Weslaco, about fifteen miles west of Harlingen in south central Hidalgo County, is on U.S. Highway 83 and Farm Road 88. The site was part of the Llano Grande grant to Juan José Ynojosa de Ballí (1790). Upon Ynojosa's death the grant was divided among his children, and Manuela and María received the land on which Weslaco is situated. The Ballí family ranched and maintained ownership until 1852. In 1904 the Hidalgo and San Miguel extension of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway reached the site, promoted by Uriah Lott, Lon C. Hill, Jr. and others interested in developing the area through farming as opposed to traditional Hispanic ranching. The American Rio Grande Land and Irrigation Company of neighboring Mercedes, which had interest in the railroad, purchased a major portion of the Llano Grande grant and platted the West Tract in 1913. In an effort to control raids from Mexico, the United States government stationed troops along the Rio Grande in 1916 and established a camp at the Llano Grande railroad depot, located between Mercedes and the site of Weslaco. The guardsmen erected a watchtower at Progreso. On December 14, 1917, the irrigation company sold 30,000 acres at ninety dollars an acre to the W. E. Stewart Land Company, from which the name Weslaco is derived. The Stewart Company sold the townsite to Ed C. Couch, Dan R. Couch, R. C. Couch, and R. L. Reeves. The site was surveyed and platted on September 18, 1919, by H. E. Bennett, a civil engineer hired by Ed Couch and R. L. Reeves, whose partners had backed out of the venture in fear of failure. Neighboring communities distributed leaflets discouraging settlement at the proposed town. Nevertheless, the sale of lots was held on December 8–10, 1919, with prices ranging from $50 to $400 per lot. To make a claim, individuals had to choose a lot and camp on it until the day of the sale, during which lots were given free to church groups. The town's promoters gave away three cars during the sale. Mail in Weslaco was received from Mercedes until 1920, when Weslaco's first post office was opened. Also established in 1920 were the chamber of commerce, the Guaranty State Bank, and the Community House. Elementary school classes were held at the Community House, and high school students were driven to Donna. The first issue of the Weslaco News was published on October 29, 1920. Electricity came in December 1920 from the Donna Light and Ice Company. In 1921 the Weslaco Independent School District was established, the first high school opened, and the Texas Rangers opened a Weslaco station. The Valley Experiment Station was established in 1923 under the auspices of Texas A&M. It was later renamed Texas A&M University Agricultural Research Center. The Weslaco Fire Department was established in March 1924.

A municipal ordinance of 1921 provided that the land north of the railroad tracks be designated for industry and Hispanic residences and businesses. The area to the south of the tracks was reserved for Anglo residences and businesses. This segregation was a consequence of the farm culture that had introduced the railroad. Weslaco developed as two cities. "El pueblo americano," as the Anglo side of town was called, consisted of well-built frame houses; it had paved streets and enclosed sewers. The Mexican side featured corrugated tin shacks, unpaved roads, and outhouses. Mexican women were supposed to shop on the Anglo side of town early on Saturdays only, and be back in "Mexican Town" by sunset. Streets north of the tracks had Spanish names, business was conducted in Spanish, and schools were established for Mexican children. In "American Town," streets were named for northern states. In the 1928 county election the Weslaco ballot box was rejected by Judge A. W. Cameron, an incumbent official whose victory was in question. Cameron, who evidently believed that he would have won the Hispanic vote of Weslaco, testified that Mexican-American voters had been intimidated by a crowd yelling "Don't let those Mexicans in to vote. Throw them out." The protesters were allegedly led by the Citizens Republican Committee. Only years later did Mexican Americans throughout South Texas became powerful in local politics.

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Alicia A. Garza | © 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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Weslaco is part of or belongs to the following places:

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Place type

Weslaco is classified as a Town


Latitude: 26.15981970
Longitude: -97.98643700

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


Population Count, 2021 View more »


Place Type Population (Year/Source) Currently Exists
College or University Yes

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