Ponce de León, Juan María (unknown–1852)

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 4, 2020

Juan María Ponce de León, wealthy merchant of El Paso del Norte (present Juárez, Chihuahua) and original owner of the site of present El Paso, petitioned the ayuntamiento of El Paso del Norte in January 1827 for some 215 acres of mud flats on the north bank of the Rio Grande. The grant was approved on September 20, 1827, and Ponce de León immediately set about improving the property. He dug an irrigation ditch, planted corn, grapes, and wheat, and built several adobe roundhouses for protection from Indian raiders. In 1830 a flood washed away one of the structures, so he rebuilt on higher ground. After that same flood Ponce almost doubled his holdings when the river eroded into El Paso del Norte. In the summer of 1849 he sold the property to Benjamin Franklin Coons, whereupon it became known as Coon's Rancho. Coons rented land to the army after the arrival of Jefferson Van Horne, who called the encampment "the Post Opposite El Paso [del Norte]," but after the military moved away in September 1851, Coons was unable to keep up his payments and Ponce de León repossessed it. Ponce died the following year, and his wife and daughter sold the rancho to the freighter William T. Smith.

J. J. Bowden, The Ponce de León Land Grant (Southwestern Studies Monograph No. 24, El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1969). Leon C. Metz, City at the Pass: An Illustrated History of El Paso (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor, 1980). W. H. Timmons, "American El Paso: The Formative Years, 1848–1854," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 87 (July 1983).

Time Periods:

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

Martin Donell Kohout, “Ponce de León, Juan María,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ponce-de-leon-juan-maria.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 4, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: