome remained as city secretary. Vernon B. Hill resigned as city attorney
and was succeeded by Roy D. Buckley who had served during Mayor Waite‘s two terms.
         Mission‘s first motorcycle traffic officer was Jerry Dee Ryan, appointed April 28, 1948.
         The Weaver H. Baker Memorial Tuberculosis Sanitorium was established at the former Moore Field in
1949 by the State of Texas on land leased in 1946.
   R. J. Rome resigned as city secretary on December 5, 1949, having served since February 7, 1935, almost 15
years; J.F. Honey succeeded him. But on February 16, 1950 Honey was named tax collector and V. D. Anderson
became city secretary.
         Finally in 1949, during the Centenary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, many stories were recounted of
the early days of the missionaries and theft successful Texas venture. This brought attention to the historic little
chapel of La Lomita, and the sandstone chapel was again repaired; one of the old missionaries who had served in
the Cavalry of Christ still lived at St. Peter‘s Novitiate as late as 1964. The chapel was again dug out from under the
brush and chaparral which had overgrown it, and was found structurally sound. Unfortunately the guest house,
rectory and other buildings which had been of adobe had deteriorated, so the chapel again stood alone. The original
well and bake oven were discovered in fairly good shape.
         Highway 83 was still a two-lane road; four lanes were badly needed. The state highway department
determined that it would cost $1.5 million to buy the additional right of way; getting it was the responsibility of
Hidalgo county. An election was held May 6, 1950, but failed to carry by a small margin, temporarily causing a
loss of interest in building an expressway from Harlingen to Mission.
         Logan Duncan returned as mayor in the April 6, 1950 election, with commissioners M. W. Held, A. J. W.
Armstrong, Ramon de la Garza and Joaquin Martinez. Anderson continued as city secretary, Langston as water
superintendent, and Boger as city engineer, but Wade Spilman was the new city attorney. He remained until
September 20, 1951 when Al Graham was named attorney.

        A tree-destroying freeze struck Mission‘s citrus groves in 1951, wiping out many of the old trees. Hundreds
of acres of dead trees had to be bulldozed and replaced. Some decided not to replant.
        In October, 1951 the state of Texas and the three cities of Mission, Edinburg and McAllen were informed
that the U.S. Air Force would like to reactivate Moore Field.
        The 1952 election returned all of the incumbents.
        In January, 1953, work started on reactivating Moore Field, and the 900 TB patients were

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moved from the sanitorium. Mission at that time had 37 full-time employees, and ten part-time workers, plus the
volunteer firemen. The 40-bed hospital was then under construction. At the time, Mission had six public schools,
with 2,948 in the public schools, and the remaining 300 in the parochial schools. According to the survey made that
year by the League of Women Voters, all children were offered equal opportunity. The local school board paid to
send all its Negro students to the school for negro children in McAllen--Texas law at the time required separation
of negro and white children in the schools. The average age of the 4 elementary, one junior high and one high
school was 25 years.
        In 1953, Bentsen State Park was being developed; the city contributed $500, and various clubs and groups
in the city sent $1,000 more. The planning and zoning board at the time was advisory to the city council, had no
budget, and no plan; it was working on a proposed zoning ordinance.
        The May 14, 1953 Board of Equalization was Homer B. Smith, W. U. Morris, and Ventura Valadaz.
        June 17, 1953 Graham resigned as city attorney and H. H. Rankin, Jr., was named to that position and also
delinquent tax attorney. The main news sources in Mission at that time were its three newspapers The Mission              -


Times, El Porvenir and El Tiempo. The 16 local churches at the time included the following denominations:
Assembly of God, Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Christian Science, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist,
Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Seventh Day Adventist.
        The 1953 social agencies in Mission were the Mission Health Center, Salvation Army, Hidalgo County
Child Welfare Unit, Red Cross, Y-Teens, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Mission Public Library. All except Red
Cross participate in the United Fund. There are also annual drives for tuberculosis, heart, polio, crippled children
and cancer.
        Public interest organizations were: Chamber of Commerce, Texas Citrus Fiesta, Junior Service League,
League of Women Voters, Garden Club, South Mission Businessmen‘s Association, Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, City
Federation of Women‘s Clubs, Catholic War Veterans, American Legion and Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign
Wars, and Parent-Teachers Association.
        Main fraternal groups were Knights of Columbus, Woodmen of the World, Masons and Eastern Star,
Moose and Beta Sigma Phi; these were chiefly social.
        On January 1, 1954 it was announced that the second and third places in the weekly division of the 1953
National Newspaper Week promotion contest, sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers, Inc., went to
the Mission Times, edited by Joe T. Cook, a past president of the National Editorial Association.
        New city officers appeared on the scene at the April 15, 1954 election --0. V. Bridges was named mayor,
with Ramón L. de la Garza, Marshall M. Walden, J. P. Tipton, and Guillermo Valverde as commissioners.
Anderson, Rankin and Landry continued as secretary, attorney and city inspector, respectively.
        In the Fall of 1954, Moore Field reopened as Moore Air Force Base. More than 4,000 pilots were trained by
contract at the base before it was closed again in December, 1960.
        On December 1, 1954 Anderson resigned as city secretary, and was succeeded by A. K. Stoltz; on June 2,
1955 Mrs. Clay Deemer was named secretary; on June 13, 1955 Leo Marcell got

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the office.
        G. A. Schrimschire was named the first city manager, city inspector and tax collector and assessor on
January 19, 1956.
        Mayor Bridges was re-elected, but he got a new council - C. F. Spikes, Matias Lopez, Felix Martinez, and
Ernesto Moreno. H. H. Rankin, Jr. was attorney, Schrimschire, city manager, and Marcell, city secretary, until
August 15, 1957 when Alex R. Jenkins got the job.
        Mayor Bridges told the press in 1957 that he didn‘t like Federal spending schemes, but that Mission was
going to accept Urban Renewal funds. An attorney, Bridges spent most of his time as mayor, and let his partner
handle their law practice. City councilman Clark Spikes, owner of the Ford agency, had extensive citrus and
farming interests. He employed 35 at his agency and 15 on his farms, with a payroll of $15,000 a month. He felt
vegetable farming was risky, citrus a little better, but that the cotton market was gone. He felt that high prices were
being caused by labor unions, but that the Valley income was based on wetback wages, and thus unable to purchase
its share.
        High water from the rains of 1957 are a memory for many Missionites. The Fontana Motel, at old 83 and
Bryan Road, was then under construction, with Clint Murchison, Dallas multi-millionaire, putting up $700,000 for
the 80-unit motel; the 83 Expressway was not yet built, and this was the main Valley highway. Plans called for a
swimming pool, for floating or winding stairways to the second story; first-floor rooms had porches, and
second-floors rooms, a balcony.
        At the same time, J.R. McCullock of Austin, the contractor for the motel, headed a group of businessmen
building the Bryan Plaza shopping center on Business 83 between Bryan and Highland Park and the recently
completed Presbyterian Church.
        In 1957 The Akin Company was the last canning company in Mission; there had been 35 canners in the
Valley in 1947 and only 12 remained. They employed 200, sold vegetables through brokers all over the U.S., and
also produced Valtex catsup.
        Mission citrus growers totaled 280 in 1957, and had 5,000 acres of grapefruit and oranges in production.
They shipped 250,000 boxes of fruit in 1957 compared with 220,000 in 1956. ―As citrus goes, so goes the Valley‖
B.C. Duensing, of Mission Citrus Growers, Inc., stated. He felt that citrus was a better Valley staple than cotton.
They employed about 200 persons six months of the year.
        There were 275 retail stores in Mission in 1957, including 26 gasoline stations serving 21,000 motorists
daily, most of them from out of town. There were also 25 wholesale houses, according to Albert A. Ady, Manager
of the Chamber of Commerce. Mission had two banks, the First National Bank with total deposits of $5,839,491.88
and the First State Bank with deposits of $4,080,560.97. The assessed value of property in Mission was
$10,262,535.
        Central Power and Light was completing a $7 million generating plant, expected to go in service in April,
1958. It would produce 75,000 kilowatts, doubling CPL capacity. O.W. Edwards, manager of the Mission office,
pointed out that use of power had doubled in the Valley in ten years.
        Mission merchants benefitted from some 5,000 Winter Texans who averaged 75 days stay, spending about
$20,000 a day, or $1.5 million a year. Mexican nationals spend about $1,000 a day six months of the year, or
$180,000 in Mission stores. And of course Moore Field provides another big boost, as 670 private and air force
personnel service the

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400 cadets present at all times, with a total payroll of $6 million annually. About 42% live in
Mission, 36% in McAllen, 12% in Edinburg and the rest in other Valley cities. Opened again in
1955, it had already graduated 4,200 students.
         At that time the Hays-Sammons Co., manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, employed from 150 to 300
people with an annual payroll of $400,000, according to Thomas B. Sammons, Jr.
         Schrimshire resigned as city manager on October 21, 1957 and Alex R. Jenkins was appointed to that
office on February 20, 1958.
         The first Mexican-American Mayor was Adolfo de la Garza, elected April 3, 1958. Commissioners were
C. R. Ashley, John W. Griffin, C. F. Spikes, and F. T. Martinez. Joe B. Winston was the new city engineer, A. R.
Jenkins the city manager, Rankin the attorney, Otis Smith auditor, and R. C. Bales, chief of police, the latter on
May 1.
         On October 2, 1958 Alex R. Jenkins resigned as city manager and became city secretary and treasurer.
         L. P. Kelch was named fire chief on January 9, 1959, with Ben Brandt as first assistant, J.D. Prichard as
2nd assistant, Lowell Pierce as Captain #1, and C. R. Bramblett as Captain #2.
         On April 14, 1959 an alternating election was held for commissioners, and Felix T. Martinez and Juan J.
Garza were elected, the latter also serving as mayor pro tern. Rankin was replaced as city attorney on April 29,
1959 by the firm of Vernon Hill, Lockridge, Reynolds and King. L. C. Bales resigned as chief of police on May 1,
1959.
         It was about 1959 when Dick Hail bought his six-foot four-inch colorfully-painted Indian chief from a
friend in Boston, MA which was a conversation piece at his real estate office for more than a decade.
         A. R. Jenkins served as city manager from July 7, 1959 until January 31, 1960.
         Charlie Greenwood was named city engineer on September 29, 1959. And Calvin H. Gibson became city
manager on February 9, 1960 The alternating election was held April 12, 1960, with Herbert R. Melch named
Mayor, and John W. Griffin and Harmon M. Bodine commissioners.
         Pat Thompson was named urban renewal chairman on May 27, 1960 and B. F. McKee was chosen Urban
Renewal Director. Dick Turner became city secretary on August 9, 1960, and P.H. King was chosen building
inspector. Robert Leslie Forsche was named chief of police September 13, 1960. On February 28, 1961 Doyle
Elliot became fire chief, and on March 4, 1961 Dick Turner, the city secretary was named finance director.
         The alternating election was held April 11, 1961, and the two commissioners elected were Serafin de Leon
and Carlos Martinez. James D. McKeithan was named city attorney on July 11, 1961. The fire department was
re-organized, with Doyle Elliott as fire chief, L.B. Garza, first assistant; C. B. Murphy, 2nd assistant; Lowell
Pierce, Captain #1; Debbid Oatis, Captain #2; and Fred Ferguson, Captain #3. Pepe Austin was appointed justice of
the peace on July 25, 1961. A new city charter went into effect this year.
         Ray Landry was re-appointed fire chief on January 1, 1962. The Rev. A. T. Grout was named council
chaplain on February 27, 1962. Edwin Romeros became city secretary on March 13, 1962. Alter the alternating
election April 10, 1962, Herbert R. Melch was the new mayor, and commissioners were Harmon M. Bodine, John
W. Griffin, Carlos L. Martinez, and Sarafin de Leon. Calvin H. Gibson was city manager, Edward Romeros, city
secretary; McKeithan, city attorney; C.E.

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Langston, public works director; P. H. King, city inspector.
        In 1962, approximately half of Moore Air Force Base, closed in 1960, was converted to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Sterile Screwworm Fly production plant, which operated until
1980, when the screwworm was eradicated in the United States and the factory was moved to
Mexico. The plant was built in February, 1962 from finds provided by individual livestock
producers and sportsmen of the Southwest. Operation was through cooperation of the Southwest
Animal Research Foundation, the Texas Animal Health Commission and the Animal Health
Division of the USDA. The operation was shifted to Mexico in the summer of 1980.
        Mrs. Alma Navarro was named assistant city secretary on April 9, 1963; Leo Gonzales, Justice of the
Peace; and Neal King, temporary city attorney. On May 7, 1964 Charles Greenwood and Joe E. Winston were
named city engineers. Edward Romeros resigned as city secretary on February 9, 1965.
        At the April 13, 1965 election, all city officials were re-elected except that Commissioner John W. Griffin
was replaced with Clyde M. Powell.
        During 1966-7, U.S. 83 was rebuilt from the Hidalgo-Starr county line to Mission, on widened right of
way. The highway was rebuilt as a two-lane road from the county line to just east of La Joya, and as a four-lane
from the Penitas Road to a junction with U.S. Expressway at Mamie, the west edge of Mission.
        C. Virgil Ballard followed Herb Melch as Mayor on April 11, 1967, DeLeon continued as commissioner,
but new ones were Mike Townsend, Pat Escamilla and Felipe Garcia, who won a run-off election on May 9.
Gibson and King remained as city manager and city inspector.
        Neal King was named city attorney January 8, 1968, Rene Lopez became director of public works on
November 5, 1968. Later that month, Charles D. Eyeington became the new city manager on the 29th. Eyeington,
49, native of Buffalo, NY, had managed Georgetown for three years, and before that, was city manager of
Daingerfield for three years, having served as Chamber of Commerce manager there for three years, and at Hughes
Springs the previous year. A graduate of Baylor, he held a bachelor‘s in administration. Mayor Virgil Ballard made
the announcement, stating how fortunate Mission was to obtain a man of his experience for $12,000 a year, plus
care expenses. He replaced long-time manager Calvin Gibson, who after his resignation was hired as manager of
Miller Municipal Airport in McAllen. Mrs. Eyeington was a qualified English teacher, and she and her family
remained in Georgetown until the school term ended in 1969. While city manager at Georgetown, that city had
passed a large• improvements bond issue and voted in favor of urban renewal and a city sales tax.
        Clark F. Spikes was elected mayor April 8, 1969; commissioners were Arnaldo Ramirez, Roberto R.
Barrera, Al Ady, and C.R. Ashley, the latter two in a runoff election May 12; Hollis Rankin, Jr. was chosen city
attorney; Eyeington and King remained as city manager and city inspector. This administration fired Police Chief
Claudio Castaneda, Jr. and Mr. Zamora was appointed temporarily to succeed him. On April 18, 1970 Barrera
resigned as commissioner and Carlos G. Leal was appointed. Ramirez had been approached by ten people to run
for council; he served four years, serving also as mayor pro tern; then served two terms as mayor.
        The city‘s only recall election was held in April (?) and Mayor Spikes, and commissioners Ady and Ashley
were recalled. A special election followed on May 28, 1970 and James F. Miller

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was named Mayor, and J.J. Garza was elected commissioner. Deldie Saenz was named acting city secretary. A
run-off election on June 5, 1970 saw Guillermo O. Compean elected to place one, Arnaldo Ramirez to place 3, and
Ed Schmidt to place 4. Rankin was kept as city attorney and on July 1, 1970 Deldie Saenz was named city
secretary.
         The entire city slate was re-elected on April 6, 1971. On April 25, 1971 Mission real estate man Dick Hall
got newspaper publicity on his six foot, four inch wooden Indian in his office, obtained from a friend in Boston
about 1959.
         On May 19, 1971 it was announced that ex-Missionite Col. Lillian Dunlap, 49, had been promoted to
Brigadier General, and appointed chief of the Army Nurse Corps. She was the daughter of Ira Dunlap, of San
Antonio, and the late Mary Schemerhorn Dunlap, who were residents of Mission for several years. She attended
Mission High School, but her parents moved to San Antonio, and she graduated from Jefferson High School there.
She received her nurses training at Santa Rosa Hospital School of Nursing and Incarnate Word College, and
entered the ANC immediately upon graduation. She has been stationed in the Far East, Germany, and other foreign
areas. During World War II she was active in recruiting nurses in the Valley from her assignment in McAllen.
During the Vietnam War, she was sent to the Far East to supervise establishment of a nurse corp at a major
evacuation hospital installation there. Gen. Dunlap‘s paternal grandfather was Monroe Dunlap, for whom Dunlap
street in Mission is named. Her mother taught English at Mission high school and Mrs. Margery Wright and Mrs.
Mary E. Harrington, two cousins, resided in Mission in 1971.
         On June 4, 1971 it was announced that Mayor James Miller of Mission would represent his city on the
Texas Flight for Understanding Aug. 1 to Paris, Stockholm, and Moscow, in behalf of prisoners of war and MIA‘s.
The Mission Lions Club and Catholic War Veterans raised funds for the trip. Bob Gossett, president of the Lions
Club, called on Mission residents to support the trip.
         Ray Rodgers was named Chief of Police on August 1, 1971. Stephen C. Beachy became the first Park &
Recreation Director on March 1, 1972.
         Ray Landry, who had been appointed fire chief on April 1, 1930, when G.F. Doehrn was mayor, retired on
December 1, 1972; Ben Jackson succeeded him.
         Arnaldo Ramirez was elected Mayor on April 2, 1973 with commissioners Guillenno O. Compean, J. J.
Garza, Jack Fryer, and Ed Schmidt, who was also Mayor pro-tem. On June 1, 1973 Cris Vela was named
administrative assistant. Guadalupe Gonzalez became traffic safety coordinator on August 20, 1973. Juan de Leon
was appointed commissioner December 1, 1973 to succeed J. J. Garza who resigned. On August 15, 1974, after a
year in office, Cris Vela and Guadalupe Gonzalez resigned as administrative assistant and traffic safety
coordinator. On August 20, David de la Garza was named traffic safety coordinator and on January 6, 1975
Lawrence R. Burnside was named administrative assistant. Ben Jackson was fired as fire chief on February 28,
1975 and Hollis Rutledge succeeded him on March 1.
         Ramirez was re-elected mayor on April 1, 1975, with Compean, Fryer and Schmidt as commissioners; H.T.
Nance succeed Garza. May 12, 1975 Ed Schmidt was chosen mayor pro-tern again. The same slate was re-elected
April 2, 1977, except Maureen Duncan succeeded Jack Fryer. DeLeon was named mayor pro-tem on April 11.
         In 1977, the following volunteer boards served the people of Mission:

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        The Citizen‘s Advisory Board, constituted of members from six geographical areas of the city; gives the
council input into current problems; Mission Acres--Manuel Longoria and Heraclio Salinas; Sharyland - Mike
Townsend and Rosa Zapata; Northwest Mission - Downey Davis and Enrique Rodriguez; Southwest Mission -
                                                           -


Augustin Esperiqueta, Estella Pen; Mrs. Julian Salinas and Celia Garcia; Southeast Ernesto Zamora, Pat       --


Escamilla, Jesus Lerma, Felipa Villegas, Maria Luisa Riley and Adalberto Ramirez; Northeast has Weldon
Broughton, Richard Garcia, Ben Cavazos and Ben Olivárez.
        Board of Equalization appointed in June of each year from qualified voters and real estate owners. Review
                                 -


property values for fairness.
        Golf Course Board: Jim Blankenbaker, Trini Valverde, Bobby Valadez, Oton Guerrero, Joe Seitz, Rafael
M. Pena, Bill Randolph, with Golf Pro Chencho Ramirez.
        Mission Hospital Board: Edgar Walsh, F‘eliz Ramirez, Virgil Ballard, Epitacio Flores, Arturo Garefa, Mrs.
Faye McBath, Mrs. Freddie Saunders and Hospital Administrator Walter Walthall.
        Mission Housing Board: Arturo Longoria, Raquel Magallan, Angel Villarreal, Agustin Espericueta, Jose
Flores, with executive director Ernesto Pena.
        Speer Memorial Library Board: Brigette Waaser, Julia Johnson, Bill Valverde, Norma Andis, Elena
Barrera, Nell Fisher, Frank Strickland, with Bernice Baker, librarian.
        Parks and Recreation Board: Manuel Alaniz, E. E. Zweifel, Matias Lopez, Jr., Mrs. T. C. Russell, Mrs.
Gordon Schlaefer, Luis Sanchez, Hector Contreras, G‘enero Vela, Fernando de la Garza, with Steve Beachy.
        Traffic Safety Committee: Ben Cavazos, Adalberto Ramirez, Robert Wicks, Gus Zapata, Danny Lewis,
Bob Booth, Lawrence Rice, Bill Austin, and Beto Pena.
        Plumbing Board: Arturo Montes, Lauro Guerra, Sr., Warren Suter, Loren Andis, Joe Winston, Sr. as
engineer, Dr. Luis Dávila as Health Officer, and the City Inspector, P.H. King.
        Electrical Board: Preston Murphy of C.P.L. and the city electrical inspector.
        Planning and Zoning Board: Helen Grinnan, Sam Nixon, Dennis Burleson, Helen Vigen, Bill Beachum,
Lupe Gonzalez, Coy Hensley, Rodolpho de la Garza, Eddie Garza, Jerry Saenz, Charles Zey, H. C. Nelson, R. D.
Martinez, John Shary II, and Andy Anderson.
        Industrial Development Board:
        Board of Adjustments: Herbert Melch, E. B. Bottom, Doris Ward, Dr. J. C. Martin, and Clifford
McMurphy.
        Housing Advisory Board: Downey Davis, Serfin de Leon, Betty Ridling, Roberto Barrera, Eloisa Cantu,
and alternates Robert Gossett and Leandro Ochoa.
        Highway Committee: Robert Wicks, Samuel P‘erez, Julio Olivares, Elliott Bottom, Jim Blankenbaker, and
F‘elix Martinez.
        Human Relations Board: Mrs. Yolanda Garcia, Mrs. Carmela Trdla, John Fraser, Joe Correa, Estela Pena,
Armando Longoria and Rev. Jerry Frank.
        Charles Eyeington resigned as city manager on May22, 1978, and was succeeded by Kirvin Kaufman.
        Ramirez was re-elected to a 4th term on April 7, 1979; Julio Olivarez succeded Compean as commissioner.
DeLeon continued as mayor pro-tern. This was Ramirez‘s last term as mayor. During


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his eight years, over $3.5 million was invested in street paving, including widening of South Conway Avenue;
Mayberry Loop, FM 1016 and the First Street Canal Crossing; the construction of the new Speer Memorial
Library; the Neighborhood Center that houses several Federal programs; the expansion of Shary Municipal Golf
Course; construction of divided Highway 107 that comes into Mission from Alton, and getting things started at La
Lomita Plaza.
         Dr. Fernando Ortegon was chosen mayor on April 4, 1981, with DeLeon and Duncan continuing as council
members; J. D. Villarreal and Carlos Blanco were new council members. DeLeon continued as mayor pro-tem.
         In 1982, a National Biological Control Center was completed at Moore Air Force Base at a cost of $2
million. Sterile Mexican fruit flies, and other biological ―weapons‖ are produced here to control pests naturally.
         Dr. Ortegon was re-elected mayor on April 2, 1983 with an entirely new council - Leonel Olivarez, Leonel
Pena, Manuel Delgado, Jr., and Manuel De Leon. Pena was chosen mayor pro-tem. During this administration, the
first for Mission that was entirely Mexican-American, although the city is roughly 60% Mexican-American, Kirvin
Kaufman resigned as city manager and was succeeded by Richard Gomez, who later resigned and was replaced
with Rolando Gonzalez, who in turn resigned to be succeeded by Benito Lopez. Roberto Garza was fired as chief
of police; Roberto Rivera acted as chief until the appointment of Victor Pagan.
         December, 1983 witnessed another severe freeze, that took out a number of citrus trees, and many of the
tall palms which had been the symbol of the Lower Rio Grande Valley for many years. The freeze was considered
the most devastating in 100 years.
         By May, 1984 the removal of 7,250 stately but dead palms was begun along the Valley highways.
         Pat Townsend, Jr., was elected Mayor on April 6, 1985, with councilmen J.D. Villarreal,
Leonel Pena, Norma de la Fuente Davis, and Ricardo Perez. Villarreal, returning to the council after
a term‘s absence, was named mayor pro-tern, Mrs. Davis was elected in a runoff election over Lupe
Ozuna. Townsend was elected in a three-way election over incumbent Mayor Fernando Ortegon and
Manuel Hinojosa.
         Also in April, a statewide survey showed Mission was the number one choice of Winter Texans among
cities throughout the state of under 30,000 population. Lopez resigned as city manager and Mark Watson
succeeded him. David H. Guerra replaced Hollis Rankin, Ill as city attorney.
         In May, the city of Mission was inundated when 10 to 12 inches of rain fell in a few hours, flooding many
areas. It was termed a ―150-year flood.‖ In June the city received another 10 to 12 inches, and more flooding
occurred. In November, Mims Elementary School was dedicated. Mission Chief of Policy Victor Pagan-Levy
urged participation in the neighborhood watch programs as a deterrent to burglars.
         A special election to amend the city charter was held January 17, 1987. At the regular election April 4, the
entire city administration was re-elected. The charter had changed to an alternating system of electing the mayor
and councilmen again, so on January 21, 1989 Mayor Townsend, and councilmen Pena and Davis were re-elected.
On January 23, Ricardo Perez was chosen mayor pro-tem. On February 27, 1989 Mark S. Watson resigned as city
manager, and on

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March 14, 1989 Victor Pagan resigned as chief of police. Michael H. Talbot was named city manager on October
16, 1989.
         At a special election November 11, 1989, voters approved a 1/2% sales tax increase to reduce property
taxes. Another 1/2% was approved January 20, 1990 for economic purposes. At the regular election the same date,
J.D. Villarreal was elected councilman, place 2 for three years; and Arnulfo Rodriguez was named to place 4 for
the same period. Villarreal was chosen mayor pro-tem.
         On April 30, 1990, Chester William Showers, 88, one of the original organizers of the Texas Citrus Mutual,
died following a lengthy illness. In 1945, he and his family moved to McAllen, eventually settling in Mission
where he developed a large citrus grove operation with his brother, Eddie Showers, and others. A native of Poetry,
Hunt Co., TX, he had been a lumberman and contractor in the Vernon area for many years before moving to Austin
and founded Showers Lumber Co. During World War II, he was instrumental in constructing a number of air bases
at Bonham, Lamesa, Big Spring, and other locations.
         He was the 1955 King Citrus at the Texas Citrus Fiesta in Mission, and had served as president of the
Mission Citrus Growers Association. A Lions Club member for more than 60 years, he had served as president of
the Club. He was a member of Mission Masonic Lodge 1061 A.F.& KM. , Knights Templar and Alzafar Shrine of
San Antonio. He spent much time at the Shrine Camp near Boern the last several years.
         The U.S. Census in 1990 failed, many felt, to count large numbers of the poor Hispanics in the Valley;
preliminary figures were announced that seem very low. For example, the U.S. Government itself had estimated
Mission‘s population in 1987 at 32,000, and estimated it would be 43,113 by 1990; the actual count was around
27,000. It was felt that many of the colonia areas were undercounted.
         Past Mission census figures are: 1915,2,500; 1920,3,847; 1930. 5,120; 1940,5,982; 1950, 10,756 (after
Moore Field brought many here) when Hidalgo County was 160,441; 1960. 14,081, with Hidalgo County at
180,904; 1 970, after Moore A.F.B. was closed for the second time, 13,043 with a county population of 202,000;
1980. 22,589 with a county population of 283,229.
         Ricardo A. Perez was elected mayor on January 18, 1992 for three years; defeating councilman J. D.
Villarreal, who had resigned to run. New councilmen were Leo Pena, place 1 and Norma de la Fuente Davis, place
3, for three years, while Gen Long was chosen for place 2 for one year to complete Villarreal‘s term. Davis was
chosen mayor pro-tem.
         Steady growth in the student population in the Mission Independent Consolidated School District led,
March 9, 1992, to the announcement that school trustees were planning to let bids in September for a freshman
campus that will house 1,200 students, and could be expanded to 2,500 when needed. Plans have been underway
for three years by the board.
         There are presently 3,000 students at the 150-room Mission High School, and 11,000 in the district. New
elementary schools have been added about every three years, and new rooms and portables have been added to the
high school annually for some time.
         It is hoped the Freshman Campus will be open by September, 1994. The board has set aside $2 million for
1992 and $4 million for 1993. They had planned $4 for 1994, but the possible elimination of the County
Educational District tax, declared unconstitutional, then reinstated, has stymied funding at present.

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                                                       Chapter 17

                                               Water for Mission

         Since the city of Mission is located on the delta of the Rio Grande, much of the groundwater is saline, and
the major source of drinking water is the river. Two city wells provided enough water when the city was first
started, but it was soon realized that only the Rio Grande provided a reliable, voluminous source.
         Water was also needed to change the brush county into productive farms, and the early developers
immediately started building canals and pumping water to the farms; this source has long been tapped as the main
supplier of water for Mission. Thus, the story of the early canals is the story of providing water for the future
growth of Mission.
         Residents of La Lomita in 1907 included John J. Conway, J.W. Hoit, of the land company, J.C. Taylor,
their foreman, John O‘Kelly, the engineer in charge of operating the irrigation system, and J.C. Rowe, the engineer
in charge of building canals; Elmer Dustin, engineer of the pumping plant No. 1, located where Chimney Park now
stands, the chimney being the last renmant of the old station: A short time later came M.E. Carson, a new arrival.
(From the writings of J.F. Vandervort, early Mission settler.)
         Albert McHenry, in a March 2, 1951 article, pointed out that alfalfa was one of the first crops grown,
because the mules used to construct the ―Mission Canal Company‖ as he remembered it, comsumed it by the ton.
Albert Sammons was the contractor for the canal work which started according to the contract August 1, 1907, and
Bill Shafer was the foreman. Laborers were paid 40 a day to build the canals; but John J. Conway and J.W. Hoit put
nearly a million dollars into the project.
         The La Lomita Irrigation and Construction Company was incorporated August 5, 1907 by John J.
Conway but the name was soon changed to the Mission Canal Company. It was neither the first nor the strongest
irrigation company in the Valley.
         Of course, irrigation dates back to pre-Bibical days in Sumer, Akkad and Elam; later, Hammurabi of
Babylonia described the effect of irrigation in ancient Chaldea. Even the Indians of the Rio Grande area, and the
early Spanish settlers, had been trying various forms of gravity irrigation, by forming brush-and-stone dams and
water impoundments to water their precious crops.
         The early Anglo settlers also tried irrigation, with varying success. George Brulay irrigated his sugar
plantation near Brownsville as early as 1890 by pumping water from the Rio Grande. The great pioneer lawman
and farmer John Closner started irrigating his farm in 1894, seven miles east of Hidalgo, and did it very
successfully, on a small scale. A lay minister named Lipscomb and Alexander Wood, father of Gregg, rented his
200 acres to farm; because of the terrible drought, Closner arranged for Wood and his boys, who had considerable
engineering knowledge and ability, to start an irrigation system. They put in a plant and started building canals.
When they were done, Closner decided to try sugar cane.
         The Donna Irrigation District No. 1 was organized in January of 1902 by T.J. Hooks. As late as 1942 it
was still operating, with H.S. Ridgeway as manager.

            by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                                    165


          A month later, February 15, 1902, the Brownsville Land and Irrigation Company was incorporated by
W.M. Ratcliff and J. M. Johnson. In 1905 Gregg Wood spent about $24,000 with the Brownsville Irrigation
Company, digging drain ditches on farms. It didn‘t help keep the salt from the rice fields, but it did get the drainage
business off to a good start in Cameron County. It was later reorganized as the Cameron County Water Control and
Improvement District. No. 6. It had been started to prove the practicality of raising rice in the Valley, but by the
third year, salt had ruined the crop. Like the fertile lands of Mesopotamia, salt buildup without any cleansing rains
left the land infertile.
         The Hidalgo County Irrigation District was organized in March, 1903, near the present site of
McAllen. It formed the basis of present-day Water Improvement District 3. In 1904 a group of men that included
William Briggs, who came to the Valley at the turn of the Century, and D. R. Swift formed the Tijon Water
Company to irrigate 600-700 acres of first-lift land south of McAllen. Robert Henderson II, a native of Cedar
Rapids, IA, began with this group in 1906,raising sugar cane, but the market failed, and he lost his land. The
Hidalgo Canal Company took over in 1907, with Henderson as canal superintendent, and by 1913-4 irrigated 6,000
acres of land, bankrupting the company, and R. E. Horn took over as receiver and Henderson as manager until
1917,1 when the Mutual Irrigation Company was formed by the farmers and took over. In 1921, the Mutual
Irrigation Company became the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District Number 3, a municipal district
approved under a recent state law. Henderson continued with the district for approximately 50 years, retiring in
1958. He died August 12, 1964.2
         It was 1906 before B.J. Yoakum, the railroad pioneer instrumental in bringing the Gulf Coast lines from
Kingsville to Brownsville, and from Harlingen west to Sam Fordyce, organized the American Rio Grande Land
and Irrigation Company. It was well financed, the only one of the private companies that didn‘t go into
receivership, and the last to change to municipal district ownership. It is now Hidalgo-Cameron County District
No. 9, which in 1930 first provided water for the Weslaco area farmers.3 But when the city of Weslaco started,
water was obtained at the Second Lift Station, north of town.4
          The Louisiana- Rio Grande Canal Company was organized at San Juan in 1907. It has since become the
Hildalgo County Water Improvement District No.2. Louisianan Henry N. Pharr, who was interested in producing
sugar cane, and needed irrigation, and Waco businessman John C. Kelly



        1
        See p. 103, McAllen: A Bicentennial Reflection, by the American Studies Class, McAllen High School,
1975. From Ruth Clark‘s Scrapbook, Verticle File, McAllen Public Library.
        2
            See pp. 63-5, Op. Cit

        3
            See p. 32, Weslaco 1919-1969, 50th Anniversary Celebration, Dec. 4-7, 1969 Official

Booklet, Weslaco, 1969.
        4
            P. 12, ibid
               by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                                  166

organized it, as well as the Kelly-Pharr land co.. It furnished water for what became part of McAllen, Pharr, San
Juan, Alamo and Hidalgo area. the Alamo Land and Sugar Company and the mcColl Land Company diligently
promoted their tracts, all of them bringing prospective buyers from the Northern states by train to the valley on land
excursions. Sales often outdistanced the irrigation project. The Hidalgo Pumphouse, now a museum, was the
first-lift pumper for Alamo, Pharr, San Juan, and formerly McAllen. Hidalgo itself uses well water. In 1920,
Hidalgo county Water Improvement District #2 bought out the Louisiana-Rio Grande Canal Company. The name
of the District was later changed to Hidalgo County Irrigation District #2.5
          Meanwhile, flooding had become a big problem, especially in the lower Valley. In 1907, the San Benito
Land and Water Company built the first Valley flood system -- a levee from Harlingen to San Benito. Later, canal
banks following the river served as flood levees.

         The La Feria Mutual Canal Company was founded in 1909 with a capital stock of $253,320. C. S.
Towne and J. J. Schradle owned 56 77/100% of the shares of common stock. S. J. Schnorenberg, of the
Minnesota-Texas Land and irrigation Company, was President; J. S. Dooks, surveyor and civil engineer; O. E.
Walker was secretary and J. A. Cord the bookkeeper.6
         The company had one lift, at the river at the present pumping site, powered by a single steam
pump. There was an elevated flume crossing the Arroyo Colorado to provide water for the farmers
there. From 1910-15, the buying and feeding of mules necessary to the heavy construction work, was
a major expense. Men worked for 100 an hour, ten hours a day; the foreman received 300 an hour or
$3 a day, but the team of mules earned 350 an hour, $3.50 a day! Capitalism.
         The La Feria ditch riders in 1910 were R. G. Hall, Paul Ayres, Clarence Jeffords and G. Rose. The canal
company bought its pumps and machinery through the Rio Grande Hardware Company on Main Street next to the
bank; lumber, nails, posts, poles, locks, chains, etc., for building gates and bridges, etc., came from the South Texas
Lumber Company.
         The name of the irrigation company was changed in 1917 to the La Feria Water Control and Improvement
District, and the company was located in the Cameron County Bank building on Main Street. George H. Byrnes
was Chairman of the Board; C. P. Brown, secretary; and other board members were B. C. Morrison, W. A. Bailey
and J. J. Heidt.
         A new pumphouse site was chosen along the Rio Grande south of Bluetown on June 27, 1918. This station
was powered by a diesel engine. A four-room frame house was built in 1919 for the engineer. The cost was just
$752.60.
         W, P. (Billy) Allen started with the district in 1919, was engineer of the Second Life Station from 1923-6,
and retired in 1960, after 41 years with the district, in various capacities. Before starting


           5
          from an article, published September 28, 1994 by Jane Starling entitled ―Museum and
theme park planned for old Hidalgo Pumphouse.‖ The article largely quotes Dr. robert N. Norton, pumphouse
saviour.
          6
              Pp. 91-96, Eddie Gathings McNail, The Bicentennial History of La Feria, Texas, October, 1975.

  -     by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002   —
                                                                  167

work with Cameron District Three, he had built the Donna Rio Grande Pumping Plant, installing the engine and
pumps.
         Until 1922 a small frame building north of the railroad served as an office. 0. B. Van Berg, president of the
Hidalgo County Bank and Trust Co., of Mercedes contracted to build a two-story replacement for $7,380. The new
building lasted 44 years.
         A. W. Amthor became engineer in July, 1918 at a salary of $200 a month, and he was employed until his
retirement in September, 1947. Twice he also served as president of the district.
         In 1959, the La Fria District got a $5,750,000 grant from the Federal Govermnent to rehabilitate the
district‘s properties. Manager H. B. Combs began the project.
         A new district headquarters was built in 1965 for $77, 476. R. M. King was board president;
Jack O‘Rear, Vice-president;G. D. Shimek, Secretary; members E. J. Wolf, J. H. Eubanks, R. T.
Hensley, manager. the architect was Charles b. Croft and the contractor was Eddleblute Construction
Company.


         After the beginning of the Mission Canal Company, John J. Closner organized the Valley Reservoir and
Irrigation Company at Edinburg Dec. 1, 1909.
         Also constructing Mission‘s first lift pump station were S.A. McHemy, formerly the superintendent of an
Agricultural Experiment Station at Beeville, Texas; J.A. Robertson formerly
A.P. Wright, O.M. Wakeman, and N,O. Vertrees. These were men of practical knowledge in irrigation and
farming.
         Naturally the first 40-acre farms sold were along the growing canal which originally extended from the
river about three miles to the present site of Mission. Pumps took the water from the canals to irrigation ditches
built by the farmers, and controlled the flow into the fields. Soon the newly located farmers were trying out
different crops, planting two or three a season, and shipping them out on the railroad.
         Later, underground irrigation pipes carried the water considerable distances to other fields. These tiles had
large cement standpipes, still visible in the valley, distributed around the fields. Some of them house controls, but
most are just open to allow air to flow from empty pipes as water is pumped into them.

                                                        Pumping Station #1

         There are two kinds of irrigation systems--the gravity system, in which the natural pull of gravity moves
the water from higher canals to lower fields; and the pump system, where a series of powerful pumps force the
water into irrigation pipes and rows.
         By February, 1908 Conway was advertising in the Gulf Coast Magazine, official railroad magazine of its
day, that he had installed a pump that would handle 38,000 gallons of water a minute. He formed and owned an
irrigation company called the Mission Canal Company, which kept rates low to draw in the new farmers, but was
not profitable, and when in 1914 Conway‘s loan was called, and he couldn‘t pay, his irrigation company went into
receivership, and was purchased by the next big developer in the area, John H. Shary. All the irrigation projects
were hazardous but very necessary

             by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                             168

    undertakings, and many failures resulted. Needless to say, there were many misunderstandings between the
    irrigation and land company owners, and the fanners, who absolutely had to have water or they would be
    ruined.
             By Nov. 24, 1914, the irrigation system was completed in porciones 53 to 57, and partly constructed
     in porciones 58 to 60. Porciones 53 and 54 were purchased from Closner & Wells, 10,000 acres; porciones
     55 to 57 were 17,000 acres purchased from the Oblate Fathers. The porciones 58-60 were owned by the
     Granjeno Land Company, later to be a part of the Sharyland Development.
             Eventually this system became a part of the Hidalgo County Water Districts; this is the story of that
     nearly-century-long struggle. Great dams on the river itself eventually provided electric power and flood
     protection for the farms and settlements.
             Pumping station number 1 was built at what is now Chimney Park; the crown effect of the
     brickwork on the top of the remaining stack is still an outstanding example and was installed by workmen
     from New York brought in just for this touch. Brick used for the chimney was hand made at the Valley
     Brick and Tile Company, owned by Guenther Weiske, at Madero, Texas, just north of the pump. The brick
     was sold at $2.50 to $4 a thousand bricks.
•   In 1908, David Gregg Wood, who had previously installed the pumps at the San Juan Plantation for John
    Closner, started working for the irrigation company, and was made superintendent
•    of the irrigation canal system in 1910, and in 1911 was married to Mary Chanis Cottingham of Brownsville
     at 35 years of age, according to a Sep. 5, 1955 Valley Morning Star story by Paul Leeper.
             The pumping plant consisted of a 15‖ pump set in a shaft about 16 feet deep and 10 feet square, and
     was driven by an oil well boiler, fired by mesquite wood by a Latin-American. The early canal builders
     were assisted by Henry and Fanny Mack, a negro couple. Henry was mule help and Fannie,
     boarding-house keeper, and cook. But she could rope a mule and doctor it for screwworms as well as any
     man.

          At the pumping station, the river bottom is 75 feet above sea level; most of the irrigated land around
    Mission is about 135 feet above sea level meaning that two 30-foot lift stations were needed to get the
                                                        --


    water where it would flood the fields.
           Originally units 2 and 3 were powered by cord wood, and Dr. Jack Gray, D.V.M., who came to
    Mission when he was five, recalled the black smoke billowing out of the great chimney, and the

    wagons lined up for a mile to unload cords of wood. At onetime, nearly 75% of the men of Mission were
    employed by the Mission Canal Company, Inc., to cut and haul mesquite to the pump station.
    When most of the mesquite was cut and becoming more and more expensive to haul in great distances,, the
    engines were switched to crude oil, then natural gas. Diesel engines were then used to pull the pumps, and
    proved to be better and more economical than the steam-driven pumps. But they finally yielded to smaller,
    but more powerful, electric motors. Natural gas was still used at the third lift plant in 1985. Pumps in use
    over the valley varied from 36 inches to 60 inches in diameter.
             The first Mission lift plant, and the first section of canal, were completed in 1908.
             On November 1, 1909 John J. Conway and wife and James W. Hoit and wife delivered a deed of
    trust to F.H. Wellcome, trustee, to secure indebtedness described in (Vol. 2, pages 97 et seq).

           by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                         169

       On Dec. 27, 1909 the two couples transferred other property (Vol. 4, p. 584 et seq) to the Mission
Land Improvement Company.

                                           The 1909 Flood
         In 1909, while Wood was still working at lift station 1, the river suddenly flooded, one of the
greatest rises in modem history. A waterspout fell in the San Juan River canyon above Monterrey,
drowning 10,000 above the city, and another 5,000 in Monterrey. This poured into the Rio Grande, and
Wood worked 64 hours straight, with the help of several Mexicans, to save the pumping plant. ―You could
look at the river at any time and see both people and animals, roofs of houses and whatnot, floating by. At
the pumping plant the river got 31‘, 5” height above normal. Government people estimated that it was
flowing 270,000 second-feet, which is purely a guess, because none of them were down there,‖ Wood
stated in his diary.
    On March 17, 1910 the Mission Canal Company conveyed to F.H. Wellcome, as trustee, the property
described on page 399 et seq, Vol. 4, Deed of Trust Records of Hidalgo Co. to secure payment of an issue
of bonds. The following day, the bond issue was used to purchase the real and personal property of the
canal from the Mission Land Improvement Company to the Mission Canal Company.
         In the 1940‘s, Frank S. Robertson of San Benito described the early irrigation districts:
         ―Irrigation was started as land and irrigation companies combined. None of them were adequately
financed. They figured that the sales would keep up with the development. But the Panic of 1907 and the
depression which followed caused about all of the companies to go into the hands of the receiver. In 1913,
an irrigation district law was passed, authorizing the creation of municipal districts and the right to vote
and issue bonds either for the building or purchase of irrigation systems.
         ―In 1917 the irrigation district law was rewritten, changing the unit names to water improvement
districts. Bonds were in disrepute, and defaulted to the extent that people would not buy them.
         ―Between the years of 1913 and 1918 about all the old companies were sold to water improvement
districts, which operated as public rather than private corporations.
         From 1909 to 1916 all the irrigation companies were in a very bad financial condition and the
investors lost faith in any further construction. This caused a lapse of improvement during this seven-year
period.‖
         In 1910, Conway added a Worthington 36-inch centrifugal pump having a rated capacity of
33,000 gallons per minute at 130 revolutions per minute. It was directly connected to a
450-horsepower Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co. H.C.C. Corliss steam engine. Wood was running
the plant, and also erected the new machinery and pumps. He was named superintendent of the canal
system the latter part of 1910.
On September 5, 1911 Wellcome renounced and resigned the trust( Vol. 5, p. 203 et seq) and on Oct. 17,
1911 Mission Canal Company appointed the Bankers Trust Co. of Houston, TX to act as trustee for the
bonds, all owned by Conway.(Vol. 5, p. 204 et seq)
         In 1911, Wood in addition to his previous duties, made sure everyone was getting the proper
amount of water, and supervised the ditch riders in keeping weeds and debris from the canals, as well as
repairing broken borders, gates and wooden flumes.

       by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                         170

        By 1912 Conway was in serious financial trouble as there was not sufficient land developed in their
27,000 acres to maintain the operation and meet the mortgage obligations.
        The Mission Canal Company and its properties were placed in the hands of a receiver by the 61st
Judicial District of Texas, Harris County, TX, on August 16, 1912 by Cause No. 56,169, Bankers Trust
Company trustee vs. Mission Canal Company; the receivership was still pending Nov. 24, 1914, when
Conway‘s attorney, D.W. Glasscock was assigned one-quarter interest in the canal company, its bonds,
liens, property, real and personal, also the same for the Mission Land Improvement Company, sunject to
the outstanding liens.
        The canal company owed $30,000, $150,000, $20,000 and $25,000 on bonds, totaling $225,000.
These certificates were secured by real and personal property deeded to the trustee on Nov.
23, 1912 (Vol. 8, p. 86 et seq).
        So the Mission Canal Company was already in receivership in 1912 when the Llano Grande
Plantation Company was organized at Progreso by the Progreso Development Company. It is now known
as Hidalgo County Water Control and Improvement District No. 5.
        And in 1913, an Allis Chalmers H.C.C. Corliss steam engine rated at 750horsepower was installed
at the Second Lift station of the Mission Canal Company.
        During Conway‘s first four years, he bought and sold more than 35,000 acres in the Mission area,
primarily because of the cheap litigation he provided.7
        The first automobile in the Valley was a Buick with a side crank owned by the canal company.
         In 1914, David Gregg Wood continued serving the bank as plant superintendent, and noticed that a
lot of water was being lost between the first pump and the irrigated farms. With government engineers he
spent three months measuring the water at the pumping plant #1 and at the farms, and found that 92% was
lost through seepage and evaporation. Wood suggested concrete canals, but the bank thought that more
pumps were needed. In 1914, Wood was fired, and the Mission Canal Company was put up for sale.
         During this period, there was an arrangement made between the receiver and the Granjeno
Development Company, owners of 14,000 acres lying immediately east and adjoining the La Lomita tract,
by which service should be extended to those lands. Later, John H. Shary was the developer of the lands
owned by the Granjeno Development Company.

                                      Pump Station #2
        Conway and Hoit‘s projected city of Mission was being built on a slight hill, so that if water was to
be pumped to farms farther north, a new pump station, called station #2, had to be built; it was completed in
1909. Later, about two miles north, pump station #3, the future show place of John H. Shary‘s land
company, was built in 1910. That year the big event was the Fourth of July celebration in Mission. The
leading feature of the parade was the pump to be installed in the third lift. J. F.


         7
             According to Freddie MiIam Saunders, pp. 1 78—181 Roots by the River.              ,




       by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 ddhelIer@aoI,com March 10. 2002
                                                                  171

Vandervort recalled many years later that it was a 30- or 36-inch pump. For the parade it was mounted on
house-moving trucks and pulled at the head of the procession by a steam tractor. A banner on the side of the pump
read, ―One mile per hour and 40,000 gallons per minute‖. The three stations and the connecting canals were owned
by Sharys company for 35 years, until finally sold in 1951 to the two irrigation districts, 7 and 14, which were later
combined into the United Irrigation District, a name quite similar to Sharys company name. A third district, No. 6,
serves the area southeast of Mission, in the Plantation area. L.H. Ramey was the manager in 1942. It, too, was part
of the Shary interests.

                                                      Shary Buys Canal Co.

          John H. Shary, well-known businessman, came to the Valley in 1912, and began putting together a unit of
land he could develop. By 1914, he had researched and perfected all the titles--but should he invest the rest of his
life in the Rio Grande Valley? He thought about it for several days, and finally took out his old lucky silver dollar
and tossed it three times. It came up heads all three times, so he went ahead with the land purchase. Since he had
just purchased 16,000 acres east of the La Lomita Subdivision, including the Granjeño Land Company tract, the
water for which was to be furnished by the Mission Canal Company; at the 1914 receiver‘s sale he purchased the
assets of the Mission Canal Company. He formed the United Irrigation Company, and filed it in the office of the
Texas Board of Water Engineers on June 25, 1914, and recorded it August 3, 1914. The company incorporated
Dec. 21, 1915 to irrigate 33,000 acres of porciones 53 through 60.
          An efficient irrigation system at a reasonable rate greatly increased the value of the land, turning it from
low-grade pasture to highly profitable acres of citrus or vegetable crops in winter and cotton, sugarcane, milo or
corn in summer.
          There is no question but that Shary kept irrigation going in the Mission area until after his death--he figured
out, by one way or another, how to finance the complicated system, and get it ―sealed‖ by concrete, and finally into
cement pipes for less evaporation. He was a strong man, and of course there were bound to be some who were
rubbed the wrong way by his personality. They did not trust him to divide the water fairly, and consequently opted
not deal with him in 1929; they formed, in 1931, water district 14, but it was a ―hollow shell‖ without operating
equipment until 1951. Then it took until 1987 to unite the two districts, which, in 1927, Shary had anticipated
uniting by 1930. Shary died in 1945, and it was six years later when his son-in-law, Allen Shivers, and his manager,
finally completed the long-anticipated sale, 24 years after the fact. Some of the older district voters were still
influenced by the two-decade disagreement.
          Hipolito Lopez was employed by Shary in February, 1916, and he served as fireman and oiler for 33 years;
his brother Eduardo Lopez, who was born in Ramones, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, came to live and work at the pump
plant with Hipolito February 20, 1918, retiring in 1949. Their older brother Priciliano Lopez, was employed in
January, 1923, and he retired as an oiler in 1949.
          Their half-brother, Daniel Lopez, was also employed by the district, but while attempting to attach a chain
and pulley over the top of a steel rail, the steel cable supporting him broke, and he fell, hitting his head on 42-1-inch
steel screws. A blood clot formed on his brain, and he died eight days later. His son, Jorge Lopez, a 1985 resident of
Mission, was just five months old at the time.

            By Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 March 10, 2002 ddheller@aol.com
                                                        172

Many of the employees had, and still have, homes on the properties owned by the district. Eduardo raised
his family in a wood-framed home next to a huge cypress near the levee. The house is now gone, but the
huge tree is still standing. His daughter remembers that the free kept the house cool, and there were many
happy memories in that house and community.
          The Lopez family was very active in the tiny community that surrounded the plant. They attended
church at the La Lomita chapel and their children received their first Communion there. Later, a hall was
built across the levee in Madero and later the church which is still used today was erected. The women of
the community around the plant and those in Madero made and sold tamales, tacos and menudo at the
dances to raise money for the church. Some of these women were Eloisa Cavazos, Lupita de Anda, Toribia
Ruiz, Pancha Navarro, Lola Guerra and Lupe Martinez.
          The men, according to LaRoy Rossow, went to the little cantina on the corner named Las Panchas
for a cool drink and conversation about daily events on those hot, sultry days. Las Panchas also housed the
post office and only telephone.
          On the Cinco de Mayo Mexico‘s victory over the French in 1862 was celebrated by a big fiesta by
the townspeople. The school children put on a program of song and dance reflecting stories of that
triumphant day. Some of the dances were Los chapanecas, Los Inditos, Los Negritos and El Jarabe
Tapatio. In the evening, the orchestra played and people from Mission and surrounding areas would also
come to the celebration.
          Eduardo worked 11 years on the night shift, and periodically when work was slow and
monotonous, the crew would catch fish, fry them and make Caldo de Pescado. Since there wasn‘t any
television, he played the violin and the others played guitars and all would sing. Those were happy times,
Eduardo recalled.
          In 1918, a Worthington 45-inch centrifugal pump having a rated capacity of 45,000 gallons per
minute at 160 revolutions per minute, was added to the two pumps. The new pump was connected directly
to a 600-horsepower De La Vergne four-cylinder horizontal engine.
          At a more recent date a Nordberg 48-inch centrifugal pump having a rated capacity of 55,000
gallons per minutes at 180 revolutions per minute was installed in Pump Station #1. It was directly
connected to a 650-horsepower, 230-volt Allis-Chalmers synchronous motor.
          Walter ―Dutch‖ Burgoon started working on the pumps for John H. Shary that same year; his
father had pumped the first water from the Rio Grande up toward Edinburg.
          At his retirement party in 1992, Vince Born recalled that ―One of my biggest satisfactions came
when we got electric pumps at our Second Lift Plant at 6th street in Mission in 1922. Yes, the old
steam-powered plant with its giant boilers and huge steam-operated pumps is still there, preserved as a
fitting landmark to progress in our business.‖
          The men worked day and night to keep the canals open and functioning, despite dogs, pigs, horses,
snakes, furniture, junk and autos that wandered into the canals by mistake from time to time.
          At present (March 2, 1992) we have an October 18, 1922 sketch of the 36-inch centrifical pump
directly conected to a 14‖ by 30‖ by 36‖ horizontal cross compound steam engine in Lift Station #2. Steam
pressure was 150 pounds, with a rated capacity of 35,000 G.P.M. against total head of 32 feet and 125
r.p.m. The drawing was made at a scale of2-1 inch equaling one foot for the United

Irrigation Company of Mission, Texas, then led by John H. Shary.
         In 1924, a U.S. Senator from Alabama charged in the U.S. Senate that land companies in the

   By Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Drive, Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 March 10, 2002 ddheller@aol.com
                                                                  173

Lower Rio Grande Valley had invited prospective land buyers to the Valley, and sold them land which they said
was fertile, could be irrigated, and produce great crops. However, the land turned out to be arid brush, with no
irrigation in place, and not enough moisture to farm otherwise.
         Mayor AS. Cole of Brownsville represented the Valley at the hearings in Congress. He described the 12
big Valley water districts; worth more than $2 million, and explained that United Irrigation Co., of
Mission-Sharyland had 30,000 acres with 25,000 actually irrigated in 1924, with ample pumping facilities, 20.56
miles of main canals, 22.57 miles of sub-main canals, and 129.8 in laterals; 50 families had sent affidavits of costs,
returns, and statements of satisfaction with the irrigation district.
         When John Shary brought trainloads of prospective valley farmers to Mission, the third lift station was one
of the main stops, as seeing the great throbbing pumps splashing water into the cement-lined canals, headed out
into the delta assured the farmers that if they bought land, it would be watered.
         Eduardo Lopez fondly recalled that about every 15 days, Mr. Shary would show up at the plant with 20 to
30 carloads of people to tour the plant. ―He always wore high-top boots like generals wear and handing out of his
mouth was a 25-cent cigar, like the rich men smoked.‖
         It came out that some of the small, under-financed private companies were at fault for the whole mess, and
the state of Texas passed laws setting up county irrigation districts.
         Meanwhile, abnormally severe floods in 1913, 1919 and 1922 led to calls for flood channels to carry flood
water across Hidalgo and Cameron and Willacy counties to the Laguna Madre. A huge channel, starting at Abram
and Granjeno, led northeast, splitting into two channels east of Hidalgo County.
         From the mouth of the Rio Grande to Weslaco, the land is just slightly above sea level; from Weslaco to
Mission, the elevation increases by thirty feet, while around mission another 30 feet is gained. After the 1907 San
Benito flood control project, it was 1915 before a levee was built along the second lift, and remained as a part of the
flood control system. In 1923, a few Hidalgo county leaders went to the state legislature in Austin, and helped get
Senate Bill 281 passed, granting Hidalgo county remission of all ad valorem taxes for 25 years to finance flood
control in the county. The bill required Hidalgo county voters to approve bonds to build a control system, but many
were opposed. Finally, the opposition agreed if a U.S. Reclamation Service engineer would check and approve the
plans. It took just six weeks to confirm that the plans were valid.
         A similar tax remission bill was passed for Cameron County in 1925. The entire legislature
-   31 senators, 150 representatives and 20 other state officials visited the valley and were given the grand tour,
wined and dined, and also shown the major flood problems. This was February 28, and the bill was quickly passed
upon their return. The bond election was held August 18, 1925 in Cameron County, and only 21 voters were
opposed.
         Hidalgo county issued $1,620,000 and Cameron $ 1,5000,000 in bonds, a total of $3,120,000. A levee was
built from the Chimneys near Mission to the gulf near the mouth of the river. The levees are about ten feet wide at
the top and are built three feet above the expected high-water line. For many years the water district roads on the
levees were open, but in recent years most have been locked to the public for their own protection.
         This huge Federal program was completed, and John H. Shary hired the famous engineer that

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built the Panama Canal to plan the bridge over the Arroyo Colorado, which was used to channel the excess
water. Additionally, the drainage canals, six to 15 feet deep, have been successful in
reclaiming part of the alkali-affected land. Hundred and hundreds of miles of drainage canals now drain the
Valley, and the farmers are always grateful to see a nice rain, which percolates through the soil into the
drainage canals, carrying away the salts.
         C.H. Pease was trying to raise money so that gravity irrigation could be used to irrigate the Valley,
 instead of the pumps. But after collecting some money from the needy farmers, it developed that the cost
 would be $20 or more per acre, as compared with $7 an acre with the regular 1924 irrigation districts. The
 Federal government was pushing the gravity system.
         There is a November 14, 1925 drawing of a 42‖ by 36‖ type ―L-S‖ centrifigal pump, made at the
 same scale by Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., of Milwaukee, WI for the United Irrigation Co. It was rated at
 45,000 G.P.M. against a 32-foot head, 300 r.p.m. and a 465 horsepower motor.
         Another Allis-Chalmers order shows a 25,000 G.P. against a 32-foot head, 390 RPMs and 300
 horsepower motor, dated December 15, 1925. This is a 30-inch, type ―L-S‖ centrifugal pump.

                                                  Pump Station #3

         The third pump station is located 2 1/4 miles north of downtown Mission, site of the second pump
station, which, in turn, is about 5 miles from the 2nd, and presently used, first pump station at Abram. The
district headquarters is at the third pump station, and the pump was in service until about 1987. It pumped
51,840 (million?) gallons of water per day during peak periods, a far cry from its heyday when large
orchards and farms demanded vast amounts of water.
         The station was built in 1918, and in the 1920‘s and 1930‘s was a showplace for John H. Shary‘s
large groups of potential buyers called ―land Parties‖. Here the buyers would see just how their thirsty
farms would be provided with plenty of water for the crops, The station pumps water as far as the 10-mile
line.
         The Norberg 48-inch centrifugal pump, having a rated capacity of 55,000 gallons per minutes at
180 revolutions per minute, directly connected to a 650-horsepower, 23Q-volt, Allis Chalmers
synchronous motor is still intact today in the building. Consuming 800 gallons of bunker oil a day, it
became too expensive to operate and is now considered a museum-quality piece. Like an iceberg, the
majority of the engine sits underground and is an exact replica of the engine used in the battleship Texas.
The engine was constructed in Wisconsin in 1917 and installed in 1918-20, installation being held up by
the construction of a large pit for the rods and pistons. They were encased in concrete, and then the brick
building s constructed around the engine.
         According to Mrs. Marshal Smith, wife of a past head pumper, ―on days when the engine was in
operation, the ground shook with a low hum, and black smoke bellowed out of the chimney leaving a fine
film of soot on the automobiles.‖ Other oldtimers remember standing on the canal banks at the 7-mile line,
and feeling the vibrations some 42_1 miles away.
         During prohibition in the late 1920‘s, there was a shootout near pump station 1, recalled by LaRoy
Rossow and Eduardo Lopez, the latter a 31-year plant employee.
         Border patrolmen Jim and Jack Cottingham and John Peavey were patroling the river bank for
tequila smugglers when a boat on the river opened fire on them. They returned fire, and Jim was

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wounded in the abdomen. When the fight ended, workers Rossow, Lopez, Hipolito Lopez and Joaquin Longoria,
went and picked up the wounded—Eduardo vividly remembered Jim Cottingham moaning as they arrived.
Eduardo rushed Jim to Doc Burneet in Mission, and he picked pellets out of him for some time, but announced that
he would be all right. One of the smugglers, who were transporting empty bottles back to Mexico to refill, was
killed--Mexican Andres Garza.
         A blueprint dated February 2, 1926 shows the suction and discharge pipes for the electrically-driven units
at the second lift plant of the United Irrigation Company of Mission, Texas; it shows the flap valves still visible
outside the plant.



                                                             District 7

         In 1927, John H. Shary‘s United Irrigation Company was heavily mortgaged, but badly needed to convert
its dirt canals to cement canalways. As Shary could not raise the money, so, to keep the vital irrigation water
flowing, he had to begin selling parts of his private company to a public entity that could issue bonds.
         That year, a group of landowners petitioned the Hidalgo County Commissioners to form Hidalgo County
Water Control and Improvement District No.7, commonly known as district 7. On November 22, 1927 the petition
was granted by the commissioners, naming five local landowners as directors: A.C. Trapp, Pete Sweeney, Joe
Meador, C.B. Thompson, and Lloyd Bentsen.
         Immediately a group led by R. Vancher appealed this decision to the 93rd District Court, which on January
18, 1928 ratified the order, and on January 28, 1928 the district was authorized by the County Commissioners.
         They met February 3, 1928 and elected Trapp president, Sweeney, vice-president; and Joe Meador,
secretary. They then authorized an election March 3, 1928 to ratify the county action, creating the 33,864-acre
district, and authorizing $7,500 in bonds, to be issued in 15 $500-bonds at 6% with ten years to retire the
bonds--this was the seed money for the district.
         O.J. Anderson was presiding judge, Tom B. Norman was assistant; Arthur Cole, EW. King, and M.J.
Koehler, clerks; the election was held at the Wimodausis Club House, and the vote was
132-33conflrmingthedistrict,andl34-33forbonds. Anderson was then named tax assessor-collector at a salary of
$175 a month and ordered to prepare the tax rolls.
         The First State Bank & Trust of Mission was then named depository of funds, and E.P. Congdon, C.E., was
named district engineer; $1,000 was borrowed to accomplish the preliminary work.
         The bank had to give bond; H.L. Starr was cashier, and sureties were John H. Shary, D.F. Strickland, J.J.
and M.D. Cavazos, and T.M. Melden.
         On March 16, 1928 the directors of the United Irrigation Co.--John H. Shary, M; O‘Brien
Shary, R.B. Shary, H.H. Ewing, and T.M. Melden--granted, for $10 an option to the Irrigation District
7 to purchase the principal and main canals, first, second and 3rd lifts with described land, the
Granjeno, Bryan, 1st, 2nd and 3rd lift main canals for $500,000, plus value added. The option
           anticipated the formation of a second district, later 14, and the union of the 2, with appropriate

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clauses.
          The option set up a series of six-months steps taking up to three years.
          On May 22, 1928 the board discussed the possibility of using Gunite, an inch of concrete over iron
screening, to line the canals.
          The board was re-elected on January 8, 1929; Trapp, the president, got two fewer votes than the rest; 84,
instead of 86. He, therefore, got a term of one year; lots were cast for the other one-year term, and Bentsen was
chosen; the other three got two-year terms. After this, all elections were to be for two years. On the 10th, the value
of the canal system, the proposed improvements, three years of bond interest, and operating expenses, was set at
$2,750,000—and this amount of bonds was proposed. It was approved by the Board of Water Engineers on the
12th, and the 14th set for election on February 19, 1929. These were 6% bonds, payable semi-annually.
          The bank was re-approved; the bond issue passed by a vote of 156-43, a margin of 113, and bids were
taken March 9. And on March 25, 1929 the Jackson tract, 1,520 acres of sandy pasture unfit for irrigation, was
excluded by the irrigation district, and three other Shary tracts(the Jackson pasture was owned by Shary) were
granted the water rights, two Cantü tracts and a 2564_1 acre described area.
          It was decided that the first waterway to be improved with Gunite would be the Rossau Canal, 3,960 feet of
the 3rd Lift Main to Bryan. J.M. Crom was hired by the United Irrigation District at 11 per square foot, or less if
entire system finally used Gunite (it did.) The Card and Parks Development Co. of McAllen built the Marvin
Goodwin Project. Edward Melvin Card was the engineer.8 Also, 2,750 $1,000 bonds, issued April 1, 1929, for
varying periods to be retired between 1931 and 1969, carrying two $30 coupons a year, were printed by EL. Steck
of Austin, and J.Q. Henry was named attorney for the district.
          A deed of conveyance was granted to District 7 by United on May 29, 1929 for 660 acres of
canal rights of way, 3,000 feet of cement-lined canal and the rest open. Between 1930 and 1961, 160
miles of open canal was converted by Gunite to cement-lined. Only the 12 miles from the present
first to second lift stations remained unlined in 1961.
          Irrigation water was purchased from the United Irrigation company, which continued to own and operate
the first and second lift plants and the main canals to the boundaries of District No. 7. The company agreed to
distribute the water fairly between its various customers.
          D.E. Congdon was named district engineer and general manager at a salary of $5,000 a year, and given a
one-year contract, from June 1, 1929 until May31, 1930. On June 27, the Borman Canal, 3rd lift Main from 3rd lift
7 miles, then northwest to 7.75 miles at Glasscock, 43,000 square feet, was contracted as was the Eight-mile Canal,
150,000 square feet, to J.M. Crom.
          Congdon was authorized June 21 to purchase, for $16,288 a Model 600 P&H Dragline with 45-foot boom,
fully enclosed steel cab, power clutch, steering brakes, and a one-yard Omaha dragline bucket, powered by a
4-cylinder Atlas diesel engine including a 1,500-watt Koehle light plant.
          Another undated blueprint shows the Class ―M‖ No. 19 single Stirling boiler frame and


           5
               See p. 50-1, American Studies Class(1974-5), McAllen High School, McAllen: A Bicentennial Reflection.

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foundation at the second lift, usual 2-1-inch dimensions. A drawing dated June 11, 1931 shows the brockwork
contract details for Stirling boilers other than handfed. This is a Babcock & Wilcox
Company drawing.                                                              -
         By February 12, 1931 the district was badly split between the ―ins‖, who, while they acknowledged some
problems, felt they were on the road to straightening them out; and the ―outs‖, who felt that numerous
inefficiencies in the affairs of the district disqualified the incumbents - Lloyd Bentsen, A. C. Trapp, Pat Sweeney,
Joe Meador and C. B. Thompson. Representing the ―outs‖ anti-Shary forces were J. W. Bond, B. H. Oxford, T. B.
Norman, it. DeVries and E. S. Kendall.
         The citizen‘s group objected to 7th district engineer E. P. Congdon‘s signing of an arbitrary price estimate
by the U.I.C.‘s engineer, Mr. Ewing, when the poreliminary bonds had carried $7,500 to make a survey and get an
estimate on price of lands and properties of U.I.C. in 7th district boundaries. Also, no provision was made to
retaining funds subject to the litigation the U.LC. was involved in.
         Those were the first two of 9 points. The others were:

         3. Allowed U.I.C. to put in a costly system of underground pipelines before selling to District
7, so the latter must pay for what only the affected farmers should be paying for, and concreting the
600-acre tract; also, tract 426 of the Southwestern Land Company.
         4. For dropping off second- or third-lift land on the Jackson and Retama tracts, and taking

on North Mission Tract fourth-lift land, after the bonds were voted. Now the 7th district will have to provide the
necessary lift.
        5. Faulty canals built with cheap Republic concrete, inferior and rebounding sand, even alter the inspector
objected, and pointed out the thinness of the concrete.
        6. Permitting $56,000 worth of work without a written contract, paying the contractor padded prices of
112_1 per square foot for Gunite, plus 3 for fine trim and 10 per square foot extra for syphon bowls, extra bulkhead
reinforcement, plus extra for gates and syphons and padded prices for road syphons.
        7. For not being present in a body for taxpayers‘ drive January 12 to see faulty construction. Joe Meador
and C.B. Thompson being only ones present. Both said canals had not been accepted, District withheld 15%, and
contractor was under bond but books showed no contract, no bond, and contractor paid in full and relieved of all
                               --


obligations Dec. 14, 1930.
        8. For charging penalty on flat tax, which is illegal.
        9. For attorney‘s failure to permit name of C. D. Speed to be printed on the ballot following the death of
Mr. Castleman.

