Quick History of Cuernos Grandes Ranch

When you step onto the lands of the Cuernos Grandes Ranch near Cotulla, you are joining the long and bold story of Texas. The most obvious tales that unroll before you are recent, modern. Pump jacks, solar panels, and windmills dot the horizon and demonstrate that Texas truly is an energy powerhouse of the world come shadow or sunshine.

 But look deeper across the mesquite and scrub and consider the names you will hear. You pass through Cotulla on the way to the ranch—and understand why the early vaqueros would shout out to each other (that’s what name of the town means) as they spied each other at a distance. It was important, in those early days, to recognize friend from foe. La Salle County evokes the history and heritage of Texas, too, with a nod to René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, a 17th-century French explorer who once had big dreams for these parts. 

To live in this land meant you had to be tough. The indigenous inhabitants of this region, some dating back to thousands of years, led a hardscrabble life and fed their families a steady diet of wild pecans, skunk meat, and jackrabbits. When times were especially tough, they even picked the undigested seeds from animal scat to grind into flour for bread! Their worked flint scatter across these lands.

The Spanish did not care for it, and considered it a desplobado, a wasteland, and never could make a settlement stick. When the Comanches burst onto the scene in the late 1700s, this was country that was on the way to richer pickings in the lower Rio Grande Valley or deeper into Mexico. They passed through leaving little more than campfire ashes in this country. During the Texas Revolution, this region lay along the principal road between Laredo and San Antonio de Béxar. Famous Texans such as William Barret Travis and Juan Seguin scouted this way, or lead pony raids this direction, during that war. Former President Mirabeau B. Lamar also took this road in 1847, leading a force of Texas volunteers and American troops during the War with Mexico.

 It remained, though, a borderland. The Wild Horse Desert stretched from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande, and no nation controlled it completely. It became a haven for adventurers and Mexican revolutionaries in the 1850s, and the US government established Fort Ewell to tamp down some of those embers, but the troops didn’t linger long, opting for other positions closer to the border conflicts.

After Texas became a state and the region quieted some, enterprising Americans moved to the region to add their sweat and blood to the story of creation. What they found were thousands of creole cattle—longhorns—gone wild and free for the taking for men bold enough to do so. Game abounded as well in the cover of guajillo, blackbrush, guayacan, granjeno, mesquite, and hackberry thickets. Long wagon trains carrying Confederate cotton toward Laredo crossed this region, too. Mostly, though, it was good range country, and tens of thousands of cattle and horses from this area headed up the Chisholm and Western cattle trails toward railroads in Kansas.

 Meanwhile, famous lawmen and gunslingers like J. King Fisher and the Texas Rangers under Leander McNelly brought a rough justice to the region and beyond the Nueces. A few decades later the discover of oil brought prosperity. Which brings us to the present—and Cuernos Grandes Ranch. While still a rugged and thirsty land, the region you now traverse remains tough but is home to hospitable, enterprising ,and innovative people. They, like you, love the feel of Texas under their boots. As you hunt the thickets and fields of Cuernos Grandes, pause for a moment and breathe in the history of the region. This is now part of your story, too.

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