Brownsville, Texas History:
In 1765, San Juan de los Esteros (Matamoros) was established on the south banks of the Rio Grande River across from present day Brownsville. In 1781 Jose Salvador de la Garza received 59 leagues of land north of the river from the Spanish government. This land grant included the current site of Brownsville. Garza established his ranch 16 miles northwest of the river. By 1836, squatters had established a small community on north bank, and Texas had declared her independence from Mexico. In early 18346 General Zachary Taylor established Fort Texas near the settlement. This fort was later renamed Fort Brown. The fort’s old buildings are located on the campus of the University of Texas, Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.In 1948, Charles Stillman and his partner purchased a large tract of the original Garza land grant, platted a 4,676 acre town they named Brownsville, and began selling lots. In 1849, Brownsville became the county seat of the newly formed Cameron County, and the Brownsville post office was established. Because of high Mexican duties on goods, Mexican and American businesses shipped goods to Brownsville and then smuggled the goods across the river to Mexico. This enabled Brownsville to become the leading trading center for the area. Brownsville was incorporated by the State of Texas in 1853 when the town had approximately 3,500 residents. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate established a Catholic Church in 1854; Father Peter Yves Keralum designed and oversaw the building of the Immaculate Conception Cathedra which was completed in 1859. In 1863 during the Civil War, Union troops entered and occupied Brownsville, but not before the Confederates blew up Fort Brown. Confederate troops reoccupied the town from July 1864 to May 1865, a month after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee. On May 13, 1865 Union and Confederate troops fought the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the last Civil War Battle. A few days after the battle, the Confederates agreed to a truce. The Union army reoccupied Brownsville and began massive repairs on Fort Brown. In 1872, the Rio Grande Railroad built a narrow-gauge railway connecting Brownsville to Port Isabel. In 1904 the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway established a line to the town. A railroad bridge linking Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico was constructed in 1910. After the first railroad arrived, farmers began moving into the area. They constructed irrigation systems and roads, and established a large truck farming industry. The first citrus orchard was established in 1904. Brownsville’s population grew from approximately 6,000 in 1900 to over 22,000 in 1930. During the 1930s a 17 mile ship channel was built from Brazos Santiago Pass at Port Isabel to Brownsville; the Brownsville Port opened in 1936. SH 48 borders the ship channel. In 1949 the Intracoastal Waterway was extended to Brownsville. Brownsville’s sub-tropical climate and landscaping makes it a popular tourist destination. Matamoros was a popular shopping and eating destination (think Garcia’s) until the drug war. Musician Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville on June 22, 1936. Brownsville is located at the intersections of U.S. 83/77, U.S. 281 and SH 4, 60 miles southeast of McAllen, 26.6 miles southeast of Harlingen, 12.6 miles southeast of Rancho Viejo, 30 miles slightly southeast of Rio Hondo, 15 miles south of Los Fresnos, 27.7 miles southwest of South Padre Island, and 23 miles southwest of Port Isabel, Texas.
Cameron County Courthouse, 1978:
This modern concrete courthouse was designed by architects SHWC, Inc. The Courthouse replaced the 1912 courthouse. The 2010 Cameron County census was 406,220. 974 East Harrison Street, 78520.
Cameron County Courthouse, 1883:
This courthouse was designed by J.N. Preston & Son of San Antonio and built by S.W. Brooks; a hurricane blew off the roof and cupola in 1933. It was purchased by the Masonic Lodge No. 81 in 1913 and still serves as the Masonic Lodge. The courthouse is located south of the county’s former 1912 courthouse. 1131 East Jefferson Street.
Cameron County Courthouse, 1912:
This courthouse was designed in Texas renaissance style by famous courthouse architect Atlee B. Ayres. It was beautifully restored in 2006, and features an inside stained glass dome and a restored courtroom on the second floor. Ayres also designed the 1913 Cameron County Jail. Today the courthouse houses the Cameron County Commissioner’s Court. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The courthouse is located at 1150 E. Madison Street.
Cameron County Jail, 1883:
This jail served as the county jail until 1913. It now houses a private business. It is located at 1155 E. Madison Street, Across from the 1912 Cameron County Courthouse.
Cameron County Jail, 1912:
The jail was designed by noted architect Atlee B. Ayres of San Antonio. He also designed the 1912 Cameron County Courthouse. It served as a jail until 1978. It is located southeast of the current Cameron county Courthouse. It currently houses law offices. The jail is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 1201 E. Van Buren Street.