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Val Verde County is in southwestern Texas on the Mexican border. Although a part of the county extends west of the Pecos River, more than two-thirds of it is in the Edwards Plateau. Del Rio, the county seat, is 154 miles west of San Antonio. The center of the county is at 29°58' north latitude and 101°09' west longitude. Val Verde County comprises 3,150 square miles of sharply dissected massive limestone, which underlies flat terrain. The county is actually a plateau cut by many arroyos and canyons, giving deep relief to the topography. Soils are dark, calcareous stony clays and clay loams. Fresh water is supplied from an aquifer in the various limestone formations, which receive their recharge from counties to the north. In early times numerous springs flowed in the area, but heavy well pumping has decreased their yields. Numerous creeks, which remain dry most of the year, provide drainage during floods and empty into the Pecos and Devils rivers. The Pecos flows into the Rio Grande in southwestern Val Verde County, and the Devils flows into Amistad Reservoir, on the dammed Rio Grande above Del Rio. Vegetation in the western and central sections of the county consists of desert shrub savanna. The extreme eastern part contains juniper, oak, and mesquite savanna. Altitudes vary from 2,248 to 2,925 feet above sea level. Temperature averages vary from 35° F in January to 97° in July. Average rainfall is seventeen inches per year. The growing season extends for 300 days.

The first people to live in the area of Val Verde County settled into the rock shelters and caves of the Lower Pecos Canyon District near the site of Comstock as early as 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. They left behind caches of seeds, implements, bits of clothing, burial sites, and cave art. Spaniards probably first passed through the area of future Val Verde County in 1535, when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca is thought to have crossed the Devils River. By that time Lipan Apaches, Coahuiltecans, Jumanos, and Tamaulipans lived there. Later, Comanches drifted into the area. In August 1590 Gaspar Castaño de Sosa brought the first European-descent people through the isolated canyonland of the county. Castaño led a mining expedition from Monclova, Mexico, to the northern New Mexico pueblo of Santo Domingo. The party of 170 men, women, and children traveled slowly and laboriously into Devils Draw with two brass cannon for protection and a train of two-wheeled carts for provisions. Although no Spanish mission or settlement was built in the area of Val Verde County, Juan Larios opened a mission school at a location between Del Rio and Eagle Pass in 1673 to teach agriculture to the natives. However, the school lasted only a short time. In 1675 Franciscan priests celebrated a Mass at San Felipe Springs as they traveled through northern Mexico. On January 1, 1736, Lt. Miguel de la Garza Falcón commanded a unit of 100 soldiers who traveled along the Devils River in pursuit of Apaches. The Marqués de Rubí came to the site of Del Rio as he made an inspection tour of Texas in 1767. A settlement was begun on San Felipe Creek in 1834 by James Grant and John Charles Beales, but Indian attacks and drought brought its end.

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Julia Cauble Smith | © 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.

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