Santa Margarita Crossing

By: Keith Guthrie

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 16, 2019

Santa Margarita Crossing, a natural ford across the Nueces River, was a point of convergence for many roads leading northward from Matamoros, Reynosa, Camargo, Mier, Revilla, and Laredo to La Bahía and San Antonio. The crossing, one of the immutable landmarks of the coastal bend area, had been used since earliest times by buffalo, Indians, explorers, soldiers, freighters, stages, and travelers. Early maps show the Old San Antonio Road crossing the Nueces River at San Patricio at a point called Paso de Santa Margarita. James McGloin and John McMullen settled their colony on the left bank of the river in the early 1830s. Practically all of the overland traffic coming out of Mexico on the way to East Texas crossed the Nueces at the Santa Margarita Crossing. From San Patricio the Old San Antonio Road went directly to La Bahía, or Goliad, and then on to Nacogdoches and Louisiana. From 1830 to about 1886 the crossing was the southern terminus of the San Patricio Trail.

Actually there were three or possibly four crossings within a couple of miles of Paso de Santa Margarita. Upriver about three miles was the old Indian and Mexican fort known as Fort Lipantitlán, where the crossing is called DeLeon's crossing or Rock Crossing. Between the Lipantitlán and Santa Margarita crossings were two other spots that old traditions say were used as fords, especially during a season when the river was low. Both of these crossings were known as rock crossings since the riverbottom at these spots bears an abundance of flint, which the Indians used for making arrow points. Oral tradition tells that in the dry season travelers would avoid the ferry at Santa Margarita and go upstream to one of the shallow rock crossings and cross without having to pay a fee. Present day digs at Round Lake date an Indian presence in the area as far back as about A.D. 1400. It is not known exactly when the first ferry was put into operation at Santa Margarita, but oral tradition places its origin sometime in the early 1860s. Samuel L. Miller received permission in 1866 from Nueces County and in 1871 from the San Patricio county commissioners court to operate a ferry at the crossing. A ferry existed at Santa Margarita until it was replaced by a bridge in 1898. During the Civil War a leg of the Cotton Road came through San Patricio, where a point of consignment with Mexican teamsters was established. A bridge still exists at the site of the old ferry, but the road carries mostly local traffic over farm roads rather then international trade or invasion armies.

Keith Guthrie, History of San Patricio County (Austin: Nortex, 1986). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). William H. Oberste, Texas Irish Empresarios and Their Colonies (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1953; 2d ed. 1973). Robert H. Thonhoff, History of Karnes County (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State College, 1963). Olive Todd Walker, "Esther Amanda Sherrill Cullins," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (January 1944).

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

Keith Guthrie, “Santa Margarita Crossing,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 16, 2019