San Jose de Lopeño

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Lopeño is on U.S. Highway 83 in southeastern Zapata County. It replaced old Lopeño and four other small farming and ranching communities-San Pedro, San José, Santa Fé and El Tigre-the residents of which were descendants of the settlers brought north in 1749 by Col. José de Escandón. When Falcon Dam (see INTERNATIONAL FALCON RESERVOIR) was built in the early 1950s, the lake covered the old Lopeño site. The United States government had offered to move six communities to Zapata, which had pure water, sewage disposal, and new schools. But the community residents asked the government to build them separate communities near their farms and ranches. The government refused, so two men donated areas nearby on the new U.S. Highway 83 for the new Lopeño. The water suddenly rose after four days of rain starting on August 23, 1953, and on August 28 the 450 families of Lopeño and Falcon were hurriedly evacuated in a pouring rain. By the day's end, only the church steeple, a few windmills, and the tops of a few houses showed above the muddy reservoir. Residents of the inundated communities left behind furniture, clothing, toys, even pets. Some walked rather than accept rides from the hated commission that had built the dam and driven them from their 200-year-old settlements.

Lopeño is named for Antonio López, husband of Doña Ysabel María Sánchez, to whom a 6,366-acre land grant, named Señor San José, was given by the king of Spain on July 16, 1767. During the early 1800s a parcel of this grant passed to the Ramírez family, founders of Falcon. In 1821 Benito Ramírez constructed a combination home, fort, and chapel, known later as Fort Lopeño, which stood until covered by the waters of Falcon Lake. It was built at the Lopeño crossing of the Rio Grande. There was also a famous shrine in front of his El Tigre Ranch well, where local residents drew water, and worshipped before the Señor San José Church was built in Lopeño. The shrine, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, was artistically cut from limestone, with beautifully carved hands and feet, delicate features, and a chaplet encircling the crown. Company K, Fifth United States Infantry regiment, maintained Camp Lopeño there for twelve days ending May 10, 1856, before returning to Ringgold Barracks, Rio Grande City, during the Cortina War (see JUAN NEPOMUCENO CORTINA). Serafín Benavides established a store at Lopeño in the early 1900s, the only supply point in the area at the time. Andrés Serna carried the mail by horseback from Zapata to Lopeño from 1900 until his death in 1908; he had a keen mind, but could not read. Before starting his route, he would have the names and destinations read to him, and would sort them in order, never making a mistake in his delivery. From 1908 to 1909 the post office name was Lopeña, but it was changed to Lopeño in 1909.

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Dick D. Heller, Jr. | © TSHA

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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

San Jose de Lopeño is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists

No

Place type

San Jose de Lopeño is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Lopeño)

Has Post Office

No

Is Incorporated

No