Juneteenth and the Webber Family
Juneteenth is a celebration of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas – when Texans learned that slavery had been abolished. There were few slaves in the Lower Rio Grande Valley due to the closeness of the Mexican border. The 1860 Census "Slave Schedule" lists 7 slaves in Cameron County and 1 slave in Hidalgo County (2 males and 6 females). Several African American and bi-racially mixed families settled in South Texas including the Webber family shown in the photograph. John Webber was an Anglo who lived south of Austin, Texas. Webber purchased a slave, Silvia Hector, and her son. They fell in love and married, causing an uproar in their community. After their son was barred from school, and the tutor Webber had hired to teach the boy had been threatened, the Webber family moved near Donna, Texas. In 1853 Webber purchased nearly 9,000 acres of land near Donna and established the Webber Ranch with his wife and 11 children.
Juneteenth is celebrated throughout the Valley and the City of Edinburg. The image shown in the slideshow is from the collection donated by the family of Al Ramirez, Edinburg's first Hispanic mayor. Ramirez is credited with improving the Restlawn Cemetery which was originally set aside for African Americans during the time of segregation. The Restlawn Cemetery has served as the site for Juneteenth celebrations in Edinburg since 1993.
"The greatest Bronc of all time." Lucious "Big Jack" Jackson led Pan American College to the 1963 NAIA championship in basketball and is the only Bronc athlete who has had his jersey number 54 retired across all sports. His list of accomplishments is long, full of championships and gold medals. In 1963, his team won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Brazil. One year later, during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he played on the team which beat the Russians to win the gold medal for men's basketball. He was quick to be recruited to professional basketball in 1964 as the 4th overall NBA draft pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team, and in 1965, named as the NBA Rookie of the Year. In 1967, he helped the Philadelphia 76ers win the NBA Championship. He played on the NBA All-Star Team and was later chosen for the NBA's list of "50 Greatest Players of All Time." In 2007, The University of Texas-Pan American honored Jackson in the inaugural Broncs Athletics Hall of Fame.
The first Africans to land on the shores of South Texas were most likely from a shipwrecked slave ship. Early Spanish explorers and settlers in Nuevo Santander (1747-) reported on a tribe they called Negros or a black tribe near the mouth of the Rio Grande. Their presence is recorded in both Matamoros and Reynosa histories primarily in relation to the Spanish missions. The Negros were reported as being peaceful, sometimes camping near Spanish ranches and visiting the missions, but with a single incident of having stolen cattle from Spanish settlements farther up the Rio Grande. They were said to have been proficient with both bow and arrow, and, unusual for the area, they were also very dexterous with spears. In 1798 a report stated that there were Negros east of old Reynosa with 95 men, 35 women (probably Indian wives), 8 boys, and 6 girls. A later report from the Matamoros parish reported 7 men, 1 boy, 8 girls, and 6 unclassified females. By 1810 there were no more reports of Negros. It is most likely that originally only males had been shipwrecked, and as they intermarried, they absorbed into the larger community.
Imagine a new college begun just two years before the Black Tuesday crash that heralded the start of the Great Depression (October 29, 1929). Parents want to send their children to college, and students want to come, but money is tight, and even though tuition is low ($47.00 per semester) it may be tough to pay for a full load of classes. Now imagine that same college must also pay faculty and staff salaries, books must be bought for the library, and supplies for classrooms and labs. This college is officially associated with the city of Edinburg, but demand from the surrounding cities is great. The only other place to get a college education is in Brownsville in the days when maximum speed limits were 45 mph. Current President R. P. Ward of Edinburg College, searched for ways to increase funding, and in 1933 he discovered that if the word 'Junior' was added to the name that the college would be eligible for additional state funds. Thus, Edinburg Junior College was formed. The name changed, but little else did. The logo remained the same, and of course, so did the excellent education provided by the college.
President R. P. Ward began working for the Edinburg Independent School District as a high school and junior high school principal in 1923, and despite a few years absence, stayed until he resigned from Pan American College in 1959, 36 years later. During his years of service, Ward saw the expansion of the college from 196 students enrolled in 1927 to 1,823 students in 1959. He was involved in the three earliest name changes, from Edinburg College (1927-1933) to Edinburg Junior College (1933-1848) which allowed the college to apply for state funds available for junior colleges. The name change to Edinburg Regional College (1948-1952) enabled the college to establish a separate tax base and funding district, and Pan American College (1952-1971) first recognized the regional and international focus of our institution. Ward oversaw the expansion of multiple buildings on the old campus (currently the location of the Edinburg Independent School District Administration Offices), and the acquisition of the West campus (the site of our current campus). He led the college during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and during the Second World War, including taking two years off so that he personally could serve in the military. Ward was well-liked and respected by college students, faculty, and staff, and the broader community.
Edinburg Junior College, like many others in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the United States, participated in the war effort. Faculty and students alike left the college to serve their country. In 1944 and 1945 there were only female graduates, and the total student enrollment dipped to a low of 122 students in 1943-44 from a previous high enrollment of 290 students during 1940-41. Faculty and students who remained participated in rationing and civic service. Sophomores could train as pilots through a Civil Aeronautics Administration project. By 1940, the college had trained 10 sophomores as pilots, and additional pilots graduated each year as the program continued.
Edinburg College 1927-1933
Edinburg College was established in 1927 as a two-year community college closely tied to the Edinburg school district. The Ford Model T was the most popular car at that time, although railroads were still a very popular method of transportation in an era when few roads were paved. The City of Edinburg was billed as the "Gateway to the Valley," and Edinburg College was called the "Gateway to College Education." The first school leaders felt the need to explain the reasons for creating a new college district in the college catalog, saying that it was built to serve students residing in the 850 square miles in the Edinburg School District, and 13 small cities 8 to 30 miles from Edinburg (in those days, 20 to 60 minutes by motor car). There were approximately 500 high school graduates each year, and the only other alternatives for higher education included South Texas Teachers' College in Kingsville, and the Junior College of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville. The College Division was open to the general public, and included evening classes held in nearby towns. Nonresidents of the district paid tuition. Residents paid matriculation and special fees only.
H. U. Miles, Edinburg College President, 1930-1931
In the summer of 1930, H. U. Miles, who then served as the Dean of Faculty and Director of the College, took an interim role as the Superintendent of Schools and President of the College after H. C. Baker resigned from his dual positions on August 5, 1930. There were approximately 150 students enrolled and 23 graduates that year. Total costs averaged around $45.00 per semester, with an average tuition for classes including $30.00, matriculation fees for $10.00, a library fee for $2.50, and a "loss and breakage" fee for $2.50. When Miles assumed the presidency, Edinburg College had already been recognized by the State Department of Education and by the Association of Texas Colleges as a Junior college of the First Class for "meeting all the requirements for a standard junior college and ... advanced far beyond the minimum requirements in all particulars." Edinburg College was then a member of the Association of Texas Colleges and the American Association of Junior Colleges, however, Miles recognized the importance of accreditation and worked to conform to the standards of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States (now Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which accredits our University today).
Carl Seale - Composer, Conductor, Professor of Music, 1936 - 2014
On September 10, 2014, the UTPA community was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Carl Seale, Professor Emeritus of Music at UTPA. Dr. Seale taught in the music department at UTPA, and was a strong advocate for music at the University and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley community. Seale is also widely recognized for his role in expanding the Pan American Orchestra into the Valley Symphony Orchestra, and helping to found the South Texas Symphony Association. An accomplished composer and conductor, as well as an educator, Seale’s wide-range of compositions includes music for band, orchestra, chorus, ballets, operas, and chamber music. The University Library Special Collections department is home to a substantial collection, of his compositions and recordings, which is open for research. The Library is also fortunate to have the poetry and stories of Jan Seale, his wife, and 2012 Texas Poet Laureate.
Will George Van Vleck
There are currently discussions within the University and the city to rename the portion of Van Week Street along the University after President Robert Nelsen. People may be asking how Van Week was named. In 1908 when Edinburg was built in its current location, the founders named many of the streets after Southern Pacific Railroad executives in the hope that they would build a railroad from Edinburg north to eventually connect with Falfurrias and other cities. Will George Van Vleck, as shown in the portrait, was one of those executives. He was born in New York in 1857. Since the age of 17, he worked for railway companies, including the Southern Pacific where he became a Second Vice President and General Manager of the Southern Pacific Lines in Texas and Louisiana. Van Vleck, who never lived in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, died in Houston in 1911. The street name Van Vleck was later simplified to Van Week. The street we now know as University Drive was also named after another Railroad Executive, Edward Harry Harriman, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad. As Pan American grew in size and importance, the town of Edinburg decided to rename the street to honor the importance of higher education in Edinburg.
The Broncs, Go Green and White!
