Shary, John Harry (1872–1945)

By: Weldon Hart

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

John Harry Shary, businessman, son of Bohemian immigrants Robert and Rose (Wazob) Shary, was born on a Saline County, Nebraska, farm on March 2, 1872. After graduation from Crete High School, he attended Doane College. He became a registered pharmacist at the age of eighteen and after four years as a pharmacist joined a California redwood lumber firm for which he traveled throughout the United States and in Canada. Shary became interested in land investments and development, particularly in Texas. Between 1906 and 1910 he and George H. Paul developed 250,000 acres in the cotton-producing area around Corpus Christi, operating from out-of-state offices with special trains transporting prospective buyers to South Texas on a weekly basis. In 1912 Shary became interested in the lower Rio Grande valley. He was impressed with the commercial potential of citrus-growing experiments by such men as A. P. Wright, J. K. Robertson, and H. H. Banker. In the next few years he bought and subdivided more than 50,000 acres of land in the Valley and installed an irrigation system. Jesse H. Jones helped him finance this venture. He bought most of the early experimental citrus groves, especially grapefruit, and from them he harvested some of the early commercial citrus crops after World War I. In spite of previous failures Shary and other leading citrus producers succeeded in establishing the Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange. In 1923 Shary built the first commercial citrus-packing plant in the area. He headed numerous commercial firms, including banks, land companies, and newspapers, and was a director of the Intercoastal Canal Association (see GULF INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY) and the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company. Shary married Mary O'Brien. They made their home on the Shary Estate in Sharyland, northeast of Mission. They also maintained homes in Omaha, Nebraska, and Branson, Missouri. Their only child was a daughter, Marialice Shary Shivers, wife of Governor Allan Shivers. Shary died on November 6, 1945, in San Antonio; he was buried in a small chapel on the Shary estate. He was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1984, and his personal and business papers were donated by his family to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection at the University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, in 1985.

Brownsville Herald, May 10, 1936. John H. Shary, Seventy-Second Birthday Anniversary, March 2, 1944, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Agriculture
  • Promoters
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era

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

Weldon Hart, “Shary, John Harry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995