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Val Verde County History

One of the largest counties in the state, Val Verde was formed from portions of Kinney, Crockett and Pecos counties in 1885, and organized the same year.  The Rio Grande forms its southern boundary, while picturesque Devil's River flows centrally from north to south, and in the western portion is the Pecos River, which joins the Rio Grande in this county.  The agricultural lands are confined principally to these water courses which furnish an unfailing supply of water, and away from the valleys the general surface is rough and broken, and in the semi-arid section of the state.  The Southern Pacific Railway, the only line in the county, was built about 1880 close to the Rio Grande Valley, and it is along this road that practically all the towns are found including Del Rio, the metropolis and county seat, Langtry, and Devil's River.  One of the old post roads was laid out through Val Verde County after the close of the Mexican war, and on a map this section of Texas published in 1858 the only point specially designated in what is now Val Verde County was a "fine spring, fifty feet in diameter," at the head of San Felipe Creek.  These springs, near the present City of Del Rio, are among the largest in the Southwest, with an estimated flow sufficient to irrigate about seventeen thousands acres.  It was in the vicinity of these springs that permanent settlement was planted in what is now Val Verde County, then in Kinney County.  There was a scattered population along the Rio Grande Valley during the decade of the '60s [1860s], and about 1868 a small colony of Americans hand come to San Felipe Springs, and after erecting a sort of blockhouse for protection against Indians, engaged in the stock business.  Others came in the following years, and among them was John Perry, who arrived in 1870 after constructing a stone building opened a stock of merchandise, and in 1872 a town was located and named Del Rio.  That was the origin of what is now one of the flourishing small cities of Southwestern Texas, a center for the trade of a large district and also surrounded by a rapidly developing irrigation area.

The last census [1910] reported 59 irrigated farms in the county, with an acreage of 2,416, and at the present time it is estimated that over eight thousand acres are irrigated and in cultivation, most of it in the immediate vicinity of Del Rio.  The soils in the valleys are rich and very productive when irrigated; and the possibilities in this direction have been taken advantage of only to a very meager extent.  With the exception of the irrigated sections, little farming is done.  Most of the county is given over to the live stock industry, sheep and goats being raised in large numbers.  Production of mohair and wool in Val Verde County is said to be larger than in any other county in the state.  The population of Val Verde County in 1890 was 2,874; in 1900, 5,263; and in 1910, 8,613.  About half the population are Mexicans.

While Del Rio is unincorporated and was not returned separately in the last census [1910], its population includes probably half of the entire county.  The value of the property in the county in 1903 was $8933,230; and in 1913, $8,905, 516.  The county has a total area of 1,973,120 acres and while most o fit is included in immense pastures and the small farms along the valleys, the total of "improved land" at the last census [1910] was about three thousand six hundred acres, most of which, as already noted, was irrigated.  The live stock interests in 1910 were indicated by the following figures:  Cattle, 43,444; horses and mules, about 6,200; hogs, 2,322; sheep 107,171; and goats, 122,276.  In 1909, 3,567 acres were planted in hay and forage crops and 852 acres in oats.  Horticultural interests are not important except grape culture, and the last census [1910] reported about 10,000 grape vines.

From A History of Texas and Texans by Frank W. Johnson, American Historical Society, Chicago, 1916.

Main Street, Looking South, Del Rio, 1907
Judge Roy Bean & The Law West of the Pecos
Val Verde County Historical Commission
Whitehead Memorial Museum
Val Verde County History from the Handbook of Texas Online
A Sketch of the History of Del Rio from the USGenWeb archives
Langtry, TX Quarry Explosion, Feb 1925 from gendisasters
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