Ranch History

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McAllen Ranch: A History of Quality Cattle and Horses

In 1748, in order to establish Spanish outposts in Nuevo Santander, conquistador José de Escandón recognized that habitation by families, clergy, and military would be imperative to hold their claim against other encroaching European powers. Agriculture, particularly ranching, remained a Spanish legacy integrated into nearly every aspect of life. Seeing the grasslands along the lower Rio Grande as perfectly evolved to support cattle and other grazing livestock, between 1767 and 1800 the crown awarded hundreds of thousands of acres to colonial subjects having proven themselves worthy of managing property. Spanish ranches tracing their heritage back to the 18th colonization of South Texas set the standard for ranching practices adopted across the American west into the 20th century.


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The royal land grant of Santa Anita was applied for by Manuel Gómez and conditionally approved.


Manuel Gómez officially takes possession of the 15½ league Santa Anita land grant


Manuel Gómez dies, ranch passes to Dominguez family through his wife Doña Gregoria Domínguez Gómez


Portion of ranch land purchased by Salomé Ballí.


Remainder of Santa Anita inherited and purchased by Salomé Ballí de Young McAllen and her husband, Irish immigrant John McAllen. Subsequently, the ranch is known as the McAllen Ranch. Santa Anita has cattle contracts to supply both Union and Confederate armies at Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas.


Cattle drives to Dodge City, Kansas up Chisholm Trail from McAllen Ranch. Widespread cattle depredations by cattle rustlers from both sides of the lower Rio Grande. Claims made to federal government.


Sheep raising, vinticulture, other farming techniques experimented with at Santa Anita operated by Salomé and John McAllen.


Partition of Santa Anita into two divisions: Santa Anita and San Juanito. San Juanito stays with the McAllen family. Breeding and sales of cattle, horses, sheep continue. Sales of grapes continue as well. Ranch operated by John McAllen and son, James Ballí McAllen.


Death of Salomé Ballí de McAllen.


Cattle depredations intensify with the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.


John McAllen dies in Brownsville, Texas at the age of 83.


Bandit raid on James B. McAllen while at San Juanito. The bandits, estimated to number between 7 and 15, attack main ranch house, shooting more than 500 rounds of ammunition. McAllen defends ranch house with help from his housekeeper, who reloaded his guns during the battle. James B. McAllen kills two and wounds another. Bandits retreat.


James B. McAllen dies.


Ranch managed by McAllen's widow, Margaret Rhode McAllen.


Sons of Margaret Rhode and James B. McAllen, Argyle and Eldred McAllen manage San Juanito. Begin to improve cattle herd, purchasing improved breeding stock from Lasater and Santa Fe ranches.


Argyle McAllen continues to improve general conditions of ranch. Ranch continues to improve livestock.


Argyle McAllen with son James begin intensive livestock breeding program with Beefmaster


Beefmaster program yields superior results.


McAllen Ranch takes top honor in trial tests of Beefmaster excellence.