                                                             District 14

         In 1931, the landowners in the southern part of the area formed the Hidalgo County Water Control and
Improvement District No. 14 and purchased the irrigation facilities within their district. But the two irrigation
districts did not own the pumps and canals on which they were dependent. In the 1940‘s, the Bentsen Brothers at
Mission pushed District 14 to agree, as they had converted thousands of acres of mesquite range to cultivated fields
and citrus groves, and felt it would be advantageous for the farmers to own their canals and lift stations. It was not
until 1951 that the price

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and the financing to purchase them was finalized. For twenty years, the two districts were dependent on the
private, non-profit United Irrigation Company.
         In late 1933, the United Irrigation Company applied to the Federal Emergency Administration
of Public Works, the forerunner of the WPA, for $200,000 to improve the old dirt and wood canal north
ten miles from Pump #3. Of this, $60,000 was a Federal donation, and $140,000 a loan.
          Attorneys for the UIC at the time were Strickland, Ewers & Wilkins of Mission. H. H. Ewing was,
of course, their engineer. Shary, in his application, summed up the history of Mission, which, he pointed
out, was located within and served by the district, had only a nominal population in 1910, which had
increased by 1920 to about 4,000, and in 1930 to 5,000. The La Lomita tract of land was opened in 1907.
There was very little development work done until 1911. In 1914, John H. Shary Subdivision of 16,000
acres was added under this system. The largest increase in the municipal population was during the period
1910 to 1920, when active construction work on the irrigation
system and considerable land development was taking place.
          The company issued its bonds over 30 years in denomination of $1,000, to bear the lowest possible
interest, not more than 5%, to be secured by a lien against the physical properties of the company. A
retirement fund to consist of $1.25 per acre per year, out of the $4 flat rate. To pay off the debt in 30 years,
the company would be repaying over 30 years a total of $391,400.
          The project was divided into five sections - the third lift canal; the lateral lining of a distribution
system out of the main canal; concrete-lining of a main feeder canal across the district; concreting a second
lateral; extending a then-existing concrete canal. The company already owned the necessary land,
rights-of-way and easements. The first section would require 43,400 man-hours; the second, 23,000; the
third, 69,900; the fourth, 19,500, and the fifth 1,800 for a total of 157,600 man-hours. This would hire 115
men for six months, and prevent the 16,000 acres from becoming waterlogged, destroying its value of from
$200 to $1,800 an acre-- the latter for the 7,000 acres set to citrus fruit frees, the most highly developed
tract in the Rio Grande Valley.
          At the time, UIC had a $1,250,000 loan dated July 1, 1930, and due July 1, 1940, at 6%, a renewal,
secured by the physical property of the company. The company had capital stock of $500,000, represented
by 5,000 shares at $100 par, all but 10 or 15 shares retained by the original owners. Bankers Mortgage
Company of Houston, Texas, held the mortgage. They were still getting $4 an acre for 14,000 acres,
approximately 7,000 or half of which were set to trees, mostly of bearing age. They also received a charge
of $2.50 per acre for staple crops and trees, and $3 an acre for vegetables. But for the past eight months
they had actually charged 50 an acre less because of
depressed farm prices.
          Also, the application stated that the president of the company, John H. Shary, owned 4,996 of the
5,000 shares of stock; T.M. Melden, Vice-president. Mary O‘Brien Shary, Secretary and Treasurer, R. B.
Shary, and H.H. Ewing each had one share. T. M. Melden was the only officer
drawing a salary-- $1,200 a year. When All lived in Mission; when the company was founded in 1915, the
six founders were John H. Shary M. O‘Brien, and W.S, Jones of Omaha, Douglas Co., NE; H. A. Shannon
of McAllen, and A. Tamm and D. W. Glasscock, both of Mission. The company would have expired in 50
years --Dec.21, 1965.

         The map of the Lower Rio Grande Valley that accompanied the application had some interesting
figures. For example, the 1930 population of the valley cities was:

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                                                      179
City                         1930                                 City                               1980
1. Brownsville                22,021                              Edinburg                         29,855
2. Harlingen                 12,124                               Mission                          28,653
3. San Benito                10,753                               Weslaco                          21,877
4. McAllen                   9,074                                San Benito                        20,125
                                                                  Mercedes                         12,694
city                            1980                              Donna                            12,652
Brownsville                  98,962                               San Juan                         10,815
McAllen                      84,021                               Rio Grande City                  9,891
Harlingen                    48,735                               Raymondville                      8,880
Pharr                        32,921                               Alamo                             8,210
                                                                  Roma                              8,059
City             1930                                             Port Isabel                       4,467
5. Mercedes        6,608                                          La Feria                          4,360
6. Mission         5,120                                          Lyford                            1,674
7. Weslaco         4,874
8. Edinburg        4,821
9. Donna           4,103
10.Pharr           3,225
11.Rio Grande City 2,283
12.Raymondville    2,050
13.Sanjuan         1,615
14.LaFeria         1,594
15. Port Isabel     1,177
16.Alamo           1,018
17. Lyford         795
18. Rio Hondo       713



         In 1933, the first lift plant had one steam-driven 48-inch centrifugal pump, one steam-driven
36-inch centrifugal pump, one electrically-driven 480 inch centrifugal pump and one diesel-driven
45-inch centrifugal pump, with the capacity of 225 second-feet to the Second Lift.
         The Second Lift, located in Mission, had a steam-driven 48-inch centrifugal pump, and electrically
driven 36-inch and 30-inch pumps.
         The Third Lift, 2% miles north, had a 36-inch centrifugal pump driven by a 550 horsepower
Nordberg diesel engine, and a 36-inch auxiliary steam-driven unit.
         Shary, one of the pioneers in using and promoting concrete or Gunite-lined canals, outlined his
views to The Mission_Times on January 12, 1935:
―I foresee for this community enhanced land values because of these concreted canals. Landowners of the
district will no longer fear the menace of seepage and water-logging and will be willing to build and build
permanently on their land. The economy effected in water alone will be


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                                                         180

sufficient justification for the entire system of concrete-lined canals. Much less wastage of water will
result, and lower per-acre water rates will go into effect immediately after the program has been
completed.‖
         A January 22, 1936 blueprint shows the proposed boiler room addition for lift pump #2, with views
 from all four sides, and the floor plan. An undated drawing shows the proposed boiler room and
 smokestack addition, drawn to a 4-1inch equals one- foot scale.
         On March 3, 1939 it was announced that the United Irrigation District had rebuilt the Wetherford
 Canal a mile north and quarter-mile west of the Sharyland packing facility. H.H. Ewing was the
 engineer—the canal was shaped, reinforcing wire put in place, bricks of a special design laid between the
 wires, and the whole thing covered with mortar. These canals were supposed to leak less. However, the
 cement between the bricks cracked, and couldn‘t be repaired, so it was replaced in 1990-1991, between
 second and third lifts.
         Meanwhile, Shary was building a two-story, 40,000 headquarters for his many businesses—and
moving out of the old wooden Mission Canal Company, Inc., building, shorn of its porches and balconies,
 that had housed his operation since 1915.
         Since 1925, the U.S. and Mexico had been trying to agree on ways to build a large
water-control reservoir in the Zapata area. In the 1930‘s, although 70% of the flow of the Rio Grande
 below El Paso came from Mexico, the U.S. was using the bulk of the water for irrigation, 400,000 acres
 using that water in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. By 1940, the International Boundary Commission had
 decided that the best way to solve the water problem was a great canal that would permit a gravity water
 system, a favorite of the Federal government for two decades.
         On January 12, 1940, The Mission Times revealed:
         ―The project is expected to call for construction of a master reservoir on Los Olmos Creek,
east of Rio Grande City, about 100 miles up river from Brownsville. A diversion canal would take water
 out of the Rio Grande at a point about 70 miles up the river from the master reservoir, at a point near
 Zapata. There would be a smaller reservoir at Penitas, which is a few miles west of Mission.
             ―…It (the report to Secretary of State Cordell Hull) is understood to show that approximately
 50% of the water that enters the Rio Grande west of the point where the San Juan River joins the border
 stream, comes from rivers on the American side. Since the diversion canal will tap the river west of the San
 Juan‘s mouth, there is expected to be no question of the water rights.‖
         It was supposed that the proposed system would end two major problems for Valley farmers -
-hundreds of thousands of dollars would be saved by the gravity system, because no expensive lift
pumps would be needed. Second, floodwater would be stored instead of wasted, and used during dry
periods.
         During World War II, the canal engineers opened an office in McAllen, and the Valley Evening
 Monitor reported:
         ―A skeleton engineers‘ staff for continuance of the survey to locate the $65,000,000 Valley gravity
 canal and storage project along the Rio Grande has arrive in McAllen to take up permanent
headquarters. The staff, headed by Charles Seger, construction engineer who is chief of the project, is
 from the bureau of reclamation, Department of the Interior. At preset two engineers besides Seger are
 stationed here. Eight or ten more are expected to arrive within a month.
         ―For the duration of the war, Seger pointed out, the crew will only continue the survey, whose

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                                                        181

preliminary work has already been done by the International Boundary Commission, and will state location of the
canal.
         ―Actual construction on the canal, to stretch along the border from Zapata to Brownsville, is not due to get
underway until after the war. Already located are servoir sites at Los Olmos and at Mission.‖
         The Mission site resulted in Anzulduas Dam and lake, but the Los Olmos location was rejected in favor of
the present one which stretches from Falcon Heights upstream past Zapata.
         An Orange Co. Water Company drawing, from Orange, TX, dated June 25, 1945 shows twin Lennon-type
flumes for a canal crossing a gully.
         An original drawing made July 18, 1949 and revised July 28, for the United Irrigation Company, shows a
proposed condenser at the second lift.
         A letter, dated June 9, 1950, from HR. Ewing, chief engineer of the United Irrigation Company, to F.D.
Flanders of Flanders Construction Company of Houston, TX states that the district needs about 8,000 square feet of
2x2x14xl4 welded mesh for Gunite Retentions. It is attached to a letter of Nov. 5, 1949 from Mr. Flanders offering
several complete Gunnite units with ten years service, for $9,950. To this is attached a black-and-white photo
of_________
         Many attempts were made by Districts 7 and 14 to purchase the jointly used pumps and canals, but it was
not until Oct. 20, 1951 that purchase price was agreed to, and bond issues voted in District 14 included
rehabilitation funds, while District 7 voted bonds to extend its system to water lands within the district not
previously served. At this time the International Boundary and Water Commission was planning construction of
Anzalduas Dam which would greatly affect by its maintained level the type of pump needed at the river, all work
on it was deferred until the dam was completed.
         Eighteen blueprint drawings of October, 1952 by Sigler - Clark & Winston, consulting engineers of
Weslaco, TX and H.H. Ewing, consultant, of Mission, TX, outline main canal improvements proposed for Hidalgo
County Water Control and lmprovement Districts Nos., 7 and 14: Board of Directors, District 7, Quo Jensen,
President; Levi Walker, Vice President; Hubert Thompson, Secretary; W.R. Wolfrum, Member; J.R. Powell,
Member; R.R. Hass, manager; District 14, S.M. Duffie, President; J.R. Ragland, Vice-President; C.A. Townsend,
Secretary; N.E. Powell, Member; G.W. Hersh, Member; Roy V. Jones, Office Manager.
         Serious droughts drained the Rio Grande in 1952, 1953, and 1956, and the entire irrigation system was put
out of business off and on for several months as the river was pumped dry at that point and many others along the
river. Equally serious floods caused by hurricane rains inundated Pump #1, and mountain runoff rains occasionally
caused less damaging floods.
         The completion of Falcon Dam in 1955, and of Anzulduas Dam, stablized the flow, and allowed engineers
to control the flow from Brownsville by computer. Only great hurricane-caused rains, like those of 1909 and 1989,
in the area below the dam can now cause trouble and large floodways extending through Hidalgo county and across
Cameron county to the Laguna Madre, help protect the canal system, residents and farms.
         But another problem developed; the water in the Rio Grande at Pump Station #1 became so saline that
irrigation was damaging rather than helping some of the crops. The flow from Falcon Dam was checked, and it was
not excessively salty. Water coining into the river below the dam was then

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analyzed.
        About one-half mile upstream from Pumping Plant #1 the Morillo Drain enters the Rio Grande
from Mexico, where it drains a large, irrigated area. It was dumping 30 cubic feet per second of water
containing 11,280 parts per million of salt, and 5.6 parts per million of boron.
        New developments in pumps and motors meant that slowly the huge old motors that shook the
neighborhood, and necessitated deep cement foundations and solid brick buildings, became obsolete, as
new parts were no longer obtainable by 1956.
        At the same time, the International Boundary and Water Commission was going to have to build a
$250,000 cement flume through its flood control dike to replace the old wooden flume into the main canal.
        The District and the IBWC agreed that if the former built a new pump station #1 at Abram, 11/2
miles upstream, the IBWC would build the needed flume at the new location.
        An undated bundle of blueprints shows proposed improvements for District Seven only.
        Before the completion of Falcon and Anzalduas dams, the Rio Grande River was notorious for
changing course--LaRoy Rossow, a long-time water district employee, recalled that once the river moved
almost a half mile from the pumping plant. Another time, the district bought up junked cars and strung
them on cables across the river from bank to bank in front of the plant to keep the river out.
        The completion and dedication of Falcon Dam in 1955 led to a frightening event for LaRoy
Rossow which seemed humorous later. Roy had been on night shift at the river and was getting into his car
to go home about 1:30 a.m. when an armed man appeared next to him and asked for some identification.
Roy was quite surprised--at that time of night normally there was no on else around. He replied, ―I‘m
LaRoy Rossow, I‘m just gettin‘ off the night shift at the pumping plant.‖ The man laughed as though
relieved and said he was an F.B.I. agent in the Valley with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was
staying at Sharyland with the Shivers family.
        In 1958, the new plant at Abram took over the pumping, and the old plant #1 was torn down. The
workers, many of whom lived in Madero around the old plant persuaded the district to allow the 108-foot
chimney to remain.
        There is also an October, 1959 order form for spare parts and tools for a model 38F5¼ oil diesel
engine to Fairbanks, Morse & Co., and bulletins for the same Fairbanks, Morse engine at pump station #2.
        A January 26, 1961 letter from Central Power and Light Company to Messrs. Paul R. Hetrick,
George W. Hersh, S.T. Tillson, Hoyt Boatwright, Glenn Hodgin, and James R. Smith, board for
Hildalgo County Water Control and Improvement District No. 14, summarizes the electric power and
pump requirements of the second life station, giving four alternatives for providing proper power: (1)
Replace present 48‖ pump at second lift station with the 48‖ pump from the old river station; not
recommended because Nordberg Manufacturing Co. can provide no performance curve, a large
investment is not recommended based on theoretical performance,, and the fact that it has seriously
overloaded the attached 650 HP motor on several occasions; (2) Use existing 48‖ pump with a different
prime mover than existing Corliss steam engine, after inspection by consulting enginer of broken-down
pump; (3) purchase a new 48‖ pump, if No. 2 reveals need; (4) Replace Corliss steam engine with either a
natural gas engine or an electric motor. Study indicates that cost per acre-foot

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would bed 65 with natural gas and 57.5 with an electric motor.
         And from the Fairbanks, Morse diesel engineer department at Beloit, WI, dated July20, 1962, and
made for Hildalgo County Water and Control Improvement Districts Nos. 7 and 14, is a a drawing showing
rated torque to torque available for pump between 1,000 to 1,200 engine R.P.M. for a 10 cyl.,
54_1 and 74_1 O.P. spark-ignited engine. In the same packet are two undated Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co.
drawings for Joe Summers & Co., showing pump efficiency, head in feet, and thousands of gallons of
water pumped per minute.
         One of the patrolmen and a friend were riding their horses through the cane fields and heard some
noise off in the direction of the chimney. They saw what appeared to be a large hawk pitched
on the chimney, and the friend suggested that he shoot it with his rifle which he carried when on
patrol. However, looking at the ―hawk‖ through binoculars they found it was a young boy‘s head extending
from the top of the chimney--and the patrolman was very glad he didn‘t take his friend‘s advice.
         In 1965 stories that young children were climbing up the inside of the old chimney remaining at
site #1, and endangering their lives, led to the sale of the site in September of that year to the Water
District‘s attorney, Neal King, and his partner, Ralph King, whose bid was the highest of five local bids.
         They bought the land for $11,501 and developed it into a recreation area and popular trailer park,
using the giant smokestack as an advertising gimmick. The land has 700 feet of river frontage, and the
chimney can be seen from Conway Street in Mission, three miles away. A boat ramp makes it a popular
place to enter the river to fish the lake above Anzalduas Dam. A small convenience store is located inside
one of the original water holding tanks. The walls are three feet thick, making the room nice and cool
during the warm summers, the managers Bob and Nancy Davis stated in 1984 when a new, luxurious
recreation hall was built in modem Spanish style keeping the architectural flavor of the area. In 1985, the
Hidalgo County Historical Commission memorialized the site with an historical marker
         In 1965 at Pump Station #2 in Mission, the Allis-Chalmers centrifugal pump was unit #1; The
Allis-Chalmers 36‖ by 30‖ centrifugal pump was unit #2, and the Allis-Chalmers 42‖ by 36‖ centrifugal
pump was unit #3.
         The conception of a watermaster, to control release of water between El Paso and the Gulf of
Mexico, was formed in 1971, when the courts settled the historic 15-year Valley Water Suit, which turned
jurisdiction of the Rio Grande‘s water, on which the local irrigation districts are 100% dependent, over to
the Texas Water Commission. This commission operates on fees from those using the water, not state
taxes. Until 1988, their only office was in Weslaco, but at that time a South Texas office was opened in San
Antonio.
         Jurisdiction of the 34-year-old Rio Grande Watermaster, John Hinojosa LV, starts at old Fort
Quitman, above El Paso, includes the two main reservoirs, Amistad at Del Rio and Falcon at Zapata,
through the Lower Valley and on to the Gulf of Mexico.
         Amistad and Falcon reservoirs function as one system for flood control and for irrigation as
requested by users. Hinojosa and his staff of 11 regulate the rights of 1,600 users each year to 650 billion
gallons of water, more than 2 million acre-feet a year. Approximately 720,000 acres of irrigated land are
associated with the water rights.

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        The annual agricultural base, set by the Valley Water Suit, remains at 2.5 acre-feet, when available. About
90% of the water goes for irrigation. Cities and industries get the remainder.
        As set by the courts, it is the user‘s responsibility to manage his or her allotment. If the allotment is used
before the year ends, the user must acquire additional rights to meet needs.
   Mexico withdraws its water through a gravity canal behind Anzalduas Dam, south of Mission. More than 99%
of the water below that dam is for Texas farmers.
        The two largest users are Hidalgo-Cameron Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 9, at
184,314 acre-feet per year, and Delta Lake Irrigation District at 176,548 acre-feet.
        When Falcon and Amistad reservoirs are at maximum capacity, water rights owners can receive no-charge
water, protecting their annual allotments. This was in effect for part of 1991, and all of 1992, at least until October
4. Most of Starr County has to buy extra water rights, even during good years.
        In 1978, the old unit in lift station 3, which was identical to one in the old first pump station, was fired up
for the last time. It is still (March 31, 1992) in place, and ready to fire up.
        In 1987, Districts 7 and 14 joined together and formed The Hidalgo County United Water Control and
Improvement District, usually known as the United Irrigation District.
        Vince Born, manager of Water District 7 since 1975 and of the combined Water Districts 7 and 14, now the
United Irrigation District since 1980, retired in 1991, and was succeeded by President-Manager Bill Thompson. He
has been chief advisor to Thompson since 1991.
        At one time, District 7 served 19,400 acres of land, and when the two district merged in 1980, they served
farmers and water users in more than 18,300 acres, in addition to the vast agricultural acreage around the
Mission-Sharyland-McCook and near Edinburg communities, United in recent years has sold water to the cities of
Alton, Mission and McAllen.
        In October, 1992 President-Manager Bill Thompson announced improvements costing $140,000 would be
undertaken by the United Irrigation District as soon as engineering was completed in about a month. The work will
help maintain consistent water supplies to users in the Sharyland‘s Water Supply Corp. service area, between
Mission and McAllen. The work should prevent disruptions such as accured in January, 1992 to Sharyland‘s water
supply. A joint agreement between United and Sharyland was signed September 22 at a barbecue meeting of the
two groups.
        Bids will be let as soon as engineering is complete. Improvements include two miles of underground
pipeline to provide an alternate route in case trouble develops along United‘s main canal system. Sharyland offered
United $100,000 to make these improvements as an alternative to a $500,000 reserve reservoir. Two check gates,
costing $40,000, as an additional assurance to a continuous supply will also be provided under the contract, and
Sharyland delivered a $140,000 check at the contract-signing. They also delivered a check for $24,362.31 covering
accumulated interest during a period when there was disagreement over the water rates being charged. Another
check for $41,246.50 covered the difference in rates charged and paid during a disputed period of March 1 to July
30 of 1992.
        Already completed is a $20,000 computer-operated metering station, the units jointly sharing the cost as
suggested by the Texas Water Commission. All of these matters were settled to end litigation over the past four
years which had cost the two about $1,500,000. United, the only available supplier of water for about 9,500
Sharyland domestic water users, said every assurance possible

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would be given to maintain the Sharyland water supply without interruption.




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                                                        Chapter 18

                                                 Pump Station #2

         Conway and Hoit‘s projected city of Mission was being built on a slight hill, so that if water was to be
pumped to farms farther north, a new pump station, called station #2, had to be built; it was completed in 1909.
Later, about two miles north, pump station #3, the future show place of John H. Shary‘s land company, was built in
1910. That year the big event was the Fourth of July celebration in Mission. The leading feature of the parade was
the pump to be installed in the third lift. J. F. Vandervort recalled many years later that it was a 30- or 36-inch
pump. For the parade it was mounted on house-moving trucks and pulled at the head of the procession by a steam
tractor. A banner on the side of the pump read, ―One mile per hour and 40,000 gallons per minute‖. The three
stations and the connecting canals were owned by Shary‘s company for 35 years, until finally sold in 1951 to the
two irrigation districts, 7 and 14, which were later combined into the United Irrigation District, a name quite
similar to Shary‘s company name. A third district, No.6, serves the area southeast of Mission, in the Plantation
area. L.H. Ramey was the manager in 1942. It, too, was part of the Shary interests.

                                                     Shary Buys Canal Co.

          John H. Shary, well-known businessman, came to the Valley in 1912, and began putting together a unit of
land he could develop. By 1914, he had researched and perfected all the titles--but should he invest the rest of his
life in the Rio Grande Valley? He thought about it for several days, and finally took out his old lucky silver dollar
and tossed it three times. It came up heads all three times, so he went ahead with the land purchase. Since he had
just purchased 16,000 acres east of the La Lomita Subdivision, including the Granjeno Land Company tract, the
water for which was to be furnished by the Mission Canal Company; at the 1914 receiver‘s sale he purchased the
assets of the Mission Canal Company. He formed the United Irrigation Company, and filed it in the office of the
Texas Board of Water Engineers on June 25, 1914, and recorded it August 3, 1914. The company incorporated
Dec. 21, 1915 to irrigate 33,000 acres of porciones 53 through 60.
    An efficient irrigation system at a reasonable rate greatly increased the value of the land, turning it from
low-grade pasture to highly profitable acres of citrus or vegetable crops in winter and cotton, sugarcane, milo or
corn in summer.
     There is no question but that Shary kept irrigation going in the Mission area until after his death--he figured
out, by one way or another, how to finance the complicated system, and get it ―scaled‖ by concrete, and finally into
cement pipes for less evaporation. He was a strong man, and of course there were bound to be some who were
rubbed the wrong way by his personality. They did not trust him to divide the water fairly, and consequently opted
not deal with him in 1929; they formed, in 1931, water district 14, but it was a ―hollow shell‖ without operating
equipment until 1951. Then it took until 1987 to unite the two districts, which, in 1927, Shary had anticipated
uniting by 1930. Shary died in 1945, and it was six years later when his son-in-law, Allen Shivers,


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and his manager, finally completed the long-anticipated sale, 24 years after the fact. Some of the older district
voters were still influenced by the two-decade disagreement.
           Hipolito Lopez was employed by Shary in February, 1916, and he served as fireman and oiler for 33 years;
his brother Eduardo Lopez, who was born in Ramones, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, came to live and work at the pump
plant with Hipolito February 20, 1918, retiring in 1949. Their older brother Pridiliano Lopez, was employed in
January, 1923, and he retired as an oiler in 1949.
           Their half-brother, Daniel Lopez, was also employed by the district, but while attempting to attach a chain
and pulley over the top of a steel rail, the steel cable supporting him broke, and he fell, hitting his head on 42-1-inch
steel screws. A blood clot formed on his brain, and he died eight days later. His son, Jorge Lopez, a 1985 resident of
Mission, was just five months old at the time.
           Many of the employees had, and still have, homes on the properties owned by the district. Eduardo raised
his family in a wood-framed home next to a huge cypress near the levee. The house is now gone, but the huge tree
is still standing. His daughter remembers that the tree kept the house cool, and there were many happy memories in
that house and community.
           The Lopez family was very active in the tiny community that surrounded the plant. They attended church
at the La Lomita chapel and their children received their first Communion there. Later, a hall was built across the
levee in Madero and later the church which is still used today was erected. The women of the community around
the plant and those in Madero made and sold tamales, tacos and menudo at the dances to raise money for the
church. Some of these women were Eloisa Cavazos, Lupita de Anda, Toribia Ruiz, Pancha Navarro, Lola Guerra
and Lupe Martinez.
           The men, according to LaRoy Rossow, went to the little cantina on the corner named Las Panchas for a
cool drink and conversation about daily events on those hot, sultry days. Las Panchas also housed the post office
and only telephone.
           On the Chico de Mayo Mexico‘s victory over the French in 1862 was celebrated by a big fiesta by the
townspeople. The school children put on a program of song and dance reflecting stories of that triumphant day.
Some of the dances were Los chapanecas, Los Inditos, Los Negritos and El Jarabe Tapatio. In the evening, the
orchestra played and people from Mission and surrounding areas would also come to the celebration.
           Eduardo worked 11 years on the night shift, and periodically when work was slow and monotonous, the
crew would catch fish, fry them and make Caldo de Pescado. Since there wasn‘t any television, he played the violin
and the others played guitars and all would sing. Those were happy times, Eduardo recalled.
           In 1918, a Worthington 45-inch centrifugal pump having a rated capacity of 45,000 gallons per minute at
160 revolutions per minute, was added to the two pumps. The new pump was connected directly to a
600-horsepower De La Vergne four-cylinder horizontal engine.
           At a more recent date a Nordberg 48-inch centrifugal pump having a rated capacity of 55,000 gallons per
minutes at 180 revolutions per minute was installed in Pump Station #1. It was directly connected to a
650-horsepower, 230-volt Allis-Chalmers synchronous motor.
           Walter ―Dutch‖ Burgoon started working on the pumps for John H. Shary that same year; his father had
pumped the first water from the Rio Grande up toward Edinburg.
           At his retirement party in 1992, Vince Bonn recalled that ―One of my biggest satisfactions came when we
got electric pumps at our Second Lift Plant at 6th street in Mission in 1922. Yes, the

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old steam-powered plant with its giant boilers and huge steam-operated pumps is still there, preserved as a fitting
landmark to progress in our business.‖
         The men worked day and night to keep the canals open and functioning, despite dogs, pigs, horses, snakes,
furniture, junk and autos that wandered into the canals by mistake from time to time.
         At present (March 2, 1992) we have an October 18, 1922 sketch of the 36-inch centrifical pump directly
conected to a 14‖ by 30‖ by 36‖ horizontal cross compound steam engine in Lift Station #2. Steam pressure was
150 pounds, with a rated capacity of 35,000 G.P.M. against total head of 32 feet and 125 r.p.m. The drawing was
made at a scale of 2_1 inch equaling one foot for the United Irrigation Company of Mission, Texas, then led by John
H. Shary.
         In 1924, a U.S. Senator from Alabama charged in the U.S. Senate that land companies in the Lower Rio
Grande Valley had invited prospective land buyers to the Valley, and sold them land which they said was fertile,
could be irrigated, and produce great crops. However, the land turned out to be arid brush, with no irrigation in
place, and not enough moisture to farm otherwise.
         Mayor A.B. Cole of Brownsville represented the Valley at the hearings in Congress. He described the 12
big Valley water districts; worth more than $2 million, and explained that United Irrigation Co., of
Mission-Sharyland had 30,000 acres with 25,000 actually irrigated in 1924, with ample pumping facilities, 20.56
miles of main canals, 22.57 miles of sub-main canals, and 129.8 in laterals; 50 families had sent affidavits of costs,
returns, and statements of satisfaction with the irrigation district.
         When John Shary brought trainloads of prospective valley farmers to Mission, the third lift station was one
of the main stops, as seeing the great throbbing pumps splashing water into the cement-lined canals, headed out
into the delta assured the farmers that if they bought land, it would be watered.
         Eduardo Lopez fondly recalled that about every 15 days, Mr. Shary would show up at the plant with 20 to
30 carloads of people to tour the plant. ―He always wore high-top boots like generals wear and handing out of his
mouth was a 25-cent cigar, like the rich men smoked.‖
         It came out that some of the small, under-financed private companies were at fault for the whole mess, and
the state of Texas passed laws setting up county irrigation districts.
         Meanwhile, abnormally severe floods in 1913, 1919 and 1922 led to calls for flood channels to carry flood
water across Hidalgo and Cameron and Willacy counties to the Laguna Madre. A huge channel, starting at Abram
and Granjeno, led northeast, splitting into two channels east of Hidalgo County.
         From the mouth of the Rio Grande to Weslaco, the land is just slightly above sea level; from Weslaco to
Mission, the elevation increases by thirty feet, while around mission another 30 feet is gained. After the 1907 San
Benito flood control project, it was 1915 when a levee was built along the second lift, and remained as a part of the
flood control system. In 1923, a few Hidalgo county leaders went to the state legislature in Austin, and helped get
Senate Bill 281 passed, granting Hidalgo county remission of all ad valorem taxes for 25 years to finance flood
control in the county. The bill required Hidalgo county voters to approve bonds to build a control system, but many
were opposed. Finally, the opposition agreed if a U.S. Reclamation Service engineer would check and approve
the plans. It took just six weeks to confirm that the plans were valid.
         A similar tax remission bill was passed for Cameron County in 1925. The entire legislature

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-31 senators, 150 representatives and 20 other state officials visited the valley and were given the grand tour, wined
and dined, and also shown the major flood problems. This was February 28, and the bill was quickly passed upon
their return. The bond election was held August 18, 1925 in Cameron County, and only 21 voters were opposed.
         Hidalgo county issued $1,620,000 and Cameron $1,5000,000 in bonds, a total of$3,120,000. A levee was
built from the Chimneys near Mission to the gulf near the mouth of the river. The levees are about ten feet wide at
the top and are built three feet above the expected high-water line. For many years the water district roads on the
levees were open, but in recent years most have been locked to the public for their own protection.
         This huge Federal program was completed, and John H. Shary hired the famous engineer that built the
Panama Canal to plan the bridge over the Arroyo Colorado, which was used to channel the excess water.
Additionally, the drainage canals, six to 15 feet deep, have been successful in reclaiming part of the alkali-affected
land. Hundred and hundreds of miles of drainage canals now drain the Valley, and the farmers are always grateful
to see a nice rain, which percolates through the soil into the drainage canals, carrying away the salts.
         C.H. Pease was trying to raise money so that gravity irrigation could be used to irrigate the Valley, instead
of the pumps. But after collecting some money from the needy farmers, it developed that the cost would be $20 or
more per acre, as compared with $7 an acre with the regular 1924 irrigation districts. The Federal government was
pushing the gravity system.
         There is a November 14, 1925 thawing of a 42‖ by 36‖ type ―L-S‖ centrifigal pump, made at the same
scale by Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., of Milwaukee, WI for the United Irrigation Co. It was rated at 45,000 G.P.M.
against a 32-foot head, 300 r.p.m. and a 465 horsepower motor.
         Another Allis-Chalmers order shows a 25,000 G.P. against a 32-foot head, 390 RPMs and 300 horsepower
motor, dated December 15, 1925. This is a 30-inch, type ―L-S‖ centrifugal pump.

                                                         Pump Station #3

          The third pump station is located 2¼ miles north of downtown Mission, site of the second pump station,
which, in turn, is about 5 miles from the 2nd, and presently used, first pump station at Abram. The district
headquarters is at the third pump station, and the pump was in service until about 1987. It pumped 51,840
(million?) gallons of water per day during peak periods, a far cry from its heyday when large orchards and farms
demanded vast amounts of water.
          The station was built in 1918, and in the 1920‘s and 1930‘s was a showplace for John H. Shary‘s large
groups of potential buyers called ―land Parties‖. Here the buyers would see just how theft thirsty farms would be
provided with plenty of water for the crops. The station pumps water as far as the 10-mile line.
          The Norberg 48-inch centrifugal pump, having a rated capacity of 55,000 gallons per minutes at 180
revolutions per minute, directly connected to a 650-horsepower, 230-volt, Allis Chalmers synchronous motor is
still intact today in the building. Consuming 800 gallons of bunker oil a day, it became too expensive to operate and
is now considered a museum-quality piece. Like an iceberg, the majority of the engine sits underground and is an
exact replica of the engine used in the battleship Texas. The engine was constructed in Wisconsin in 1917 and
installed in 1918-20, installation being

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held up by the construction of a large pit for the rods and pistons. They were encased in concrete, and then the brick
building‘s constructed around the engine.
          According to Mrs. Marshal Smith, wife of a past head pumper, ―on days when the engine was in operation,
the ground shook with a low hum, and black smoke bellowed out of the chimney leaving a fine film of soot on the
automobiles,‖ Other oldtimers remember standing on the canal banks at the 7-mile line, and feeling the vibrations
some 42_1 miles away.
          During prohibition in the late 1920‘s, there was a shootout near pump station 1, recalled by LaRoy Rossow
and Eduardo Lopez, the latter a 31-year plant employee.
          Border patrolmen Jim and Jack Cottingham and John Peavey were patroling the river bank for tequila
smugglers when a boat on the river opened fire on them. They returned fire, and Jim was wounded in the abdomen.
When the fight ended, workers Rossow, Lopez, Hipolito Lopez and Joaquin Longoria, went and picked up the
wounded--Eduardo vividly remembered Jim Cottingham moaning as they arrived. Eduardo rushed Jim to Doc
Bumeet in Mission, and he picked pellets out of him for sometime, but announced that he would be all right. One of
the smugglers, who were transporting empty bottles back to Mexico to refill, was killed--Mexican Andres Garza.
          A blueprint dated February 2, 1926 shows the suction and discharge pipes for the electrically-driven units
at the second lift plant of the United Irrigation Company of Mission, Texas; it shows the flap valves still visible
outside the plant.
                                                        District 7
          In 1927, John H. Shary‘s United Irrigation Company was heavily mortgaged, but badly needed to convert
its dirt canals to cement canalways. As Shary could not raise the money, so, to keep the vital irrigation water
flowing, he had to begin selling parts of his private company to a public entity that could issue bonds.
          That year, a group of landowners petitioned the Hidalgo County Commissioners to form Hidalgo County
Water Control and Improvement District No.7, commonly known as district 7. On November 22, 1927 the petition
was granted by the commissioners, naming five local landowners as directors: A.C. Trapp, Pete Sweeney, Joe
Meador, C.B. Thompson, and Lloyd Bentsen.
          Immediately a group led by R. Vancher appealed this decision to the 93rd District Court, which on January
18, 1928 ratified the order, and on January 28, 1928 the district was authorized by the County Commissioners.
          They met February 3, 1928 and elected Trapp president, Sweeney, vice-president; and Joe Meador,
secretary. They then authorized an election March 3, 1928 to ratify the county action, creating the 33,864-acre
district, and authorizing $7,500 in bonds, to be issued in 15 $500-bonds at 6% with ten years to retire the
bonds--this was the seed money for the district.
          O.J. Anderson was presiding judge, Tom B. Norman was assistant; Arthur Cole, E.W. King, and M.J.
Koehler, clerks; the election was held at the Wimodausis Club House, and the vote was 132-33 confirming the
district, and 134-33 for bonds. Anderson was then named tax assessor-collector at a salary of $175 a month and
ordered to prepare the tax rolls.
          The First State Bank & Trust of Mission was then named depository of funds, and E.P. Congdon, C.E., was
named district engineer; $1,000 was borrowed to accomplish the preliminary work.
     The bank had to give bond; H.L. Starr was cashier, and sureties were John H. Shary, D.F.

