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Promotion: Nearby Map of Hidalgo County

Mercedes is in the Rio Grande valley on U.S. Highway 83 twenty-five miles east of McAllen in southeastern Hidalgo County. The site was first settled by ranchers in the late 1770s and was part of the Llano Grande Spanish land grant issued on May 29, 1790, to Juan José Ynojosa de Ballí. During the 1850s it was the location of the Anacuitas ranch, owned by Ramón and Manuel Cavazos. Apparently by the beginning of the 1900s it was replaced by the Fuste ranch, which was owned by the Cavazos family, alleged heirs of Ynojosa de Ballí. Lon C. Hill, Jr., a local land promoter and developer, owned 45,000 acres extending sixteen miles from the Rio Grande and including the site of what is now Mercedes. Hill, in preparation for developing the area, cleared land and constructed the Estarito Canal. On May 29, 1904, he formed the Capisallo Town and Improvement Company to develop the town of Capisallo a mile east of what is now Mercedes. Hill promptly renamed his new community Lonsboro and sold his company to the American Rio Grande Land and Irrigation Company, which renamed the new town Díaz. The town's name was changed three more times, until the name Mercedes was finally adopted. The origins of the name have been disputed. While some sources assert that the town was named in honor of the wife of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, there is no evidence that Díaz was ever married to a woman named Mercedes. When, on July 8, 1904, Mercedes became the first town on the Sam Fordyce Branch of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway, it was nicknamed the Sweetheart of the Branch.

To ensure a strong economic center for the new town, the Rio Grande Company placed restrictions on building permits on Main Street and on residential lots. Business structures were to be constructed of brick, stone, or concrete and cost no less than $3,000, and residential units were to cost no less than $2,000. Furthermore, it was stipulated that no alcoholic beverages could be sold in the town for fifteen years after its inception. The Company promoted Mercedes by luring northern settlers to the area with extensive publicity campaigns. They also transported prospective buyers to the area via railroad and gave them whirlwind tours of the surrounding Rio Grande Valley area. Grape culture was introduced to the area in 1907, followed by large-scale production of citrus fruits and truck crops. That year the first hotel in the town was also opened. By 1908 Mercedes had a population of 1,000 and a school, a lumberyard, a feed store, a livery stable, and a weekly newspaper, the Enterprise. The town's first bank, the Hidalgo County Bank, was established in 1908 and had deposits totaling $100,000 by the end of the next year. Mercedes incorporated in 1909, the same year in which it was inundated by a devastating flood. The Mercedes Commercial Club was organized in 1911 and was active in publicizing the town. That year also the Mercedes Public Library was founded. A new city charter was adopted in 1914, and by 1915 the population of the town was estimated to be 2,000.

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Alicia A. Garza | © TSHA

Handbook of Texas Logo

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Lonsboro is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Lonsboro is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Mercedes)

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated