Rancho Santa Maria

By: Martin Bryan Glasscock

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: April 30, 2019

Rancho Santa María is a mile east of Santa Maria on U.S. Highway 281 in southwestern Cameron County close to the Rio Grande. The ranch was located in the La Feria grant, which was given to Capt. José María Ballí by the King of Spain and inherited by his wife, Rosa María Hinojosa de Ballí, upon his death. The survey was completed in 1790. In 1845 William Neale bought land from Francisco Ballí Treviño for $800 and established his ranch, which he called Buena Vista. It became the second largest settlement in Cameron County. It was located at the Bolsa Bend of the Rio Grande and included the Baston Ranch and the Santa María. Because of flooding, the ranch headquarters was moved a half mile west to high ground at the banco (see BANCOS OF THE RIO GRANDE), and the buildings and corral were rebuilt. Neale established a general store and drew trade from both sides of the river. His best customer was Lipan Indian chief Palomo Blanco. In 1859 Juan N. Cortina and his men burned and destroyed everything on the ranch; Neale filed a claim for $33,733. The ranch headquarters at Santa María was probably not rebuilt. In 1870 L. J. Hynes acquired 7,500 acres in this area and built brick buildings on the west side of the banco at the present location of Rancho Santa María. The adobe bricks were made on the ranch. Hynes operated the telegraph for the army unit stationed west of the ranch headquarters. He also had a general store and stagecoach stop. In 1880 he donated land for a mission church, which is still standing and has a historical marker placed by the Daughters of American Colonists. Frank Rabb acquired this property in 1892 for $30,000 and added to the ranch acreage. The ranch complex faces the river, where boat landings and shipping wharves were built. Rabb repaired and painted the ranchhouse complex, which became known as Casa Blanca as well as Rancho Santa María. In September 1933 a hurricane did considerable damage to the ranch buildings, as well as to many other structures in the lower Rio Grande valley. This storm was the beginning of the Great Depression for the Valley. In 1942 Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Tanner bought Rancho Santa María with reduced acreage and restored the buildings. The project received a Texas state historical marker on Highway 281 and at the ranch home building. By 1990 Harry and Kenneth Shimotsu owned Rancho Santa María and farmed it.

W. H. Chatfield, The Twin Cities of the Border and the Country of the Lower Rio Grande (New Orleans: Brandao, 1893; rpt., Brownsville: Brownsville Historical Association, 1959). Agnes G. Grimm, Llanos Mesteñas: Mustang Plains (Waco: Texian Press, 1968). John C. and Virginia Kemp Rayburn, Century of Conflict (New York: Arno Press, 1976). Florence J. Scott, Royal Land Grants North of the Rio Grande, 1777–1821 (Waco: Texian Press, 1969). J. Lee and Lillian J. Stambaugh, The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1954).

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

Martin Bryan Glasscock, “Rancho Santa Maria,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rancho-santa-maria.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
April 30, 2019