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Strickland, J.J. and M.D. Cavazos, and T.M. Melden.
          On March 16, 1928 the directors of the United Irrigation Co.--John H. Shary, M. O‘Brien Shary, R.B.
Shary, H.H. Ewing, and T.M. Melden--granted, for $10 an option to the Irrigation District 7 to purchase the
principal and main canals, first, second and 3rd lifts with described land, the Granjeno, Bryan, 1st, 2nd and 3rd lift
main canals for $500,000, plus value added. The option anticipated the formation of a second district, later 14, and
the union of the 2, with appropriate clauses.
          The option set up a series of six-months steps taking up to three years.
          On May 22, 1928 the board discussed the possibility of using Gunite, an inch of concrete over iron
screening, to line the canals.
          The board was re-elected on January 8, 1929; Trapp, the president, got two fewer votes than the rest; 84,
instead of 86. He, therefore, got a term of one year; lots were cast for the other one-year term, and Bentsen was
chosen; the other three got two-year terms. After this, all elections were to be for two years. On the 10th, the value
of the canal system, the proposed improvements, three years of bond interest, and operating expenses, was set at
$2,750,000--and this amount of bonds was proposed. It was approved by the Board of Water Engineers on the 12th,
and the 14th set for election on February 19, 1929. These were 6% bonds, payable semi-annually.
          The bank was re-approved; the bond issue passed by a vote of 156-43, a margin of 113, and bids were
taken March 9. And on March 25, 1929 the Jackson tract, 1,520 acres of sandy pasture unfit for irrigation, was
excluded by the irrigation district, and three other Shary tracts(the Jackson pasture was owned by Shary) were
granted the water rights, two Cantu tracts and a 2564_1 acre described area.
          It was decided that the first waterway to be improved with Gunite would be the Rossau Canal, 3,960 feet of
the 3rd Lift Main to Bryan. J.M. Crom was hired by the United Irrigation District at 11 per square foot, or less if
entire system finally used Gunite(it did.) Also, 2,750 $1,000 bonds, issued April 1, 1929, for varying periods to be
retired between 1931 and 1969, carrying two $30 coupons a year, were printed by E.L. Steck of Austin, and J.Q.
Henry was named attorney for the district.
          A deed of conveyance was granted to District 7 by United on May 29, 1929 for 660 acres of
canal rights of way, 3,000 feet of cement-lined canal and the rest open. Between 1930 and 1961, 160
miles of open canal was converted by Gunite to cement-lined. Only the 12 miles from the present
first to second lift stations remained unlined in 1961.
          Irrigation water was purchased from the United Irrigation company, which continued to own and operate
the first and second lift plants and the main canals to the boundaries of District No. 7. The company agreed to
distribute the water fairly between its various customers.
          D.E. Congdon was named district engineer and general manager at a salary of $5,000 a year, and given a
one-year contract, from June 1, 1929 until May 31, 1930. On June 27, the Borman Canal, 3rd lift Main from 3rd lift
7 miles, then northwest to 7.75 miles at Glasscock, 43.000 square feet, was contracted as was the Eight-mile Canal,
150,000 square feet, to J.M. Crom.
          Congdon was authorized June 21 to purchase, for $16,288 a Model 600 P&H Dragline with 45-foot boom,
fully enclosed steel cab, power clutch, steering brakes, and a one-yard Omaha dragline bucket, powered by a
4-cylinder Atlas diesel engine a 1,500-watt Koehle light plant.

              by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78574-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
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          Another undated blueprint shows the Class ―M‖ No. 19 single Stirling boiler frame and foundation at the
second lift, usual 2-1-inch dimensions. A drawing dated June 11, 1931 shows the brockwork contract details for
Stirling boilers other than handfed. This is a Babcock & Wilcox Company drawing.
          By February 12, 1931 the district was badly split between the ―ins‖, who, while they acknowledged some
problems, felt they were on the road to straightening them out, and the ―outs‖, who felt that numerous
inefficiencies in the affairs of the district disqualified the incumbents Lloyd Bentsen, A. C. Trapp, Pat Sweeney,
                                                                                     --


Joe Meador and C. B. Thompson. Representing the ―outs‖ anti-Shary forces were J. W. Bond, B. H. Oxford, T. B.
Norman, R. DeVries and E. S. Kendall.
          The citizen‘s group objected to 7th district engineer E. P. Congdon‘s signing of an arbitrary price estimate
by the U.I.C.‘s engineer, Mr. Ewing, when the poreliminary bonds had carried $7,500 to make a survey and get an
estimate on price of lands and properties of U.I.C. in 7th district boundaries. Also, no provision was made to
retaining funds subject to the litigation the U.I.C. was involved in.
          Those were the first two of 9 points. The others were:
          3. Allowed U.I.C. to put in a costly system of underground pipelines before selling to District 7, so the
latter must pay for what only the affected farmers should be paying for, and concreting the 600-acre tract; also,
tract 426 of the Southwestern Land Company.
          4. For dropping off second- or third-lift land on the Jackson and Retama tracts, and taking on North
Mission Tract fourth-lift land, after the bonds were voted. Now the 7th district will have to provide the necessary
lift.
          5. Faulty canals built with cheap Republic concrete, inferior and rebounding sand, even after the inspector
objected, and pointed out the thinness of the concrete.
          6. Permitting $56,000 worth of work without a written contract, paying the contractor padded prices of 1
12~l per square foot for Gunite, plus 3 for fine trim and 10 per square foot extra for syphon bowls, extra bulkhead
reinforcement, plus extra for gates and syphons and padded prices for road syphons.
          7. For not being present in a body for taxpayers‘ drive January 12 to see faulty construction. Joe Meador
and C.B. Thompson being only ones present. Both said canals had not been accepted, District withheld 15%, and
contractor was under bond-- but books showed no contract, no bond, and contractor paid in full and relieved of all
obligations Dec. 14, 1930.
          8. For charging penalty on flat tax, which is illegal.
          9. For attorney‘s failure to permit name of C. D. Speed to be printed on the ballot following the death of
Mr. Castleman.

                                                             District 14

         In 1931, the landowners in the southern part of the area formed the Hidalgo County Water Control and
Improvement District No. 14 and purchased the irrigation facilities within their district. But the two irrigation
districts did not own the pumps and canals on which they were dependent. In the 1940‘s, the Bentsen Brothers at
Mission pushed District 14 to agree, as they had converted

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thousands of acres of mesquite range to cultivated fields and citrus groves, and felt it would be advantageous for
the farmers to own their canals and lift stations. It was not until 1951 that the price and the financing to puréhase
them was finalized. For twenty years, the two districts were dependent on the private, non-profit United Irrigation
Company.
         In late 1933, the United Irrigation Company applied to the Federal Emergency Administration of Public
Works, the forerunner of the WPA, for $200,000 to improve the old dirt and wood canal north ten miles from Pump
#3. Of this, $60,000 was a Federal donation, and $140,000 a loan.
         Attorneys for the UIC at the time were Strickland, Ewers & Wilkins of Mission. H. H. Ewing was, of
course, their engineer. Shary, in his application, summed up the history of Mission, which, he pointed out, was
located within and served by the district, had only a nominal population in 1910, which had increased by 1920 to
about 4,000, and in 1930 to 5,000. The La Lomita tract of land was opened in 1907. There was very little
development work done until 1911. In 1914, John H. Shary Subdivision of 16,000 acres was added under this
system. The largest increase in the municipal population was during the period 1910 to 1920, when active
construction work on the irrigation system and considerable land development was taking place.
         The company issued its bonds over 30 years in denomination of $1,000, to bear the lowest possible
interest, not more than 5%, to be secured by a lien against the physical properties of the company. A retirement
fund to consist of $1.25 per acre per year, out of the $4 flat rate. To pay off the debt in 30 years, the company would
be repaying over 30 years a total of $391,400.
         The project was divided into five sections the third lift canal; the lateral lining of a distribution system out
                                                           --


of the main canal; concrete-lining of a main feeder canal across the district; concreting a second lateral; extending
a then-existing concrete canal. The company already owned the necessary land, rights-of-way and easements. The
first section would require 43,400 man-hours; the second, 23,000; the third, 69,900; the fourth, 19,500, and the
fifth 1,800 for a total of 157,600 man-hours. This would hire 115 men for six months, and prevent the 16,000 acres
from becoming waterlogged, destroying its value of from $200 to $1,800 an acre-- the latter for the 7,000 acres set
to citrus fruit trees, the most highly developed tract in the Rio Grande Valley.
         At the time, UIC had a $1,250,000 loan dated July 1, 1930, and due July 1, 1940, at 6%, a renewal, secured
by the physical property of the company. The company had capital stock of $500,000, represented by 5,000 shares
at $100 par, all but 10 or 15 shares retained by the original owners. Bankers Mortgage Company of Houston,
Texas, held the mortgage. They were still getting $4 an acre for 14,000 acres, approximately 7,000 or half of which
were set to trees, mostly of bearing age. They also received a charge of $2.50 per acre for staple crops and trees, and
$3 an acre for vegetables. But for the past eight months they had actually charged 50 an acre less because of
depressed farm prices.
            Also, the application stated that the president of the company, John H. Shary, owned 4,996 of the 5,000
    shares of stock; T.M. Melden, Vice-president. Mary O‘Brien Shary, Secretary and Treasurer, R. B. Shary, and
    H.H. Ewing each had one share. T. M. Melden was the only officer thawing a salary-- $1,200 a year. When All
    lived in Mission; when the company was founded in 1915, the six founders were John H. Shary M. O‘Brien, and
    W.S. Jones of Omaha, Douglas Co., NE; H. A. Shannon of McAllen, and A. Tamm and D. W. Glasscock, both
    of Mission, The company would have expired in 50 years Dec. 21, 1965. —




              by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78514-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
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       The map of the Lower Rio Grande Valley that accompanied the application had some interesting figures.
For example, the 1930 population of the valley cities was:



          City                                 1930                         City                                1980

          Brownsville                          22,021                       Brownsville                         98,962
          Harlingen                            12,124                       McAllen                             84,021
          San Benito                           10,753                       Harlingen                           48,735
          McAllen                              9,074                        Pharr                               32,921
          Mercedes                             6,608                        Edinburg                            29,855
          Mission                              5,120                        Mission                             28,653
          Weslaco                              4,874                        Weslaco                             21,877
          Edinburg                             4,821                        San Benito                          20,125
          Donna                                4,103                        Mercedes                            12,694
          Pharr                                3,225                        Donna                               12,652
          Rio Grande City                      2,283                        San Juan                            10,815
          Raymondville                         2,050                        Rio Grande City                     9,891
          San Juan                             1,615                        Raymondville                        8,880
          La Feria                             1,594                        Alamo                               8,210
          Port Isabel                          1,177                        Roma                                8,059
          Alamo                                1,018                        Port Isabel                         4,467
          Lyford                               795                          La Feria                            4,360
          Rio Hondo                            713                          Lyford                              1,674




           In 1933, the first lift plant had one steam-driven 48-inch centrifugal pump, one steam-driven 36-inch
   centrifugal pump, one electrically-driven 480 inch centrifugal pump and one diesel-driven
   45-inch centrifugal pump, with the capacity of 225 second-feet to the Second Lift.
           The Second Lift, located in Mission, had a steam-driven 48-inch centrifugal pump, and electrically
   driven 36-inch and 30-inch pumps.
           The third lift, 22_1 miles north, had a 36-inch centrifugal pump driven by a 550 horsepower




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Nordberg diesel engine, and a 36-inch auxiliary steam-driven unit.
          Shary, one of the pioneers in using and promoting concrete or Gunite-lined canals, outlined his views to
The Mission Times on January 12, 1935:
        ―I foresee for this community enhanced land values because of these concreted canals. Landowners of the
district will no longer fear the menace of seepage and water-logging and will be willing to build and build
permanently on their land. The economy effected in water alone will be sufficient justification for the entire system
of concrete-lined canals. Much less wastage of water will result, and lower per-acre water rates will go into effect
immediately after the program has been completed.‖
          A January22, 1936 blueprint shows the proposed boiler room addition for lift pump #2, with views from all
four sides, and the floor plan. An undated drawing shows the proposed boiler room and smokestack addition,
drawn to a 4-1-inch equals one- foot scale.
          On March 3, 1939 it was announced that the United Irrigation District had rebuilt the Wetherford Canal a
mile north and quarter-mile west of the Sharyland packing facility. H.H. Ewing was the engineer--the canal was
shaped, reinforcing wire put in place, bricks of a special design laid between the wires, and the whole thing covered
with mortar. These canals were supposed to leak less. However, the cement between the bricks cracked, and
couldn‘t be repaired, so it was replaced in 1990-1991, between second and third lifts.
          Meanwhile, Shary was building a two-story, 40,000 headquarters for his many businesses--and moving out
of the old wooden Mission Canal Company, Inc., building, shorn of its porches and balconies, that had housed his
operation since 1915.
          Since 1925, the U.S. and Mexico had been trying to agree on ways to build a large water-control reservoir
in the Zapata area. In the 1930‘s, although 70% of the flow of the Rio Grande below El Paso came from Mexico,
the U.S. was using the bulk of the water for irrigation, 400,000 acres using that water in the Lower Rio Grande
Valley. By 1940, the Internation Boundary Comnission had decided that the best way to solve the water problem
was a great canal that would permit a gravity water system, a favorite of the Federal government for two decades.
          On January 12, 1940, The Mission_Times revealed:
          ―The project is expected to call for construction of a master reservoir on Los Olmos Creek, east of Rio
Grande City, about 100 miles up river from Brownsville. A diversion canal would take water out of the Rio Grande
at a point about 70 miles up the river from the master reservoir, at a point near Zapata. There would be a smaller
reservoir at Penitas, which is a few miles west of Mission.
        ―… It (the report to Secretary of State Cordell Hull) is understood to show that approximately 50% of the
    water that enters the Rio Grande west of the point where the San Juan River joins the border stream, comes from
    rivers on the American side. Since the diversion canal will tap the river west of the San Juan‘s mouth, there is
    expected to be no question of the water rights.‖
            It was supposed that the proposed system would end two major problems for Valley farmers
   - hundreds of thousands of dollars would be saved by the gravity system, because no expensive lift pumps would
    be needed. Second, floodwater would be stored instead of wasted, and used during dry periods.
            During World War II, the canal engineers opened an office in McAllen, and the


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Valley Evening Monitor reported:
         ―A skeleton engineers‘ staff for continuance of the survey to locate the $65,000,000 Valley gravity canal
and storage project along the Rio Grande has arrived in McAllen to take up permanent headquarters. The staff,
headed by Charles Seger, construction engineer who is chief of the project, is from the bureau of reclamation,
Department of the Interior. At preset two engineers besides Seger are stationed here. Eight or ten more are expected
to arrive within a month.
         ―For the duration of the war, Seger pointed out, the crew will only continue the survey, whose preliminary
work has already been done by the International Boundary Commission, and will state location of the canal.
         ―Actual construction on the canal, to stretch along the border from Zapata to Brownsville, is not due to get
underway until after the war. Already located are servoir sites at Los Olmos and at Mission.‖
         The Mission site resulted in Anzulduas Dam and lake, but the Los Olmos location was rejected in favor of
the present one which stretches from Falcon Heights upstream past Zapata.
         An Orange Co: Water Company drawing, from Orange, TX, dated June 25, 1945 shows twin Lennon-type
flumes for a canal crossing a gully.
         An original drawing made July 18, 1949 and revised July 28, for the United Irrigation Company, shows a
proposed condenser at the second lift. -
         A letter, dated June 9, 1950, from H.H. Ewing, chief engineer of the United Irrigation Company, to RD.
Flanders of Flanders Construction Company of Houston, TX states that the district needs about 8,000 square feet of
2x2x 14x1 4 welded mesh for Gunite Retentions. It is attached to a letter of Nov. 5, 1949 from Mr. Flanders
offering several complete Gunite units with ten years service, for $9,950. To this is attached a black-and-white
photo of_________
         Many attempts were made by Districts 7 and 14 to purchase the jointly used pumps and canals, but it was
not until Oct. 20, 1951 that purchase price was agreed to, and bond issues voted in District 14 included
rehabilitation funds, while District 7 voted bonds to extend its system to water lands within the district not
previously served. At this time the International Boundary and Water Commission was planning construction of
Anzalduas Dam which would greatly affect by its maintained level the type of pump needed at the river, all work
on it was deferred until the dam was completed.
            Eighteen blueprint drawings of October, 1952 by Sigler Clark & Winston, consulting engineers of
                                                                                 -


   Weslaco, TX and H.H. Ewing, consultant, of Mission, TX, outline main canal improvements proposed for
   Hidalgo County Water Control and Improvement Districts Nos., 7 and 14: Board of Directors, District 7, Otto
   Jensen, President; Levi Walker, Vice President; Hubert Thompson, Secretary; W.R. Wolfrum, Member; J.R.
   Powell, Member; R.R. Hass, manager; District 14, S.M. Duffie, President; J.R. Ragland, Vice-President; C.A.
   Townsend, Secretary; N.E. Powell, Member; G.W. Hersh, Member; Roy V. Jones, Office Manager.
            Serious droughts drained the Rio Grande in 1952, 1953, and 1956, and the entire irrigation system was
   put out of business off and on for several months as the river was pumped dry at that point and many others
   along the river. Equally serious floods caused by hurricane rains inundated Pump #1, and mountain runoff rains
   occasionally caused less damaging floods.
            The completion of Falcon Dam in 1955, and of Anzulduas Dam, stablized the flow, and


          by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78514-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
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allowed engineers to control the flow from Brownsville by computer. Only great hurricane-caused rains, like those
of 1909 and 1989, in the area below the dam can now cause trouble and large floodways extending through Hidalgo
county and across Cameron county to the Laguna Madre, help protect the canal system, residents and farms.
          But another problem developed; the water in the Rio Grande at Pump Station #1 became so saline that
irrigation was damaging rather than helping some of the crops. The flow from Falcon Dam was checked, and it was
not excessively salty. Water coming into the river below the dam was then analyzed.
          About one-half mile upstream from Pumping Plant #1 the Morillo Drain enters the Rio Grande from
Mexico, where it drains a large, irrigated area. It was dumping 30 cubic feet per second of water containing 11,280
parts per million of salt, and 5.6 parts per million of boron.
          New developments in pumps and motors meant that slowly the huge old motors that shook the
neighborhood, and necessitated deep cement foundations and solid brick buildings, became obsolete, as new parts
were no longer obtainable by 1956.
          At the same time, the International Boundary and Water Commission was going to have to build a
$250,000 cement flume through its flood control dike to replace the old wooden flume into the main canal.
          The District and the IBWC agreed that if the former built a new pump station #1 at Abram,
1 1/2 miles upstream, the IBWC would build the needed flume at the new location.
          An undated bundle of blueprints shows proposed improvements for District Seven only.
          Before the completion of Falcon and Anzalduas dams, the Rio Grande River was notorious for changing
course--LaRoy Rossow, a long-time water district employee, recalled that once the river moved almost a half mile
from the pumping plant. Another time, the district bought up junked cars and strung them on cables across the river
from bank to bank in front of the plant to keep the river out.
          The completion and dedication of Falcon Dam in 1955 led to a frightening event for LaRoy Rossow which
seemed humorous later. Roy had been on night shift at the river and was getting into his car to go home about 1:30
a.m. when an armed man appeared next to him and asked for some identification. Roy was quite surprised--at that
time of night normally there was no on else around. He replied, ―I‘m LaRoy Rossow, I‘m just gettin‘ off the night
shift at the pumping plant.‖ The man laughed as though relieved and said he was an F.B.I. agent in the Valley with
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was staying at Sharyland with the Shivers family.
          In 1958, the new plant at Abram took over the pumping, and the old plant #1 was torn down. The workers,
many of whom lived in Madero around the old plant persuaded the district to allow the 108-foot chimney to
remain.
          There is also an October, 1959 order form for spare parts and tools for a model 3 8F51/4 oil diesel engine to
Fairbanks, Morse & Co., and bulletins for the same Fairbanks, Morse engine at pump station #2.
          A January 26,1961 letter from Central Power and Light Company to Messrs. Paul R. Hetrick, George W.
Hersh, ST. Tillson, Hoyt Boatwright, Glenn Hodgin, and James R. Smith, board for Hildalgo County Water
Control and Improvement District No. 14, summarizes the electric power and pump requirements of the second life
station, giving four alternatives for providing proper

              by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78514-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
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power: (1) Replace present 48‖ pump at second lift station with the 48‖ pump from the old river station; not
recommended because Nordberg Manufacturing Co. can provide no performance curve, a large investment is not
recommended based on theoretical performance,, and the fact that it has seriously overloaded the attachedd 650 HP
motor on several occasions; (2) Use existing 48‖ pump with a different prime mover than existing Corliss steam
engine, after inspection by consulting enginer of broken-down pump; (3) purchase a new 48‖ pump, if No. 2
reveals need; (4) Replace Corliss steam engine with either a natural gas engine or an electric motor. Study indicates
that cost per acre-foot would bed 65 with natural gas and 57.5 with an electric motor.
         And from the Fairbanks, Morse diesel engineer department at Beloit, WI, dated July 20,
1962, and made for Hildalgo County Water and Control Improvement Districts Nos. 7 and 14, is a
a drawing showing rated torque to torque available for pump between 1,000 to 1,200 engine R.P.M.
for a 10 cyl., 54_1 and 74_1 O.P. spark-ignited engine. In the same packet are two undated
Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co. drawings for Joe Summers & Co., showing pump efficiency, head in feet,
and thousands of gallons of water pumped per minute.
         One of the patrolmen and a friend were riding their horses through the cane fields and heard some noise off
in the direction of the chimney. They saw what appeared to be a large hawk preched on the chimney, and the friend
suggested that he shoot it with his rifle which he carried when on patrol. However, looking at the ―hawk‖ through
binoculars they found it was a young boys head extending from the top of the chimney--and the patrolman was
very glad he didn‘t take his friend‘s advice.
         In 1965 stories that young children were climbing up the inside of the old chimney remaining at site #1,
and endangering their lives, led to the sale of the site in September of that year to the Water District‘s attorney,
Neal King, and his partner, Ralph King, whose bid was the highest of five local bids.
         They bought the land for $11,501 and developed it into a recreation area and popular trailer park, using the
giant smokestack as an advertising gimmick. The land has 700 feet of river frontage, and the chimney can be seen
from Conway Street in Mission, three miles away. A boat ramp makes it a popular place to enter the river to fish the
lake above Anzalduas Dam. A small convenience store is located inside one of the original water holding tanks.
The walls are three feet thick, making the room nice and cool during the warm summers, the managers Bob and
Nancy Davis stated in 1984 when a new, luxurious recreation hall was built in modern Spanish style keeping the
architectural flavor of the area. In 1985, the Hidalgo County Historical Commission memorialized the site with an
historical marker
         In 1965 at Pump Station #2 in Mission, the Allis-Chalmers centrifugal pump was unit #1; The
Allis-Chalmers 36‖ by 30‖ centrifugal pump was unit #2, and the Allis-Chalmers 42‖ by 36‖ centrifugal pump was
unit #3.
         The conception of a watermaster, to control release of water between El Paso and the Gulf of Mexico, was
formed in 1971, when the courts settled the historic 15-year Valley Water Suit, which turned jurisdiction of the Rio
Grandés water, on which the local irrigation districts are 100% dependent, over to the Texas Water Commission.
This commision operates on fees from those using the water, not state taxes. Until 1988, their only office was in
Weslaco, but at that time a South Texas office was opened in San Antonio.

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        Jurisdiction of the 34-year-old Rio Grande Watermaster, John Hinojosa IV, starts at old Fort Quitman,
above El Paso, includes the two main reservoirs, Amistad at Del Rio and Falcon at Zapata, through the Lower
Valley and on to the Gulf of Mexico.
        Amistad and Falcon reservoirs function as one system for flood control and for irrigation as requested by
users. Hinojosa and his staff of 11 regulate the rights of 1,600 users each year to 650 billion gallons of water, more
than 2 million acre-feet a year. Approximately 720,000 acres of irrigated land are associated with the water rights.
        The annual agricultural base, set by the Valley Water Suit, remains at 2.5 acre-feet, when available. About
90% of the water goes for irrigation. Cities and industries get the remainder.
        As set by the courts, it is the user‘s responsibility to manage his or her allotment. If the allotment is used
before the year ends, the user must acquire additional rights to meet needs.
        Mexico withdraws its water through a gravity canal behind Anzalduas Dam, south of Mission. More than
99% of the water below that dam is for Texas farmers.
        The two largest users are Hidalgo-Cameron Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 9, at
184,314 acre-feet per year, and Delta Lake Irrigation District at 176,548 acre-feet.

        When Falcon and Amistad reservoirs are at maximum capacity, water rights owners can receive no-charge
water, protecting their annual allotments. This was in effect for part of 1991, and all of 1992, at least until October
4. Most of Starr County has to buy extra water rights, even during good years.

         In 1978, the old unit in lift station 3, which was identical to one in the old first pump station, was fired up
for the last time. It is still (March 31, 1992) in place, and ready to fire up.
         In 1987, Districts 7 and 14 joined together and formed The Hidalgo County United Water Control and
Improvement District, usually known as the United Irrigation District.
         Vince Borin, manager of Water District 7 since 1975 and of the combined Water Districts 7 and 14, now
the United Irrigation District since 1980, retired in 1991, and was succeeded by President-Manager Bill Thompson.
He has been chief advisor to Thompson since 1991.
         At one time, District 7 served 19,400 acres of land, and when the two district merged in 1980, they served
farmers and water users in more than 18,300 acres. In addition to the vast agricultural acreage around the
Mission-Sharyland-McCook and near Edinburg communities, United in recent years has sold water to the cities of
Alton, Mission and McAllen.
         In October, 1992 President-Manager Bill Thompson announced improvements costing $140,000 would be
undertaken by the United Irrigation District as soon as engineering was completed in about a month. The work will
help maintain consistent water supplies to users in the Sharyland Water Supply Corp. service area, between
Mission and McAllen. The work should prevent disruptions such as accured in January, 1992 to Sharyland‘s water
supply. A joint agreement between United and Sharyland was signed September 22 at a barbecue meeting of the
two groups.
         Bids will be let a~ soon as engineering is complete. Improvements include two miles of
underground pipeline to provide an alternate route in case trouble develops along United‘s main canal
system. Sharyland offered United $100,000 to make these improvements as an alternative to a
$500,000 reserve reservoir. Two check gates, costing $40,000, as an additional assurance to a
              by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78514-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
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continuous supply will also be provided under the contract, and Sharyland delivered a $140,000 check at the
contract-signing. They also delivered a check for $24,362.31 covering accumulated interest during a period when
there was disagreement over the water rates being charged. Another check for $41,246.50 covered the difference in
rates charged and paid during a disputed period of March 1 to July 30 of 1992.
        Already completed is a $20,000 computer-operated metering station, the units jointly sharing the cost as
suggested by the Texas Water Commission. All of these matters were settled to end litigation over the past four
years which had cost the two about $1,500,000. United, the only available supplier of water for about 9,500
Sharyland domestic water users, said every assurance possible would be given to maintain the Sharyland water
supply without interruption.




             by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78514-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
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                                                        Chapter 19
                                         MISSION LAND DEVELOPERS


          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. 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. Bentsen started with Bentsen Grove, west of Mission, one porcion 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 Midwesterners. However, they never got enough water to farm.
          Monte Christo (Melado Tract) failed as a town development because their wells failed, but later they did
get water rights, from District 15. A Jewish man, named Hexter, formed a company there.
          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.


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        W. R. Montague formed the Edinburg Improvement Association.
               JOHN J. CONWAY                 FOUNDER OF MISSION

   The Mission Citizen, Thursday, February 12, 1931. Front Page. JOHN CONWAY/FOUNDER
OF/MISSION,DEAD//Mission‘s First Citizen/Succumbs to Heart/Attack Wednesday Noon
         At 12:30 p.m. yesterday, John Conway, ―Father of Mission‖, and one of the best-loved of the pioneers of
our city, passed to his reward. Mr. Conway had been in delicate health for several months, coming back to Mission
a few months ago to make his home in his favorite Valley city, Mission, which he, in company with James W. Hoit,
established in 1907. Funeral Services from St. Paul‘s Catholic Church at ten o‘clock this morning.
         John Conway was a great man in heart, soul, and principle. The friend of every man, loved and respected
by high and low, his loss is deeply felt by the host of friends of himself and members of his family. Obituary will be
printed next week.
                            Prepared for                            MAIN STREET-MISSION
                 Arnold Vera-Director                                 by Dick D. Heller, Jr.
             Oct. 12, 1992 Version


                                                        JOHN H. SHARY

         Born John Harry Shary on a Saline Co., NE farm on March 2, 1882, he was the son of Austrian-Bohemian
emigrants, Robert and Rose (Wazob) Shary. After graduation from Crete High School, he became a registered
pharmacist at 18, working his way through Doane College, and eventually owning his own pharmacy. He then
joined a California redwood lumber firm as a sales manager, and traveled extensively through the U.S., looking all
the time for land investments.
         He found his desired spot in southeast Texas, around Sinton; he joined George H. Paul in developing
250,000 acres of cotton farms west of Corpus Christi during the 1906-10 period. They operated from out-of-state
offices in the Midwest, where they could form trainloads of prospective buyers and bring them south on a weekly
basis. However, he grew disenchanted with his partner, and moved to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in 1912. At
Mission he found that there were three large porciones between McAllen and Mission that he could obtain to
develop, while at Mission John J. Conway had lost his Mission Canal Company and Conway & Hoit development
of five porciones, to the same bank that had the waterless porciones, intending to sell them to farmers as in his
previous location. But he soon became interested in citrus and found that A.P. Wright, J.K. Robertson and H.H.
Banker were working on it. He combined his land and water operation, subdivided into 20-acre tracts, brought in
water, planted them to citrus, and brought in trainloads of Midwest prospects, showing them the experimental
farms and smooth-running older operations, and then selling them their tracts, trees, and water. Jesse H. Jones, of
New Deal fame, helped him with his financing later
on.
         He had bought up all the citrus groves he could find, and by the end of World War I was

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                                                                  201

ready for commercial development. In 1923 he built the first commercial citrus-packing plant in the area, and soon
had established the Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange.
         Shary headed many other projects, including banks, land companies, newspapers, and severed as director
of the Intercostal Canal Association, completing the intercostal waterway to Brownsville, formed and headed the
Port Isabel Yacht Club, now a quaint old hotel and dining facility; he was also a director of the St. Louis,
Brownsville, and Mexico Railway Company, that first got a train from Corpus Christi to the Valley in 1903.
         Shary married Mary O‘Brien, and they later made their home on the Shary Estate in Sharyland, just north
of present-day Mission on the Shary Road, FM 494. They also maintained a home in Omaha, NE where Mrs. Shary
spent a lot of time, and one in Branson, MO. Their only daughter, Mary Alice Shary, married then state senator,
later Governor, Allen Shivers. Shary died on November 6, 1945 in San Antonio. Both he and his wife, who
died__________are buried in a small chapel on the Shary estate.
         In 1984, John H. Shary was posthumously inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame. The Shivers
donated his personal and business papers to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection at the University of
Texas Pan-American, Edinburg, in 1985. The longtime estate manager, Duane Holcomb represented the Shivers
      --


in trading the 1938 headquarters building for seven of the Shary enterprises to the city of Mission for a city hall, in
exchange for another piece of property. The estate was paid by rent on the unused portions of the building.

                                                        BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Numerous articles-list. 2. Brownsville Herald, May 109, 1936, etc. 3. Parish, G.C. ―A History of the Rio Grande
Valley Citrus Industry‖, M.A. Thesis, Texas A&I University, 1940.

