Rancho Las Escobas - Starr County, Texas
Rancho Las Escobas in Starr county was founded by don José Felipe Guerra Hinojosa and doña Josefa González de Guerra around the 1850s. The main seat of the ranch was located on porción number 109, original grantee Joseph Salvador García, of the jurisdiction of Cd. Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Don Felipe and Doña Josefa were married at the Inmaculada Purísima Concepción Catholic Church in Cd. Mier on May 12, 1845. They moved shortly there after and were some of the first citizens of the city of Roma,Texas.
In the census of 1860 don Felipes occupation was listed as a stockraiser with $3,000.00 in real estate and $2,000.00 in personal estate. His herdsman, or caporal who took care of the ranch was Jesus Ramirez. His father-in-law, don Prudencio González was also a citizen of Roma and also a stockraiser with $4,000.00 in real estate and $3,000 in personal estate.
In the same census, don Felipe and doña Josefa had three children; Emeteria age fourteen and born in Mexico, Jesus age eleven and Emilia age three, both born in Texas.
Don Felipe started purchasing large tracts of land from descendents of the original grantees. He first appears in the Starr county tax rolls in 1866 with 5,950 acres of the Antonio Sanchez porción # 69 and five town lots in the city of Roma. He also had 247 head of horses, 350 head of cattle, and 1,500 head of sheep for a taxable value of $10,250.00.
By the 1870 census the Guerra were living at the ranch at Las Escobas. There were six houses with six families consisting of 25 males and 15 females. Two more children were born into the family; Francisco age seven and Diodoro age four, both born in Texas.
Construction was started on the main house which was made of large sillar (caliche) blocks and built in two sections. Evidence to the fact with the inscribed date of 4/18/1870 and the initials FGH y J G de Guerra imbedded into the viga or beam. The second section of the house was finished in 1880.
Undoubtedly the stone mason who constructed the main house was Rafael Fuentes and his three sons; Benito, Feliciano, and Adolfo who were listed as stone mason and laborers respectively in the census of 1880 when the house was finished.
Don Felipe and Doña Josefa cared about the education of their children and ranch workers being taught the English language as well as their native Spanish. Las Escobas was probably one of the first ranches to have a bi-lingual education system.
The school at Las Escobas had two teachers. Ezra B. Houston was the teacher who taught the children in English and lived on the ranch as a boarder. He also was the 1880 census enumerator for Starr county. The Guerra son-in-law, José Angel Salinas who was married to their daughter Emilia, was the other teacher and taught the children in Spanish.
By the early 1880s don Felipe had established himself as one, if not, the largest rancher in Starr county. Through the 1860s, 70s, and 80s he had bought most of the porciónes #s 69, 103, 109, 110, 111, eight state land scripts of 640 acres each, three tracts of the Cuevitas land grant; one of 4,500 acres and the others of 340 acres and 31 acres with house, corrals, and well, two other state scripts of 385.5 and 393 acres for a total of 46,450 acres.
According to the Starr county tax rolls from 1866 through 1884, the last year Guerra appeared on the rolls, he maintained an average herd of 280 horses, 422 cattle, 1,564 sheep, and 528 head of goats. His best year was 1883 when he had 641 head of horses, 1,404 head of cattle, 1800 head of sheep, and 500 head of goats. He also was listed as having five carriages. His net worth for the year 1884 including all livestock, land, and personal items was $60,480.00.
Don Felipe passed away in March of 1891 and is buried in a crypt close to the main ranch house at Las Escobas. He will go down in history as being one of the pioneer cattlemen who tamed the harsh brush country of Starr county to make it profitable for himself and for future generations to continue in the ranching business.
In 1894 the Potrero de las Escobas which consisted of the porciónes 109, 110, 111 and numerous surveys was surveyed and partitioned into thirteen shares with doña Josefa and her five children receiving the bulk of the estate and the rest going to other Guerra family members. The family still retains the headquarters of Las Escobas today.
Las Escobas is named for the plant called escobilla which is a native plant in the area that the settlers used to make brooms out of.
Note: Id like to thank Uvaldo Salinas, a descendent of the Guerras and who lives at the old headquarters of Las Escobas for showing me around and providing some facts on the main house and Robert Ortiz, another descendent for taking me to the ranch.
Homero S. Vera