Rio Grande City

Rio Grande City, the county seat of Starr County and one of the oldest settlements in South Texas, is on the Rio Grande 100 miles from both Brownsville and Laredo in the extreme south central part of the county. It is an international port of entry connected by bridge to Camargo, Tamaulipas. The site was part of the Carnestolendas Ranch, established in 1762 by José Antonio de la Garza Falcónqv in the Spanish colony of José de Escandón.qv The ranch later belonged to Henry Clay Davis, an adventurous Kentuckian who survived the Mier expeditionqv and formed the present town from Davis Landing or Rancho Davis in 1847 after marrying María Hilaria de la Garza, the granddaughter of Francisco de la Garza Martínez. Davis had acquired the land upon Garza Falcón's death. He designed the port with broad straight streets, on the model of the capital city, Austin. The establishment of Fort Ringgold in 1848, immediately adjacent to the town, assured its growth and permanence. The town received a post office in 1849; in 1895 the name of the post office changed from Rio Grande City to Riogrande, the name under which it now operates. Despite the town's isolation and lack of transportation facilities for most of its history, external influences have affected it significantly. During the nineteenth century Rio Grande City had an active passenger and cargo ship trade with New Orleans and flourished as a cattle center. In 1884 the town had a population of 900, a doctor, two lawyers, a saloon, three carpenters, three grocers, nine general stores, a wagon maker, a druggist, two blacksmiths, two churches, a district school, a tailor, a furniture maker, a corn mill, and a hotel. By 1896 Rio Grande City had a population of 1,800, and by 1914 it had a bank and 2,100 residents.