Raymond Martin, landowner, rancher, and political boss of Webb County, was born in Auzas Haute, Garonne, France, on May 31, 1828, to Jean Marie and Marie Antoinette (Chanfrean) Martin. His father, a prosperous merchant in the wine-growing region of southwestern France, taught his three sons, Paul, Joseph, and Raymond, basic business skills that were beneficial when they immigrated to the United States. In 1852 Martin left his homeland for New Orleans, where he hoped to start a mercantile business. Over the next seven years he moved first to Pensacola, Florida, then to San Antonio, Texas, and finally to Laredo in 1854. He promptly opened a small store to the south of San Agustín Church, overlooking the Rio Grande. By 1859 Martin, fluent in French, Spanish, and English, had become an American citizen and had been elected to the Laredo City Council. Profits from his successful mercantile enterprise allowed him to make property-secured loans to local businessmen and ranchers. Unpaid loans led him to foreclose on both properties and ranchlands. In the 1860s he began raising vast herds of sheep and cattle on his growing land empire (estimated at 130,000 acres by the end of the century), and by the mid-1860s he had made a fortune as a businessman and rancher. He was one of the organizers of the Laredo Bank.
On January 10, 1870, Martin married fellow Catholic Tirza García, the daughter of Bartolo García, a prominent Laredo business and political leader. The Martins raised five sons and five daughters. Though he was cooperative with local civic leaders through the 1860s, Martin began to challenge the political hegemony of the family of Cristóbal Benavides by the mid-1870s. He and his political allies, known by the 1880s as the Botas ("Boots," a popular symbol of wealth and class), managed to influence local, county, and regional politics for the last quarter of the nineteenth century (see BOTAS AND GUARACHES). The political apex for Martin and his Bota party came on April 7, 1886, after the stinging electoral defeat of the archrival Guarache (Sandal) candidates. Printed leaflets advertising a mock funeral of the Guarache party, together with a Bota victory parade around San Augustín Plaza, triggered one of the largest gunfights in the West. Although Martin wisely refused to participate in the 1886 Laredo Election Riot, he was instrumental in uniting both Botas and Guaraches to form a new machine, the Independent Club, which dominated city and county politics for the next hundred years. This machine produced a dynasty of powerful political patrones, including Martin's grandson, Joseph C. "Pepe" Martin, Jr., who was mayor of Laredo from 1954 to 1978. Raymond Martin died of a heart attack on March 2, 1900, in Laredo. See also BOSS RULE.