The time has come in our institution's history to choose a new mascot and colors for the UT-Rio Grande Valley. A bucking bronc has been part of our institution from the beginning. Bronc football, baseball, and basketball teams led victories on the athletic field, and Bronkettes led students in cheering and school spirit. Bronco Days were celebrated, complete with rodeos. The Bronc was chosen as the school's mascot to serve as a reflection of the strong ranching community in the area. In 1952, Green and White were chosen as our colors as the college grew in scope and interest from a regional junior college to one with an international, or 'Pan-American' focus and Pan American College became a reality. Green was chosen to represent citrus, which was a large part of the economy and daily life in the region. White was chosen to represent cotton, another vital part of the region. When Pan American University joined with the University of Texas System in 1989, UT's orange was added. (Irene Atwood, Atwood Acres: a Porción of Edinburg).
Tribute to President Nelsen
Dr. Nelsen has been a familiar presence on campus and in the community. He attends athletic events with the students, greets staff on the walkways, promotes faculty excellence, and volunteers in the community. There are many stories that have been written in the newspapers about Dr. Nelsen. The UTPA Library Archives wants to hear from you! Help us collect the history of this popular president. Email email@example.com or stop by Special Collections and let us know your stories.
Astronomy on campus
The college observatory was the first building on the current Edinburg, or West Campus. It was built in 1956 to house Professor Paul R. Engle's 17 inch reflecting telescope. In 1962 the first Astronomy course was offered. The Astro-Science program expanded in the 60s to include a new Planetarium built in 1963, and work with the astronautics laboratory, rocket range, and astronomical instruments at Moore Air Base north of Mission. The Bachelor Degree Program in Astronomy at Pan American University was discontinued in May, 1973.
Hidalgo County Courthouses
Designs for a new 10 story courthouse have been submitted and approved by the Hidalgo County commissioners, although it has not yet been funded. When it is built, this will be the sixth courthouse in Hidalgo County. The first photograph shows the second courthouse built in 1886 in the town of Hidalgo. Our county population in 1880 was 4,347. The third courthouse built, and the first in the town of Edinburg, was a temporary barn-style wooden building when the county seat moved in 1908. The fourth courthouse (second photograph) was an elegant Spanish style building completed two years later in 1910. The county population at that time was 13,728. In 1954 after the county population had grown to over 160,440 the fifth and current courthouse was built. Our current county population is estimated at 815,996 and Hidalgo County has once again outgrown its courthouse. More information about Hidalgo County and its courthouses may be found in the Library Special Collections Room 1.104 (just past the Circulation Desk on the left).
Medical School in the Valley
Forty years ago, before Pan American University joined with the University of Texas System, a bill was introduced in March 1975 by Congressman Ruben Torres of Brownsville and Senator Raul Longoria of Pharr to establish a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The bill was for the establishment of a medical branch of the University of Texas System to be known as The University of Texas Medical School of the Rio Grande Valley. The bill was later changed to create a medical school through Texas Women’s University with a campus in Fort Worth, and another campus in the Valley. The dream ended two years later in March 1977 when the Texas Coordinating Board for Colleges and Universities rejected the proposal.
History of Presidents
In May 2014 Dr. Guy Bailey was appointed as the first President of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. As UTPA prepares to transition to UTRGV and start another exciting new chapter in its history, we thought we would take a brief look at our school’s past leaders. Edinburg College was founded as a two-year college in 1927, the first campus was located on the Edinburg High School Campus. The first President of Edinburg College, H. C. Baker, served as both the Superintendent of Schools for the Edinburg School District, as well as the President of the College. In addition to Baker, the campus has been served by eight other presidents including:
On the Road
Before you hit the road this summer, come check out everything we have on travel, roads, trains, maps, and things to do in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Did you ever wonder when Business 83 was built? Come see our archival Hidalgo County records including a petition signed in March 1908 requesting a public road parallel with St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexican Railway from Mamie station via McAllen, Ebeneezer, Donna to Mercedes. Don’t recognize the towns of Mamie and Ebeneezer? We also have archival maps! More information may be found in the Library Special Collections Room 1.104 (just past the Circulation Desk on the left).
Cascarones are a uniquely southern Texas and northern Mexico tradition. Eggs were used as a symbol of spring, new life, and birth in many early civilizations. Early Christians associated eggs with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent, and any eggs laid during that time were hard boiled to help preserve them. They were then eaten as a special treat after Lent. Easter traditions throughout the northern regions of Europe and America center around dyed and colored hard boil eggs. The eggs were hard boiled and colored before Easter, hidden, and then enjoyed by the family after the Easter egg hunt. The cascaron (egg shell) is a southern European tradition originally brought from China by Marco Polo. It became popular in Italy, Spain, and France and finally introduced to Mexico. Originally cascarones were filled with perfumes or scented powders. Filling the cascarones with confetti is a uniquely Mexican tradition. More information about cascarones and other traditions may be found in the Library Special Collections Room 1.104 (just past the Circulation Desk on the left).
