Texas, my Texas
400 year History of El Paso del Norte
Compiled by Dorris Harrison
Don Juan de Onate was a son of a noble Spanish family and his wife was the granddaughter of Cortez and great granddaughter of Moctezuma who was the governor of Zacatecas, Mexico. In January
1598, Onate, on commission from the King of Spain, took 400 men [130 of the men brought their families] from Santa Barbara, Mexico. The four-mile procession consisted of some 83 wooden
wheeled wagons and carts and seven to eight thousand horses, oxen, sheep, goats, and cattle. The journey took four months during which they were many times forced to live on roots and
berries, and drink water from cactus and other plants.
They arrived on the banks of the Rio Grande on April 20, 1598 and saw a beautiful river with fish, ducks and geese. They spent ten days resting under giant cottonwood trees and swam, hunted
and fished. On April 30, 1598 Onate ordered preparations for a feast to give thanks for their safe Journey across the desert. So the travelers and the Manso Indians sat down together. They
feasted on ducks, fish, geese, and beef cooked over an open fire. After the feast, in a ceremony, Oñate proceeded to take formal possession of the entire territory drained by the Rio
Grande and claimed the land for the King of Spain. This brought Spanish civilization to the Pass of the North.
The next day Ornate set out on his journey northward. They traveled four days more to arrive at the Rio Grande crossing, near downtown El Paso. As they approached the Rio Grande from the
south, the Spanish explorers viewed two mountain ranges rising out of the desert with a deep chasm between. This site they named El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North). It was, in much
later years, to become the location of two future border cities, Ciudad Juárez on the south bank of the Rio Grande and El Paso, Texas, on the opposite side of the river. The next year,
Fray García de San Francisco founded Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mission, which still stands in downtown Ciudad Juárez, the oldest structure in the valley area. The
arrival of the first Spanish expedition at the Pass of the North in 1581 marked the beginning of more than 400 years of history in the El Paso area.
Oñate left several families here to start a town that would be vital to the later passengers on the Camino Real. Then leaving the Pass of the North, traveling northward, they reached
what is today Santa Fe, New Mexico four months later. Where the families with him colonized the area. But the Pueblo revolt of 1680 sent Spanish colonists and Tigua Indians of New Mexico
fleeing southward to take refuge at the Pass. Their coming provided the Pass with a concentration of population from that time to the present.
The area became a trade center on one of the historic royal highways and agriculture flourished. The vineyards, produced wine and brandy that ranked in quality with the best in the realm. By
1682 five settlements were founded south of the river. A short distance from where El Paso today now stands was San Lorenzo, located in what is now known as Fox Plaza. Its origins date to
September 1680, when Spanish and Indian refugees fleeing the New Mexico Pueblo Revolt settled in the El Paso area.
By October 9, 1680, they had established a camp at San Lorenzo, where Governor Antonio de Otermín established his residence. In the early eighteenth century, San Lorenzo developed into
a prosperous agricultural community, and by 1750 the population consisted of 150 Suma Indians and a like number of Spanish. In February 1751 the mission lands that had been in the hands of
the Franciscans were assigned to the Indians, but by 1754 the Sumas had revolted against Spanish authority. In 1760 the population of San Lorenzo consisted of 192 Spanish and only fifty-eight
Indians. The community still existed in the 1860s but was no longer shown on maps of the 1940s, having been superseded by the community of Ascarate, which was later absorbed by the city of El
A few miles on south of San Lorenzo is the approximate site of the mission and pueblo of San Antonio De Senecu. I was established by Don Antonio De Otermin and Father Fray Francisco Ayeta.
O.F.M. in 1682 and maintained by Franciscan missionaries for the civilizing and christianizing of Piro and Tompiro Indians. Only a marker remains to mark the area.
Ysleta, now part of the city of El Paso, is perhaps the oldest town in Texas. It was one of several agricultural communities started on the Rio Grande by Spaniards and Indians after the
Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico in 1680. The Tigua Indians, who were brought from their pueblo at Isleta, New Mexico, in 1680-82, have occupied the area continuously since. The new Ysleta del Sur
("little island of the south") was located a league and a half east of Guadalupe Mission at the site of present Ciudad Juárez. The first Mass was celebrated near Ysleta on October 12,
1680. By 1691 a temporary church was replaced by an adobe building that was later washed away by a flood in 1740, rebuilt four years later on higher ground. The roof and bell tower were
damaged by fire in 1907. The mission's name has been changed several times, recently to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The population of Ysleta showed steady growth numbered 560 (429 Indians and
131 others) in 1760, and 8,550 in 1960. Henry L. Dexter became the town's first mayor in 1859. This city government did not survive nor did one that operated in the early 1870s. An election
in 1880 approved incorporation, and in 1889 the town council declared Ysleta a city. After a stormy period of squabbles over water supply, land grants, limited resources, the town government
dissolved in 1895. In 1873 Ysleta replaced San Elizario as the El Paso county seat.
