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Alice Texas

Alice, Texas

“Cradle of the Cattle Industry”

Alice, the county seat of Jim Wells county was established as a city in 1888. First called Bandana, then Kleberg, it was finally named Alice after the daughter of Captain Richard
King, who established the King Ranch. However, the Alice area has always played an important role in the history of Texas.

When the first explorers ventured into the area it was a vast plains covered with grass
and a few trees. Cabeza de Vaca who roamed the area 1533-1535, after his return to Spain
told of the area abounding with wild stock. Later the region between the Nueces and the Rio Grande was designated as “Los Llanos de las Mesteñas (the Plains of the Unbranded (or wild) Livestock). Along with wild horses there were great numbers of wild cattle, deer,
javelina and other wildlife.

Jose de Escondón introduced ranching into present day South Texas in the Mid-1700s when he began settlements along the Rio Grande and the Nueces River. These settlements were being founded on land grants issued by the King of Spain. Three land grants were made directly by the King in the Alice area; the Casa Blanca Grant in 1807, the Santa Gertrudis Grant, 1808 and the San Antonio de Aqua Dulce Grant, 1809.

In 1734 the Spaniards had established a fort at the Indian village of Lipantitlan which was considered the best crossing of the Nueces River in the area. Fort Lipantitlan was located across the Nueces from present San Patricio. Another fort was built on a high bank near the mouth of Penitas Creek close to where it joined the Nueces River. Twenty foot walls protected its settlers from the cannibalistic Karankawas, an Indian tribe hated by both the Spaniards and other Indians tribes in the area.

Another main crossing of the Nueces River was the Lagarto crossing. It served as the main route between Mier, Laredo and Presidio La Bahia at present day Goliad. Failing to find large quantities of gold in the area, Spanish interest declined with the area remaining
virtually unsettled until after the Mexican Revolution of 1821 when it became part of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The early ranches and settlements Jose de Escondón began became the foundation for the ranching industry of Texas and the Mexican vaquero became the forerunner of the American cowboy.

In the 1880s wild herds of longhorn cattle and wild mustang horses roamed freely in the region. During the Texas Revolution with Mexico the area heard the steps of the Mexican army and heard shots of war as in 1836 General Urrea and his army was on the way to meet up with General Santa Anna's army and its showdown with Sam Houston at San Jacinto. It was a fatal showdown for the Mexicans as Urrea's original victory route became the retreat route of a defeated Mexican army.

The Mexican American War 1846-1848 brought American troops into the area and on to Mexico City where Mexico surrendered any claim to Texas. Next came the Civil War . . . it was during this time frame that the cattle industry was beginning to take shape in South Texas.

There were few markets for cattle before the Civil War 1861-1868, but after the war there was a scarcity of beef in the North. While cattle were bringing three to four dollars a head in Texas, the ranchers realized they could sell them in Northern markets for thirty or forty dollars a head. Ranchers now gathered thousands of head at a time and began driving them over the trail to the North. Many were driven from the territory that is now Jim Wells County.

In 1866, the first full year of the trail drives, an estimated 260,000 South Texas cattle went to market from the area. Of the several trails over which cattle made the 1,000 mile trip, with only two exceptions, they started in the lower section of Texas. This later caused Alice to become the center of an area known as the “cradle of the cowboy industry.” There are two Chisholm Trail historical markers and a Great Western Trail marker in the City.

The long trails ceased as a marketing method in the mid-1880s when the open-range changed to barbed-wire fences. Railroads now extended their lines into the ranch country. With the coming of the railroad to Alice, the community became the world's largest cattle shipping point from 1888 to 1895. Alice was named the “hub city” of the cattle industry. The “hub city” title would eventually apply to many other aspects of Alice, as the community began to take its place in South Texas history. The richness of history for the area is on display at the South Texas Museum, located in downtown Alice at 66 S. Wright. The
building is patterened after the architecture of the Alamo.

Today Alice is a hub city for the oil and gas industry, a center of commerce, a regional medical center, a headquarters for South Texas tourism and a winter refuge for many Winter Texans, who find the winter climate to be just what they are looking for. The town, centrally located in South Texas, makes for easy access to all South Texas and beyond. Its outdoor-oriented life-style offers an abundance of wildlife; hunting, fishing and birdwatching. Excellent golf courses with reasonable rates and year round golfing
makes Alice a golfer's dream. The medical facilities in Alice have served a multi-county area with a combined population of more than 50,000 for over 60 years. Excellent educational opportunities are also available including; an excellent class 4-A school, an Alice campus of Coastal Bend College, and both Texas A&M Kingsville and Texas A&M Corpus Christi are less than an hour away. There is much more to Alice than what first meets the eye and you can be assured that Alice is “bueno gente” - good people.

 

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