Monday, February 6, 2012

A Little Local History

This "valley" of ours is full of wonderful history.  I wish I had had an interest in it when I was young and growing up here.  Oh well, I am learning more about it now and will share it with you if you dare travel along.

Traveling east from the refuge on the Military Highway (281) there is a small town with the name of Santa Maria where there are several historic markers.

This is the crumbling remains of Zachary Taylors quarters during the war with Mexico.  Did you know that?  Not many do as there is nothing there letting one know of its existence.  The local people know about it though.  Made of adobe brick from the 1800's, it had two rooms with an out building nearby.  As we drove into town, behind the post office, there is an adobe brick wall still standing where there was a subfort of Fort Brown and Fort Ringgold.  Fort Brown is located in Brownsville and Fort Ringgold is located in Rio Grande City.  The troops would travel between these forts and that is where the highway got its name.

This historical plaque tells you about the Santa Maria church that was built in the early l880's.

Across the road from the church is El Rancho Blanco (The White Ranch) built in 1870, which served as a stagecoach stop as well as a steamboat station.  Did you know, the mighty Rio Grande River was once a water highway to STEAMBOATS?  More on that later.

This is a plaque close by of Rancho Santa Maria.  You can double click to enlarge the picture to read it.  Several years ago, Wallace and I participated in the restoration of one of these plaques which was quite interesting.  This one needs some attention.

Our next stop was in Progresso driving south toward the bridge to Rancho Toluca Road.  We turned east and came to a dirt road that took us to this area.

Rancho Toluca with its historical marker on the right.
The chapel of Saint Joseph was built in 1899 by the owner of the ranch, Don Florencio Saenz in thanksgiving for the finding of a sweet water well there.  The ranch house is next door to the church.  The house was built in 1903.

This is located in front of the church.  The round stucture is called a "pila" and we think the structure in the back is the well.  Notice the adobe bricks on the ground.  The church is a beautiful building.  Too bad it is in such bad shape.  Mexicans and  Spaniards inhabited this area as early as 1836.

Hope you enjoyed this area as much as we did.

In a past blog, there was a picture of a nutria without any explanation about it.  So here goes.  It is a large semi-aquatic rodent indigenous to South America.  It was imported for the fur trade in 1930.  They feed on aquatic plants in our wetlands and cause destruction.

Also, the picture of the American Wigeon has a female Gadwall next to it.  Just did not want you to think it was a female wigeon.  That's all folks...for today!


  1. Glad to see that you're posting more often... I look forward to reading them. If we'd known about these historic sights when we were in the Valley, we'd have checked them out.

    1. Because you requested, I obliged. Glad you enjoyed.