Socorro was located about ten miles southeast of downtown El Paso, began in 1680, when Governor Antonio de Otermín and Father Francisco de Ayeta led Spanish and Piro Indian refugees
fleeing the New Mexican Pueblo Indian Revolt to the El Paso area. In 1682 the Spanish established Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción del Socorro Mission. The first permanent
mission, built in 1691, was swept away by flood in 1744, and a second church was built. It was washed away in 1829, when the Rio Grande cut a new channel south of the old one, thus placing
Socorro, Ysleta, and San Elizario on La Isla. The main part of the present Socorro mission was completed in 1843. By that time the town of Socorro had developed around the mission and had a
population of 1,100. The town was a part of Mexico from 1821 to 1848, when it became a part of the Texas. For the rest of the nineteenth century Socorro remained a small farming community.
Locally constructed acequias supplied water for agricultural crops, which included vineyards, fruit trees, and cereal grains. The town, together with other Rio Grande communities, played an
active role in county politics until 1881, when the railroads arrived and shifted the political power structure to El Paso. Population was 22,995 in 1990. Socorro has disincorporated and
reincorporated several times. In 1985 the town blocked El Paso's plan to annex the town and voted by a margin of 263 votes to remain a separate corporation. Since then, Socorro has adopted
ordinances and codes to halt uncontrolled growth and has instituted a historic landmark commission to encourage historic preservation.
San Elizario was established in 1789 on the former site of Hacienda De Los Tiburcios [founded sometime between 1730 and 1750] as a Spanish Colonial Fort known as Presidio of San Ecleario. The
Presidio was moved from its former location [appx. 37 mls] in response to requests from settlers for military protection from Indian raids. It operated as a Spanish Fort until 1814 when
troops withdrew during the Mexican War for Independence. American control of the area began in 1848 with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which established the Rio Grande as the border
between the United States and Mexico. When El Paso county was organized in 1850, San Elizario was chosen as the first county seat and served as such until 1873.
In 1850 San Elizario had a population of 1200 people to El Paso's 200. It had the first flourmill, first courthouse, first school, first irrigation system still in use today and the first
open heart surgery performed by a Spanish Explorer when he removed an arrow from the heart of an Indian. War broke out between the US and Mexico in 1846. At the end of the Mexican War in 1848
San Elizario became part of the United States and was made the county seat of El Paso County until in 1873 it was moved to Ysleta.
Most of the land, haciendas, ranches, and farms-with the exception of the ejidos, the communal holdings of the mission Indians, was owned by the wealthy Paseños of El Paso del Norte
(Ciudad Juárez) across the river, the largest town and political capital of the area. Supplementing the Island's agricultural base was the Chihuahua trade along the historic Old San
Antonio Road, a natural extension of the Santa Fe trade with Missouri that began a decade earlier.
In 1877 came the Salt War, in which local business men attempted to control the salt market that had operated since colonial times [discovered by Spanish in 1691] over control of the salt
lakes east of El Paso that for centuries had been a free source of salt for local residents. In 1877 Charles Howard, a former county judge who claimed ownership of the lakes, shot Luis Cardis
over the issue of the salt beds. While under the protection of state troops in San Elizario, Howard and several troopers where killed by a mob. Federal and state investigations of the salt
war led to the reestablishment of Fort Bliss in 1878. The jail structure was built about 1850 of adobe bricks [sun-dried mud and reeds] and cottonwood logs around steel cell blocks. It served
as county jail from 1850 - 66 and 1868 - 1873, when San Elizario was the first and third county seat. It housed both jail ("carcel" in Spanish) and courtroom ("juzgado"). According to legend,
William Bonney, famed outlaw billy the Kid, freed the only man ever to escape from this jail, his cohort Melquiades Seguro.
