Frontera, TX

By: Nancy Hamilton

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Frontera, eight miles northwest of downtown El Paso, was established in 1848 by T. Frank White, the first Anglo-American trader of record in the area. The site was on the east bank of the Rio Grande near Mule (now Cristo Rey) Mountain and was a popular point for fording the river. Since the Rio Grande had become the international boundary, White became proprietor of the first customhouse at the new border crossing. Frontera was on both the Chihuahua-Santa Fe trail and the road west to California.

John R. Bartlett, United States commissioner for the United States-Mexico Boundary Commission, obtained a lease from White and built an observatory at Frontera in 1851 to collect data for his boundary survey. William H. Emory's boundary survey report (1857–59) also described Frontera. White left about 1850, and the trading post was operated by his brother Charles until 1855, when the ranch was purchased by Henry L. Dexter, who became El Paso county judge in 1856. The site was abandoned not long afterward because of constant Indian raids and lack of military protection. Frontera is shown on maps of the 1850s and 1860s, among them Randolph B. Marcy's map for the War Department (1849–52) and the Butterfield Overland Mail route maps (1858–69). The site of Frontera is near the present intersection of Sunland Park and Doniphan drives and is crossed by the Santa Fe Railroad track and paved roads.

John Russell Bartlett, Personal Narrative of Explorations...Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission (New York: Appleton, 1854; rpt., Chicago: Rio Grande Press, 1965). William Hemsley Emory, Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey (2 vols., Washington: Nicholson, 1857, 1859; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1987). Jeannie Marie Hamilton, "The Frontera Settlement," Password, Summer 1985. W. H. Timmons, "American El Paso: The Formative Years, 1848–1854," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 87 (July 1983). W. H. Timmons, ed., Four Centuries at the Pass (El Paso: Guynes Printing, 1980).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Nancy Hamilton, “Frontera, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • El Paso County
Associated Names

El Paso