The Intriguing History of McAllen, TX
McAllen, TX is located on the southern tip of Texas, just north of the Mexican border and situated on the Rio Grande. Its history is rich and intriguing, with roots dating back to Spain’s control of Texas land.
McAllen, TX A Gift from Spain
As a gift from Spain, a local settler from Reynosa, Mexico, named Jose Manuel Gomez received the Santa Anita land grant in 1800 to move north and begin life on these new parts. He began the Santa Anita ranch, raising sheep, cattle, horses and goats. He and his heirs began colonizing this area, and in the early 1800s, his great-granddaughter, Salome Balli inherited the land.
In 1848, Salome married a businessman named John Young from the nearby town of Brownsville. Salome and John continued purchasing and accumulating more land in Southern Hidalgo County where they resided. Just 11 years late in 1859, Young died and left his land to his widow and their son, John J. Young. His assistant, John McAllen, who soon went on to marry the widowed Salome, managed John J. Young’s holdings. McAllen and his new wife had a son, James Balli, who helped his father continue to grow the town.
The Railway in McAllen
In the early 1900’s, the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway were reaching this territory, and they wanted to ensure the railroad would cross their land. They donated land to the railway for this very purpose. A few months after this, John and his son James, along with fellow pioneers Uriah Lott, John J. Young, and Leonidas C. Hill, Sr., created the McAllen Townsite Company in TX.
More History of McAllen
The new community grew very slowly, stifled by a neighboring town just two miles east that was performing well. McAllen did build a general store and a restaurant in its first year of existence; however, its neighbor was out-performing it, with several stores, two lumberyards, two taverns, and about 300 people living in it. By 1911, it grew to a population of 1,000 with a newspaper, several thousand acres of farmland under cultivation, and its first brick building. It sucked the life out of McAllen, which ceased to exist by the end of the year. The last town standing celebrated its victory by applying for a charter of incorporation under the name McAllen, and soon after, the charter was granted.
Five years later in 1916, the state of New York relocated over 20,000 of its troops to the new town to control border issues. This migration resulted in a population boom, and there were over 6,000 residents by 1920.
Industry began to develop, with petroleum and chemurgy at the center of its economy. A bridge to connect McAllen to Reynosa, its Mexican sister city, was built in 1941. This increased tourism in the Texas city, especially during the winter. In 1947, oil was discovered in Reynosa, just across the Mexican border, and it brought an influx of people that moved from inland Mexico. This new migrant population created a brand new market of tourists and unskilled labor.
The population and economy continued to grow fueled by its link to Mexico and tourism industry, and in 1970, the town has 860 businesses and over 37,000 residents. New public works also improved quality of life.
Currently, McAllen is still one of the main ports of entry from Mexico to the United States and has a booming tourism industry. It celebrates a number of annual festivals and events, drawing visitors year-round.
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