San Jose, Coahuila, Mexico

By: Ben E. Pingenot

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 12, 2019

San José, a tiny primitive village on the right bank of the Rio Grande eight miles north of Guerrero, Coahuila, was founded in 1708, when San Francisco Solano Mission was moved to the site from San Ildefonso. Father Francisco Hidalgo, president of the Rio Grande missions, superintended the construction of a stone and earthen chapel of suitable capacity with everything essential for establishing a pueblo. The Indians to which the mission ministered were Coahuiltecan groups known as Payayas, Payuguanes, Siabanes, and principally Xarames (Jarames). Within a decade most of the mission's Indians had moved northward into Texas. In 1718, Father Antonio de San Buenaventura Olivares, the mission's original founder, moved the Solano mission and its few remaining Xarame Indians to the San Antonio River, where it became the San Antonio de Valero Mission (later the Alamo). For the next 199 years San José continued without incident as a small insignificant ranchería. In December 1917, however, it became the focus of an international incident when a band of thieves, spawned by the turbulence of the Mexican Revolution, raided the Indio Ranch twenty-two miles below Eagle Pass and drove off 160 goats. This was the culmination of a number of raids against the Indio that had been going on for over a year. The next morning, December 30, 1917, Maj. E. C. Wells from Fort Duncan, with three troops of cavalry and a few Texas Rangers, followed the goat trail to the river. Crossing to the other side, the animals' tracks led another mile to the village of San José, where several freshly slaughtered goats were seen hanging in trees; there was also a hobbled cow with the Indio brand. As the 150 Americans approached the village they were fired upon by Mexicans concealed in the brush. The troopers dismounted and began firing by platoons in V-formation. The Mexicans retreated to one of the houses farther into the village, where they continued shooting. The soldiers, using a machine gun, riddled the walls and doors of the houses, whereupon the battle ended. Wells reported that twelve Mexicans were known to have been killed, although there were seventeen burials at Piedras Negras and three at San José immediately after the fight. The Americans suffered no casualties. Mexican authorities were enraged by the incident, but as a result the governor of Coahuila organized a ranger company, similar to the Díaz Rurales, that cleaned up the border areas. Modern San José is inhabited by fewer than 100 people and is still primitive. Except for an occasional pickup, motor vehicles are seldom seen in the village, and most of the inhabitants commute by mule-drawn wagons over the trails that lead to Guerrero and Piedras Negras. A bountiful spring provides the village with water, and along its course to the Rio Grande are a number of stone ruins. Although the exact site of the Solano mission has never been located, it was probably situated on a low hill that overlooks the village and the river. In recent years, a newly constructed paved highway from Piedras Negras to Nuevo Laredo, which passes just east of Guerrero and the ruins of the old San Bernardo mission, has brought civilization a bit closer to San José.

Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978). Herbert E. Bolton, "Spanish Mission Records at San Antonio," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 10 (April 1907). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Fray Francisco Céliz, Diary of the Alarcón Expedition into Texas, 1718–1719, trans. F. L. Hoffman (Los Angeles: Quivira Society, 1935; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1967). Isidro Félix de Espinosa, Chrónica apostólica y seráphica de todos los colegios de propaganda fide de esta Nueva España, parte primera (Mexico, 1746; new ed., Crónica de los colegios de propaganda fide de la Nueva España, ed. Lino G. Caneda, Washington: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1964). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).

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

Ben E. Pingenot, “San Jose, Coahuila, Mexico,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 12, 2019