Gregorio Nacenseno Garcia his family residence about 1855 which still stands today. Built in the territorial style, it features milled wood detailing. Because of its distinctive inset gallery
(portals), it became known as Los Portales. In the 1870's, the structure was converted to use as a schoolhouse. The first teacher was Octaviano Larrazola, who later became governor of New
Mexico and a U.S. Senator. Although San Elizario was bypassed by the railroad and has become a rural farming community, it remains an important element in the region's rich heritage.
When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 the El Paso area became a part of the Mexican nation and a chain of the six towns [listed above] in the El Paso area situated from three to
five miles apart stretched along the southern bank of the Rio Grande.
Twenty three years earlier, on July 18, 1798 in Kentucky, Hugh Stephenson (1798-1870), pioneering El Paso settler and trader, was born. An orphan, he moved with a cousin to Concordia,
Missouri, where he grew up. He came west as a trapper and in August 1824 became possibly the first Anglo-American in the El Paso area, passing through with a wagon train. He left the wagon
train at Old Mesilla, New Mexico, acquiring land and building a home on the site of present Las Cruces. Shortly thereafter he settled in El Paso del Norte and later acquired two land grants:
one of 900 acres, south of that belonging to Juan María Ponce de León in present El Paso, and the other a 23,000-acre Brazito tract south of the site of present Las Cruces, New
Mexico. Stephenson married Juana María Ascárate, the daughter of a wealthy El Paso del Norte merchant, in August 1828. By 1835 he had opened a store there in partnership with
Archibald Stevenson or Stephenson, possibly a brother. In 1836 local customs officials for importing contraband gunpowder fined him.
Three year after Hugh Stephenson came through on the wagon train, Juan María Ponce de León, wealthy merchant of El Paso del Norte petitioned the ayuntamiento of El Paso del
Norte, in January 1827, for some 215 acres of mud flats on the north bank of the Rio Grande. He was granted two caballerías that belonged to the city of El Paso del Norte, bounded on
the south by the Rio Grande and valued at eighty pesos.
The grant was approved on September 20, 1827, and immediately Ponce de León set about making improvements. He dug an irrigation ditch, planted corn, grapes, and wheat, also built adobe
roundhouses for protection from Indian raiders. In 1830 a flood washed away some of the buildings, so he rebuilt on higher ground. After that same flood Ponce almost doubled his holdings when
the river eroded into El Paso del Norte. Because of the flood damage, he petitioned for an additional grant and was awarded the alluvial accretion between the old and new riverbeds.
Eventually, a flourishing agriculture existed that featured a fertile soil mixed with a sandy loam and irrigated by a network of acequias, or irrigation canals. The principal products were
corn, wheat, fruits, and vegetables. The quality and flavor of the grapes, wine, and brandy produced by the vineyards ranked with the best to be found in the world.
In the early 1830s the river formed a new channel south of the old one, thus placing three of the towns, Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario on an island some twenty miles in length and two to
four miles in width. For the remainder of the Mexican period this area was called La Isla, "the Island." The Rio Grande continued to flow primarily through its new channel, and by 1848, when
the river became the boundary between the United States and Mexico, water had ceased to flow in the Río Viejo, or old riverbed.
Ysleta and Socorro were established as missions by refugees of the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico in 1680-Ysleta for the Tiguas and Socorro for the Piros. Both missions were swept away by the
flooding river in the early 1830s, but they were at length replaced by the present structures-Socorro in 1843 and Ysleta in 1851. San Elizario, a presidio that was moved upriver to the El
Paso area in 1879, became the nucleus of a town. According to a census of 1841 the total population of the three Island settlements was 2,850. Socorro was the largest with 1,101, San Elizario
was second with 1,018, and Ysleta had 731 residents.
By late 1849 five settlements had been established by Anglo-Americans-Frontera, Hart's Mill, Coon's Ranch, Magoffinsville, and Stephenson's Ranch. These five, together with the three Mexican
settlements on the Island, indicated that a bilingual, bicultural complex was taking shape at the Pass of the North. That the Mexican town of San Elizario should become El Paso County's first
county seat is significant.
Each town was governed by an alcalde appointed by the ayuntamiento of El Paso del Norte, which was controlled by the landowning and mercantile aristocracy. Most heads of families on La Isla
were farm workers or servants. Indians were dependents, and poverty was widespread. The two-room adobe structure was the general pattern for all. With the outbreak of hostilities between the
United States and Mexico in May 1846, Col. Alexander Doniphan and his Missouri volunteers defeated the Mexicans at the battle of Brazito, entered El Paso del Norte, and occupied the city of
Chihuahua in early 1847. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of February 2, 1848, fixed the boundary between the two nations at the Rio Grande, and thus El Paso del Norte, the future Ciudad
Juárez, became a bordertown.
