The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now


Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Darwin, TX

Karen Gratke
Revised by: Andreas Oliver Meng Nielsen
General Entry

Darwin was on Farm Road 1472 and Santo Tomas Creek near the bank of the Rio Grande in northwestern Webb County. In the late nineteenth century the coal mining town of Darwin (originally called Cannel) was one of four such communities located about twenty-five miles upriver from Laredo, Texas. Limited mining in the area was first undertaken during the Spanish colonial era and then by the Cannel Coal Company which opened a mine in 1895. The town was named for David Darwin Davis, the superintendent of the Cannal Coal Company, and had a post office from 1896 to 1915.

By June 1900 Darwin had a population of 1,039 inhabitants, one-third of which were miners. These miners, immigrants from Mexico, were mostly young men in their twenties and thirties, yet thirteen were below the age of thirteen. The miners labored long hours for small wages and under hard and unsafe conditions. The men doing the blasting and loading the ore carts were paid by the amount of coal they could dig; some of the miners had to work from early morning until midnight to support their families. For ten hours of labor the miners were paid from fifty to eighty-five cents. From their wages, twenty cents a month was deducted for medicine and health care and $1.75 for rent. Workers lived in small, two-room, frame houses, and living conditions at Darwin were generally poor. Tuberculosis and other diseases were widespread.

By the first decade of the twentieth century, Darwin had restaurants, a bakery, post office, and more than one barbershop. Recreational activities included sports, festivals, and music. In 1914 the population of Darwin had dropped to 800, and it was a station on the Rio Grande and Eagle Pass Railroad. At this time Thomas Worsham was the community postmaster, and H. H. Jefferies was a cattle breeder in the area. By 1920 population figures had further decreased to 543. With this decline many of the businesses closed. Most miners moved downriver to the more modern mining community of Dolores. In fact, the mining shafts at Darwin had already been connected to those of Dolores.

In 1936 the community had a population of seventy-five, and there was one business. More and more industries had begun to use petroleum instead of coal, and the mines of Dolores were much more efficient than the ones at Darwin. The Cannel Coal Company officially abandoned Darwin in 1939. Only a slag heap, a few foundations, a cemetery, and a historical marker were at the site of the community by the early twenty-first century. The Laredo-Colombia Solidarity International Bridge connecting Texas to Nuevo León was constructed nearby in 1992.

George H. Ashley, ”The Santo Tomas Cannel Coal, Webb County, Texas,” Contributions to Economic Geology, 1918, Part II (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918). Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. A. Joachim McGraw and Jerry Thompson, Campfires and Coal Dust on the Rio Grande (Austin: Texas Department of Transportation, 1998).

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era

Places:

  • Communities

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

Karen Gratke Revised by Andreas Oliver Meng Nielsen, “Darwin, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 13, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/darwin-tx.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

1952
June 20, 2019

Loading