Benjamin Franklin Coons, merchant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1826, the son of David and Mary Coons. He led wagon trains to Santa Fe in 1846, 1847, and 1848, and by September 1848 had established himself as a merchant in El Paso del Norte and elsewhere in Chihuahua. Coons bought ranch property near El Paso del Norte from Juan María Ponce de León in 1849 and leased the main buildings and six acres to the United States government for $250 dollars a month as the site for the first military post in the area. He then proceeded to build a tavern, warehouse, stables, and store just west of the army post. Hoping to capitalize on the potential market, he established a partnership with Lewis and Groesbeck of San Antonio in 1850. Financial difficulties began almost immediately, however. The first wagon train, plagued by unscrupulous drivers and a scarcity of water, took nearly five months to travel from San Antonio, and most of the shipment was ruined as a result. Also, that summer Coons absorbed a loss totalling nearly $18,000, having accepted several bills of credit that later proved to be forgeries.
He went to California in late 1850, regained a measure of financial security, and returned to El Paso early in 1851. Unfortunately for him, when the United States troops left Coons' Rancho in September, 1851, Coons lost his most reliable source of income and was soon forced to default on his property payments. His ranch repossessed, he returned to California to seek yet another fortune. He apparently achieved some measure of success herding sheep, moved back to St. Louis in 1856, and married Sophie Delor in 1859. Later censuses listed him as a farmer and teamster. Coons died in St. Louis on December 14, 1892. The Franklin community (later renamed El Paso) and the Franklin Mountains are said to have been named for him.
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Myra McLarey, "Letters to Jenny: A Self-Portrait of Benjamin Franklin Coons," Password 34 (Summer 1989). Leon C. Metz, "Franklin," El Paso Magazine, August 1985.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Coons, Benjamin Franklin,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 15, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 1, 1994