During the Mexican War Col. Alexander Doniphan's force brought the El Paso area under United States control. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of February 2, 1848, which officially ended the
war, provided that the new international boundary was to be "the Rio Grande . . . following the deepest channel . . . to the point where it strikes the southern boundary of New Mexico."
American officials declared the Island to be United States territory, and in November 1848 Col. John M. Washington, military governor of New Mexico, appointed T. Frank White president and
directed him to extend his jurisdiction over all of the territory east of the river that had formerly been a part of Chihuahua. In February 1849 Mexican officials reported that an armed force
of the United States had occupied Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario and had taken possession of all the lands, including ejidos. Mexican protests proved futile.
On May 13, 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico. By December, Colonel Doniphan leaves Socorro, New Mexico and marches south on the Camino Real toward El Paso del Norte. On Christmas
Day his forces engage the Mexican army in the Battle of Brazito. The Americans are victorious and proceed to El Paso. Colonel Doniphan and 800 Missouri farm boys walked through the pass, past
Hart's Mill and crossed the Rio Grande and captured El Paso without bloodshed. Doniphan Drive in the Upper Valley marks their route.
An easterner moved to the Southwest in 1848 as an adjutant in a Missouri cavalry unit, and fought with distinction in the battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales on March 16, 1848. His name was
Simeon Hart. A flour merchant and secessionist, Hart was born in Highland, New York, on March 28, 1816 and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, received training as a civil engineer. He moved to
the Southwest in 1848 as an adjutant in a Missouri cavalry unit, and fought with distinction in the battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales on March 16, 1848. He married Jesusita Siqueiros, daughter
of a wealthy Chihuahua flour miller, in late 1849, after which he took his bride to the Pass of the North, where he established his flour mill, El Molino. Several years later he built his
residence [now the La Hacienda Restaurant] which was still stands today. Described by United States circuit-riding attorney W. W. H. Davis as a large and luxurious residence built in the
Mexican style, it served for years as a haven for travelers. Hart's first contract with the army, signed on March 28, 1850, provided that he would furnish flour for one year to the posts of
Doña Ana, the post opposite El Paso del Norte, and San Elizario for eleven cents a pound. In 1851 he accepted a contract to furnish the same three posts plus the escort to the United
States Boundary commission for a year at 12½ cents a pound. Although he frequently complained that the terms he received from the army fell short of what he thought he ought to
receive, he always managed to do better than his competitors, and in the census of 1860 he reported the value of his property, real and personal, to be $350,000, a sum that made him the
wealthiest man in the area. He served as a county judge from 1852 to 1854.
But a little prior to this the west was to see a great invasion. People from all points east flooded the roads west by horse or wagon train. The gold rush in California. Towns grew and
During the 1840's several men other than Benjamin Coons came west to the border. Anson Mills, James Magoffin were among the first to play a part in the Paso del Norte.
James Wiley Magoffin established Magoffinsville in 1849 about a half-mile north of the Rio Grande on a site within what is now El Paso. [This was somewhere near Piedras and Magoffin Streets]
Magoffinsville was known as the American El Paso in contrast to the Mexican city across the Rio Grande, El Paso del Norte, now Ciudad Jurez, Mexico. Magoffinsville consisted of a group of
adobe buildings around an open square and was watered by an acequia that ran from the river to the square. Magoffin resided in a large, elegant house, in which he lavishly entertained army
officers and government officials. John R. Bartlett was among Magoffin's guests, and predicted that Magoffinsville would remain the center of Anglo-American settlement in the El Paso area. A
post office operated at Magoffinsville in 1852 and 1853. In January 1854 an army post was established there, with four companies of the Eighth Infantry under Maj. Edmund B. Alexander
quartered in buildings rented from Magoffin. In March 1854 the post was officially designated Fort Bliss. Most of the buildings at Magoffinsville, including the fort, were destroyed or
severely damaged by a Rio Grande flood in 1868, the year Magoffin died and by 1870 it was described as "only an old dilapidated ranch." The site was incorporated into El Paso in 1873. In 1875
Joseph Magoffin James's son, built a home a short distance west of the site of Magoffinsville, on property that had belonged to his father.
