Coons' Rancho

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1994

Coons' Rancho was at a site now in downtown El Paso. In 1827 Juan María Ponce de León, a wealthy merchant in El Paso del Norte, Mexico, bought some 211 acres bounded to the south and west by the Rio Grande. He dug an irrigation ditch and began growing grapes and wheat on the site, which became known as Ponce's Rancho. A flood in 1830 washed away an adobe hut used to house Ponce's workers, thus forcing him to rebuild on higher ground, but the same flood nearly doubled his holdings by eroding into El Paso del Norte. After the Mexican War, when the rancho became part of the United States, Ponce sold it to a St. Louis trader named Benjamin Franklin Coons, whereupon it became known as Coons' Rancho or Franklin. When Maj. Jefferson Van Horne reached the El Paso area in September 1849 he stationed four companies of the Third Infantry on the rancho, six acres of which Coons rented to the United States Army for $4,200 a year. Troops remained at the "Post Opposite El Paso [del Norte]" until late 1851, when they were transferred to Fort Fillmore in New Mexico. The loss of income from the army, combined with other business reverses, ruined Coons financially, and Ponce repossessed the rancho. A post office was established there under the name of El Paso in 1852. After Ponce died that same year, his wife and daughter sold the property for $10,000 to a trader from Kentucky named William T. (Uncle Billy) Smith. Smith divided the rancho and began selling tracts, but sold out to the El Paso Company, which included Josiah F. Crosby and other prominent local citizens. They hired Anson Mills to survey the property. Mills completed the job in February 1859, by which time the property had gained another thirty-five acres, thanks to the changing course of the Rio Grande. The property eventually became the site of El Paso.

Leon C. Metz, Turning Points in El Paso (El Paso: Mangan, 1985). W. H. Timmons, El Paso: A Borderlands History (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Coons' Rancho,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994