                                                  THE BORDER THEATER

     The Border Theater, fifth and most beautiful built by Mr. and Mrs. R.N. Smith, pioneer Rio Grande Valley
theater owners, formally opened April 3, 1942 at 8p.m. just as the Second World War began. In fact, the Smith‘s
son and three other employees had recently enlisted in the military service.
         Fifty years later, the theater still stands as a monument to the wisdom and foresight of those who have
owned it--in almost the same condition as when built.
         The keynote to the decorative theme of the theater was and is the decorative artwork--two murals on the
side walls of the theater auditorium. One mural shows typical Mexican figures in homes untouched by the paths of
civilization, while the other shows the coming of the covered wagon, weaving toward the crude little mission near
the border. Ingenious craftsmanship projects ―black‖ light from lanterns hanging from simulated lamp posts spaced
along the mural walls even when the auditorium is darkened for the movie, bringing into prominent relief the
three-dimensional principal figures, which have been brushed with fluorescent paint. It was just the second theater
so decorated, one in Alice no longer in existence having been completed shortly before the Border.
         Risser and his boss, W.B. King, spent ten days in the Valley preparing the murals after

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making preliminary sketches. Followers of southwestern lore will be especially interested in the covered wagon
scene and the story behind its use, as it was copied in exact detail from a copyrighted picture made famous by The
Santa Fe, NM weavers of McCropssen Manufacturing Co., which gave its permission for the work.
         John H. Drake, manager of the Mission Chamber of Commerce, emceed the affair, with Mayor Logan
Duncan extending the city‘s congratulations to the new theater, as did D.W. Con, President of the Chamber of
Commerce.
         The building, designed by William J. Moore, Dallas theater architect, held 500 patrons on the ground floor,
and 240 more in the balcony. The entire building was air conditioned; the office of the firm, which managed five
theaters, being on the second floor. George Holliday was the general contractor, with subcontractors Richards
Electric Co., Mission, wiring; Trainor Roofing Co., Mission, roofing and plumbing; William Parkhill, of Donna,
brick; E.H. Stanley, McAllen, concrete and cement; H.P. Nessen, McAllen, plastering; C.B. Williams, Mission,
plumbing; McLane‘s Radio and Electric, Mission, wiring; B.T. Daskam, Mission, sand and gravel; R.T. Gerlach,
Mission, sand and gravel; Billy Walsh, McAllen, lathing; Carl Peters, Harlingen, tile; Valley Venetian Company,
McAllen, Venetian blinds; C.H. Hembrock, McAllen, carpets; Walter
W. King, King Scenic Company, Dallas, draperies, and decorations; E. Risser, King Scenic Company, Dallas,
murals; Roy Thrash, Texlite, Inc., Dallas, signs; Joe Summers and Company, Mission, steel; Peace Lumber Co.,
Mission, lumber; Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., Corpus Christi, plate glass, glass brick; Montes Tin Shop, Mission,
metal; Valley Brick and Tile Co., Mission, brick and tile; Ingram-Woodson Lumber Co., Sullivan City, Lumber;
Raybourn Planing Mill, McAllen, woodwork; Henry A. Sorenson, Modern Theater Equipment Co., seats, sound
and projection equipment; Straus-Frank Co., Eddie Reimer, engineer, San Antonio, air conditioning; Economy
Lumber Company, McAllen, lumber; Temple Lumber Company, Mission, lumber; and Lynch-Davidson Lumber
Co., Mission, lumber.
         The building replaced the Lomita Theater, which was converted into a store building, while the Mission
Theater became the group‘s second theater in Mission, with action shows changing three times a week.
         J.S. Thomason, who had been connected with theater work for 25 years, was named house manager of both
the Border and Mission theaters. With Smith Theaters for three years, he was experienced in commercial art, the
projection room and as a sound technician. He was a native Texan.
         An air conditioning unit installed in the building served the theater, the offices, the two apartments, and the
store occupied by Foster‘s Jewelry Store. Separate units served the clinic occupied by Dr. Ottis Walker and the
other store unit in the building.
                                                     Bibliography
        1. Newspaper section, dated                 copied by Denice Kemp; summarized in 1991 by Dick D. Heller,
                                          _________________________,


Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78572-9743; (210) 581-9445.

                                                     ―SPIDERWEB‖ RAILROAD




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     Conceived in the mind of civil engineer Sam A. Robertson in 1910, the San Benito and Rio Grande Railway
wasn‘t officially chartered until February 14, 1912. Its purpose originally was to help promote land sales in the San
Benito area by providing a way to get produce from the outlying areas to the main rail heads. It caught on, and
extended in a circle from San Benito south of the main railroad through the irrigated farm areas to Granjeno, then
north through Mission and Alton to Monte Christo, then east through Edinburg, and south through more farm areas
to San Benito. It stimulated intensive agricultural and urban development by giving the farms an assured means to
mark their crops, and by providing quick, convenient, inexpensive access to railroad shipping points. For the
citizens, it provided reliable, all-weather transportation, especially when rains and floods closed the old mud roads.
         All along the way, spurs extended to nearby warehouses that stockpiled vegetables and citrus, leading to
the name ―Spiderweb‖ which described the look of the route.
         Mr. Martin Gross, chief clerk of the Missouri Pacific Brownsville Depot, said the original 65 miles of
Spiderweb track extended from Monte Grande through San Benito west to Madero and north to Monte Christo.
This route eventually encircled the rich agricultural area of the Rio Grande delta and fed into the main trunk of the
St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico railroad at various spots. Combination cars on the road, carrying both produce
and passengers, were dubbed ―galloping gooses‖, but the name ―Spiderweb‖ remains affectionately enshrined in
the memories of Valley folk.
         Small but mighty, the accommodating, friendly Spiderweb helped build Valley cities and farms, gave
impetus to the economy, and shaped the Valley‘s destiny, gathering its products to spread its name and exports
across the nation.
         In 1924, the Gulf Coast Lines acquired the Spiderweb and incorporated it in its 2,731 miles of track. Gulf
Coast Lines included 17 corporations, all controlled by the New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railway through
ownership of the entire capital stock.
         The Spiderweb ran straight up Conway to Alton, and on to Monte Christo, now a ghost town on FM 2122,
and a mile further north to East, named for the family that owned that section, formerly associated with the King
Ranch. The track was just removed a few years ago. June 3, 1992 version


                                                     Mayors of Mission, TX

     As of June 3, 1992, 24 men have served as mayor of the town and city of Mission since it was incorporated
December 9, 1910 almost 82 years ago.
                    --


         Richard Perez, the incumbent mayor, elected in January, has already served longer than two of them the               --


second mayor, Scott Cawthon, served only a month, and the fifth mayor, D.F. Strickland, served 3¼ months. In
fact, from December 9, 1910 to May 18, 1915, less than 4‖ years, six men served as mayor of Mission!
         But not all Mission mayors have served short terms Mayor Logan Duncan, for example, served 14years
                                                                        --                                                         --


during the Great Depression and World War II, from 1938 to 1948, and from 1950 to 1954. Recently, Arnoldo
Ramirez served eight years, from 1973 to 1981; Herbert R. Melch served from 1960 to 1967, seven years, and the
immediate past mayor, Pat Townsend, Jr., served six

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years and nine months.
         J.J. ―Jack‖ Frost served as mayor for two years from 1932 until 1934, and was defeated for re-election. But
the campaign was a remarkable one. Automobiles fitted with loudspeakers were popular, and the candidates and
their cronies drove around town, advertising their platforms and virtues. Mission was then still a ―Saturday night‖
town, with all the people from miles around congregating on the main street. The two main banks were then a block
apart and across from each other, with front ―stoops‖ of three or four steps up to the main door. On Saturday night,
with the banks closed, these formed convenient ―benches‖ for the townspeople. A well-known local character,
______________________________, who dressed with two six-shooters (cap pistols) tied to his side and
generally was present around town, was among those loafing on the corner one Saturday night. A car for Jack Frost
stopped, and asked him to sing them a song, which he was well known for doing. So, he stepped up to the mike and
blasted out with, ―P11 be glad when you‘re dead, you rascal you!‖
         Two well-known local attorneys, D. F. Strickland and J.P. Waite, were long-time friends. Strickland
served a short time as mayor, but was better known as a popular judge, and as such pretty well ran things in
Mission. In the 1930‘s Waite was elected mayor of Mission and the two men were soon at odds. Waite served four
years as mayor, and ran for a third two-year term. But by this time Strickland was furious and had told him that if he
fried to run again, he would take the biggest rounder in Mission, and make him Mayor.
         At this time, a former school teacher turned insurance man had reached a low in his personal life, and was
pretty well known as the town drinker. But he was as well-liked as any man in Mission. Strickland suggested to him
that he run for mayor, which he did, and because of his many friends was elected, and re-elected and re-elected. He
turned out to be a pretty good mayor, doing a lot for everyone in town at the time. When city water was extended
outside of town to Sharyland School, Mayor Duncan asked those living north of the school if they would also like
to have city water. They did, and the water line was extended north almost to what is now Griffin Parkway.
         Mayor Duncan owned an insurance agency, and Roy Conway, son of Mission‘s founder, was one of his
employees. A prominent attorney who was later a judge shared the building with the agency. John Shary
approached Duncan about investing in his company, and was strongly rebuffed by Duncan who said ―No damn
Catholic will ever own this firm‖. (Conway‘s family was Catholic, but he did not join the church until on his
deathbed at a San Antonio Hospital, when his wife insisted that the Priest convert hi m.)This infuriated Conway, a
fellow Catholic with Shary and a former Shary employee himself, and he nearly struck Duncan but the attorney,
who heard the noise, entered and prevented any violence. Conway then started his own agency. He had parted with
Shary because he wanted to sell insurance on the side, but Shary insisted on 100% devotion to his interests.
         Following is a list of the first 24 mayors; in figuring the statistics only the first 23, who have
completed their terms, are included. Following the term of service is the ranking in length of service
of the mayors, who are listed in chronological order.
1. Sam H. Hargrove, 9 December 1910-2 May 1911; 21-23,6 mo
2. Scott Cawthon 2 May 1911 -21 June 1911; 23-23, 1 mo
3. T. J. Wright 21 June 1911 -11 March 1912; 20-23, 9mo
4. C. W. Frick 11 March 1912-23 December 1913;18-23,l/9mo

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5. D. F. Strickland 23 Dec. 1913- 7 April 1914;22-23,4 mo
6. Willard Ferguson 7 April 1914- 18 May 1915;5-23,5/l mo
7. D. G. Wood 16 July 1915 - 8 April 1920; 6-23,4yr,9 mo
8. H. F. Bishop 8 April 1920-14 April l922;11-23,2yr
6. Willard Ferguson 14 April 1922 - 9 April 1926;
9. G. F. Dohrn 9 April 1926-9 April 1930; 7-23,4 yr
10.     Ross A. Marcus 9 April 1930 12 April 1932;12-23,2yr
                                                -


11.     J. J. Frost 12 April 1932- 13 April l934;12-23, 2 yr
12.     J. P. Waite 13 April 1934-7 April 1938; 7-23,4 yr
13.Logan Duncan 7 April 1938-l5April 1948; 1-23, l4yr
14. W.H. Braden 15 April 1948 -6 April 1950; 12-23,2 yr
13. Logan Duncan 6 April 1950- 15 April 1954;
15. C. V. Bridges 15 April 1954-3 April 1958; 7-23,4 yr
16. Adolpho de la Garza 3 Apr 1958 12 Apr 1960; 12-23,2 yr
                                                -


17. Herbert R. Melch 12 April 1960- 11 April 1967; 3-23,7yr
18. C. Virgil Ballard 11 April 1967-8 April 1969; 12-23,2yr
19. Clark F. Spikes 8 April 1969-28 May 1970; 19-23, l yr 1 mo
20. James F. Miller 28 May 1970-9 April 1973; 11-23, 3 yr
21. Arnoldo Ramirez 9 April 1973 -4 April 1981; 2-23,8 yr
22. Dr.Fernando Ortegón 4 Apr 1981- 6 Apr 1985;7-23, 4 yr
23. Pat Townsend, Jr. 6 Apr 1985 -20 Jan 1992; 4-23,6yr, 9mo
24. Ricardo Perez 20 January 1992           -


         (Statistics compiled May 5, 1992 by Dick D. Heller, Jr., for Arnold Vera, Main Street Mission program,
using the city‘s 16-page, legal-sized listing of Mission City Officers, to date.)
                      Bibliography
   1. Summarized from city‘s 16-page, legal-sized listing of Mission‘s city administrations, elected and appointed,
to 1992, received from city secretary, and written May 5, 1992 by Dick D. Heller, Jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission,
TX 78572-9743; (210) 581-9445.
         2. Interviews with a number of local persons who recalled various incidents.

                                                    MISSION CITY MANAGERS

     Apparently it was January 19, 1956 when Mission‘s first city manager was appointed 0. A. Schrimshire. He     -


lasted about a year and three-quarters, resigning Oct.21, 1957, and the new manager was appointed Feb. 20, 1958;
he lasted until Oct. 2, 1958, when he resigned to become city secretary-treasurer. He then served again from July 7,
1959 until January 31, 1960. Calvin H. Gibson was appointed Feb. 9, 1960, and he served until November 29,
1968, when he went to McAllen to manage Miller International Airport, and Charles D. Eyington was named to
succeed him. He served until May 22, 1978, and Kirvin Kaufman was appointed. He served until 1983, and was
quickly succeeded by Richard Gomez, Rolando Gonzalez, and Benito Lopez. In 1985, Lopez resigned and Mark
Watson was named. He served until Feb. 27, 1989; the office was empty then until the appointment of Michael H.
Talbot on Oct. 16, 1989; he resigned effective May 16, 1993,


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31/2 years.
NEED NAME of SECOND City MANAGER!

                                                         OBLATE PARK

     Long a landmark in the City of Mission, Oblate Park has been a source of joy and pride to
Missionites. On February 1, 1916, just eight years after the establishment of the city, the Oblates of
Mary Immaculate, better known as the ―Oblate Fathers‘, leased to the City of Mission for 99 years
2.9 acres of land to be used as a public park for all its citizens with certain restrictions: the city
promised to establish and improve the park, and maintain the trees and foliage.
         Charles Langston, Sr., pioneer Mission area resident and 30-year Director of Public Works, recalls the
activities in the park since it was developed. In the early days, band concerts, Memorial Day and July 4th
celebrations were held there. The tennis courts were constructed in the 1930‘s, serving the double purpose of
providing a dance floor during festivities. A memorial bench in the center of the park was dedicated to the memory
of Mrs. Mary J. Smith ion 1938 in recognition of her outstanding civic and church work. Mr. Langston recalled as
Director of Public Works that he supervised the planting of many native trees and shrubs there.
         Today, the park is a continued source of pleasure and recreation in a relaxed neighborhood atmosphere.
Oblate Park reflects the wisdom and far-sighted approach of the Oblate Fathers.
                    OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE CATHOLIC CHURCH

     Established as Our Lady of the Mission Catholic Church in 1901, the original wood-frame building, erected in
1909, burned in 1925. Although it was never proved, it is generally suspected that the KKK was responsible.
         The present church was built of brick in 1926, with its blessing and benediction taking place November20,
1927. The Rev. Fr. Emilio Lecourtois, O.M.I., was the pastor at the time. The Rev. Fr. Yvo Tymen, O.M.I., one of
the ―Cavalry of Christ‖ riders before the auto came to the Valley, was pastor from 1937 to 1954. Within the
outlying areas he founded several missions served by the priests from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Today,
some of these churches are parishes, serving Mission the small communities nearby.
         While the Rev. Fr. James Delaney, O.M.I., served as pastor (1954-1963) he planned and built a new
Catholic School building across the street on the west side of the church. The Sisters of Mercy, who had staffed the
school since 1914, moved into the new school in September, 1960. In September, 1964, the Sisters moved into a
new convent building built for them. A cafetorium/parish hail was built with the financial assistance of the Catholic
War Veterans in 1977 while Fr. Gerard Barett, O.M.I., servedas pastor.
         The church has always been manned by priests of the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which
moved into the Valley in 1848 to fill the vacuum left when the Mexican priests retreated within the new borders of
that country. The five priests spent a year at Brownsville, but two of them died of fever, two deserted, and the
leader returned to France, broken in health. But Texas Bishop Odin went to France and pleaded with the order‘s
founder for more priests, explaining that he had no secular priests for the huge new area, and the Oblates returned
to Texas to stay. A

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Texas Historical Landmark plaque has graced the church since last year. The present pastor is the Rev. Fr. Richard
Sheehan, O.M.I.
         The church‘s parishioners are involved in religious classes, prayer groups and various ongoing religious
activities. Every year, on December 12, the patron saint‘s day is celebrated with a “Mananitas” Mass, with
mariachis and special activities planned and directed by the Asociación Guadalupana.

                                            WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN HOME

    Six-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan was an early Winter Texan, having built his Mission
home in 1910 to avoid the winters in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bryan had arrived in Mission with his family in 1909 at
the urging of Mission‘s developer, John J. Conway. In the first days of his residency in the Valley, he lived in the
old Mission Hotel until construction of his residence was completed. Bryan had been nominated by the Democratic
Party for President in 1896, 1900, and 1908, and was one of the best-known politicians and speakers in the country.
Later, he ran three more times for President on the Prohibition Ticket. His first tract of land in the Valley was 173
acres in the La Lomita area, section 33, Porcion 57, near the river. He returned briefly to Nebraska and the 1909
Fall flood inundated his tract, so Conway immediately offered him another section, 200 acres near the present
Bryan home at Mile Two Road and Bryan Road, northwest corner. The two-story home, surrounded by a privacy
fence, is identified by a Texas (1936 Centennial) Historical Marker.
         At the time of his residency in Mission his three attempts at gaining the Presidency as a Democrat were
behind him, but he left the Valley to serve Woodrow Wilson as Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915. He resigned
his position in protest of America‘s involvement in World War I.
         Bryan, the Silver-tongued ―Boy Orator of the Platte‖, was a frequent lecturer in the area, and it is said that
when he attended a circus in Mission, the festivities wouldn‘t start until he consented to give a speech. The
February 9, 1912 Brownsville Herald makes mention of a special event that took place in San Benito. Col. William
Jennings Bryan delivered his lecture, ―The Sign of the Times,‖ to a large, appreciative audience at the Valentine
Theater the previous evening.
         The ―Great Commoner‖ used kind words regarding the Rio Grande Valley, and often posed for publicity
pictures with local groups. ―I looked over California with a view to finding a place for a summer home,‖ he told
interviewer Virgil Loft, ―but did not find anything that suited me as does the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I do not
intend to make this my home the year around, but will be here at least four or five months each year. The climate
suits me. I think it equal to California. The atmosphere is invigorating. I came here to study this season and brought
some score or more of books with me. I have not opened the package yet, and will not for some time. I am enjoying
the outdoor life to the fullest extent.
         ―During the coming season I will build a home on the acreage on the eminence and will make every
provision for a solid comfort. In the course of a couple of years my orange grove will be worthwhile, and then I
might consider it worth while to live here throughout the year.‖
         But when he had to move to Washington, D.C., to serve as Secretary of State, he sold his home and moved
to that city, never returning to the Valley again. He took up residency later in

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Florida, and lectured on pacifist and religious issues. He died July 26, 1925, shortly after the Scopes Monkey trial,
and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

                                                      GREGG WOOD HOME

    David Gregg Wood (1876-1965) moved from San Marcos to Brownsville in 1893. During his teen years, he and
his family moved up and down the river, finding work wherever they could. He finally settled in Mission in 1908,
when he was hired by John J. Conway as a mechanical engineer at the first-lift pump station. In 1911, at
Brownsville, he married Miss Mary Cottingham whom he had met when first arriving in the Valley. In 1915, he
was elected Mayor of Mission, the 7th mayor in the tumultuous first five years of the city; he served five years, and
his administration set a firm foundation for the city--improved streets, and built sidewalks to the schools. He also
helped create the First State Bank, charter the Rotary Club, and he strived to get the irrigation canals cement-lined
to control loss of water, and many other things. He remained active in the development of irrigation for many years
and in 1955 wrote a book about his life experiences in the Valley.
         In 1916, with two young sons, and a third child on the way, he started construction on one of Mission‘s
finest homes. Completed in 1917, the house is California bungalow style, which developed from the British
bungalows of India, combined with the Arts & Crafts movement in American architecture, which brought a fine
degree of craftsmanship to the construction. Popular in California where many were built, most were one-story
dwellings with long, encircling porches and ventilated attic spaces where breezes were allowed to sweep through.
The Greg Wood home combines a Mediterranean style, utilizing double-brick exterior walls and stucco, for
additional cooling effects. The bricks were made at the Madero Brick and Tile Company, south of Mission, where
bricks were also made for the lift stations and many other fine Valley buildings of the period. The roof is Mexican
tile and has been restored to its original appearance. The second story was added in the early 1920‘s.
         The interior has the original dark stained-wood paneling with beamed ceilings in the formal living and
dining rooms. The walls still have the original plaster. The home is now owned by Richard and Denice Kemp, and
is furnished with antiques from several periods and Mission memorabilia. The home was dedicated as a Texas
Historic Landmark in 1985 and has a Medallion Marker, given only to buildings restored to their original
appearance.
         The original 1890 Seth Thomas Street Clock in the front yard of the Wood-Kemp home is 18 feet tall with
two 3%-foot ―Milk Glass‖ dials. The clock weighs one ton, and is wound weekly by Richard Kemp, an avid clock
collector, who purchased it and brought it to Mission in 1989. The clock was originally owned by A. H Bromberg         .


who migrated from Odessa, Russia to New York in June, 1882. He spent four years as an apprentice watchmaker;
in 1886, due to ill health, he moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, and started his own business. By 1890, he moved
into his first store measuring 5 by 10 feet, known as the Miniature Jewelry Store, and located at 42 2_1Michigan
Ave. By 1898, his business had prospered, and he was appointed watch inspector for the Grank Trunk Western
Railway. He handled 400-600 watches yearly - a job vital to keeping the trains on schedule. In 1900, he moved to
a larger building at 48 Michigan Ave., across from the town square. His final move was in 1911, into a 2,275-foot
building he had constructed, and the same year he formed a

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partnership with L. J. Gregory, who was his first apprentice in 1886. They expanded the business to include optical
repair. With each move he took his street clock, and people learned to find his store ―LOCATED AT THE TOWN
CLOCK.‖ His years of service to his community were well-known, and he was greatly respected, including among
his closest friends Dr. Kellogg and C.W. Post, both of cereal fame.
                                           XOCHIL ART INSTITUTE

   Originally known as the Rio Theater, the building complex began as a brick building then called Teatro La Paz
(Peace Theatre). This building has had a long cultural and unifying place in the history of Mission‘s Mexican -
Americans. In recent years it has reflected the bi-cultural character
of the community.
          Many families who left Mexico during the Mexican Revolution of 1910, as well as those who had
remained on their porciones when this part of Tamaulipas became a part of the United States in 1848, continued
their artistic endeavors in this city. Teatro La Paz provided an important place for this expression.
          Distinguished visitors from Mexico and others in exile in Texas lectured here on a variety of subjects. Men
such as José Vasconcelos, later Mexico‘s Minister of Education; Nemecio Garcia Naranjo, historian, journalist and
playwright; José Manrique, political figure and Governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico, were some of the best-known
lecturers.
          At the age of 25, Juan Bautista Barbera emigrated from Miravet, near Tarragon, Catalán, Spain, arriving in
Brownsville, Texas, on January 11,1905. A bricklayer by profession, he built the theatre, starting August 6, 1912,
and much later adding the adjacent buildings. Trying his hand at other enterprises over the years, he operated in the
adjoining buildings a drug store, bowling alley, and a pool hail. During the depression years, the building was used
to deliver food to needy families. Even though Juan Barbera‘s first theatre was Concordia Theatre, a frame building
on Conway at Fifth street, the Teatro La Paz remained his most successful and permanent business.
          In 1981, 101-year-old Mission pioneer Tiburcio Femat recalled the theatre had an outside balcony from
which the ―grito‖ was given on the eve of Mexico‘s Independence Day (September 16). The 16th of September
Fiesta Queen was crowned at the theatre. Young ladies from the conm~uthty would be presented in concert. A
beloved Mexican poet would be recognized in a “velada” of his poems.
          Felipe Garcia, who lived across the street, remembered the graceful arches at the entrance to the theatre
and the many joyful performances in its heyday.
          What Mission‘s long-time residents remember best are the programs presented at Teatro La Paz. Traveling
artists from Spain and Mexico brought their plays to La Paz. Spanish classics like Don Juan Tenorio and Mexican
works such as La Llorona and Malditas Sean Las Mujeres were eagerly awaited. On special nights dedicated to the
artists, people brought gifts to show their affection and appreciation for them. In the silent film era, Juan Barbera
had business dealings with the Unique Film Service in Houston. Documents dated 1916 show the theatre had a 10
horsepower Douglas gas engine, a dynamo, and a 52_1 kilowatt Edison moving picture machine and 250 theatre
chairs.
          In 1945, Enrique Flores, Sr. bought the theatre and changed the name to Rio Theatre. He and

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his wife operated the theatre for many years, willing it and the adjacent buildings to Enrique Flores, Jr., for the
continued operation as a theatre and center for the arts. The Xochil Art Institute, a non-profit organization with a
board of directors was formed, but after the two artists most closely associated with the building died, the institute
was dissolved, and the property was returned to a relative, who has placed the building for sale.

                                                  THE BARRERA BROTHERS

    The Barrera brothers - Cayetano, Francisco and José established Barren‘s Supply together with an automobile
                                                                     --


repair garage next to their grandfather A.J.J. Austin‘s drug store in 1918. Later, the business was moved across the
street to its present location at 500 S. Conway Ave. Brother Cayetano left the business to attend the University and
become a physician, opening an office and clinic, with patient beds, a block south. Brother Pedro joined the other
two older brothers, but left later to help at his grandfather‘s pharmacy, later going to school to become a
pharmacist, and open his own pharmacy next to his brother‘s clinic. José then asked his nephew, Miguel Olivarez,
to join him in operating the business in 1931. Miguel had an agreement with his uncles to buy up the stock in the
company, and in 1952 became the sole proprietor.
         Today, still a wholesale automotive parts business, Miguel has been joined in the day-to-day operations by
his sons, Ben D. and Sam O. Olivarez.

                                                        DR. A. J. J. AUSTIN

   Born November 1, 1843 on the Isle of Man, Great Britain, at the age of 17 Alfred Joseph Jonathan Austin made
his way to New York City. He studied as a pharmacist, then physician,, became a U.S. citizen, joined the U.S.
Army, and was stationed at Fort Ringgold, Rio Grande City, Starr Co., Texas. He met and married Elena Ryan, left
the service and moved with his Spanish-speaking wife to Camargo, Tamps., Mexico, where he set up a pharmacy
on the main plaza. He moved to Mier and opened another pharmacy, and remained there practicing medicine and
pharmacy until 1913. He even served a term as mayor of Mier. The Mexican Revolution finally drove him out,
fleeing with his family and their children across the river, bringing only the great French bed he had purchased for
his wife at their marriage. He settled on a ranch at Los Ebanos, but in 1915 moved to Mission with his family to
establish his practice and a drug store at the corner of Conway and Sixth Street. He was quite successful, serving
from 1923-1929 as a Director of the First Bank & Trust Company of Mission, and was a member of El Mesias
Methodist Church. At the age of 85, he took his U.S. pharmacy test, and passed it on the first try. He had become a
Mexican citizen, but for the second time became a U.S. citizen--yet remained faithfully ―British‖ in his practices,
though his family was quite Spanish in culture and language.
        He was nicknamed ―El Doctor Paloma‖ (The dove-like physician) and was a tiny man with strong beliefs
who always dressed in white and drove a team of white horses. A number of local families share descent from this
unusual man.

                                             Roy Patrick Conway‘s Military Record

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        From 1911 until August, 1917, Roy P. Conway was assistant superintendent of the Mission Canal
Company and United Irrigation Company at Mission.
        On August 27, 1917 Roy P. Conway enlisted as a sergeant in the 7th Casual Detachment at McAllen,
Texas, with serial number 1484141.
        On November 17, Conway, five feet, 114_1 inches tall and weighing 147 pounds, 28 years of age, a
purchasing agent for the Irrigation company for the past 10 years, and a real estate salesman for his father, at a
weekly wage of $70, was interrogated at Camp Lee, where he was assigned. A high school graduate, he had read
law two years. He was married, and spoke Spanish. He also played the piano. ―Very good man‖, his interrogator
recorded.
        From January 5, 19l8 until April 19, 1918, he was in the Third Officers Training Camp 36th Division,
Camp Bowie, Texas.
        On May 31, 1918 Roy Patrick Conway, Sergeant, Casual Detachment, Infantry Replacement Complement,
National Army, Camp Lee, Virginia, was honorably discharged to accept a commission as Second Lieutenant. It
described him as having enlisted at 28 2/12 years of age, by occupation a clerk, blue eyes, dark hair, fair
complexion, and 5 feet 10 3/4 inches tall.
        On June 1, 1918 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Infantry, United States Army, during the
existing emergency. On December 6, 1918 he was promoted to First Lieutenant of Infantry, to date from
September 14.
        On January 30, 1919, Roy P. Conway was discharged as a first lieutenant, infantry at Camp Lee, VA, Omar
Bundy, Major General, Commanding. He was entitled to two silver war service chevrons and on Nov. 23, 1919 a
bronze victory button was authorized.
        ON his return to civilian life, Conway became an insurance agent, at first with another company, and later
as an independent agent himself.
        In October, 1940, Conway was named chairman of Selective Service Board No. 2, Mission, Hidalgo Co.,
Texas.
        On March 24, 1941 he was commissioned a Captain, Infantry, Texas State Guard. Just after this, he
suffered a severe stomach problem, requiring surgery at Temple, Texas.
        Because he would be incapacitated for some time, he submitted his resignation as company commander of
the state guard at Mission. He immediately received a page-long letter from his commanding officer, Lloyd
Bentsen.
        On June 30, 1942, Major Lloyd M. Bentsen, Major, Commanding the 31st Battalion, requested that the
adjutant general of Texas assign Captain Roy P. Conway to active status to fill S3 vacancy.
        On July 1, 1942 Captain Roy P. Conway, inactive list, was transferred in grade to the active list, and
assigned to duty with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 31st Battalion, Texas Defense Guard, Mission,
as Plans and Training Officer, vice Apperson resigned, effective June 29, 1942. Conway had been in the inactive
guard, hoping to be commissioned on active duty, and kept flying to get in the entire war; but the governor decided
to terminate the inactive guard on June 30.
        July 17-19 Conway completed the first short-term officers‘ course at Peacock Military Academy, San
Antonio.
        From August 12-14 Conway completed a second short-term officers‘ course at the same

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location.
         On August 26, 1942 Conway was requested to report for an interview relative to his application for a
commission in the Army of the United States or Army Specialist Corps.
         From September 6 to 12, 1942 he completed a course of instruction at the Eighth Service Command State
Guard School at Camp Bullis, Texas.
         On October 28, 1942 Conway was informed that an officer procurement district of the Eighth Service
Command had recommended him for a commission, and he was sent for a physical examination. On December 22,
1942 he was informed that he was again disqualified for any type of military service because of his
gastro-enterostomy, even after a second physical.
         On January 25, 1943 Conway enlisted in the National Victory Service League, led in Mission by John
Brannan.
         On May 12, 1943, Governor Coke Stevenson appointed Conway an infantry Captain. He was promoted to
Major on October 25, 1944, and transferred from S-3 to Battalion Executive Officer, Headquarters, 31st Battalion,
McAllen.
         On November 24, 1944, Col. B. G. Walsh, Director of the Officer Procurement Service, Washington, D.C.,
informed Conway that the requirements for a direct appointment as a commissioned officer for the Army had been
met, and with a few exceptions no additional appointments from civil life were contemplated. Vacancies were
being filled from those already in service. Returned were personal papers, including three character references
from D. F. Strickland, of Strickland, Ewers and Wilkins, attorneys of Mission; T. M. Melden, Secretary-Treasurer
of the Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange, and R. K. Stewart, vice-president and Cashier of the First State Bank
& Trust Company of Mission, Texas. All three letters had been written September 17, 1942.
         Robert A. Jeffreys, business manager of the Donna News-Advocate, wrote Conway on December 25,
1944, sending him his Mexican Border ribbon from the Texas National Guard, his Texas Victory Ribbon, and his
Good Conduct Medal from the Texas State Guard.
         On January 19, 1945, Brigadier General J. Watt Page, State Director of Selective Service in Texas, and
Chairman, State Veterans Service Committee, requested that Conway represent the Selective Service System on
the Hidalgo County Veterans‘ Service Committee.
         June 5, 1946 Jean Edens, Colonel, Infantry, Commanding, Army Service Forces, San Antonio U.S. Army
Recruiting District, thanked Conway for his contribution to the program of National Defense, as chairman of the
draft board since its inception in 1940.
         On April 25, 1953 Conway wrote to his Aunts Mag (Mrs. Peter McCamley, Wisconsin Rapids, WI) and
Mame (Miss Mame D. Conway, same city) for affidavits to show he was born June 11, 1889, in Orient, SD He also
got a certificate of baptism from St. Joseph‘s Catholic Church at Orient, SD. He also received an information sheet
from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, showing that the census taken June 1, 1900 showed him to be a son in the
family of John J. Conway, age 11, born in June, 1889 in South Dakota; they were then living in Precent Township,
Faulk County, SD. He was the son of Elizabeth Hanifin Conway and John J. Conway, according to Margaret
McCamley, his mother‘s sister, and Manie D. Conway, his father‘s sister. His parents were both born in Wood
County, Wisconsin.
        On July 1, 1956 Conway was retired from the Texas State Guard Reserve Corps as a

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Lieutenant Colonel, and transferred in grade to Texas State Guard Honorary Reserve.

                               Blazing Gun Fight at Madero1

        John R. Peavey had been moved to McAllen and assigned to operate and work with Mounted Customs
Inspector Natt B. Malone. This is Peavey3s account of a gunfight along the river.

          ―On the afternoon of April 5, 1925, Jim and Jack Cottingham, Border Patrolmen stationed at Mission,
came to McAllen and told us they had reliable information that several European aliens would be smuggled into the
United States at or near La Lomita, south of Mission. The patrolmen were certain that the smugglers would use one
of two crossings and they were going to watch at one of the crossings and wanted us to agree to work the other; it
was all right with us and we agreed.
          ―A little after dark Malone and I went to the crossing designated, arriving there about 8 p.m. the same
night. It was a very still, dark, cloudy night. About 9 p.m. we heard what sounded like a battle going on up the river.
I said to Malone, ―I believe those boys are having a pitched battle; we‘d
better go see what‘s happening. It could be that they ran into a band of armed smugglers.‖ From the shooting I
heard, it was a real fight. It took us some time to make to our way to our car through the brush in the dark. Then we
drove to what we thought was the place that they were going to watch, but they were not there. Being unable to
locate them we drove into the little town of Madero. Not a single Mexican was in sight and that was very unusual as
during the evening they were always standing around on the street corners watching every car that passed. I
remarked to Malone that sure as the night is dark something had happened; these Mexicans must have heard the
shooting and then hidden out as they don‘t want to answer any questions.
          ―So we drove on into Mission, three miles away. Upon our arrival, the town streets were full of people. We
asked what was going on, why all the people looked so serious. We were then informed that the Cottinghams and
several other Federal officers got into a big fight with a band of smugglers and our boys got shot up very badly.
They had them up at the doctor‘s office, trying to save their lives. Naturally I was greatly worried since the two
Cottingham boys happened to be my wife‘s brothers.
         ―I went directly to the doctor‘s office and when I arrived there I was told that Jim Cottingham had been shot
two or three times and was not expected to live, and the doctor, Thomas R. Burnett, the government-designated
physician, was working desperately on him trying to save his life. When I was able to talk to the doctor he told me
that there wasn‘t a chance; that Jim was shot through both lungs with what
apparently were two soft point lead bullets, one entering in the arm pit and lodged near the spinal column, the other
entered a little to the left of his heart, through the lung, and out of his back. He added, ―I have done everything that
can be done; I see no chance for Jim to survive this, only a miracle from almighty God can save him.‖
                                                                -




        1
            This is Chapter L, pp. 267-72, Echoes from the Rio Grande, by John R. Peavey, Brownsville:
Springman-King Company, 1963.