The same year in September a merchant, Benjamin Franklin Coons, bought the Ponce de Leon Rancho. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1826, the son of David and Mary Coons. He led wagon
trains to Santa Fe in 1846, 1847, and 1848, and by September 1848 had established himself as a merchant in El Paso del Norte and elsewhere in Chihuahua. Coons bought the ranch property of
Juan María Ponce de León in 1849. When Maj. Jefferson Van Horne reached the El Paso area in September 1849 he stationed four companies of the Third Infantry on the rancho, six
acres of which Coons rented to the United States Army for $4,200 a year. Troops remained at the "Post Opposite El Paso [del Norte]" until late 1851, when they were transferred to Fort
Fillmore in New Mexico. The loss of income from the army, combined with other business reverses, ruined Coons financially, and Ponce repossessed the rancho. He went to California in late
1850, regained a measure of financial security, and returned to El Paso early in 1851. Unfortunately for him, when the United States troops left Coons' Rancho in September, 1851, Coons lost
his most reliable source of income and was soon forced to default on his property payments. His ranch repossessed, he returned to California to seek yet another fortune. He apparently
achieved some measure of success herding sheep, moved back to St. Louis in 1856, and married Sophie Delor in 1859. Later censuses listed him as a farmer and teamster. Coons died in St. Louis
on December 14, 1892. The Franklin community (later renamed El Paso) and the Franklin Mountains are said to have been named for him.
In 1843 Stephenson moved to Corralitos to manage the silver mine belonging to his wife's family; he also managed the family business at Janos. In 1844 he sent his son Horace to Missouri with
James Wiley Magoffin to be placed in school and moved to his property south of Ponce de León's. There he established a community that he called Concordia, after his childhood home; it
was also known locally as Stephensonville and Stephenson's Ranch. Stephenson engaged in trade with St. Louis and also had extensive ranching and silver mining interests. He was the first
Anglo-American to prospect in New Mexico. His silver mine in the Organ Mountains, east of Las Cruces, was later known as the Stephenson and Bennett Mine. Juana Ascárate de Stephenson
died on February 6, 1856, when she was fatally gored by a deer she had raised from a fawn.
A post office was established there under the name of El Paso in 1852. After Ponce died that same year, his wife and daughter sold the property for $10,000 to a trader from Kentucky named
William T. (Uncle Billy) Smith. Smith divided the rancho and began selling tracts, but sold out to the El Paso Company, which included Josiah F. Crosby and other prominent local citizens.
They hired Anson Mills to survey the property. Mills completed the job in February 1859, by which time the property had gained another thirty-five acres, thanks to the changing course of the
Rio Grande. In 1859, however, Anson Mills named this settlement El Paso, thus generating considerable confusion that lasted for almost thirty years.
Anson Mills, surveyor, builder, army officer, engineer, American boundary commissioner, diplomat, and inventor, was born at Thorntown, Indiana, on August 31, 1834, the son of James P. and
Sarah (Kenworthy) Mills. He attended school in Indiana and New York and accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1855. After flunking out at West Point in 1857, he
rode the Butterfield Overland Mail stage to El Paso, where he arrived on May 8, 1858. He was appointed district surveyor and surveyed forts Quitman, Davis, Stockton, and Bliss, all in West
Texas. He also built the Overland Building, for three decades the largest structure in El Paso. On February 28, 1859, Mills submitted a street map of a settlement called variously Ponce's
Rancho, Franklin, and Smithsville. He called the little community El Paso, and the name stuck.
Then during the period of the French intervention in Mexico the republican cause under the leadership of Benito Juárez took refuge in El Paso del Norte in August 1865 and remained
there for almost a year. With the aid of American arms and munitions the tide began to turn in favor of the Juárez republicans, who returned to Mexico City in triumph in 1867. On
September 16, 1888, El Paso del Norte was renamed Ciudad Juárez, and thus the historic name El Paso became the sole possession of the bustling little railroad town at the western tip
of Texas. The downtown is still practically as he platted it.
