José de Escandón, South Texas colonizer, was born in Soto la Marina, Santander, Spain, on May 19, 1700, one of three sons of Juan de Escandón and Francisca de la Helguera. He is known as the colonizer and first governor of the colony of Nuevo Santander, which extended from the Pánuco River in Mexico to the Guadalupe River in Texas. He founded over twenty towns or villas and a number of missions in the colony, including Camargo, Reynosa, Mier, and Revilla south of the Rio Grande and Laredo and Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Hacienda north of the Rio Grande. For his colonization efforts Escandón is sometimes called the "father" of the lower Rio Grande valley.
Escandón received his early education in his native town. At the age of fifteen he arrived at Mérida, Yucatán, where he served as a cadet in the Mounted Encomenderos Company. In 1727 he subdued an Indian uprising in Celaya and received the rank of sergeant major of the regiment at Querétaro. In 1740 the viceroy of Mexico named him colonel of the military companies of Querétaro, since he had been successful in pacifying the Indians. In 1746 Escandón was commissioned to inspect the country between Tampico and the San Antonio River, later known as Nuevo Santander. In January 1747 he sent seven divisions into the area, and in October he presented a colonization plan. After delays by the Spanish bureaucracy, Escandón was made governor and captain general of Nuevo Santander on June 1, 1748. In 1749 he was made Count of Sierra Gorda and Knight of the Order of Santiago by Fernando VI, and he began establishing settlements along the Rio Grande. The first two were Camargo (founded on March 5) and Reynosa (March 14). On August 22, 1750, Escandón granted José Vázquez Borrego fifty sitios for the founding of Dolores, and on October 10 he sent Vicente Guerra to set up Revilla, twenty leagues northwest of Camargo. On March 6, 1753, Escandón founded the town of Mier, and in 1755 he granted permission to Tomás Sánchez de la Barrera y Garza to found Laredo, the largest and most successful permanent Spanish settlement in Southwest Texas.
On April 30, 1727, Escandón married Dominga Pedrajo in Soto de la Marina, province of Santander, Spain. She was the daughter of Juan Manuel de Pedrajo and Dominga de Revilla. She died in 1736, and in 1737 Escandón married María Josefa de Llera from Querétaro. They had seven children. After the appointment of a royal commission in 1767, the settlers of Nuevo Santander were assigned the land grants that Escandón had promised them. Grants were made to residents of the colonies of the Rio Grande, thus starting the colonization of South Texas from the Rio Grande to the San Antonio River. José de Escandón was accused by Diego Corrido of maladministration, and he had to leave for Mexico City to defend himself. He died during the trial, on September 10, 1770, and was buried in Mexico City. In 1773 his son Manuel Ignacio de Escandón y Llera petitioned the court for a settlement; a decision rendered by the court completely exonerated the count.