The lower Rio Grande and its harsh Texas wilderness lay at the fringe of Spain's North American territorial claims. For centuries empires, colonists, and native inhabitants struggled over this region. It was a land visited by conquistadors, that gave rise to the American cowboy, and where Civil War generals honed their skills in the Mexican War. Steamboats used the inland waterway as a major transport route and fortunes were made while serving as the Confederacy's only outlet for money and munitions. It is the land from where cattle were driven to the Chisholm Trail and where men, women, and beasts braved the unrepentant climate. It was and remains a crossroads of international cultures. In this account of the history of the families of the Santa Anita land grant, almost two hundred years of the history of the lower Rio Grande Valley (1748_1940) are revealed. In 1790 the Santa Anita, a Spanish land grant, was awarded to merchant JosC Manuel G-cmez. After the land passed to G-cmez's widow, part of the grant was acquired by Maroa SalomC Ballo, the daughter of a powerful Spanish clan.
SalomC Ballo married Scotsman John Young, and her family connections, combined with his business acumen, helped her to further assemble the Santa Anita under one owner. In 1859, after Young's death, SalomC struggled to hold onto her properties amid bandit raids and the slege of violence waged in the region by borderland caudillo Juan Nepomuceno Cortina. Soon after the beginning of the Civil War, she married Scotch-Irish immigrant John McAllen. They participated in the rapid wartime cotton trade through Matamoros and business associations with Mifflin Kenedy, Richard King, Charles Stillman, and Francisco Yturria. All the while, the Santa Anita remained the cornerstone of the business and stability of this family. The construction of railroads brought improved means for transportation and new towns, including McAllen, Texas, in 1905. The book's ending reveals how, in 1915, Mexican warfare again spilled over the banks of the Rio Grande with deadly results, tragically affecting this family for the next twenty-five years.