Mills encouraged his brothers Emmett and William Wallace Mills to settle in El Paso. Anson laid out the village of Pinos Altos in New Mexico, feuded with almost everyone of importance in El
Paso. Confirmation of the grant was included in the Relinquishment Act passed by the Sixth Legislature, but this was vetoed by Governor Elisha M. Pease. In 1858 Smith and others in the area
were able to get a special relief act passed that acknowledged the validity of the grant. On June 15, 1872, the United States Circuit Court for West Texas held that the grant included only
the original approximately 215 acres. In a suit filed on February 24, 1873, in the Twentyfifth Judicial District Court of Texas and upheld by the Texas Supreme Court, it was found that
the grant was larger because the river had changed course, that the original grant was 247 acres, and that the accretion grant of 1830 was approximately 352 acres. On February 21, 1877, a
jury in a hearing at the United States Circuit Court agreed.
The Civil War brought many changes throughout El Paso County and America as a whole. When the broke out Stephenson attempted to maintain a neutral stance, although his sympathies were clearly
with the Southern cause, and he bought Confederate bonds. Consequently, Union officials confiscated and sold at auction his properties at Concordia and Brazito. One source says that
Stephenson's son-in-law, Albert French, thereupon purchased these properties while another says that Stephenson's old friend William Wallace Mills repurchased them for Stephenson with money
from the Corralitos mines. In November 1867, after the Rio Grande flooded the old military garrison at Magoffinsville, [Fort Bliss] was moved to Concordia and known as Camp Concordia until
March 1869, when it resumed its previous name. Stephenson kept the silver mine at Corralitos and lived out the last years of his life on his son Horace's farm in La Mesa, New Mexico. He died
on October 11, 1870, in La Mesa and was buried in Las Cruces.
The outbreak of the Civil War found Hart, like almost all of the Anglo-Americans in the area, pro-Southern and secessionist. At a local election held in Ben Dowell's saloon only two votes in
opposition to secession were cast, and everyone in town knew who they were-Anson and W. W. Mills. "Champagne for the secessionists," shouted Hart when he saw W. W. enter the saloon, "and the
noose for all Unionists." Mills never forgave Hart's role in getting him incarcerated at Fort Bliss, and they remained enemies for a decade or more.
Obituary of Simeon Hart
HART, SIMEON, JUDGE - Died at El Paso on the 19th of January 1874. He was born in New York, in 1816, distinguished himself as soldier in the Mexican war; married the daughter of a distinguished
Mexican gentleman; and settled at El Paso. He was in the Confederate army, member of the Constitutional Convention of 1866, and was well known throughout his section.
(Galveston Daily News, Feb. 21, 1874)
Mills almost succeeded in taking over Hart's extensive assets. Under the color of authority granted by the federal district court at Mesilla, in Doña Ana County, Territory of New
Mexico, a United States marshal for the district, Abraham Cutler, supervised the seizure and sale of properties of those El Pasoans known for their Southern sympathies. Even though Hart had
received a presidential pardon, his property, including the flour mill, dwelling houses, corrals, ranchhouses, machinery, and stables, sold for $3,000.
In time El Paso County residents who had lost properties appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which ruled that the Mesilla district had no jurisdiction. In 1868 the United States Supreme
Court upheld the decision in the case of United States vs. S. Hart. Even so, Hart had to battle W. W. Mills for the recovery of his property, a long struggle which finally came to an end in
May 1873, when the Mills brothers accepted a payment of ten dollars. Hart died on January 19, 1874. At the time of his death, he was the editor and proprietor of the El Paso Sentinel. He and
Jesusita lie in an unmarked grave in the El Paso area, the mausoleum built by his son Juan having been destroyed in the construction of a highway overpass. Mills voted against secession.
After failing to talk the commander at Fort Bliss out of surrendering the federal fort to Confederate forces, he accepted a Washington commission in the Union Army. His brother W. W. remained
in the Southwest as a Union spy. Emmett caught the last stage out of El Paso and was killed in New Mexico when Mangas Colorado and his Apaches ambushed the coach.
After an undistinguished career, Anson Mills remained in the army during the Indian campaigns. After the Little Big Horn debacle, he took part in the "horsemeat march" during Gen. George
Crook's Big Horn and Yellowstone expedition. As the starving army began eating its own horses, Mills led a supply detachment and encountered Indians. For his role in the resulting fight at
Slim Buttes, Mills always believed he deserved the Medal of Honor, though he never received it. During his military years he designed and patented the woven ammunition belt. The invention
made him wealthy. On October 13, 1868, he married Hannah Casser, and they had two children.
