Premont, Texas - The Mexican Heritage
Premont, Texas was established and plotted by R. P. Haldeman of St. Louis, Missouri. Haldeman, a banker and real estate developer, bought 43,275.16 acres from the Henry Seeligson heirs on November 1, 1907 for $540,939.50. Haldeman subdivided what was known as the Galveston Ranch into five and ten acre tracts to entice northern United States residents to invest in South Texas land for the warm climate and ideal planting conditions.
In 1909 two sections of the Haldeman subdivision was surveyed and plotted into a town site by surveyor C. F. H. Von Blucher and Haldeman named it Premont, after Charles Premont, the Seeligsons Ranch foreman.
With his high pressure real estate salesmen Haldeman sold hundreds of tracts to these northern residents who didnt know how hot it got in South Texas and how often it didnt rain at times. They were in for a real surprise when they showed up in the heat of the summer and found out how hot it really got down here, humidity and all.
That story has been written about various times through the years. What hasnt been said is that along with the northern residents there was also a section of the town of Premont comprised of Mexican and Mexican-American families.
When Haldeman laid out the town of Premont he laid out a section of town east of the railroad tracks for the Mexican and Mexican-Americans families. A plaza was designed and named appropriately Hidalgo Plaza after Fr. Miguel Hidalgo, hero of Mexican Independence from Spain. The streets surrounding the plaza were Spanish named streets: Cardenal, Cinsonctle, Paisano, Nopal, Palo Blanco, Tecolote, Ebon, and Flores.
Around the plaza the Benavides brothers; Donaciano, Casimiro, and Amado had a dry goods store and a cantina. Basilio Alfaro had a blacksmith shop on the south side of the plaza. There was also a hotel on the west side of the plaza. The old road leading south to don Pedrito Jaramillo, the healer of Los Olmos, was located just east of the plaza and continued northwest to Concepción and Santa Cruz in Duval County.
Haldeman sold hundreds of lots to Charles Premont who in turn was the real estate agent for the Mexicans as he could speak Spanish. A real estate agents dream come true, Premont sold hundreds of these lots from 1909 through 1922. The average lot cost from $25.00 to $30.00 each with others reaching up to $80.00 each.
Premonts first sale of lots on Oct. 12, 1909 was to none other than don Andrés Canales who owned the nearby Rancho La Cabra and who employed many of these Mexican people as sharecroppers on his vast land holdings. Actually many of the people who bought lots in town first lived at La Cabra.
Don Andrés built a large house in town and also had a general store which was located three blocks from Hidalgo Plaza. This was where the Mexican population went to buy their supplies.
Although most of the Mexican people who bought lots from Premont were recent arrivals or had lived at La Cabra, neighboring ranchers from north of the county and adjoining Duval county also bought lots from Premont. Doña Victoriana Martinez de Vera of Rancho San Buenaventura in Duval County bought five lots for $290.00 in which she later built a two story house on. Also Hesiquio Gonzalez of the Gonzalez ranching family of Palito Blanco also bought lots in town. Duval county rancher, Vicente Gonzalez also purchased several lots in town.
When Premont became part of the newly organized county of Jim Wells on March 11, 1911 it was given the jurisdiction of precinct 4. Elections were held on May 6, 1911 and Charles Premont was elected its first county commissioner. The first constable was Andrés Valls and the official registered butcher was Alfredo Figueroa. Oscar Tobin was the Justice of the Peace. He later resigned on 2/13/1917 and was replaced by Hesiquio Gonzalez. The next elections in November 11, 1917 saw Premont elect its first Mexican on the commissioner court, José Gonzalez Treviño along with Celestino de los Santos as constable and Hesiquio Gonzalez as Justice of the Peace.
The first recorded birth was Guadalupe de los Santos daughter of Maximilliano de los Santos and Isabel Salazar de los Santos born 9/12/1911. The first recorded death was Agapito Canales on 12/12/1913 although a Concepción Sisneros, age 95, had died at La Cabra on 1/9/1912. The first recorded marriage was between Sotero Sifuentes and Maria Pulido on 6/9/1912, married by the Catholic priest Fr. F. Monill.
R. P. Haldeman sold lots 1 & 2 of block 142 for $1.00 to P. Verdaguer, the Apostolic Bishop of Brownsville whose territory included Premont. In 1911 Calixtro Salazar built a small church on those lots with its patron saint being St. Anthony. In 1914 the priest from Falfurrias, Fr. Cayetano Alvarez would take the train and would offer services on Sundays and special occasions like weddings and baptisms.
The first recorded murder was of Pablo Vera, last seen alive on June 17, 1916 at the cattle shipping pens in Premont. He had just sold $2000.00 worth of cattle when he disappeared. His body was found close to La Gloria just North of Falfurrias on July 11, 1916. He had been shot once in the back, once in the head, and had his lariat around his neck.
Although most of the Anglo families that came from the northern states went back, most of the first Mexican families who helped settle Premont still have their descendents living here. Some of those families are: Canales, Benavides, Peña, Garcia, Garza, Cabrera, Castellanos, Mata, Johnson, de los Santos, Tamez, Salazar, Reyes, Treviño, Pulido, Carrasco, Carrales, Villarreal, Hinojosa, Sauceda, Morante, Montalvo, Sanchez, Rodriguez, Herrera, and Vera.
They can be proud that their ancestors did make a mark in the establishment of Premont.