Santa Helena

Castolon, also known as Santa Helena, was on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, twenty-three miles southwest of Panther Junction in southwestern Brewster County. The first known resident was Cipriano Hernández, a native of Camargo, Chihuahua, who in 1903 bought three sections of land on the American side of the Rio Grande five or six miles downstream from the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon. Hernández, who called the place Santa Helena, irrigated the fertile bottomland and grew wheat, corn, oats, and other grains, which he sold. He also opened the first store in the area.

Hernández's success inspired others to move to the region, and Castolon soon became a center of agricultural activity. Patricio Márquez opened a second store; Agapito Carrasco settled six Mexican families about a mile downstream from Hernández and called his community El Ojito; and Ruperto Chavarria led a larger group of immigrants to the west bank of Alamo Creek, two miles upriver from Castolon, and named the settlement La Coyota. Eventually Castolon and the nearby communities of El Ojito, La Coyota, Terlingua Abaja, and Buenos Aires, five miles downriver, had some 200 or 300 residents, most of whom engaged in subsistence farming. In 1910, at the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, the inhabitants requested protection from the United States Army. By 1911 a cavalry troop was stationed at Castolon. It was later supplemented by infantry units from Camp Marfa.

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Martin Donell Kohout | © 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

Santa Helena is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Santa Helena is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • [Camp-]
  • [Santa Elena]
  • (Castolon)

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated