With the large-scale mining of coal in Webb County in the latter part of nineteenth century, four mining towns, Santo Tomas, Minera, Dolores (San Jose), and Darwin (Cannel), jointly known as "Las Minas," developed upriver from Laredo. Minera was located on the banks of the Rio Grande about two miles upriver from what is today the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity Bridge, some twenty-five miles northwest of Laredo. It is probably the same community as the one that in 1887 was known as Carbon, which then had a population of 600. Minera was different from the other mining communities in that the miners in Minera dug horizontal shafts or drift mines near the banks of the Rio Grande, whereas most of the other mines in the vicinity were vertical shafts. The majority of people who lived in this mining community were immigrants from northern Mexico, especially from the states of Coahuila, San Luis Potosí, and Durango. Many of the immigrants were experienced miners who had worked the coal and silver mines of Mexico. Although the existence of coal along the Rio Grande has been known about since the colonial era, the first written reports of coal in this area came in 1834 from the Rio Grande and Texas Land Company. Later in 1873, Charles Callaghan, a prominent sheep rancher, and Refugio Benavides, mayor of Laredo, started mining surface outcroppings of coal here. With an abundance of coal, mining operations were expanded. After a thorough reconnaissance of the area by David Darwin Davies in 1880, a serious exploitation of coal was begun. At Davies's urging, Alexander Cameron Hunt, former governor of Colorado, was encouraged to begin large-scale coal mining. Coal was transported to Laredo either by steam-driven river barges or overland in large wagons drawn by twelve mules. The building of the narrow-gauge Rio Grande and Pecos Valley Railroad was completed to Minera in 1882. Hunt's original goal was to push the Rio Grande and Pecos Railroad upriver from Laredo to Eagle Pass to eventually join the Southern Pacific Railroad at the mouth of the Pecos River.
Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.
Rene Raymond Meza | © Texas State Historical Association
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