Rio Grande City

Rio Grande City, Texas

Rio Grande City, Texas

View of the Historical Marker and historical cemetery in Rio Grande City, the seat of Starr County. Photograph by Mpinedag.

Rio Grande City, the county seat of Starr County and one of the oldest settlements in South Texas, is on the Rio Grande 100 miles from both Brownsville and Laredo in the extreme south central part of the county. It is an international port of entry connected by bridge to Camargo, Tamaulipas. The site was part of the Carnestolendas Ranch, established in 1762 by José Antonio de la Garza Falcón in the Spanish colony of José de Escandón. The ranch later belonged to Henry Clay Davis, an adventurous Kentuckian who survived the Mier expedition and formed the present town from Davis Landing or Rancho Davis in 1847 after marrying María Hilaria de la Garza, the granddaughter of Francisco de la Garza Martínez. Davis had acquired the land upon Garza Falcón's death. He designed the port with broad straight streets, on the model of the capital city, Austin. The establishment of Fort Ringgold in 1848, immediately adjacent to the town, assured its growth and permanence. The town received a post office in 1849; in 1895 the name of the post office changed from Rio Grande City to Riogrande, the name under which it now operates. Despite the town's isolation and lack of transportation facilities for most of its history, external influences have affected it significantly. During the nineteenth century Rio Grande City had an active passenger and cargo ship trade with New Orleans and flourished as a cattle center. Frequent encroachments from Mexico, most notably those of Juan Cortina in 1859, forced the community to rely often on the Texas Rangers and the United States Army for protection. In 1884 the town had a population of 900, a doctor, two lawyers, a saloon, three carpenters, three grocers, nine general stores, a wagon maker, a druggist, two blacksmiths, two churches, a district school, a tailor, a furniture maker, a cornmill, and a hotel. By 1896 Rio Grande City had a population of 1,800, and by 1914 it had a bank and 2,100 residents.

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.

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Place type

Rio Grande City is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • [Riogrande]
  • (Rancho Davis)


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Rio Grande City by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Rio Grande City
Pop. Year Source
15,049 2019 Texas Demographic Center
13,834 2010 Texas Demographic Center
11,923 2000 Texas Demographic Center
10,725 1990 Texas Demographic Center
8,930 1980 Texas Demographic Center
5,676 1970 Texas Demographic Center
5,835 1960 Texas Demographic Center
3,992 1950 Texas Demographic Center
2,283 1930 Texas Demographic Center
1,968 1890 Texas Demographic Center
439 1860 Texas Demographic Center