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         ―Jim‘s brother, Jack Cottingham, then told me what had happened on the river: He said that they had left
their car near the Oblate Fathers Mission near the river and started walking to the place where they were going to
watch for the smugglers. The two Cottingham brothers were accompanied by Cliff Hawkins and Daniel Pullin,
Customs Officers. It was dark and they were walking down a narrow trail toward the river crossing Jim Cottingham
in the lead. Suddenly he came face to face with a liquor smuggler and his gang packing a load of liquor from the
river crossing; the leader of the gang was carrying a pistol in his right hand. Jim ordered him to drop his gun and
reach; instead, the smuggler opened fire on their pursuers. Hawkins cut one smuggler down at close range with two
shots from his rifle. Jack and Pullin plugged two more of the smugglers just as they were about to get into their
boat, then the officers had to duck for cover because the smugglers on the Mexican side were laying down a heavy
barrage of rifle fire on the Texas bank of the river.‖
         This shootout was near pump station 1, and was recalled by LaRoy Rossow and Eduardo Lopez, the latter
a 31-year plant employee.
         According to their account, border patrolmen Jim and Jack Cottingham were patrolling the river bank for
tequila smugglers when a boat on the river opened fife on them. They returned fire, and Jim was wounded in the
abdomen. When the fight ended, workers Rossow, Lopez, Hipolito Lopez and Joaquin Longoria, went and picked
up the wounded--Eduardo vividly remembered Jim Cottingham moaning as they arrived. Eduardo rushed Jim to
Doe Burnett in Mission, and he picked pellets out of him for some time, but announced that he would be all right.
One of the smugglers, who were transporting empty bottles back to Mexico to refill, was killed--Mexican Andrés
Garza.
         ―After the shooting stopped on the Mexican side, the Inspectors returned to the place where Jim and the
dead smuggler were lying on the ground. The smuggler had been shot in the head with a 45 caliber bullet and
another in the heart from Jim‘s six-shooter. Jim was badly wounded, it was plain to see. Because of the distance
they had to go to get to their car in the darkness along with the thick brush, they had a very difficult time getting Jim
to the car and to Mission. The name of the dead smuggler was Andrés Garza, a notorious character in the
smuggling business for many years. The other that Hawkins cut down was named José Hernández, known as “El
Tiburón”- the water shark. Jim lingered between life and death for twelve days, then he began to recover. His
doctor told me that he did all that could be done for Jim but the One that really saved Jim‘s life was God. I have and
always will be grateful to Doctor Burnett for his untiring devotion and efforts to this case.‖

Mission in 1909
        Roland A. Warnock, a native of Martindale, Texas, came to Mission with his family in 1909. His father
was a ―stationary engineer‖, capable of running the new-fangled gasoline engine, used to pump water when the
wind failed, and absolutely essential to big herds of cattle to prevent many sick and dead cattle.
        ―We were living in just a quick, little shelter that we had thrown up because the hotel was so high. Boy,
was it high. The town of mission was booming. It was mostly just a tent city, with




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hammers and saws everywhere. All of the Rio Grande Valley was like that.‖2
       ―In that day (1909), cowboying was about the only work that a young fellow could find. When I turned
12(prob. 13 or 14), I got two or three good horses and the ranches around there would pay me so much a day for me
and my horses. They didn‘t pay much, but if a kid couldn‘t find work on one of those big ranches, he was just out
of money. There was no other kind of work around that little town that a boy could do, but if you made a good hand
you could always find a job.‖3
Mission in 1911
        ―As we neared Mission, the pleasant aroma of burning mesquite wood came from the fires where hundreds
of Mexicans were clearing land. They were pelados from el otro lado (the other side) and wore big sombreros and
tight pants. The name ―wet-back‖ had not yet come into use at that time. These Mexican people had, for one
hundred years or more, crossed the Rio Grande at will. Until 1917 there were no restrictions on immigration from
Mexico except on Chinese Nationals. With new towns springing up all along the Valley, these laborers came over
by the thousands to clear the land. Some were grubbing brush while others were planting palms. Still others who
belonged to the scrapper gangs were building canals.

         ―When the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railroad extended their line from Harlingen to Sam
Fordyce in 1905, among the many new towns established along the route was Mission, founded in 1907 and named
for the old Spanish Mission three miles south of there. Mission La Lomita (Little Hill) was established by the
Order of Oblates of Mary Immaculate in about 1 850.(sic)
         ―When we moved to Mission in 1911, there were a few houses, two stores, a lumber yard, a restaurant and
a Saloon. Residents who did not have a windmill were supplied with water from the Rio Grande by a Mexican with
a cart, barrel and burro.
         ―With the advent of irrigation canals Mission began to boom. Many people from the north seeking a milder
climate, came to the Valley to make their home. Northern land men and development companies brought these
―home-seekers‖ in by the train loads. Arriving by the hundreds they soon out-numbered the natives. These
new-corners were called ―snow-diggers.‖
         Their language, habits and customs were as foreign to us as ours were to them. Misunderstandings were
inevitable, but time usually takes care of most situations, and it took care of this one, too.
         ―William Jennings Bryan, three-times unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President of the United
States, bought 160 acres of land just two miles northeast of mission in 1909. He was defeated for the presidency in
1896, 1900 and 1908. The Bryans spent several winters at their place



        2
            p. 15, Texas Cowboy, The Oral memories of Roland A. Warnock and His Life on the


Texas Frontier, by Kirby F. Warnock. Dallas - Fort Stockton: Trans Pecos Productions, 1992.
3
 lbid., p. 19.


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north of Mission, then he sold his property and gave up the idea of being a Texan.‖4

         Conan T. Wood, who owned and operated mines in Mexico, told the Lower Rio Grande Historical Society
on October 28, 1964 that when he had to leave Mexico and return to the United States about 1910, a number of the
fine old settlers of the Cerralvo area came back with him, and settled in Mission. These were people descended
from Carbajal‘s original Cerralvo settlers. They were called the judios de Monterrey.
         Pointing to the great achievement of the people of Mexico, he pointed out that leading authorities state
there was only $300 million in gold and silver in all of Europe in 1492, but that more than $2.6 billion was exported
to Europe during the 1521 to 1806.
         In 1757 there was a great flood killing 14,000 people in Mexico; in 1767 it was repeated, collapsing the
Logarto de Plata mine, burying thousands alive. The mine was never reopened. By 1900, between $8 and $9 billion
had been taken from the mines of Mexico, and enriched Europe. Wood owned the Lagarto de Plata mine, but could
never get anyone to work it.
―Cerralvo, the Mother City of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.‖


                                           Porción Boundaries Today
        The east boundary of Porcion 60 is Bentsen Road.
        The east boundary of porción 59 is just west of Taylor Road, and Shary is about the center.
        Glasscock Road is the center of porcion 58. Stewart Road or Rincón, is the west boundary of porcion 58.
The east boundary of porción 57 is Stewart Road, while Bryan is the center.
        Highland Park-Mayberry form the center of porcion 56. Highway 107 is the center of porción 55. ‗Prosper
Road is the east-central of porcion 54. Los Ebanos forms the east boundary of porcion 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.

          Porciônes 57 to 62 extend half a mile north of 107.

                                                     THE SHARY BUILDING

        Situated on Lots 4, 5, 6, and 7 of Block 161, Original Townsite of the city of Mission, Hidalgo County,
      1
Texas, the 55-year-old Shary building, once the center of land sales, irrigation and canal work, the citrus industry
in south Texas, and numerous other commercial enterprises,2 now houses the offices of the City of Mission.3 The
two men most closely associated with the development of Mission, John J. Conway and John H. Shary,
successively had theft headquarters here; Shary was the father of commercial citrus development in the Lower Rio
Grande Valley, and



          4
        from pp. 77-9, Rincón (Remote Dwelling Place) A Story of Ljfe on a South Texas Ranch at the turn of the
                                                                      -


Century, Maude T. Gilliland. Brownsville: Springman-King Lithograph Company, 1964.

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was chairman of the board that completed the inland waterway to Brownsville from Corpus Christi. Shary owned
and sold more than 50,000 acres in the Valley for an average price of $50 an acre; he also developed an even larger
area west of Corpus Christi together with another investor.
        The City of Mission purchased the building from former Texas Governor Allen Shivers and his wife,
Marialice Shary Shivers in 1960, fifteen years after the death of Shary.
        The building stands on Porción 55 of the Reynosa distribution of 1767, originally granted to José Antonio
Cantu, 4,785.4 acres, according to Abstract H-46. General Land Office File San Patricio 1-720. 4
        With the death of José Antonio Cantu, Porción 55 passed to Cipriano Vela Cantu, Bias Maria Cabazos,
Maria Santos Cabazos and Maria Antonio Cabazos, his heirs, who sold it May 23, 1851 to René Guyard, a French
merchant of Reynosa; it was known as El Nogalito Ranch. Guyard already owned Porcion 57, La Lomita Ranch,
both now a part of the State of Texas, United States of America for three years.5
        Within a year of his second purchase, Guyard 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
Teresa Cañon; 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, then traded it back, to clear title.6 On February 21, 1871, René Guyard made out his will,
leaving his two ranches and their stock, etc., to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate; it was probated in Reynosa on
December 8, 1871, and in Hidalgo Co., TX, U.S.A. on March 17, 1874., and was formally deeded to the Order on
June 18, 1877, though they had continued to use it since the merchant had died.7 The two-story, Spanish-style
Shary building, now the Mission City Hall, originally cost $40,000 and was built in 90 days in the Spring of 1938,
more than 50 years ago.
        The building today is practically the same outside, with the same windows, doors, etc., with one major
addition-- the city hall room-- in 1979 under Mayor Arnaldo Ramirez. It was purchased by the city January 1, 1961
from the John H. Shary estate, represented by Blame H. Holcomb, Mien Shivers and his wife Marialice Shary
Shivers.
        It succeeded, and was constructed adjacent to, the old Mission Canal Office that housed the Conway-Hoit
organization from 1907-15, and then the Shary businesses. The older building was not torn down until after the
completion of the new building, so that various company officers could make a single move from the old to the
new.
        Harvey P. Smith, San Antonio architect, designed the 64 by 68, two-story building. It was built of white
Bondexed brick with white stone trimming. The roof was of red file and the floors of tile over concrete.
        Announcement of the proposed building was made Dee. 2, 1937 with hope that construction could begin
by Dec. 20; Actually ground was broken on January 20, and instead of the proposed 90 days to completion, it was
actually dedicated June 22, about 150 days after the ground-breaking.
        Originally, the business housed the offices of the following Shary companies: John H. Shary‘s private
office on the second floor was next to the general office of the Shary-Maddox

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Company. Downstairs in seven offices were the Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange, Shary Products Company,
       The Shary Building sits on lots 4, 5,6, and 7 of Block 161, the original townsite of the City of Mission,
Hidalgo County, Texas.
                         ENDNOTES
         1. Warranty Deed from Allan Shivers and wife, Marialice Shary Shivers, of the County of Travis, State of
Texas, to the City of Mission, dated December 23, 1960, No. 23453, filed with County Clerk Dec. 31, 1960.
         2. See dedication invitation, copy enclosed, for list of businesses originally housed there.
         3. See minutes of City Commissions of Dec. 12, 1960, 7a.m., authorizing the trade of the then city hall
property for the Shary building, for city hall purposes.
         4. Entry 33, Guide to Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in South Texas, Texas General Land Office,
Gary Mauro, Land Commissioner, 1988.
         5. Abstract of Title to Lands out of the West Addition to Sharyland in Porciones Nos. 53,
54, 55, 56, and 57 in Hidalgo County, Texas. Edinburg: Hidalgo and Starr Counties Abstract Co., Mission Times,
Printer, c. 1920, pp. 32-34.
         6. Ibid., p. 37
         7. Ibid., pp. 39-41.




                    SHARY MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE
         In December, 1932 about 78 Mission men subscribed to develop the Shary Municipal Golf Course, after
getting John H. Shary to donate enough land for nine holes and naming it for him. (A note in the Roy Conway
papers states that the ―Shary option from city of Mission expires 25 years from March 30, 1933. Dated March 30,
1933. Recorded page 354, Volume P, Miscellaneous Records.)
         Young Arthur Moore, a civil engineer who moved from Mission to San Benito within a year, did the
engineering work for the golf course, which was designed by Roy Buckley, Dave Johnson and several others, using
a copy of the prize-winning golf course layouts pictured in the August, 1931 copy of Golfer‘s Magazine. They
could not afford an architect, but theft work was so accepted that Conway recommended the method to Pharr the
next year, when that city planned to build a golf course. On March 30, 1933 they measured off the original chained
distances from center of tee to center of green. Work started on April 4, but some changes had to be made on
April24.
         The first hole was 282 yards; the second hole was 520 yards, with the first leg being 978.6 feet, and the
second, 581.9, for a total of 1,560.5 feet. The third was measured at 325 yards, the first leg being 592.3 feet, the
second, 383,2, for a total of 975.5 feet. The fourth was 383 yards, 542,5 in the first leg, and 605.7 in the second, for
1,148.2.

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         The fifth hole was 390 feet, or 130 yards. The sixth was 607.4 feet for the first leg, 600 for the second, a
total of 1,207.4, or 402 yards. The seventh was 731.5 the first leg, 519.3 the second, for a total of 1,250.8 feet, or
417 yards. The eighth was 464 yards, or 778.8 feet the first leg, then 612.8 the second, a total of 1,391.6 feet.
         The final hole was measured at 205 yards.
         On April 25th, the 3,128-yard course was reduced to 3,118 yards by modifying holes 2, 3,
4, 5, and 8. The first leg of 2 was reduced to 829.1 feet, the second increased to 658.3 feet, for a new
total of 1,487.4 feet, or 496 yards instead of 520. The third hole was reduced five yards in length to
320 by cutting the first leg to 576 feet. On 4, two yards were added, by decreasing the first leg to 508
feet but the second increased to 648, or 1,156 total. The fifth was enlarged from 390 to 436 feet, or
15 yards to 145. On the eighth the second leg was cut from 612.8 to 603, a total of 461 yards. This
left the course 3,113 yards long.
         The land available wasn‘t shaped to copying the exact magazine plan, but the design was used to shape the
greens. Conway placed four or five inches of cotton seed hulls on the built-up greens, then a little soil, and then
planted the grass. Using R.F.C. labor when possible, they piped city water to all the greens. By July the course was
80% completed, and they expected to be playing on it by August 1, 1933. All the listed persons were paying $2 a
month into a fund with which water pipe, hose, sprinklers, greens mower and other supplies were bought. About
75% of the men subscribing were just taking up golf, so the local sale of golf club sets was booming.
         Those initially subscribing were listed alphabetically: K. C. Adkins, George S. Agnew, B.L.
Brandt, Lloyd Brasher, Ralph G. Bray, George Brooks, Sr., George I. Brooks, Leon H. Brown, W.O.
Brown, Roy Buckley, Thos. R. Burnett, 0.E. Cannon, O.E. Cannon, Jr., Ty Cobb, Roy P.
Conway, Owen Council, H. H. Dennis, A. Dondlinger, F. W. Dooley, C. O. Dunbar, J. F. Ewers,
Willard Ferguson, L. T. Friedrichs, W. T. Gibbs, J. A. Gillett, Ira H. Gobble, F.M. Goodwin, Ray
D. Goodwin, Al Halla, H. R. Hannes, R. M. Hanson, J. Q. Henry, Dade Hiester, R.G. Hodge, H. C.
Jeffries, David R. Johnson, G. F. Johnson, J. H. Lair, J. R. Lehman, E. B. Marburger, A. C.
McHenry, H. H. Mehrens, H. R. Melch, T. M. Melden, W. G. Morris, Don Murphy, Ed
Oppenheimer, Paul Ord, W. R. Parrish, L. G. Plyler, H. H. Presnall, Hugh C. Proctor, L. A. Ramey,
Roger Ray, H. R. Raymond, Roy W. Reed, Maurice A. Rome, Thos. B. Sammons, Walter
Scoggins, R. R. Sheeler, D. O. Sikes, H. E. Smith, W. M. Splawn, H. L. Starr, R. R. Stephens, H.
H. Strahle, D. F. Strickland, B. M. Strong, J. P. Tipton, J. P. Waite, R. P. Walker, J. E. Walsh, D.
B. Webb, J. W. Webb, A. J. Whittlesey, J. E. Wilkins, and A. P. Wright.
         Roy P. Conroy, president of Conway-Dooley Insurance Company, was the organizer of the club, and kept
the records until about 1940. Tucker Bowles was the club professional. W. H. Foster kept the books. They used
greens cards and entry blanks printed by the Mission Times. The ditto machine was freely used to make printings.
         Perhaps the first tournament held at the new course was a 72-hole handicap tournament held
at Shary Municipal Golf Course Oct. 14-29, 1933. Scores were: J.Q. Henry, winner with 273; J.E.
Hull, 275; Pul Johnson, 278; Eddie Marburger, 279; O.E. Cannon, Sr., 283; Ransome Walker, 285;
Grady Walker, 285; L. G. Plyler, 287; Dr. T. R. Burnett, 288; Phil Shrader, 289; Hugh Proctor, 291;
Al Halla, 292; Russell Armstrong, 293; Roger Ray, 298; W.O. Brown, 29k; Roy Conway, 306.
         The following entered the tournament, but did not turn in scores for the full 72 holes: LLoyd

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Brasher, Ralph Bray, Roy Buckley, 0.B. Cannon, Jr., A. Dondlinger, F.W. Dooley, J. F. Ewers, Sam Greer, Dave
Johnson, E.S. Marek, Jim Parrish, W. R. Parrish, Mr. Phelps, Junior Shaky, R. R. Sheeler, and J. E. Walsh.
         That first year, December 10, they held their first of several annual tournaments, the Golden Grapefruit,
and staged it in December to coincide with the Texas Citrus Fiesta, which coordinated the dates. R. S. Gibbs, a
Trinity Universal Insurance Co. adjuster in the Milam Building in San Antonio, sent Conway a 4-page list of the
golf courses in Texas, and Conway contacted some of them to work up interest in the first tournament. The first
tournament was won by R. L. Chamberlain of Harlingen with scores of 36-37-38-36—147, winning by a single
stroke over Dick Turner of McAllen, who shot 41-34-3 5-38--148. Third prize went to Ed Brady of San Benito,
where a course was started the next year-- 39-36-4l-35--151.
         In the second flight, with 27 holes of play, The silver medal went to Lee Davis of Laredo, who shot
43-32-39--124; second was Mission‘s own Dr. T. R. Burnett, who scored 42-44-39--125. Bethel Cole, of Donna,
was third, with a 45-41-40--126.
         Monte Talcott of Mission won the bronze medal for taking the third flight, 47-49-43--l39. Missionites
W.0. Brown and Paul Johnson, with 47-48-45-140 and 50-44-46--l40 fled for second-third, making the third flight
a Mission affair, while the first two flights were well dispersed.
         Hill Cocke of Harlingen won the driving contest; Ed Brady of San Benito had the most birdies on first 18
holes; Dick Turner of MeAllen won low score on the blind hole; Bill Wainwright of Brownsville had the poorest
score on the blind hole; and William Minea of St. Paul, Minn., had the most sixes on the first 27 holes.
         W. 0. Brown, TCF-appointed entries chairman, had collected 37 entries at $37 up to noon
Saturday, the 9th; Conway took in 19 more on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, for an additional $19,
or a total of 56 people paying $56. Expenses of Conway for the tournament were 30 in stamps, $1.19
in score sheets, 25 in pencils, 64 in telegrams, 20 for envelopes and tacks, $2.65 for phone calls, $5
tip to Demis, and $8.50 to Mission Times Printing. The Young Men‘s Business League, Chamber
of Commerce, Rotary, and Lions put up $10 each, to help with the medals, at $27.50, the die at $20,
leaving a profit on the first Golden Grapefruit Tournament in 1933 of $29.77.
         Winner of that first tournament, R. L. Chamberlain, was the manager of the Harlingen Postal
Telegraph-Cable Company. He won a gold grapefruit-shaped medal engraved with his name and score. Jimmy
Tipton was scorekeeper, and Sammy Spear was a caddy, while John Barnum was in the tourney, but later turned
pro. John H. Shary made the awards, and Judge Henry did the speaking, according to Conway‘s 1958 notes.
         Conway‘s secretary had the initials M. F. F. who was she?
                                                                 --


         Rules for the early tournaments included all putts must be holed out, while the ground rules included
special winter rules - in your fairway only, and improve your lie with clubhead only. Penalties were loss of distance
                        -


for either out of bounds or lost ball.
         Out of bounds on hole number one was the road on right and the canal back of green; for No. 2, fence on
right, ditch on left, water on right; for No. 5, Levee on right; and for No. 8, large canal on right.
         Players were permitted to change balls on greens, drop back of ant hills without penalty, and drop out of
tree holes without penalty.

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         Lt. Ken Rogers of Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, won the gold medal in the Second
Annual Golden Grapefruit Golf Tournament December 9, 1934. He flew in to Mission airport shortly
before the tournament started, took four practice swings, and started playing, and besides winning
the gold medal, received three club-head wrappers for making the most birdies nine in the first   --     --


27 holes, and made six boogies and 21 holes in par. He left immediately after the tournament to keep
a Sunday night dinner engagement in San Antonio. Who said life was slower in the 1930‘s?
         The early golden grapefruit gold medals were made by Joe C. Bettencourt of San Antonio,
Texas, but purchased through local jeweler W. H. Foster, the three medals costing $40. The Samuel
M. Duffie Co. sold Conway the grapefruit used for the tournament. In 1934, the TCF ran a 90-day
Valley Citrus Show. The entry fee was still $1; it didn‘t go to $2 until the following year.
         Al Escalante of Brownsville was second, with 147 for four rounds, to Rogers‘ 144. Charles Puckett of
Brownsville won second flight, of three rounds, and Charles D. Turner of McAllen won the third flight, with
rounds of 44, 43, and 42, for 129.
         During the first six months of 1935, green fees brought in $1,023.10, but expenses were $1,120.33, $97.23
over. It was unclassified expenses of$104.26 that put the course in debt.
         On Dec. 8, 1935 the Third Annual Gold Grapefruit Golf Tournament was held at the Shary Municipal Golf
Course, Mission, Texas. There were 41 entrants, paying $82 fees, and with cash on hand of $28.75, the course had
$110.75; metal golf balls for runner-up prizes cost $8.84; pictures of medals, $3; medalist cup, $4.26; film and
developing, $2.10; printing bill, $16.65; a dozen golf balls, $9; and a donation to T. Bowles o f$ 19.07, meant
expenses of $62.92, so that $47.83 remained on hand. Lt. Ken Rogers of Kelly Field repeated as winner with a 144,
two strokes better than J. T. Chenoweth‘s 146; Lee Davis was third with a 148. In the second flight, Hill Cocke shot
a 116, Jack Wilson a 118, and J. A. Bartlett of Laredo won four golf balls for third with a 119. Grady Hight was first
in the third flight with a 126 to Parker Spence and Charles Turner with a 128 each. Roy P. Porter of Harlingen had
the highest score on the blind hole in the Second Flight, and won an iron club.
         The 1936 roster of members of the Shary Municipal Golf Association included: K. C.
Adkins, R. D. Armstrong, George S. Agnew, Sam Bennett, A. A. Bentsen, J. D. Boone, Tucker
Bowers, George R. Boyle, B.L. Brandt, John Brannon, Lloyd Brashier, George J. Brooks, Jr., W.O.
Brown, Roy D. Buckley, H. E. Buescher, R. L. Bull, Thos. R. Burnett, E. P. Butler, T. J. Caldwell,
O.K Cannon, E. P. Congdon, Roy P. Conway, Joe T. Cook, D. W. Cott, Owen Council, Claude
Daily, Don Danvers, Lee Davis, H. H. Dennis, C. B. DeViney, Nick Doffing, A. Dondlinger, F. W.
Dooley, A. L. Douglas, E. A. Dugat, C. 0. Dunbar, R. M. Edwards, C. D. Eppwright, Bob
Euler, J. F. Ewers, Willard Ferguson, Mr. Lena Field, Julius Franke, J. A. Gillerr, E.M. Goodwin,
Ray D. Goodwin, Al Graham, W. H. Gunderson, H. A. Hannes, Clelland Harris, W. B. Harris, K.
D. Harrison, Mrs. F. M. Hayes, J. Q. Henry, Dade Heister, R.G. Hodge, H. C. Jeffries, E. A. Johnson,
F. C. Johnson, Sam Keith, Jr., Vivian Lambert, Mrs. J. S. Lyons, E. E. Marburger, G. P. Martin,
Wifi Martin, A. C. McHenry, H. R. Melch, C. L. Melden, T.M. Melden, Elwood Moore, W. G.
Moths, Don Murphy, Ed Oppenheimer, Paul Ord, W. R. Parrish, Lawrence Peterson, L. G. Plyler,
M. P. Polhemus, Hugh C. Proctor, L. H. Ramey, Roger Ray, Roy W. Reed, Maurice A. Rome, Ollen
G. Rome,.Maurice A. Rome, Thos. B. Samnmons, Sr., Thomas B. Sammons, Jr., Bob Seeling, John
H. Shary, R. R. Sheeler, D. O. Sikes, H.E. Smith, Mrs. M. Smith, R. N. Smith, W. M. Splawn,
Parker Spence, H. L. Starr, A. H. Strahle, D. F. Strickland, B. M. Strong, F. J. Teragarden, Jr., J. P.

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          Tipton, J. P. Waite, J. F. Walsh, A. J. Whittlesey, J. E. Wilkins, H. O. Williams, Dr. A. D. Wilson,
Jack Wilson, M. P. Wilson, and A. P. Wright.
          All of the above members were from Mission; out-of-town members included R.W. Briggs, of Pharr;
Bethel Cole, of McAllen; E.B. Darby of Pharr; George Holliday, Jones Store, Paul Jones, Charles and Dick Turner,
all of McAllen.
          Each year, Conway sent these rosters to Golfing Magazine, which sent free copies to each member! The
1935 list was similar, but not in alphabetical order, so we did not copy it
          On November 3, 1936 Smith Kirby, chairman of the San Antonio Amateur Invitation Open Golf
Tournament for the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce, wrote to Conway, informing him that their
tournament was to be Dec. 3-6, while the Golden Grapefruit was to be Dec. 4-6, and they would overlap; he
suggested that Mission change their date. Conway replied that he tried to change the date, but that
Mercedes-Weslaco had a tournament the next weekend. Also, the San Antonio tournament was match play, taking
four days, while the Mission tournament was Medal play on Sunday only, and by that time only the finalists would
still be in play at San Antonio. Also, the Golden Grapefruit was a part of the Citrus Fiesta, and the dates were set in
May. Tucker Bowles was the course pro.
          In 1936, 500 invitations were mailed, and the card of the Corpus Christi Golf and Country Club for their
fourth annual Amateur Men and Women‘s Golf Tournament Nov. 6-8, 1936 was copied.
          Apparently no tournament was held in 1937, the 5th Golden Grapefruit Golf Tournament being held
January 2, 1938, shifting from December, 1937 to January, 1938 as the Texas Citrus Fiesta also made the change.
Entry fees remained at $2. Free green fees Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 1 to entrants for practice rounds, but entrants had to
furnish their own caddies. There were 57 entrants, bringing in $114; expenses included $57.67 and $45.75 for
clubs, $11.67 for balls, and $7.25 for printing, so there was a $8.34 loss.
          There were 63 entrants at $2 for the 6th annual tournament January 15, 1939. Expenses were $43.48 for
three golf bags including name printing; $18.80 for 3 dozen golfballs; $20.27 for three pair shoes; $5 for printing;
$1.43 for postage and envelopes; 30— for ice, 25— for pencils, and $10 paid to Tucker Bowles, for a total of
$99.53; leaving a profit of $26.47; but $68.45 was deposited in the Tournament Fund at the First National Bank to
repay $41.98 withdrawn to pay for golf bags. The report was submitted by the committee Tucker Bowles, W. O.     --


Brown, and Roy P. Conway.

        The 7th annual Grapefruit Golf Tournament was held January 14, 1940, the Texas Citrus Fiesta having
changed from before until after Christmas. There were 53 entrants, and the fee had gone up to $2.50 each. A total of
$74.88 was received from the bank account, and a contribution of $10 from the Conway-Dooley Agency, for a total
of $217.38. Expenses included $50 for a golf bag, $48 for two sets of irons; $26.50 for 51 golf balls, $24.88 for a
second golf bag, while the first golf bag included expenses for a bowling bag; the pro received $14 in expenses for
traveling, and printing cost $4.75, leaving a total of $49.25 to be returned to the bank, an actual loss of $25.63.
        Fifty-two years later, on August 13, 1992, the Mission City Council approved a plan to add a driving range
to Shary Golf Course by tearing down holes 8 and 9 to make room for the range, while new holes 5 and 6 would be
added on land obtained from Mr. and Mrs. Scott Martin from

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original John J. Conway land. The new holes will be substantially longer than existing holes 8 and 9, and will have
a little more contour a few hills. A 10-foot-deep lake will separate the holes, according to Golf Pro Mike Fernuik.
                        --


          At the same time, the council raised the ceiling on the course memberships from the present 450 to 550, but
the, annual fee of $325 will remain the same. Current fees for the public to play are
$6 for 9 holes and $7.50 for 18 on week days, and $6.50 and $8 on weekends. Cart fees for members or public are
$15 for 18 holes. The City finance director projected revenues of $824,000 for 1993 at current pace. About $90,000
is estimated from the driving range. Also, about $350,000 was expected from the $420,000 in certificates of
obligation sold in July to finance the golfcourse expansion. Only about $70,000 will be spent this year. Income
from the restaurant is not included, as City Manager Mike Talbot is looking into the prospect of putting it out to the
private sector. Expenses to continue operations at the same level would be $977,304. An additional $32,525 will be
spent to replace clubhouse carpet, partially remodel the pro shop, and purchase a Cushman truckster.




                                                 Frontierland
                             Heated Words and hot Tempers in Mission


    The wild and woolly west was right in Mission in those days, as Mission boomed into a real city. Ranger Sam
McKenzie was wounded in a gun battle in 19155 with a suspected smuggler on La Lomita, the main street, now
Conway.6 Both men fired simultaneously, both bit their targets, and both lived to tell about it. The bullet that struck
McKenzie was fired from a Colt single-action .45 frame pistol that used 32-20 Winchester cartridges, but the range
was so close that the hollow point didn‘t expand; he had it made into a watch fob, which he wore the rest of his
life.7
        Another shootout took place in front of Brown‘s saloon, but one of the participants died in that one.
        During the winter of 1914-15, Victor Haney, an engineer from Upper New York, was driving with Frank
Lamb in the Monte Christo area, both of them working for the Melado Land Co. there, Frank holding the surveying
instruments in his lap. Frank Warnock drove by, and Warnock shot


        5
            See p. 361, William Warren Sterling, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger, Norman:

University of Oklahoma Press, 1956.
        6
            From Virgil N. Lott‘s Silver Anniversary story in the Mission Times.                                       -

        7
       P. 361, Sterling, op. cit. Note the strong similarity between this story and Lott‘s concerning a Sam
McKinzie, a customs inspector who was a former ranger, page 6.

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Lamb to death, ending a long, bitter feud. Haney never batted an eye nor showed the least sign of excitement as he
drove into Mission with the dead man.
         Warnock was indicted, but later killed October 1, 1915 in front of the Hayes-Sammons Hardware Store by
Bill and Ed Sterling, ending a long, drawn-out feud that resulted in the deaths of two good men and early Mission
area pioneers. Lott witnessed the latter killing from a window just across the street.
         This event was covered in Roland A. Warnock‘s oral memoirs, recorded transcribed and edited by his son,
Kirby F. Warnock, in Texas Cowboy, published in November, l992.8 It gives a different time perspective, but
covers the events that caused the arguments, and describes the second killing, witnessed by Roland, adult son of
Frank. But reading Warnock carefully, it is quite easy to see that the events his father seems to recall as happening
all at once, must have happened over a period of days, weeks, or months.
         A man named Jack Hammond owned the Melado Land Co., which had started the town of Monte Christo,
and he was also setting up orange groves, and selling them to people to get them to move to the Valley. He hoped,
of course, that Monte Christo would become a real city. With more than 23,000 acres they hoped to get enough
water from artesian wells to irrigate the tracts they were selling, and they had a number of pumps and engines, even
a cotton gin, on the property. Frank Warnock was hired as the ―engineer‖ or mechanic to keep all those pumps and
engines running.
         Mechanics were not found on every corner in those days, and big outfits needed to keep their equipment
men. So Hammond had a two-inch water line run to the home of Warnock, and asked him to keep his yard full of
tropical plants, looking nice, to attract the prospective buyers. Some time later, in 1913, perhaps when he learned
that his wells were not going to be able to supply the area with water, Hammond decided to sell his operation to
Col. Edward Arthur Sterling, father of (lien. William Warren Sterling and Edward A. Sterling, Jr.,9 already young
men. Bill Sterling was 22 at the time, his brother three years younger. The land was too high and too far from the
canals to irrigate at that time from the Rio Grande, and it was too dry to farm by the methods then used. So young
Bill leased the land from his father, to use as pasture for cattle, and added 15,000 acres, but his good start suffered
a setback during the dry years of 1915-1610.
         Frank Warnock continued working for the Sterlings, but felt they were overbearing, and had already gotten
a job elsewhere in the valley, but hated to leave his Mission home. One night he had been ordered to work all night
to keep the cotton gin working; about 3 a.m. the gin broke down with a couple of bales left to process. Frank said it
would take two hours to fix, and there were only a couple of bales left, and he was just too tired to continue. But the
Sterlings wanted to go to Brownsville the next day, and desired to finish up that night. Warnock just handed them
the keys


        8
            Dallas Fort Stockton: Trans Pecos Press, 1992. See pp. 52-61.
        9
       See p. 20, William Warren Sterling, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger. Norman: -University of
Oklahoma Press, 1959 (1986 edition).

        10
             Ibid.




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and told them to go ahead and do it themselves, then--he quit!
          When he got home the next evening, his wife told him that they had been out of water all day. He went out
to examine the water pipe, and saw that someone had been removing it! He got his rifle, and waited until the men
returned the next morning, according to his son‘s account.
          Otto Woods and Frank Lamb, two Sterling employees, came up and explained that Mr. Sterling had told
him to remove it; that Warnock had quit, and no longer was to get free Sterling water.
          Warnock was furious; he told the two men to start putting it back together, and go back and tell ―those
long-legged sons of bitches‖to try to take it out themselves, referring to the Sterlings, who were all six and half feet
tall, big, rangy Texans.
          Otto Woods stood quietly, but Frank Lamb replied, ―We were sent up here to take this out, and no
son-of-a-bitch like you is going to stop us!‖ According to the younger Warnock, who wasn‘t present at the time,
Lamb was shot dead on the spot. But Lott, a trained newspaperman covering the area at the time, reports that he
shot him later in what would be termed today a drive-by shooting. The Herald of Oct. 3 stated that Lamb ―was shot
and killed while driving to Edinburg last Winter.‖

         Wood, a brother of the Mayor of Mission about that time, returned, and told the Sterlings what the elder
Wamock had said. They weren‘t happy.
         Roland Warnock, in his oral statement made years later, said that the two Sterling boys must have been
reading the dime novels of the time, because when they arrived in the Monte Christo area from north Texas they
wore boots, spurs and leggings like the book descriptions of cowboy-gunmen. And it certainly may be said that
Sterling‘s book recounts his early experiences with gunmen, sheriffs and the like in Oklahoma and north Texas,
indicating an unusual fascination with violent men. Pictures of Bill Sterling in his own book show him at that time
with a low-slung pistol on his hip.
         Meanwhile, Roland Warnock, Frank‘s son, was working as a cow boy for Sam Lane on the Guadalupe
ranch; lie had been there for several years. Lane took him aside one morning and told him that if he‘d stay with
him, he‘d let him take care of the Monte Christo ranch for him ,take 25 cows to start his herd, and pay for them with
the increase. He‘d even pay him $15 a month to take care of the heifers.
         Then, after his father had killed White, Bill Sterling warned Lane not to do business with the son, Roland,
because he was going to ―come up missing‖ one of these days. That scared Lane, and he suggested that Roland wait
awhile before moving to the Monte Christo ranch, near the Sterling property.
         After he was threatened by the Sterlings, Roland went home to Mission to see his dad, whom he hadn‘t
seen for several months. Frank Warnock was now running a grain mill in Pharr, but he stayed home after lunch and
the two went into town, running into Henry Jeffreys and a man named Cunningham [the inquest indicates it was P.
B. Montgomery, of Monte Christo] in front of the Hayes Sammons Hardware Store about 5:30p.m.. An old drug
store, called the Palace of Sweets, extended out a dozen feet from the hardware store, and the narrow sidewalk
there widened out, leaving a wide spot for people to stop and talk. A window from the drug store looked out over
the spot.
         Montgomery and the elder Warnock had their backs to the drug store, while Jeffreys and Roland Warnock
faced south, toward the store, according to the Warnock book. Suddenly Bill and

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Ed, the Sterling boys, came around the corner holding automatic pistols and emptied their guns, shooting Warnock
nine times in the back (accounts at the time said five shots were fired). Warnock had been standing with his hands
tucked up under his arms in his shirt sleeves, without a gun, according to his son, who had neglected to tell the
father about the Sterling threat to him. Warnock, about 45 years of age, left a wife and two sons.
         Montgomery, a cousin of the Sterlings, raised by the Sterling boys‘ parents, had had an altercation earlier
with Bill Sterling at the post office, after the 1914 July primaries, and was not on good terms with them, although
he had warned his foster parents that Warnock was looking for them. Montgomery told the inquest that he had been
talking to Warnock, a friend for the past 19 months, for fifteen or twenty minutes, had seen the Sterlings and
warned Warnock, who said he wasn‘t afraid. Montgomery said it looked like trouble, that the Sterlings ―had that
expression on their faces.‖
         Mr. Sammons came out of his store, and Montgomery started talking to him, and started walking down the
street. When he had gone three or four steps he ―heard something and turned and saw Bill and Ed rush out from the
Palace of Sweets, Bill rushed up to Warnock and said, ―You Goddamned, mother-fucking, son-of-a-bitch! Come
on, Ed! Let‘s get him.‖ According to Montgomery, Warnock was standing there, doing nothing, when he was shot,
he wasn‘t armed, and didn‘t move for a gun. He didn‘t know for sure whether Bill or Ed fired first, but he thought
five shots had been fired.
         The district attorney impugned Montgomery‘s testimony, eliciting testimony from him that he had been
with Warnock when he shot Frank Lamb, that he, Montgomery had been arrested that same day for carrying a
six-shooter, and that Warnock told him he was going to kill the whole Sterling family. Montgomery had been
friendly with Warnock, and had met him that afternoon at Bill Shafer‘s saloon. Just before the shooting, Warnock
had told Montgomery that he had three Winchesters inside the Hayes-Sammons hardware Store. Montgomery also
testified that he had expected to be shot. When Sammons came out of the store and closed the door, Montgomery
started down the street. He testified that Warnock had his side to Sterling when the latter approached and shot him.
         E. L. Parks, a Telephone Company employee, who was leaning up against a post in front of the Palace of
Sweets, and Bill Sterling was leaning against a car when Parks saw the flash of the first shot. He ran up to Warnock,
who was lying on his face, with a bullet wound near the ear.
         J. M. Moore, an unemployed Mission tailor, who knew the Sterlings but not Warnock, said he didn‘t
remember anything before the shots.
         E. B. Roberts, of Mission, proprietor of the Palace of Sweets, said he was leaving the Palace as the Sterling
boys left, about five o‘clock, and was talking to Wood, and was going into his house when he heard Bill say, ―Look
out, Ed!‖ He testified that Bill Sterling had been talking with Brother Goddard, and drinking soda water.
         D. G. Wood, president of the First State Bank, testified that he knew all three, and that he was in front of
the Palace of Sweets, leaning against a post and talking with Mr. Roberts when the event occurred. He saw the
Sterlings inside, and Warnock sitting on a bench 35 or 40 feet away, in front of Hayes-Sammons, talking with
Montgomery and another man or boy [Warnock‘s son, Roland.]. He believed Bill fired first, and that Ed fired three
shots. Bill was ten feet from Warnock,


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Ed a little farther up.
         Deputy City Marshall C. L. Barnes testified that he was at home, two or three blocks away, when he heard
the shots, grabbed his gun, and ran to the scene, arriving two or three minutes after the shooting. He searched the
body and found no weapon, then covered him, and called the JP, the Mission JP being out of town. Barnes, who
knew Warnock, had spoken to him in front of the saloon; Warnock had remarked, ―I see the whole Sterling tribe is
in town today.‖ He started to curse the Sterlings, but Barnes, who was in a hurry to see someone else, cut him short,
and hurried away. Warnock had shown Barnes that he carried his gun ―right in front, under his shirt and inside his
pants.‖
         E. A. Sterling, father of the two boys, was sworn, and said that three months or so previously,
Montgomery, whom he had raised, told him in front of three witnesses, Lamar Parks, W. Anderson and L. R.               ________


that Warnock had said he was going to waylay some of the Sterlings, especially Billy, at whom he was very sore. he
told his sons to keep out of Monte Christo, and be very careful in the pastures; the boys laughed at the threat, but
took it very seriously. The Sterlings began sending into Monte Christo for their mail, changed their road to
Edinburg when they noticed stumps being placed in the road. He said Warnock‘s reputation was very bad, that he
was reputed to have killed a man in Rosenburg.
         Paul West, a Texas Ranger and apparently a close friend of Bill Sterling, had come into Mission with Bill,
from a scouting party [this was during the Border troubles of 1915], and met Ed and his father in front of the palace
of Sweets as the latter two drove up. He went over to shake hands with them and noticed Warnock looking around.
         He added, ―I walked on up the street, I don‘t know why, and just about that time I heard Bill shoot, and then
saw Warnock make a movement as if for a gun.‖
West claimed he saw him pull a gun with his right hand, seeing the handle of it. Bill fired first, as he headed for
Warnock. He further testified that he headed for them, to break it up, and that he saw Warnock draw first. He didn‘t
remember how far away he was when he saw all of this. [This testimony is obviously perjured-he testified first that
he didn‘t see anything until he heard Bill‘s first shot; then later testified that he saw Warnock draw first! Notice
also the timing difference- Roberts says Bill was drinking soda with a Catholic brother in is store before the event,
while West says he was standing out in front waiting for the other two Sterlings, and that the event happened just
after they arrived.]
         The Sterlings were arrested by Tom Mayfield on a warrant from a Justice of the Peace in Pharr, the Mission
justice being absent at the time. The two Sterlings were released on $2,500 bonds signed by G. B. Merriwether,
Everett Anglin and J. B. McAllen, ranchers of the Monte Christo area who know the boys and their father. M. C.
Hanson, Justice of the Peace of Hidalgo County, signed the bond Oct. 2, 1915 for Sterling to appear before the
district court after the inquest. The trial was originally set for February 20, 1916.
         The Sterlings were tried for murder. But the previous shooting of their employee, White, by Warnock, and
Warnock‘s own belligerent statements, plus the testimony of Roland himself that his father was standing with his
hands in his armpits, which from the rear might have looked as though he was going for a gun in his shirt, led to a
finding of not guilty.
         Roland went on to become one of the really fine cowboys in Texas, and got his own spread




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in West Texas when he got married. His son is now an editor and author. Sterling joined the rangers later, and under
Gov. Ross Sterling was named Adjutant General. The two Sterlings are not mentioned as being related in Bill
Sterling‘s book. It seems that Lou was right--two good Mission pioneers had died needlessly because of heated
words, hot tempers and violent times.
         Strangely enough Lou had also witnessed the killing of a young Latin American by Col. Sterling just prior
to the Warnock incident, it occurred at Monte Christo; apparently his sister was a tomboy, playing outside among
the pens and stock with the Mexican children. One day she yelled out, claiming that a certain Mexican boy was
trying to rape her. Bill ran out, and without any more questions shot him dead. Roland Warnock claimed that he
knew the boy, and that he wouldn‘t have harmed anyone. He also claimed that the girl didn‘t wear enough clothes
to cover her skin)‘
         Lott did not witness another killing of that period-- Sam McKinzie, a mounted customs inspector, mixed it
with a half-breed from Oklahoma named Kirkes. Kirkes was shot through the jaw and received other wounds, but
lived out his life in his native Oklahoma. When Kirkes went down, he shot Sam just above the heart. He was rushed
upstairs to the offices of Drs. Caldwell & Burnett; on lifting Sam‘s shirt to reach the wound, the bullet fell to the
floor having passed through the body and stopped in the folds of Sam‘s heavy duty shirt. Sam had served in the
Rangers under Capt. Bill McDonald, and in the mounted customs service until the above incident. He soon retired
and became a detective at Laredo where he served until his death. On his massive watch chain he wore the bullet
which had gone through him as a watch charm. The fight was the result of alleged cattle smuggling, but nothing
was ever proved.
         The third shooting that, according to Roland Warnock, involved Bill Sterling, was a Ranger-Hispanic
confrontation, in which the latter invariably got the worst of the deal. This occurred after the McAllen ranch raid,
for which the McAllens have documentation indicating that the raid happened because of J. B. McAllen‘s call for
more law enforcement help. Warnock‘s story was different-he says it was a ―hit‖ occasioned by a Mexican girl
whose parents didn‘t want her working on J. B.‘s ranch.
         Anyway, after the raid two Rangers were investigating, and asked neighboring ranchers Antonio L.
Longoria and Jesus Bazán Villarreal about the bandits, and they denied any knowledge of it; actually, they had
helped the bandits under threat of death, and were afraid to tell on them for fear of reprisal. The rangers found
bloody rags at the ranch, indicating they had helped the bandits, so the rangers, driving by young Bill Sterling,
waited along the rod, and shot the father and his son. They are buried on FM 1017 near Edinburg.
         H. F. ―Beto‖ Bazán, 78, a Mission insurance salesman, son of Longoria and grandson of Bazán, was just a
year old when the two men were killed, but he grew up hearing the family members whisper that Texas Rangers
were the gunmen.12
         He would like to see his father and grandfather‘s graves marked historically, as victims of the


        11
          See pp. 60-1, Warnock, op. cit
        12
         See pp. A, A17 Austin American-Statesman, Saturday, February 13, 1993, ―Cowboy‘s memoirs tarnish
myth of Texas Ranger hero Sterling.‖

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Border War times; Sterling‘s grave is marked, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, remembering Sterling
as ―a Texas Ranger, making the borderland safe during the years before World War I.‖ The Rangers idea of safe
apparently was for Anglos only; it was a very un-safe period for Hispanics, as the gravesite of Longoria and Bazán
prove.13




        13
          See ―New book about bandit years stirs controversy‖ by Bruce Lee Smith, Harlingen‘s Valley Morning
Star, February 9, 1993.

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                                                           Chapter 20

                                                  Churches of Mission

                                                        Bread of Life Church

         This church, now located at 2820 N. Conway, was started in 1977 by a Bible study group that met every
Tuesday night in a different home until only one of the homes was large enough to hold the crowd. Recognition as
a church came in the Spring of 1985, and the first Sunday service was held that September. Forty-six persons
attended that first service in a rented office building. Under the leadership of the Rev. Harry Emrick, the church is
a ―full gospel‖, independent, non-denominational church, welcoming all with the love of Jesus Christ.


                                                       Christian Charity Care


        Located Four Mile Line, between Mayberry and Bryan.

                                                           Church of Christ

        Now located at 621 Griffin Parkway (495), the Church of Christ was founded in 1910 by a small group of
women and children worshiping and training in Christ in the name of the Church of Christ. A traveling
evangelist-church builder, Joe Hardy, built a small church building, then decided to move on. Mrs. Thomas J.
Caldwell led a group of women to form a church. The first church was built at the corner of 11th and Dunlap in
1912. The small building was enlarged two or three times and moved to the Alton school grounds. A concrete
building was constructed at 11th and Dunlap which served as the minister‘s residence. Activities in those days
included Bible classes, quilting bees, sewing sessions to outfit a deserving high school graduate, campouts with the
young people, and picnics and socials. In 1967 the present building was erected. One of the pastors was the Rev.
Melvin Placke.

                                                 Conway Avenue Baptist Church

        This church was organized into a church November 1, 1955, when 67 charter members met in the old
―Duck Inn‖, a renovated tavern, until they constructed a building in September, 1956. Then, in February, 1959, the
second unit of the present building was dedicated. Among their pastors have been the Rev. Jack Cash and the Rev.
Richard Shahan. Bible studies, mission organizations, youth activities and music ministries are sponsored by the
church, which has supported a mission at La Joya. This church is also a member of the Southern Baptist
Convention,

                                             El Mesias United Methodist Church

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         This church was founded in Mission in 1912, and the Rev. Leopoldo F. Castro was appointed the first
pastor that year. In 1918 Carolina A. Farias was one of the first women in all Methodism to be appointed associate
pastor by Bishop James Cannon. Some of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the founding
patriarchs still worship at El Mesias. The church hosts a food pantry and the Wesley Nurse Program.

                                           El Templo Biblico(Disciples of Christ)

       This church, located on Conway at Five Mile, grew from the Church of Christ building that was moved
from Mission.

                                                     Faith Baptist Church

       This large independent Baptist church and school is located at Shary Road and Three Mile. The Rev.
Kenneth Apple took over as Pastor in July, 1989, and has now served for more than five years.

                                                First Assembly of God Church

        The First Assembly of God Church, 1720 E. Griffin Parkway, had its beginnings in 1952 when Rev. S. L.
Simmons and Sisters Buela Maxwell and Julia Scott began having daily prayer meetings. Their prayers for a
church were answered in 1955 when Pastor Alfred Roever built the First Assembly of God Church on the corn of
West 20th and Perkins. A new building educational building and kitchen were added to the plant. One of the
pastors was the Rev. Sam Calk. In 1975, Pastor Ron L. Bowen was invited to preach in Mission and was later voted
in as Pastor. In 1980 the congregation bought land on Griffin Parkway and relocated. Sunday attendance is
350-400, a fine tribute to the inspired leadership of Pastor and Sister Bowen.

                                                       First Baptist Church

        The First Baptist Church, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, was organized October 10, 1910
at the First Methodist Church by 17 loyal Baptists. The Rev. J. W. Storms was the first pastor. In 1911 the first
church building was constructed at the corner of 13th Street and Diehard Streets.
        When the National Guard was called out during the border troubles, the church lost its first pastor. But
Chaplain Ramsey of the 28th Infantry served as pastor for eight months. In 1917 two rooms were added on the east
end of the church, and were used as Sunday School rooms, and for Boy Scout meetings. The Southern Baptist
Home Mission Board had supported the church until that year. On May 5, 1918 the church burned its mortgage,
and the first Baptist minister to be ordained in the Valley, the Rev. E. L. Kelly, was ordained at the Mission Church.


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                             First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

          Located at 12th and Miller

                                    First United Methodist Church

          Located at 1101 Doherty Street


                                                   First Presbyterian Church

          Located at 1102 Ash Street

                                Harvestime Church and Bible College


          Located one-fourth mile north of Three mile on North Bentsen Palm Drive

                                                 Iglesia Adventista del Septimo Dia


       Located at 1725 Griffin Parkway (495) this Seventh Day Adventist Church provides services in Spanish on
Saturdays.

                                                     Iglesia Bautista Betania

          Located at 435 or 453 Citriana Drive

                                                    Iglesia Bautista Colonial

          Located 2¼ miles from US 83 on the La Homa Road west of Mission. Pastor in 1989 was Rev. Oscar
Galvan.
                                                   Iglesia Bautista del Pueblo

                    Located formerly at 1420 E. Kika de la Garza Loop; now located west on US 83.

                                                  Iglesia: El Divino Redentor

          An Assembly of God Church located at 1020 N. Los Ebanos Road, formerly at 420 Keralum.


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                                                          Iglesia Evangélica

         Located at Calle Colorado and Cortez.




                                           Iglesia Evangelica Hermanos Menonitas


         Located at 300 Holland Avenue, also known as the Mission Mennonite Brethren Church.

         La Espada Baptist Church



         Located in Palmview, 1¼ mile north of US 83 on Bentsen Palm Drive.


                                                   Lily of the Valley Church

         Located at 921 B. Kika de la Garza Loop.


                                                   Mission Nazarene Church

       Established at 11th Street and Francisco Avenue. Most of the early ministers were women, including Laura
Fourinash, except for a period of one year when a young man served the church. It is now located on Griffin
Parkway a mile east of Conway. In 1989, the Rev. Cris H. Mogenson was pastor.

                                                        Our Lady of Fatima

          Located at Granjeno

                                                     Our Lady of Guadalupe
         Located at 620 W. Dunlap


                                        Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

        Located at 913 Matamoros, it is built on the site of the old Castro School, acquired April 15, 1941 by the
Diocese of Brownsville. the site included a parish hail, priests‘ rectory, and religious education center of six
classrooms and offices to accompdate more than 400 families.


by Dick D. Heller, jr., 3103 Granite Dr., Mission, TX 78514-9743 (956) 581-9445 Oct. 11,2001 ddheller@aol.com
                                                Our Lady of Lourdes

 Located in Madero


                                          Our Lady Queen of Angels
 Located in La Joya




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                          Primera Iglesia del Valle Apostolic Assembly

       Located at 210 St. Marie. Herman Garza pastor in 1989.

                                                    San Martin de Porres

       One-half mile west of North Conway in Alton

                             St. John of the Fields Catholic Church

       Located at 1052 Washington Street

                                                St. Paul‟s Catholic Church

       Located at 1119 Francisco


                                                 Templo del Dios Viviente

       An independent church located at 312 W. 4th Street.

                                 Temple Evangelico M. E. Church

       Located in La joya


                                                 Trinity Lutheran Church

       Founded in 1945, the church was built in 1948, at Oblate Avenue and 14th Street, 1312 Oblate. Daniel
Wirsche was pastor in 1989.




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                                                       Chapter 21
                                                     Mission in 1994

         In 1994, the city of Mission spent $330,000 buying out the Granjeno-Madero wastewater service area that
belonged to Sharyland Water Supply. It has a $3,121,009 grant through the Economically Distressed Areas
Program to build sewer lines, and renovate the Mission sewage disposal plant to handle the 105 new accounts in
Granjeno and 580 in Madero.‘ It will take approximately one year to complete, so should be ready in 1996, if work
gets underway this Spring. This should open the area south of Mission to development all the way to the river. The
engineering for the project has been completed and the environmental clearance has finally been obtained, and
final clearance is expected in January, when the city council will put the work out for bids. Actual work should start
within four to six weeks, when the bids are awarded. Work will proceed simultaneously on the sewer lines and
treatment plant.

        A master plan to provide drainage in south Mission will be developed through a $125,000 planning grant
obtained through the Texas Water Development Board. It will take about a year to develop the plan, and the city
then plans to apply for a grant for construction.
        The renovation of the Shary Municipal Golf Course, from an 18-hole to 27-hole course, was completed in
October. In November, 1994 there were 139,000 reservations, compared with 89,000 in the same month of 1993.
        The buyout of the Seven Oaks subdivision and golf course and the entire 42-acre Mission Industrial Park
south of Los Ebanos Road by Taiwanese investors highlighted 1994 city activities. The city received $750,000 for
the Industrial Park. A resort hotel and headquarters for maquiladora operations in Mexico are being considered by
the Taiwanese group.
        The city, through the Mission Economic Development Corporation, is developing a new 90-
acre industrial park on South Bryan Road. Infrastructure improvements will cost from $2 to $7
million, and are underway. The Rio Grande Snack Company has purchased four acres for its 70,000
square foot building, valued at about $18 million.
        The city has applied for a new $2.5 million Economic Development Administration grant to start a third
industrial park. An archeological team is presently completing its study of the site.
        This year‘s major street project is the widening of highway 495, Griffin Parkway. The city is presently
obtaining rights-of-way; bids maybe let in February, with construction to begin in April. The present Glasscock
road project is on hold for a few weeks, until the hauling of debris from the Texas Highway department‘s Business
83 is completed. The heavy trucks would destroy the new


        ―Water-Sewer Projects! Grant Keys City Progress‖, front-page article by Kathy Olivarez, Progress Times,
Mission, TX, December 28, 1994, quoting city manager John Vidaurri.

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street as it was being built.
         Mission‘s parks and recreation department, under Tom Wilson, has worked on the Bannworth Park just
north of Sharyland School on Shary Road. The area has been cleared, roads paved, jogging trail in place and used,
the pavilion has been completed, and pier work in the fishing pond will be completed about January 1, 1995. The
irrigation for the ball fields should be completed by June. In connection with the Mission Lions Clubs, the city is
renovating Lion‘s Park on Kika de la Garza. New playground equipment designed for use by handicapped children
is being installed. Work will cost about $40,000, to be provided by the Mission Lions Club,
         Anzalduas Bridge is still in court, with a hearing in the 275th District Court expected January 30. Should
the Anzalduas site not work out, there is still a possibility that the 1978 Conway Avenue site will be used.
         Pirvatization of garbage disposal through BFI has worked well, as has the BFI recycling center. Fully
automated garbage pickup is under consideration--it will be slightly cheaper than the present twice-a-week pickup.
The privatization of brush pickup is also under consideration. The city‘s vehicle fleet is under consideration for
privatization also.
         Just before Christmas, 1994 President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno announced in
Washington, D.C., the appointment of Joseph Brann, Police Chief of Hayward, CA and son of June Brann,
publisher of the Mission Progress Times, as head of the Office of Community Policing, which will administer the
section of the 1994 Crime Bill that is to put 100,000 new policemen on the forces over the nation. It is starting out
with big-city forces!




        2
            See June Brann‘s Stopwatch column, p. 1, Progress Times, Mission, TEX, Dec. 28,
                                                       1994.
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                                                             Chapter 22

                           Manuel Hinojosa City Manager, Architect, Artist
                                                         -




        Manuel       Hinojosa,       son     of___________           and     ______________   Hinojosa,   was    born   in   1950   in
____________________________, and raised in Mission, where as a lad of seven or eight he dreamed of
becoming an artist for Walt Disney Studios.1 But he never imagined that he‘d someday paint a mural depicting the
life of the legendary Cowboy coach Tom Landry on the Tom Landry Boulevard side of the Long building at the
Conway corner.
          Landry coached the Cowboys while he was growing up in Mission. ―Once a Cowboy fan, you‘re always a
cowboy fan,‖Hinojosa told interviewer Jane Sterling in a story for the Valley Town Crier. Now Port Isabel‘s city
manager, he played defensive tackle for the Eagles 1967 Bi-district champs, and on the All-district first team. Then
he got a degree in art from pan American University and was planning to attend Texas Tech for a masters and teach
art, when he decided to switch to architecture and went to the University of Southwestern Louisiana instead. He
emerged a licensed architect, and practiced for a few years in the Mission-McAllen area, but found that his chosen
profession didn‘t give him enough creative opportunity. He switched to city managing, which he says involves
much creative problem solving, and is more self-satisfying to him than architecture.
          Now art is a weekend hobby, although he‘s been painting professional sports figures from baseball,
basketball and football for several years, and gets his paintings autographed by the subject. He usually paints on
illustration board using water color and an air brush technique. Beckett‘s, a national publisher of baseball cards,
has published a dozen or so of his portraits.
          His other local public art includes the Eagle murals at Mission Junior High School, painted in 1964, the
eagles on the floor ands the murals for both the old and the new high school gyms. ―I lived here when the street was
renamed for Tom Landry, “ he told Ms. Starling. ―I designed the special sign for the street, a profile of Tom Landry,
for the city.‖
          Hinojosa spent hundreds of hours researching and laying out the mural. Some of the questions on Landry
could answer, and the retired coach went over the drawings, colors, etc., and made some corrections for Hinojosa.
He painted Landry‘s original home from pictures, as the old building has been moved to Five-Mile Line, and some
changes made. He completed the mural during March, 1995.




        ‗See page 1 story by Jane Starling, ―Cowboy fan commissioned to paint mural of Tom Landry in Mission‖,
Valley Town Crier, McAllen, TX, December 28, 1994.

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                                                             Chapter 23



                       The Schools of Mission--1908-1995
            Adapted from material presented by Mrs. Ruth Perez to the Mission Historical Society, Spring,
                                                      1995

        Today, three school systems extend into the burgeoning city limits of Mission--the Mission
Consolidated Independent School District; the Sharyland Independent School District, and the La
Joya Independent School District. The Hildalgo I.S.D. may soon also extend into south Mission.
More than 27,000 students (1995) crowd into the schools administered by these districts. But it was
not always so!
        When the railroad came through this area in the 1905-6 period, this was a sleepy, rural area, covered with
mesquite, cactus and cattle. It supported a few ranch employees, with a Catholic Mission its primary center, about
three miles south of the railroad. John Conway and James W. Hoit arrived and bought up most of the land,
subdivided it, and began building a canal system and selling off farm plots and lots.
        Since they were starting from scratch, after land and water were provided by the developers, the pioneers
had to build a home or shelter, and clear their land to start producing crops. The Catholic mission provided
religious instruction, but something more was needed for the children schools!1        --


        At first the settlers centered at La Lomita, and on land donated by S. A. McHenry, one of the earliest new
landowners, 2 1/4 miles south of Mission on Conway, the first school was built.2 Its first teacher was Miss Corrine
Whitehurst of Sandia, Texas.
        During the 1908-09 school year, another school was situated about a half-mile from Madero, with an
average daily attendance of 3040 children. Conway & Hoit were concentrating on rural sales in this area at the
time. Her pupils numbered 20 or 25, more Latin than Anglo-Americans, but Charlie and Myrtle Langston, the
Dawson girls and Al Volz were among them. They sat on board seats and the only teaching aid was the blackboard.
Langston recalled that the two Dawson girls


        1
         J. L. Allhands, Railroads to the Rio, (Salado: Anson Jones Press, 1960), p. 163.
        2
            This paper is based on Manuela Cavazos, ―A PROGRESSIVE SCHOOL SYSTEM--

MISSION INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: 1910-1974,‖ completed April 9, 1974 for History 6300, Pan
American University, and a talk given by Mrs. Ruth Echazaretta Perez, teacher at Charles H. Mims Elementary
School, given March 11, 1995. Interspersed are
recollections from former students collected in various newspaper articles found in the Speer Memorial Library,
Pan American Library, McAllen Public Library and other sources.

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often rode to school on a gray mare, while Ira Dunlap, later a tire dealer in Mission, and Simon de la Rosa rode
burros. Most of the rest walked. One of Langston‘s prized possessions, which he kept in his bank lockbox, is the
little booklet, with the names of the pupils and some little poems, which the teacher gave each pupil. But that
school was closed when the site was practically abandoned for Mission. The school was across Conway from the
old Edwards residence just north of the town of Madero. When the road was made into a Boulevard for the
construction of the San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Interurban several years later, the school building was left in
the roadway for months and later removed to Madero.
         The first school on the north side of the railroad tracks was opened in 1909. Classes were conducted by
George Wolfram in a one-story, one-room building originally built for a pool hall. According to Virgil N. Lott, it
was located in the rear of the George Schunior brick building on the highway near the old Knox Lumber Yard. The
Lotts paid Wolfram $5 a month for instructing their children, ―and it was money well spent, for George really knew
how to teach the young idea.‖ Another old pioneer described its location as just west of where Bjork‘s new( 1959)
Conoco Station is, and was just east of a 2-story brick building which was demolished about 1959. It was also
described as being about the site of the old Lynch Davidson Lumber Company Yard.
         Benches were two-by-twelve planks supported at each end by empty soap boxes. The average daily
attendance was 28 pupils, all new and from different states and backgrounds, and no Mexicans. Many brought their
old textbooks; hence there were many different texts to teach from. The pupils ranged in learning from the first to
seventh grades. The more advanced students were surprised that the curriculum did not include Spanish, geometry
or Latin. Mrs. Althea Wright Richards, who attended the school, described it in 1959 as follows:
         ―Our schoolmaster was very nonchalant. He rested his artificial leg upon his desk and had us copy our
lesson from the book onto the blackboard.‖ (Charles Langston recalled that a favorite prank of the boys was to hide
Mr. Wolfram‘s cane, so he couldn‘t get around. Wolfrum was also justice of the peace for the area, as well as
teacher, and every day when he came in, he removed his gun and put it in his draws until JP duties again called
him.) ―There were two pupils to a desk, boys sitting with girls, etc. I, with brothers Perry and Lynn Wright
                                                                                          ..


attended this school for a time, with many who are still (1959) around, such as the Rome boys and girls, the Volz‘s,
the Robertsons, the Achees, Gordon Kirkland of Rio Grande City, the Drummond girls, McCombs, Carrie and
Cleo Dawson. I can think of many others but many of the early pioneer families gave up and moved back north.‖
         Charlie Langston recalled that the facilities at the school were very limited. Water was taken from the
canals or from wells, and stored at the school in barrels. Pupils used the tin cups to dip out water. Every once and
awhile, Langston claimed, a government man would come by and put minnows (gambusia) in the barrel to ―eat up
all the wiggletails‖, as the mosquito larvae were called.
         The restroom facilities at the school consisted of two outhouses on opposite sides of the school.
         This was before the State of Texas had adapted a uniform text book system, so each student brought his old
text books, Grades first through seventh were taught by Wolfram.
         ―This school was not too satisfactory for many pioneering families, so about this time the M.
          F. Armstrongs brought in a school teacher and started private classes in the upper story of there




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home,‖ Mrs. Richards continued. ―Many of us attended these classes. The residence has long since been
demolished and an apartment stands there now, at 1101 Miller Avenue.‖ Mrs. Zac Drummond Boyle recalled that
it was a group of parents who hired a relative of Mrs. Armstrong‘s to do the teaching.
         ―Then our better school system started to take shape when classes were held in the upper story of a building
on Main Street where a Texaco Station is located across from the City Hall ( 1959). The lower part was a feed store
and upstairs used by the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star, as well as for school, Mrs. Richards continued.
         Since segregation was then in fashion, a school known as School Number Two was conducted south of
the railroad tracks in Mexiquito, the southern part of town for a daily average of Mexican children. It was in a
two-room frame building originally built for the Catholic Church. Catholic sisters from Laredo taught the children,
but the school was a public, not parochial, school, supported by tax money.3 All children of Mexican birth attended
School Number Two from first to seventh grade. When the high school was built, they could go on to high school
north of the tracks.4 However, several boys of Mexican descent went to other Valley high schools to graduate
because of racial prejudices that existed then.5
         Classes in School Number Two, later named Theodore Roosevelt School, were conducted in a two-room
frame building originally built for the Catholic Church. The average daily attendance here was about 200 Mexican
children.
         South Mission also had the Colegio Fronterizo, a two-story building on Conway (then La Lomita), where
Mr. Samuel Trevino conducted classes in Spanish with Spanish textbooks.
         During the 1910-11 school year, a two-story frame building, better equipped than the first, was used. Mrs.
Boyle described the school as at Conway and 11th. Her sister Pauline(Mrs. J. S. Rodwell of Denver, CO) started to
school there and was the first person to start in public school in Mission and finish high school there. She graduated
in 1920. According to Virgil Lott, the first teachers were S. E. Rich and his sister, Lulu Rich, who was later the first
wife of Will Wood.
         The schools were then under the county superintendent, and the town decided it should have an
independent school district. Mission voted for it, and Charles Volz became the first president of the board.
         On April 19, 1910, by order of Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, Mission became an independent
school district.6 With $15,000 that was voted on the first school bond issue, a two-story



        3
            Board Minutes of May 18, 1910.
        4
        Mission Independent School District, Minutes of the Meetings of the Board of Education, meeting of May
18, 1910. (Hereafter to be called Board Minutes)
        5
            Abundio Perez and Felipe Garcia, residents of Mission, personal interviews, Mission, March 25, 1974.
        6
            Board Minutes of November 15, 1910.

