Rancho Viejo, TX

By: Alicia A. Garza

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1995

Rancho Viejo is a town on U.S. highways 77 and 83 four miles northwest of Brownsville in south central Cameron County. The first settlement in the area developed when José Salvador de la Garza and his wife María Gertrudis de la Garza Falcón moved to the site of what is now Rancho Viejo around 1770. There they founded the ranches Espíritu Santo and El Tanque, later known as El Rancho Viejo. About 1772 de la Garza petitioned for the land he and his wife had settled; they were not officially granted the land until 1779, when it was given to them as the Potrero del Espíritu Santo land grant (261,275 acres). The long wait was due to a suit filed by José Narciso Cavazos, who claimed the land as his. The de la Garza family took possession of the land in 1781, when a $10 per league fee had been established as an appropriate price for it. Not long after officially receiving title to the land, José Salvador de la Garza died, leaving his property to his wife and three children. De la Garza's heirs maintained ownership of the land from the time of his death in 1781 to 1848, when Feliciana Goseascochea Tijerina sold 500 acres to James Grogan. Starting in 1877 the Espíritu Santo land grant changed ownership several times through family ties and sales. In 1968 Bill Bass purchased 280 acres to develop the Rancho Viejo Resort and Country Club. Bass filed for bankruptcy in 1976, and in 1977 the country club became the property of the Pittsburgh National Bank, which on December 28, 1978, sold it to Rancho Viejo, Incorporated. The largest stockholder in that group was Ted Trapp. By then a community had developed around the Rancho Viejo Country Club. In 1980 the community voted ninety-six to thirty-two to incorporate. Its population at that time consisted of residents of the country club and included mostly wealthy retirees and professionals. In 1983 the estimated population of Rancho Viejo was 275; it increased to 750 by 1986. The population was 893 in 1990. Around that time the community regularly experienced an estimated 30 percent population increase each winter, when "Winter Texans"-residents of colder northern climates-made Rancho Viejo their home. Another population surge was seen each summer, when Mexican nationals visited their summer homes at the resort. In the early 1990s the community had one convenience store, and local children attended school within Los Fresnos Independent School District or Brownsville Consolidated School District. Reportedly the population of Rancho Viejo had reached about 1,200 by 1992. In 2000 the population reached 1,754.

Gail Doffing, Ruth L. Hugh, and Lita Pashos, Rancho Viejo, Texas: History of the Land (Rancho Viejo Sesquicentennial Book Committee, 1986).


  • Communities

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

Alicia A. Garza, “Rancho Viejo, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rancho-viejo-tx.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995