Saturday, March 18, 2017


(All through elementary, high school, and even in college, local students and residents have been told that Charles Stillman was the "founder" of Brownsville. In reality, Stillman was a ruthless businessman who exploited the conditions after the war to grab – often times illegally – title to communal lands owned by the town of Matamoros and by land-grant families on the north side of the river.  The following is a fastidiously documented nutshell account of how he became the richest man in Texas with the help of the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Army and his own private militia. We've looked for this book at the city libraries without success. We wonder why.)

From John Mason Hart's
"Empire and Revolution,"
University of California Press
Pp. 22-23

Charles Stillman came to prominence in Southern Texas during the Mexican-American War, when he landed a contract to take supplies up the Rio Grande to the Gulf of Mexico and deliver them to the army of General Zachary Taylor that resulted in the capture of Monterrey. Stillman's dealings in 1848., at the end of the war, reflected a ruthless character that American entrepreneurs exhibited all too often in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

After the war the Americans controlled the north banks of the Rio Grande. Before the war, however, the city government of Matamoros had exercised its power of eminent domain by denouncing farm land on the north side of the river in order to enlarge on the communal properties needed by its citizens. The denunciation procedure was commonplace for growing cities and towns, and the land was annexed despite the protests of the original owners of the land in question, the Cavazos family of Texas, members of the Matamoros elite who supported the Americans during the war.

Following the American victory Stillman purchased the ejido, or village farmlands, of Matamoros from Sabas Cavazos. Spanish and Mexican law held community properties as inalienable, and the purchase was legally invalid, but the land was on the north side of the Rio Grande and therefore subject to the judgment of Texas courts. Those decisions went against the Mexicans.

Stillman created the Brownsville Town Company and began selling lots for as much as $1,500 each. He quickly attracted some 2,000 settlers. Stilman and Simon Belden, his associate, sold the bulk of the properties and then quickly sold the remainder of the site to E. Basse and Robert H. Hord for a handsome profit of $35,000. In doing so Stillman escaped complex and expensive battles in the Texas courts over who legally owned Brownsville.

Basse and Hord moved rapidly to gain the support of the Texas state government for their Brownsville claim. In 1850 the state legislature incorporated the City of Brownsville and recorded its opinion of any Mexican claims to the property regardless of nay Mexican claims to the property, regardless of law.

"All the right, title, and interest of the state of Texas in and to all the land included within said tract, that was owned by the town of Matamros on the 19th day of December, 1836, shall be and is hereby relinquished to the corporation of Brownsville, and their successors in office, in trust for the use and benefit of said city provided this act shall not impair private rights.

Stillman also bought vast properties on the north side of the river for himself and his associates Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy. Each man got title to hundreds of thousands of acres of hotly disputed land. Portions of these purchases became the famous Kendy and King ranches. Stillman, King and Kenedy fought to validate their ranch land acquisitions. from the 1850s to the mid 1870s their controversial claims to these properties were backed up by the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Army and their own private armies. For years their militias fought the Mexicans who confiscated cattle and burned ranches in retaliation for their displacement. The titles were still in dispute in Texas courtrooms at the end of the twentieth Century.


KBRO said...

Here we go again. :D

Anonymous said...

All history is gossip.

Anonymous said...

Layman's view of history is as authoritative as a trained historian. Why don't you buy the book and donate it? That's the way books get into libraries, genius.

Diego Lee Rot said...

Stillman bought this town with plastic beads.

Anonymous said...

Compare what the Americans did on the North side of the river to what the Spaniards did on the South side. The Americans were the kinder gentler displaces and occupiers. There are no clean hands anywhere in this region. No, not white, brown or red hands.

People want to claim their own kind as innocent victims and the others as evil despots and crooks. All of this crap has an agenda and none of it contains a balanced view of truth and reality.

Rave on Montoya, as you are want to do. Let the Gringo bashing start all over again. None of it will do a damn thing. You are just pissing into the wind.

Anonymous said...

Gringos are the cancer of the world!

Anonymous said...

History is the view of the author who writes it. Nothing can be objective when there is the opportunity to interpret and express our won opinions. Only the actual person knows the real story and since it is history, they are no longer around. Go back to the land grants, the original grantees, and then make your own determination, without inserting your opinion. Just as the Anglos contributed to the development of our city, many did do what local politicos do - line their own pockets. The history of Charles Stillman, as written in many books, is interesting, to say the least. And while on that topic, how does his Laurels home figure into the history of Brownsville. Drag that home back to Petronila where it was located and take it out of the Linear Park. It is not a part of our history and as it appears now is no where to the junk they dragged down here.
I do hope the Stillman family were the financial backers of the remodeling of "el tecorucho" that show up here.

Anonymous said...

AND they blame corruption on the Mexican. The founding fathers of this shit hole was a thief and murderer ! Bad hombre culero

Anonymous said...

Callate el hocico, KBRO!

Anonymous said...

"Compare what the Americans did on the North side of the river to what the Spaniards did on the South side. The Americans were the kinder gentler displaces and occupiers."

The Spaniards raped the natives and gave us a new mixed race of people. The Anglo Americans killed off as many natives as they could. What's your point?

Anonymous said...

Juan can't buy the book because it costs $85 so maybe Dr. A can buy it for him in appreciation and he can donate it to the library.

KBRO said...

I have that book and since it offers a one-sided view of history I will gladly donate it to the Brownsville Public Library under the condition that it be introduced to the main stacks available for check-out but not if it will end up in Friends of Library 25¢ book bin but haters will always be haters and dirty dogs will always bite the hand that feeds them. I can also donate a big bag o' dicks found on South Padre Island this past weekend for all your anonymous clowns trying to get my attention. :D

KBRO said...

To anonymous anus who farted: "It is not a part of our history and as it appears now is no where to the junk they dragged down here."

Not all our history is the same, pendejo. Now go sit next to the rock in Washington Park and think about that. :D