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brick grammar school was built to accommodate the increasing enrollment C. E. Godby was hired as the first
superintendent of the Mission Independent School District. Besides himself, he had a corps of four teachers in
North Mission and four Sisters in South Mission. School Number Three, which was at La Lomita, was abandoned.
         A new two-story brick grammar school was built to accommodate the increasing attendance. C. E. Godby
was the first superintendent, and had a corps of four teachers besides himself in North Mission and four teachers in
South Mission. Ben D. Wood, a native of the Valley, wrote in 1982 from Croton-on-Hudson, NY: ―In 1911 we
moved down the valley a few miles from the ranch and Rio Grande City to the new town of Mission, Texas, which
was one of the early land development ventures based on water pumped from the Rio Grande and carried by canals
to the hitherto dry lands bordering on the south Texas desert and from one to five or six miles north of the river. In
Mission there were a lot of white people and white schools and a superintendent. I went to the Mission High School
for nearly two years, when I was about sixteen years old.7 I remember my third school quite clearly. It was a high
school administered and taught with formal curriculum, grades, and the other unfortunately enemies of
individualized education. I was placed in the 11th grade, and graduated from the 12th grade in the Mission, Texas
high school in 1912. But since the principal and teacher of both grades was the same dedicated and universally
beloved Mr. Godby, I was able to continue my educational efforts despite the schooling formalities of medieval
armor which now encased the school in a legally required, time-scheduled, mass prescription called the Standard
State Curriculum. Mr. Godbey, of blessed memory, never allowed these bureaucratic anti-educational infections to
interfere with his duty to help pupils achieve an individually appropriate education by individually appropriate
means. But his school never received high school accreditation!‖ His valedictory address to the 3 other class
members was ―The Technological Revolution: Its Astounding Past and Its Immeasurable Future.‖
         As enrollment continued to increase, bigger and better schools were built. In 1914, St. Paul‘s Catholic
school was built and opened its doors in 1915.
         The following description of the public schools of the time was recalled in 1959 by Miss Laura Frances
Murphy. ―My first two years of school were spent in Miss Nannie Roger‘s room. Miss Rogers‘ mother and my
paternal grandmother were schoolgirls together in Mississippi, and Mrs. Rogers had many stories to tell of the
Civil War. Miss Rogers is totally blind now (1 959) and lives at the Eastern Star Home in Arlington, TX, but she
remembers with pleasure Mission friends and continues to get letters from former pupils.
         ―As at our homes, the school drinking water was hauled in barrels pulled by donkeys and transferred to the
school barrels. Each of us carried his own drinking cup mine was blue enamel. Each first grader also had his own
                                                                   -


―Playmates Primer‖ and a speller. Free textbooks were unheard of then. There was no P.T.A., but parents always
took a basket lunch on the first day of school and at the picnic, parents and teachers met and discussed plans for the
year. Parents who could read music were asked to volunteer to help with programs or holidays. My mother had
taught music in


       7
           Ben D. Wood. The Early Life of Ben D. Wood Croton-on-Hudson, NY: 1982, p. 53.


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Mississippi and in West Texas, so she helped with the Christmas and the Spring programs for the lower grades.
Later on a school band was organized in the same way under the leadership of public spirited laymen.‖
         Mission‘s first graduating class had four members- Gordon Kirkland, Conan and Ben Wood, and Louise
Dunsing in 1915. Mrs. Zac Drummond Boyle was in the third class in 1916, with Lady Cary Armstrong (Mrs. J. A.
Gillett), Cromwell Pius, and Louis Alsmeyer.
         Mrs. Althea Wright Williams recalled those years as follows:
         ―Soon a real school building became a certainty and was built where the present( 1959) high school stands.
However, the original has been replaced by another building. But I graduated from the original school building in
1917, in a class of four, the other three being Lucille Burgoon, now Mrs. A.C. McHenry; Sara Louise Bixier,
deceased, and Miller Armstrong, an attorney now living at Weslaco.
         ―That year, we put out a high school annual, but we went so far into the red that the schools did not try this
project again until about 15 years ago. Anyway, it was fin and with the expert help of our English and Domestic
Economy teacher, Miss Alma McHenry, we did a job we were proud of in those times.
         ―Our teachers that year were E. W. Nance, superintendent and mathematics teacher; F. L. Flynn, principal
and also taught history and Latin; D. V. Schuchardt, agriculture and science; Miss Alma McHenry, domestic
economy and English; Miss Floy Roots and W. H. Edmondson.
         Judge Miller Armstrong graduated from high school in 1917, and he was the handsomest and smartest boy
in his class --of course, he was the ONLY boy in the class, with three girls! He was 16 when he graduated, turning
17 before entering the University of Texas at Austin that Fall. Spanish hadn‘t been offered at Mission until the
1916-7 year, and the classes were quickly filled by the younger students; previously, Latin was the only language
offered. His best Mend at that time was theft next-door neighbor, Austin Stewart, whose father was president of the
First State Bank, while his father headed the First National Bank. The two homes were separated by the Armstrong
tennis court.
         (A picture exists of the first ―domestic economy‖ or home economics class, at Mission High
School -- Vina Madsen, Althea Wright, Ardis Robertson, Lucille Burgoon, June Hunter, Cleo
         -


Dawson, Christine Simpson, Carrie Dawson, Mamie Drummond and Ruth Coffman. Mrs. Will
Wood was the teacher of this class, according to the picture caption.)
         ―About this time the seniors were in the midst of a social whirl. Classes were so small I guess entertaining
was not such a problem, but they really went all out to honor us, each class from juniors down to freshmen, giving
individual parties for us.
         ―We organized our Alpha Delta Phi Literary Society during our sophomore year, 1915, which was fun, too.
We had our amateur hops, our Soccer banquets, our tacky parties and Junior-Senior Party. We had our Girls
Culture Club, our Boys Debating Club and many varied interests. Mission was a small town and most everyone
attended everything....‖
         Students got to school in a variety of ways before school buses. Some rode the old Spiderweb Railroad,
others rode burros, horses or wagons. Burros provided not only transportation but entertainment, too boys had                 --


contests to see who could stay on a bucking burro the longest. And of course many walked to school. Mrs. Albert
McHenry once confessed that she stayed at her

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girlfriend‘s house overnight so that her father could do Mrs. McH‘s geometry!
         Walter Burgoon went to Mission High School in those days, but reluctantly, he says. When he was in the
9th grade, Ray Landry hit him in the eye with a ―shinny club‖ and he lost out on six months of school because he
was virtually blind during that time. ―I sure was glad,‖ he said. ―I never did see much sense in being there in the
first place. The last year of school was fun, I guess. Played pool the whole year, as I remember.‖ This, and smoking
Bull Durham cigarettes in the boiler room were happy times, Burgoon laughed, in a 1979 interview by Pat
Ownbey.
         Burgoon recalled some of his old teachers very fondly, and Professors Wolfrum and Hendrix brought a
smile as they crossed his memory. But Professor Godby is the one who stands out best --it seems Dutch and some
of his friends tried to push Godby out of a second-story window one day. He can‘t remember why, only that he
deserved it and that the attempt failed.
         Cleo Dawson was a classmate of Walter Burgoon, and he remembers many good times with her and her
sister, Carrie Dawson, and Mazie Lopez. He sat behind Mazie in school and tormented her by dipping the ends of
her pigtails in the inkwell on his desk. (In those days before ball-point pens and fountain pens, each student had a
pen that used a changeable steel point that was dipped in an inkwell before writing each word or two. Naturally, the
open well of ink got many a scholar in trouble!)
         Maurine Duncan, in her column ―Bouquets‖ in the Upper Valley Progress in the 1970‘s, wrote:
         ―Fred Flynn must have been a wonderful teacher; he is a wonderful man who has always done big things
for others, taking so little credit for himself. He is spoken of yet ( 1975) with affection.
         Ernest Poteen came to Mission as a young man, giving his time to teaching and being an athletic director.
He has gone to other cities‘ schools and up to the university level to leave his mark of progressive ideas of
education printed on thousands of young lives of the Valley and the State.
         ―Sid Harbin is legend to students who were inspired by his teaching ―Civics‖ and citizen responsibility.
         ―Mission schools and the churches of Mission have had leaders of outstanding qualifications, but the men
moved on from here. It reminds one of the lines from Tennyson‘s ―Brook,‖ ‗For men may come and men may go‘
but Mission goes on forever. Each one who gave thoughtful leadership added to the development in a particular
way to this town.
         ―Quiet, capable Leo Marcell gave years of his life to this community. His devotion and service to the
schools is good reason for perpetuating his name in the naming of an elementary school.‖
         The size of the school district was twenty-one square miles by 1920. The annual session lasted thirty-six
weeks divided into two terms of eighteen weeks each. Each daily session was from nine to four for the upper grades
and from nine to two-thirty for the primary grades. All children between six and twenty-one years old before the
first of September were admitted free. Tuition rates for non-residents ranged from $6.02 a month for high school
students to $3.36 a month for students attending Roosevelt School. This was the actual cost of instruction and
supplies per pupil per month. Students from the Shary Tract were admitted free. Children under age were not
received in the district schools. Overage students were allowed to attend and were charged $2.50 per month for first
through seventh grades and $3.00 per month for eighth through tenth grades. The tuition was paid

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in advance to the superintendent who turned the money over to the Board of Trustees.
         The first ten years as an independent school district were ones of rapid growth. Growth was so rapid during
this time that if was difficult to accommodate the students. New schools were built to meet the rise in enrollment.
By 1920, the high school, a junior high, a brick grammar school, and a bigger and better school fro the Mexican
children had been built.
         With this unprecedented growth it became evident that the schools had to be classified and ultimately
affiliated. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to classify the schools between 1914-1917. Finally, on January
2, 1917, the Mission Public Schools were classified as Public Schools of the First Class, Rank A. In the spring of
1917, the high school was granted eight units of affiliation. The report dated January 30, 1917, recommended three
units in English, two in Algebra, one in Plane Geometry, and two in History.8
         Not only was there an increasing growth in attendance, but a remarkable growth in efficiency as well. The
examiners report for the 1917-1918 school session says in part, ―The school has undergone a splendid
reorganization, and it has reached its maximum efficiency in the present quarters.‖9 The examiner recommended
seven and one-half credits of affiliation, all of which were granted under the certificate dated July 5, 1918. By
1920, the affiliation was raised to nineteen units. All departments were reorganized and properly equipped. The
chief supervisor of high schools reported in 1920 that ―the Mission schools were in excellent condition, the
discipline splendid, and all departments doing an unusually good grade of work.‖10
         The library was rated as being ten percent efficient and consequently the examiner recommended that
about 400 copies of poor fiction be discarded. That was quickly taken care of, for by 1921, the library was
classified as ―unusually good and the books well selected.‖11
The first ten years were the formative years as far as curriculum, policies, and salaries were concerned. The course
of study in the Mission Public Schools was deigned to cover eleven years. It was divided, into three departments:
Primary, Grammar,‘ and High School. The primary department was subdivided into four grades, each representing
one year‘s work. The curriculum for the first four grades included reading, spelling, numbers, and general lessons
such as physiology and hygiene, songs, local geography, manners, and morals. The parents of these children were
requested to co-operate with the teachers by having their children do not less than thirty minutes to an hour of home
study. The intermediate level was subdivided into three levels. Courses included reading, spelling, grammar,
arithmetic, geography, history, civics, and general lessons. Parents of



        8
            Board Minutes of February 14, 1917.
        9
            Ibid.
        10
        A. W. Evans, High School Accrediting Report, Report to the School Board, Mission, Texas, February 9,
1920 (Austin, Texas: State Department of Education, 1920), p. 1.
        11
        A. W. Evans, High School Accrediting Report, Report to the School Board, Mission, Texas, February 4,
1921 (Austin, Texas: State Department of Education, 1921), p. 1.

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intermediate level children were requested to co-operate with the teachers by having the pupils do at least one to
one and one-half hours of home study. The high school department was the place where the great majority of the
students finished their education. Results expected from High School were good citizenship, knowledge to earn an
honest living, cultural refinements, and preparation for entrance to college or university. The course of study
covered four years‘ work. By 1920, nineteen units of credit with an average of C grade were required for
graduation. Parents were requested to co-operate by having the pupils do at least two hours of home study.12
         Except for a few changes, policies governing the teachers in the early years still exist today. Teachers were
required to be in the classroom at least thirty minutes before class started to see that everything was ready. It was
imperative that each teacher register on arrival and departure. Teachers• either remained in the classroom or about
the school grounds during recesses. All teachers were assigned to yard and hail duty every day at each recess and at
noon. The primary teachers had to organize and supervise the play of their students and take part in the games.
Report cards were issued on the first Friday after the close of each month, and a monthly report had to be filed with
the principal at the close of each month and an okay slip obtained.
         No warrants were issued until the report was checked for accuracy. Discipline problems or other delicate
school matters were not to be discussed in public places. If a teacher was absent due to illness, he would pay the
substitute a fee fixed by the school board. Other reasons for absence resulted in forfeiture of the day‘s pay. In case
of an absence, the teacher had to notify, the superintendent before eight o‘clock of his absence or otherwise forfeit
all day‘s pay. All teachers were required to attend the general faculty meetings every fourth week and take part in
an educational seminar.13
         During school hours, including recesses, teachers could not indulge in reading newspapers, novels, or
magazines nor to fancy work or gather for the purpose of socializing or passing the time of day and neglect theft
school duties. Teachers were not to attend public dances during the school week or any other dance or public
fhnction of questionable character at any time, and they should conduct themselves in and out of school in a
manner worthy of emulation by the children.14
         Not only did the teachers have to follow certain rules, but the parents also had notices sent to them. These
notices included suggestions to insure the safety of their children as well as provide a better education for them.
The parents were to require their children to report home within a reasonable hour after school was dismissed and
to study at home. They were also requested not to permit the children to attend dances or social functions on school
nights. This would interfere with the school work and retard the progress of the child. The parents were to send
their children to school according to the state compulsory attendance law and were to furnish a written excuse for
absences



        12
          Mission Independent School District Policies of the School Board of Education, 1914, p. 5. (Hereafter to
be called Board Policies)
        13
             Board Policies, p. 30.
        14
             Ibid.

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and tardiness. In addition, parents were not permitted to call children on the telephone except in extreme cases of
emergency. Parents with grievances were to submit them in writing to the Grievance Committee before any action
could be taken by the board. Parents were not permitted to go into a classroom to adjust any difference with the
teacher. Instead they were to consult the superintendent. If parents did not comply, their child was referred to
Juvenile Court.15
Students also had policies. Good citizenship, good behavior and good preparation were expected for all students.
Failure to abide by these rules often resulted in expulsion or suspension from school. During the early years, two    .


boys were suspended for misbehavior and indifference. One boy had to apologize for his conduct before he was
allowed to return, and the other boy was demoted two grades for indifference towards his studies.16
         Policies regarding the grading system were also developed during the early years. The grading system was
based on the letter grades: A, B, C, D, or F. In order to get a C, a student had to hand in all work on time, work
reasonably neat, clean, and accurate. He had to attend regularly, pay attention, and show an intelligent preparation
of the lesson. For a B grade, a student had to do C work in addition to showing initiative in preparation, preparing
each recitation fully and participating fully, and preparing all daily assignments. A student had to work much
harder for an A. In addition to doing B work, a student had to show neatness, accuracy, interest, attention, and
preparation. He also had to show originality in handling new problems and conduct himself in class discussions
like a good citizen interested in the progress of his commimity.17
         As far as teacher salaries were concerned, they were set in accordance with the amount of college
preparation and experience. High school teachers earned more than elementary teachers, and usually teachers‘
salaries in the South Mission school were lower than the salaries for teachers in the North Grammar School.
Salaries ranged from $45.00 a month for teachers in South Mission to $60.00 for teachers in North Mission. If a
teacher wanted a salary raise, he went before the Board and asked for one and usually received it although there
were times when pay raises were refused because of lack of sufficient funds. By 1915, however, salaries had
increased to $90.00 a month and $60.00 for teachers in the Mexican School.18
         With increasing enrollment and larger faculties, problems were not uncommon. When Mission became an
independent school district, the Mexican children were attending school taught by the Sisters, but the school was
still a public school. After Mission became an independent district, the Sisters continued to teach in Roosevelt
School. When another teacher was assigned to teach there, the Sisters complained because they were not allowed to
teach in the same school with a party that was not a Nun. The Board solved that problem by suggesting that the
Sisters teach in the three



        15
             Board Policies, p. 73.
        16
             Board Minutes of February 10, 1912.
        17
             Board Policies, p. 7.
        18
             Board Minutes of March 15, 1915.



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rooms of the new brick building and the other teacher be assigned a room in the old building. Both were to be under
the supervision of the superintendent. If the Sisters refused, their positions would be declared vacant. The Sisters
continued to teach in Roosevelt School, but in the summer of 1913, the citizens of Mexiquito asked the Board to
ask for the resignations of the Sisters and appoint new teachers with a man principal. The Board complied and
asked the Sisters to resign. Before the Sisters left, however, the patrons again came before the Board and asked that
the Sisters be retained. The Sisters remained but with the stipulation that they remove their religious garb. In no
way were they to show that they belonged to a particular religious order. If they failed to comply, they would be
removed from their job. The Sisters complied, but to make matters worse, two Sisters were teaching without the
consent of the Board. Immediately, their positions were declared vacant. However, the same two were later
employed and paid from the beginning of the term. Needless to say, the Sisters were not rehired for the 1914-1915
school term ―on account of future problems?19
          Beginning with no recognition of the schools and with a heavy debt, no buildings, no equipment, no library
facilities, in fact, nothing that was worth consideration, by 1920, Mission schools had twenty-three units of
affiliation with all Texas colleges. The grammar schools were one system in forty-seven in the entire state that was
fully accredited and the only system with such credit in the Rio Grande Valley. Mission had the only school for
Mexican children in the state that was fully accredited by the State Department of Education and was awarded a
certificate from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Naturalization of Washington, D.C. for efficiency in
teaching citizenship to Mexican children. Mission schools were the only ones in the Valley that moved forward
while others lost one or more points in affiliation. Mission High School was listed by the University of Texas as the
most efficient high school in the State of Texas in the preparation of its students. This record was a monument of
efficiency honoring the school board and admiration of the Mission schools.20
          The period from 1921 1930 was also one of growth and great accomplishments in the. Mission School
                                      -


District. In 1924, Mission gained membership in the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges.
Nothing but good reports were heard about the Mission schools. ―The Mission schools rank among the best in
points of credits to higher institutions of learning. The graduates of Mission enter the universities without
examinations.2‘
          The outstanding accomplishments in the 1920‘s were the classification of the Grammar schools of the First
Class Rank A, the recognition received by the State Board of Education as being one of only twenty-four schools in
the State of Texas with this classification, and membership in the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. In
a letter addressed to the superintendent concerning membership, A. M. Blackman, Chairman of the State
Committee of the State Department of Education, stated that Mission was one of 150 Texas High Schools and
Academies that had retained



        19
             BoardMinutes of July 8, 1914.
        20
             Board Minutes of July 8, 1914.
        21 ―
              Valley schools,‖ Monty’s Monthly Digest of ValleyActivities, November 1927, p.25.

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membership.22 The next ten years had something to live up to.
         The South Mission Elementary School was renamed the Roosevelt School in April, 1927, honoring former
President Theodore R. Roosevelt. The school was closed at the end of the 1989-90 school year, and the students
moved to Castro Elementary. In 1992 it was reopened and partially leased to Headstart for a three-year-old
program. In September, 1992 the district started a teen pregnancy unit on the remaining portion of the campus.23
         By 1930, Mission had one high school, one junior high school, Woodrow Wilson Elementary and
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary. The Negro residents of Mission requested that a teacher be hired for their
children. The board announced that if as many as fifteen Negro students could be secured, a Negro teacher from
Houston would be employed.
         Zoning laws in the 1930‘s were very strictly adhered to and the children went to their own schools. The
American children went to Wilson School, the Mexican children when to Roosevelt School, and the Negro
children were trying to secure a teacher. One Mexican parent asked the board permission to transfer his child from
South Mission to North Mission, but permission was denied because it ―was an unwise precedent to establish? 24
However, the board reversed its decision and allowed Mexican children to attend Wilson Elementary provided
they speak sufficient English to keep up with the class.
         The main issue during the 1930‘s was a vocational junior high built south of the tracks in the Alta Vista
Subdivision. This school was for all children who attended sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and who resided south
of the railroad tracks. Eventually, fifth grade was added on because of overcrowded conditions in Roosevelt
School. Those children that lived north of the tracks went to Morgan Junior High. However, the board policy
provided that upon written application of a parent or guardian to the Board of Education giving good and sufficient
reasons, children of the junior high classification could be transferred at the discretion of the Board from one
school to the other. The Board would determine whether such a transfer would be for the best interest of the child.25
Transfers did take place. One transfer involved a student from North Mission going to the vocational junior high.
         This vocational junior high was the first strictly vocational school to be established in the South. It
attracted state wide attention, for state educators came to Mission to inquire about its organization. The purpose of
this school was to give boys and girls a trade or vocation that would enable them to earn a wage sufficient to
support a family. At the same time it was designed for those



        22
             Letter, A. M. Blackman to Sidney Hardin, December, 1927, State Department of Education.
        23
             ‖Schools named for those who brought honor to Mission‖ article, Progress TIMES. Mission TX, March
3, 1993.
        24
             Board Minutes of September 15, 1927.
        25
             Board Minutes of September 13, 1930.



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who did not intend to attend a college or university. Courses offered included English, Music Appreciation, Math,
Science, Home Economics, and Manual Training.26
          There was a Lot of misunderstanding about this vocational school. Citizens of South Mission believed it
was one more way to show racial prejudices. They believed that the building of a vocational school for Mexican
children indicated that these children did not have the ability to go on to college. Matters went from bad to worse
until eventually a committee of parents from South Mission attended a board meeting and presented their
comment. The board agreed there had been a misunderstanding as to the true meaning of the vocational school. The
board pointed out that American children whose parents could given sufficient reasons for attending the vocational
school could also go on board approval. However, more transfers were accepted to attend Morgan Junior High.27
          By 1933, sixth and seventh grades in the vocational junior high were moved to Morgan Junior High
because of overcrowded conditions.
          Another issue during the thirties was a Negro petition for a school teacher. The Negro parents would even
provide the building, the Negro Baptist Church, if the Board could employ a teacher Again the Board responded by
indicating that if as many as fifteen children were available, the superintendent would furnish a teacher. Late in the
thirties the Board hired Mattie Lee Henry to teach the Negro children, and the Board also rented the Baptist Church
for $5.00 a month.28
          In January, 1933, Sidney L. Hardin who had served Mission for the last fifteen years resigned from the
superintendent s post. He had been largely responsible for being a school system from a small, obscure, poorly
organized and wholly unaffiliated one to an expanded, highly organized, and filly affiliated system which enjoyed
an enviable position with all the rating agencies.29
          The man who succeeded Sidney Hardin was Hugh Proctor. The outlook for the schools was blacker and
more hopeless than ever because of the depression. Not only did he have to operate on half the money used in the
former years, but he had a reputation to live up to. The rating and reputation had been built when money was
plentiful. He faced the problem of excelling in quality and quantity of work which had earned their reputation, and
he had to do it without luxuries and many of the real necessities. Not only did he have half the budget but also had
to reserve a heavy portion of the present reduced income to pay debts which had been accumulated. The faculty
dropped from forty-six to thirty even though enrollment increased from less than 1,000 to




        26 ―
           American Boys to Enroll in New Vocational Junior High,‖ Mission Enterprises, April
17, 1930, p.2.
        27
             Abundio Perez and Felipe Garcia, personal interviews, March 25, 1974, and Board Minutes of October
14, 1930.
        28
             Board Minutes of August 15, 1938.
        29
             Boarcl Minutes of January 15, 1933.

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approximately 1 ,300.30
        Hugh Proctor started immediately to reorganize the school system and at the same time increase efficiency
and reduce the costs. In 1933, his plan for reorganization called for a 3-4-4 system instead of a 5-3-3 system. The
schools had been operating under a five grade homeroom plan elementary school, three grade junior high, and three
grade senior high. His new plan called for a three grade homeroom primary school, a four grade departmentalized
intermediate school, and a four grade high school. Eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades became the high school
which was moved to the Morgan Building, the former junior high. The American children attended the Wilson
campus, first through seventh grades, and the Mexican children enrolled first through third grades in Roosevelt
School and fourth through seventh grades attended East Side Elementary, the former vocational junior high. The
old high school was used for band, athletic headquarters, and dramatics workshop. This situation changed rapidly,
for in 1934 the Wilson Elementary moved to the old high school and made the vacated building into the Morgan
Heath and Arts center housing the physical education program, the music department, the business office, the
journalism department, and the cafeteria.31
        The oil boom in 1933 forced the district to go on the double session day schedule because of overloaded
and overcrowded conditions. Even though this lengthened their teaching day, the teachers received a twenty
percent salary increase. Faculty assignments were rearranged so that the faculty of South Mission was just as
strong from the standpoint of college preparation and years of teaching experience as that in North Mission.
        A salary schedule was introduced which made salaries in the various schools be equal for the same amount
of college preparation and experience. The State Department of Education adopted a law that said that by the
1939-1940 school session Mission Independent School District had to adopt a fixed single salary schedule. ―There
is no essential innate difference in importance and value to the educational system between the services of
classroom teachers in the elementary schools as compared with those in high school.32‖
        So; during the time period of 1930-1940, despite the depression, Mission schools continued to grow and
progress. At the beginning of 1930, Mission schools had fewer than 1,000 enrollment. By 1940, enrollment had
reached the peak of 1,500 and was housed in buildings and had equipment originally intended for strictly academic
programs for 1,200 students. There was no space for activity programs. The football team dressed and kept their
paraphernalia in the restrooms. The band practiced on the auditorium stage or in the physics lab. There was no
vocal music department. But either by State law, customs, local demands, or rules of the State Department of
Education, Mission




        30
             History of Schools Shows Progress,‖ Mission Times, Silver Anniversary Edition, 1934, sec. 5,p.l.
       31
            Board Minutes of February 8, 1933.
        32
             Board Minutes of January 10, 1937.

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was forced to provide an enlarged program.33
         So it was that by May, 1940, Mission had adequate dressing lockers and shower room facilities for a full
program in health and physical education. There was space for three bands and three choruses in the Wilson
Building. The high school had a seven rather than six periods a day. Double day sessions had been introduced. The
next decade was to bring greater growth because the nation was coming out of a depression.
         The highlights of the 1940‘s included the initiation of pledging allegiance to the flag because of the
national crises, a ten percent salary increase for teachers, and the implementation of an adult school program.
         The State Department of Education on February 19, 1947, fully affiliated the Mission Adult School. Work
completed by these boys in the evening school counted towards a high school graduation or towards a certificate of
high school equivalency. About seventy-five percent of the veterans in Mission attended this school. The school
was equipped to take care of about 300 boys. Any adult person in Mission was eligible to attend by paying a fee of
$25.00 per month for fulltime attendance. The Veterans Administration agreed to pay the Mission Board of
Education the fee per month for the veterans. In addition, the agency paid $1.00 per month per boy for pencils, ink,
and paper, and $2.00 per month per boy for books. All revenue received from this source had to go towards the
education of the veterans. The school was open eighteen and one-half hours per week.34
         The staff for this school was employed by the district on a part-time basis for the regular program and
worked evenings in the adult school. This was the first program of this type in Texas. Other superintendents came
to Mission to inquire about the program and its set-up.35
         Expansion was the key word for the 1950-1960 decade. In 1950, when John Abbenante started teaching
driver‘s training, there were just 400 pupils in the high school. He is presently (1990) principal of Mission Junior
High School.36
         Four new elementary schools were built to meet the increasing school enrollment.
         On December 2, 1952, the board officially changed the name of the East Side School at 508 north
Mayberry Road to Joaquin Castro Elementary, in honor of the Mission World War II pilot who died when his
flying fortress crashed in the South Pacific. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Crispin Castro he was born in 1916 and
attended school in Mission. That school was closed in the summer of 1968, and the name was transferred to the
elementary school at 401 Citriana Drive, formerly the Citriana Elementary.
         Also in 1952 the school board named the elementary school at 806th West 20th Street in



        33
         Superintendent of Mission Public Schools Reveals Hope for Progress of System,‖ Mission Times,
January 13, 1939.
        34
             Minutes of February 19, 1947.
        35
             Minutes of February 19, 1947.
       36
            The Monitor, McAllen, 1‘X October 7, 1970 article by Arturo Longoria, p. 19A.

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honor of Leo Marcell, who served the district as business manager and tax collector for 26 years, from 1929 until
1955.37
         The Lucille Pearson Elementary School was named August 2, 1955 to honor Mrs. O. W. Pearson, civic
worker, teacher, and principal at the East Side School and Roosevelt School from 1930 to 1946. A member of a
pioneer Valley family, she attended Sharyland ISD, but graduated from Mission High School. She was fatally
injured Jan. 30, 1955 on her way to attend the crowning of King Citrus as part of the Texas Citrus Fiesta. She died
at the Mission Hospital at 45.
         The Negro children were sent to McAllen at an estimated cost of $800.00 a year. However, in 1955, at the
state meeting on desegregation, the state passed a law stating that it would pay the tuition of the colored students
and that the colored students would be treated as any other student as far as the law was concerned. Mission
informed the parents of the colored students that if they wished, Mission Independent School District would allow
their children who were qualified as far as age or residence to attend the public schools However, if they attended
the Mission Schools, they were required to attend the school in their proper zone. Mission informed the McAllen
Schools that the colored students would not be attending Booker T. Washington School in McAllen.38
         Other changes during the fifties included a change in the grading system from letter grades to number
grades. Graduation plans were designed into levels. Plan One, known as the professional plan, was designed for
those students who wished to pursue a highly specialized, pre-professional curriculum. Plan Two, the academic
plan, was for those who desired a college preparatory program for entrance to a majority of the colleges. Plan
Three, the vocational plan, was designed for those students interested in a general high school education. This plan
was helpful in preparing for immediate entrance into vocational fields.
         From 1958 until 1965, Jim Barnes served as Superintendent of Schools. He then served as Superintendent
at Seguin ISD, San Marcos, TX from 1965 until retirement in 1977. On November 23, 1991 he was inducted into
the Hall of Fame for Southwest Texas State University by the ―T‖ Association. A native of Brownsville, he
attended El Jardin public schools and graduated from El Jardin High School. From 1942 until 1946 he served in the
Army Air Force, joining the coaching staff at San Benito in 1946 as head basketball and assistant football coach.
He became head football coach in 1949, as well as athletic director and basketball coach. From 1952 until he came
to Mission in 1958, he was San Benito High School Principal.39
         During the sixties, several new programs were implemented in Mission, a modem high school was built,
and one of the oldest elementary schools was deactivated because it was difficult to maintain. One of the programs
implemented in the early sixties was a Pre-School English Program



       37
             ―Schools named for those who brought honor to Mission‖, Progress TIMES, March 3, 1993.
        38
             Minutes of July 13, 1955.
        39
         Article, ―Former MCISD Superintendent To Be Inducted In SWT ‗Hall,‘ Progress TIMES, Mission, TX,
May 1, 1991.

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for the purpose of teaching basic vocabulary necessary for a non-English speaking child in order to make normal
progress in the flint grade and qualify for the second grade after only one year of first grade instruction.40
         Title One of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, known as ESEA, granted the Mission
schools funds for assisting the educationally and economically deprived children. The program, which is still in
operation today, stresses improved reading, command of English, social attitudes, arithmetic and physical
development, and places more emphasis on United States culture.41
         Title One Migrant also granted funds to the school district for its migrant school program which provides
for the education of children of migrant farm laborers. The fluids are allocated by the federal government but are
disbursed solely by the State Department of Education. With these funds Mission Independent School District
opened two migrant schools in 1965. Students enrolled in Beginners through third grade attended Roosevelt
School and those enrolled in fourth through sixth attended Wilson Migrant School.42 Mission also received funds
under Title Two of ESEA for use in the schools‘ libraries.
         Another program implemented during this time was the Headstart Program designed to provide a basic
vocabulary for children having little or no command of the English language, to help children bridge the gap
between the home environment and school expectations in September, and to provide a background that a typical
American child will have when entering school. Enrollment was based on family income for the previous year and
age of the child. He had to be six years old by September. The program met with success as shown by the following
statistics. Eighty percent of 200 children enrolled in the summer of 1965 were placed in first grade instead of
beginners.43
         A remedial reading program also had its beginning during the sixties. This program, financed with Title
One funds, was designed to teach youngsters who had attended their flint year of school increased skills or to give
the children an opportunity to complete their assigned grade. Those who completed the assigned grade were
promoted to the next grade at the end of the summer program.44
         In 1968, the district became involved in a program, then five years old, for its migrant and Title One
Spanish-speaking children. The program started out as a strictly migrant Kindergarten program but later included
all the deprived children. This program was based on the premise that


        40
             Hilda Escobar, Kindergarten and Primary Supevisor M. I. S. D., personal interview, Mission, March 26,
1974.
        41
         Robert Wicks, Business Manager, M. I. S. D., personal interview, Mission, March 22,

                                                                   1974.
        42
         Robert Wicks, personal interview, March 22, 1974.
        43
             39Ra1ph Canales, Assistant Superintendent, M. I. S. D., personal interview, Mission; March 26, 1974.
        44
             Hilda Escobar, personal interview, March 26, 1974.

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children who have limited English vocabulary must have experience on which to develop concept, vocabulary, and
speech patterns before they can succeed in the traditional reading-oriented classes designed for native English
speakers.45
         The teacher corps made its appearance in Mission in the late sixties. This program, under Title One
Migrant and A & I College in Kingsville, had a twofold purpose: to strengthen the educational opportunities
available to children of low-income families, and to encourage colleges and universities to broaden theft program
of teacher education. The teacher corps was an attempt to unite the desire of the corpsmen to help the less fortunate.
The corpsmen who served for two years as teacher interns had no training as educators.46
         In the high school department, a new high school was built to ease crowded conditions after three attempts
to pass a bond issue. A seven-period day was also adopted for the same reason. The high school graduation plan
was revised to include four plans instead of three. Plan One was for those specializing in the solid subjects and
willing to restrict theft choice of electives. Plan Two provided for a broad high school education and general
preparation for college. Students enrolled in Plan Three specialized in business education, and those enrolled in
Plan Four graduated with a basic high school education and had more elective courses.47
         On December 5, 1968 then-central administrative building, now owned by the city, was named the Frank
Strickland building. He was a long-time Mission pioneer, and former owner of the building.48
         The 1960 decade was a period of implementation of many new programs. The early seventies was going to
see the building of a cafeteria and more programs being implemented. Some of these programs were vocational
programs in the high school and junior high, a kindergarten and pre-kindergarten program, a bilingual program,
special education, tutorial program, and an extended day program.
         The modem trend in higher education placed much emphasis on vocational training. In keeping with this
movement, Mission added a vocational wing to the high school where courses in cosmetology, auto mechanics,
and building trades are offered. Courses in arts and crafts, food processing, and office duplicating are offered at the
junior high level.49
         A kindergarten program was implemented for the 1970-1971 school year. The program was designed for
the educationally handicapped child who could not speak, read, and comprehend the English language to the extent
that he is not familiar with the common English words that are


        45
             Hilda Escobar, personal interview, March 26, 1974.
        46
           Robert Wicks, personal interview, March 11, 1974.
        47
             Board Minutes of July 15, 1968.
        48
             Article, ―Schools named for those who brought honor to Mission‖ Progress TIMES, Mission TX, March
3, 1993.
        49
           Robert Wicks, Ralph Cantñ, personal interviews, March 22, 26, 1974.

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necessary for normal progress in the first grade. A child whose family earned $3,000 or less a year or whose family
migrated since September I of the previous year was eligible to enroll in kindergarten. However, if a child did not
qualify on these two points, he could still qualify under age limit which was five years old before the first of
September. The kindergarten children in Mission attend all thy all year whereas the state law provides for either
half day the whole year or all day half a year. The pre-kindergarten program is a four-year-old program designed
strictly for migrant children.50
          In 1970, Miss