Camargo, Nuevo Santander (now Tamaulipas), was founded on the south side of the San Juan River on March 5, 1749, by José de Escandón, governor of Nuevo Santander. At this time, Blas María de la Garza Falcón, a prominent rancher, and forty families from Nuevo León already occupied the general area of the San Juan valley. Camargo was one of five such towns founded by Escandón and local cattle owners between 1749 and 1753 in the Trans-Nueces area. Settlers who went to Camargo in 1749 brought 13,000 sheep to begin ranching; the following year they had increased their stock to 30,000 and their population to 700, thus becoming the largest of Escandón's settlements. In addition to the Spaniards, the town included 241 Indians from the groups of Tareguanos, Pajaritos, Paysanos, Venados, Cueroquemados, and Guajolotes living inside the walls of San Agustín de Laredo Mission, south of the town. Prominent ranchers, including Manuel and Joseph Hinojosa, Nicolás de los Santos Coy, and Garza Falcón, braved two years of drought, as well as floods and malaria, to continue ranching.
In 1751 Camargo remained the largest of the Rio Grande colonies, with ninety-six families numbering 637 persons. Although agriculture afforded the settlers a moderate income, their main subsistence came from cattle and sheep at Camargo. In 1753 Escandón used nineteen families to help found Mier on the Rio Grande. Camargo also remained the largest goat and sheep ranching site of the Rio Grande settlements; in 1757 its seventeen ranches were stocked with 8,000 horses and mules, 2,600 cattle, and 72,000 sheep and goats. By this year constant migration into Camargo began to use up the land for new settlers, and in 1767 a royal commission was appointed to survey the total area of Nuevo Santander. Camargo received 118 porciones as a result of this survey, the largest number granted to any of the settlements surveyed. By 1800 Nuevo Santander had a population of 15,000, a large part of which resided in Camargo. After de facto Texas independence, Camargo joined the effort in 1839–40 of the northern provinces supported by Americans to separate from Mexico and establish a Republic of the Rio Grande. During the late 1800's, disputes arose over the porciones granted to Camargo, but in a series of rulings between 1889 and 1908 the Supreme Court validated all of the original allocations to Camargo. The present Texas town of Rio Grande City is located on porciones eighty and eighty-one of the original jurisdiction of Camargo. In 1967, along with other Mexican border towns, Camargo was badly damaged by the floodwaters of Hurricane Beulah.
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Herbert Eugene Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century: Studies in Spanish Colonial History and Administration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1915; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). Lawrence Francis Hill, José de Escandón and the Founding of Nuevo Santander (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1926). Florence J. Scott, Historical Heritage of the Lower Rio Grande (San Antonio: Naylor, 1937; rev. ed., Waco: Texian, 1966; rpt., Rio Grande City, Texas: La Retama Press, 1970). Time, October 6, 1967.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Camargo, Nuevo Santander,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 1, 1994