By 1894 Mills had been transferred to El Paso, retired as a brigadier general, and was sworn in as the American boundary commissioner. During the next few years he reestablished the Mexican
border on the island of San Elizario and was responsible for straightening the Rio Grande by severing the Córdova banco, an improvement that relieved serious flooding at El Paso. Mills
advocated a major international dam at El Paso, which eventually went to Elephant Butte in New Mexico, 120 miles north.
He practically wrote the Mexican treaty, "An Equitable Distribution of the Waters of the Rio Grande," which promised Mexico an annual 60,000 acre-feet of water. He also wrote the 1905 treaty
for the elimination of bancos Mills is best remembered,however, for the boundary dispute with Mexico over the Chamizal tract and for the Mills Building in El Paso. As the American boundary
commissioner he refused to accept the 1911 arbitration agreement that gave the El Paso Chamizal to Mexico. The Mills Building began as the Grand Central Hotel, which Mills constructed in
1883. When the hotel burned, he replaced it with the Mills Building in 1911, at that time the largest concrete monolith in the world. Today it is no longer the highest building in El Paso,
but it remains a major El Paso Land- mark. At the age of eighty-seven Mills wrote his autobiography, My Story 1918). He retired from the boundary commission in 1914 and died in Washington,
D.C., on November 5, 1924. He was buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
Another important man to come to El Paso was Zechariah White. Zach White, businessman, financier, and city administrator in El Paso, was born on March 23, 1850, in Amherst County in the Blue
Ridge Mountains of Virginia, one of twenty-two children born to Willis and Jane (Drummond) White. In 1875, after receiving a grammar school education, he and an older brother arrived in
Austin, Texas, and built the city's first waterworks. Two years later he built the first waterworks in Dallas, and in 1879 he constructed a water system in Waco. He had achieved such success
that in October 1880 he left for El Paso on a stagecoach with $10,000 sewn in his vest. Anticipating the arrival of the railroad, in 1881 White built a mercantile store, and in the next few
years he built the first brick company, the first gas company, the first electric company, the first mule-drawn streetcar system, and the first bridges across the Rio Grande to Ciudad
Juárez. He bought thousands of acres of land in El Paso's upper valley, raised cotton, and played a major role in bringing about the construction of Elephant Butte Dam, a project that
greatly stimulated the development of the regional agricultural economy.
In 1912 White built his dream hotel, the Paso del Norte, long a showplace of the Southwest with its Tiffany dome lobby. For twenty years White was a director of the First National Bank; he
also served on the school board, the city council, and as county commissioner. He donated the land for the construction of El Paso Country Club. White's first wife, Maggie Matthias, whom he
married in 1882, died in El Paso in 1890. In 1893 White married Maude Bounds of Sherman, and they had two daughters. White died in El Paso on January 31, 1932. A public school near the
country club is named in his honor, and his home on Mesa Street has been restored. The restoration of the Paso del Norte Hotel was completed in 1986.
In 1887, the Kansas City Consolidated Smelting and Refining Company, (called ASARCO) copper and lead smelter, built a plant on the railroad at the Pass and so the town of Smeltertown came
into existence. In the 1880s the Mexican employees of the smelter began building houses west of the smelter, beside the Rio Grande.
San Rosalía Church, named after the Chihuahua town from which most of the first parishioners came, was built in 1891, and E. B. Jones School was established later. The church burned in
1946 and was replaced by the San José de Cristo Rey Church. In 1938 the population of Smeltertown was estimated at 2,500; a post office was established the following year and closed
four years later. Smeltertown included a cluster of small adobe dwellings with dirt floors and windows without glass. In 1970, when the population of the community was approximately 500, the
city of El Paso filed a $1 million suit against ASARCO, later joined by the state of Texas, charging the company with violations of the Texas Clean Air Act. In December 1971 the El Paso City
and County Health Department found in early 1972 tests found that seventy-two Smeltertown residents, including thirty-five children who had to be hospitalized, were suffering from lead
poisoning. The city sought to evacuate Smeltertown but many residents resisted. A number of the residents also did not want to give up their homes, many of which had been in the same family
for several generations. A 1975 study found levels of "undue lead absorption" in 43 percent of those living within one mile of the smelter. In May 1975 an injunction ordered ASARCO to
modernize and make improvements. Against their wishes the residents were forced to move; their former homes were razed, leaving only one street, the abandoned school, church buildings and
cemetery to mark the site of El Paso's first major industrial community.
This ends the history of Franklin / El Paso that covers four centuries into the very early 1900s. It is my hope that all readers have a better appreciation of what the "mud flats" have