Villarreal, Enrique (1788–1846)

By: Clotilde P. García

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1996

Enrique Villarreal (Villareal), rancher and soldier, was probably born in what became Matamoros, Mexico, in 1788. Very little is known of his childhood, but he lived most of his adult life in Matamoros. In 1831 he was the recipient of a large grant of land called Rincón del Oso, which included part of the shores of Corpus Christi Bay and the site of what is now Corpus Christi. According to cathedral records at Matamoros Villarreal married Eufracia Cavazos, but the exact date of the marriage is not known. They had five children. Villarreal had been grazing his cattle at Rincón del Oso as early as 1810, when he received a grant from the king of Spain, but in 1812 the title papers were lost in a flood. His name also appeared on a list of ranchers at Rancho Carricitos del Río de Afuera on December 22, 1814. In 1817 he was forced to leave Rincón because of Indian raids; he visited the ranch only at branding time until peace was made in 1824. On November 16, 1831, he was issued a title to the Rincón del Oso, consisting of ten sitios or 42,840 acres of land, by the government of Mexico. Villarreal was a captain in the Second Active Company of the Spanish forces in Matamoros. In 1813 he fought in the battle of Medina in Texas against the insurgents and was recognized for his bravery by Gen. Joaquín de Arredondo. As an officer in the Spanish army and later the Mexican army, Villarreal participated in the Mexican War of Independence and in the Texas Revolution. He was made commander of the troops at Fort Lipantitlán, near Corpus Christi, in 1830.

In 1834 Villarreal applied for the land grant named Paso Viejo near the Colorado Arroyo near Brownsville, Texas. He claimed he had been raising cattle for the past three years there and had paid rent to Juan Tijerina. In 1838 Henry L. Kinney arrived at Live Oak Point, north of the Nueces River in present San Patricio County, and established a mercantile store to trade with the Federalist forces from Tamaulipas. Kinney crossed the Nueces River to the west side without a land title and established a trading post in the Rincón del Oso grant, apparently practicing illegal trade. Around January 1841 Villarreal led about 300 men to his ranch and confronted Kinney, who said that he had been deceived into purchasing the land from a person without title to it. Kinney assured Villarreal that he intended to procure title from him by buying the land, and on July 16, 1842, he purchased one sitio. Villarreal and other ranchers continued to have trouble with illegal trade and cattle rustling in the area. In June 1841 Villarreal was dispatched by Gen. Pedro de Ampudia to lead 200 rancheros to enforce against illegal trading. Upon reaching Kinney's ranch, Villarreal took a smaller force of forty men and encountered a small group under Capt. John H. Yerby. Villarreal sent a small detachment to attack Yerby near the Nueces River at Leonistas. In mid-1841 he also headed a band of 150 to 200 men on the Colorado Arroyo to protect area ranches from illegal trade. In April 1842 he protected 300,000 cattle pastured between Camargo and Matamoros with seventy to eighty Mexican cavalry. It was reported on June 15, 1842, that since Villarreal had retreated across the Rio Grande, his exposed ranch had been robbed, and cattle rustlers had reduced his herd from several thousand to a few hundred head. Villarreal died on August 28, 1846, in Matamoros. He and his family were Catholics, and he was buried in Matamoros. After Villarreal's death Kinney acquired the remaining nine sitios of land from his heirs. On April 30, 1986, a Texas Historical Marker was placed in Corpus Christi in Villarreal's honor.

Clotilde P. García, Captain Enrique Villarreal and Rincón del Oso Land Grant (Corpus Christi, 1986). Jack Jackson, Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721–1821 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). Joseph Milton Nance, After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836–1841 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Joseph Milton Nance, Attack and Counterattack: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1842 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Nueces County Historical Society, History of Nueces County (Austin: Jenkins, 1972).

Time Periods:

  • Mexican Texas

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

Clotilde P. García, “Villarreal, Enrique,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: