San Jose de Lopeño
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.
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.
Dick D. Heller, Jr. | © Texas State Historical Association
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