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SANTA PETRONILA RANCH

SANTA PETRONILA RANCH. Santa Petronila was the first Spanish settlement in what is now Nueces County, Texas. It was established in 1762 by Capt. Blás María de la Garza Falcón, founder of Camargo, Nuevo Santander, Mexico. After Governor José de Escandón of Nuevo Santander made two unsuccessful attempts to establish Vedoya, a town on the Nueces River, he commissioned Garza Falcón to found a settlement on the Nueces. Garza Falcón located his ranch five leagues southwest of the bay at the mouth of the Nueces River on Petronila Creek in the vicinity of present Chapman Ranch, due south of the site of future Corpus Christi. He not only brought his family, friends, and servants to Santa Petronila with their belongings and farming and ranching tools, but also brought cattle, horses, mules, sheep, and goats, thus establishing the first ranching and farming industry in Nueces County. By May 2, 1766, Escandón reported to the viceroy of New Spain that a number of settlers were living at Santa Petronila who planted corn and tended to their herds of horses, cattle, and sheep. The ranch was established as an outpost and way station for travelers between the provinces of Nuevo Santander and the missions of East Texas and served as headquarters for expeditions of soldiers who patrolled Isla Blanca (Padre Island), Mustang Island, and St. Joseph's Island searching for settlements by English or French soldiers. In 1766, using Santa Petronila as a base, Lt. José Antonio de la Garza Falcón, son of the ranch founder, was assigned by Escandón to explore the Gulf Coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Corpus Christi Bay with twenty-five soldiers looking for evidence of foreign intrusion. In the same year, Col. Diego Ortiz Parrilla was commissioned by the viceroy of New Spain to explore the islands along the lower Texas coast, and he too made Santa Petronila Ranch his headquarters. Other settlers from the Rio Grande villas settled near the Santa Petronila Ranch and acquired Spanish and later Mexican land grants. The livestock brought by the ranchers who settled along the Nueces were allowed to roam and soon became wild, forming large herds of longhorns and mustangs that were abandoned due to the Mexican War of Independence, Indian raids, the Texas Revolution, and subsequent disturbances. The Santa Petronila Ranch was acquired as a part of the Chiltipin land grant in 1835 by Blás María de la Garza Falcón (1803–72), the great-grandson of the captain.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Herbert Eugene Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1915; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Clotilde P. García, Captain Blas María de la Garza Falcón: Colonizer of South Texas (Austin: Jenkins, 1984). Dan Kilgore, Nueces County, Texas, 1750–1800: A Bicentennial Memoir (Corpus Christi: Friends of the Corpus Christi Museum, 1975). WPA Writers' Program, Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 1942).

Clotilde P. García

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Clotilde P. García, "SANTA PETRONILA RANCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/aps08), accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.