The Republic of the Rio Grande
In January, 1840 the short-lived, and little-known Republic of the Rio Grande was formed. This was a time when Mexico had recently gained her independence, and Texas had formed its own republic. Texas had not yet been annexed by the United States and the Republic’s southern boundary was still under dispute, some claiming it should be the Rio Grande, and others claiming it should be the Nueces River. The U.S. – Mexican boundary would not be set for another eight years after the Mexican American War and Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
In Mexico, there was a struggle between Centralists who believed the power should be centralized in Mexico City, and Federalists who believed far-flung areas, such as the northern states along the Rio Grande, should retain more power and control over their lands and people. Federalists met in Laredo in January, proclaimed the Republic of the Rio Grande by constitutional convention, named Laredo as its capitol, and claimed the areas of Tamaulipas and Coahuila north to the Nueces and Medina rivers, respectively, Nuevo León, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, and New Mexico.
The leaders of the Republic of Rio Grande traveled to San Antonio, Houston, and Austin seeking support as they fought against Mexican Centralists at Morales and Saltillo in Coahuila to Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas. Early in November, 1840, Antonio Canales, one of the major leaders of the Republic of the Rio Grande, capitulated to Centralists at Camargo, Mexico. The dream of the Republic of the Rio Grande died, just 10 short months after its inception.
La Lomita and the mystery of Father Keralum, “the Martyr of Hidalgo County”
One hundred forty-one years ago, in November 1872, Father Pierre Yves Kéralum (1817–1872?) of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate rode out on his horse to complete his circuit of ranches to perform religious services. In 1872, people and ranches were far between, and towns and churches were even more distant. Priests rode the circuit a few times a year in order to provide services to those ranches where there were otherwise few options for baptisms, marriages, catechisms, and sermons. Father Kéralum made it to his first destination, the Tampacuas Ranch north of Mercedes, but never arrived at Las Piedras Ranch which was only 18 miles distant. Despite intensive searches at the time Father Kéralum was not found until 10 years later in November 1882 when his bones were found in the brush lying next to his Holy Chalice, his watch, and his golden cross.
La Lomita Chapel was built by the Fathers of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to aid in their travels throughout the harsh country amongst the wide-spread ranches of the Rio Grande Valley. The lands for La Lomita were willed to the Oblate priests Pierre F. Parisot and Pierre Y. Kéralum by René Guyard, a French merchant from Reynosa. The town of Mission is named in honor of La Lomita Mission. La Lomita ("little hill") served as a way-station between two of the biggest towns north of the river at the time: Brownsville and Roma, and served as a central location for the sixty-five or so ranches in Hidalgo County. St. Peter’s Novitiate, a large three-story brick building, was built nearby on top of the hill. In 1975, La Lomita was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. La Lomita is located off Farm Road 1016 near the Rio Grande five miles south of Mission. More information about Father Kéralum and La Lomita may be found in the Library Special Collections Room 1.104 (just past the Circulation Desk on the left).
National American Indian & Alaskan Native Heritage Month
The first American Indians lived in this region hundreds of years before the first European walked along the Rio Grande. Unfortunately little is known about the original inhabitants; they did not leave histories of their tribes, and the Spanish had little interest in keeping complete and accurate records of tribes, customs, or languages. Archaeological explorations and artifacts such as arrowheads have helped to build a better picture of the first inhabitants, yet there is still much more we can learn. There were originally two primary groups of tribes in this region. The Karankawas lived along the Gulf Coast, and a loosely-named collection of tribes called the Coahuiltecans lived in what is now southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. During the 1700s, Europeans expanded into Indian territories from the North and from the South, displacing tribes such as the Comanches, who then displaced other tribes such as the Lipan Apaches.
Today Lipan Apache Indians and other regional tribes are still active, attending meetings and holding Powwows. More information about Native Americans in the Lower Rio Grande Valley may be found in the Library Special Collections Room 1.104 (just past the Circulation Desk on the left).
On October 15, 1990 Africanized Honey Bees, commonly termed Killer Bees, were first sighted near the city of Hidalgo, Texas. In 1992, Mayor John David Franz of Hidalgo unveiled a 10 foot tall statue of a killer bee. Visit the city of Hidalgo to see the Killer Bee, and while you are there, visit the old county courthouse and jail, built in 1886, and the Hidalgo Pump House Museum. More information about Killer Bees and things to do and see in the Lower Rio Grande Valley may be found in the Library Special Collections.