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El Paso City

El Paso City Hall is located at 300 N. Campbell Street, El Paso, TX 79901; phone: 915-541-4000.

El Paso as described in 1940 [1]

The city's international tone is evident everywhere; on the streets, which bear English and Spanish names, and where fluent Spanish is spoken by Texans as well as Mexicans; in the schools, which face the problem of teaching more than 900 children who daily cross the bridge from Juarez by special arrangement with immigration authorities; in such segregated districts as Chihuahuita, where the sights and sounds, manners and folkways of Mexico are found. The river, which before the completion of the Rio Grande Rectification Project had a tendency to change its course at will, has fostered the mixing of nationalities by cutting off large slices from Mexico and putting them in Texas in return for Texas lands transferred to Mexico.

When Cabeza de Vaca was in the vicinity of the present-day city of El Paso, in 1536, he visited Indian pueblos along the Rio Grande, and wrote the earliest description of the people who then lived here: "They have the finest persons of any people we saw, of the greatest activity and strength, who best understood us and intelligently answered our inquiries. We called them the cow nation, because most of the cattle (buffaloes) are killed and slaughtered in their neighborhood, and along up that river for over fifty leagues they destroy great numbers." Fray Agustin Rodriguez had come into this region in 1581, headed northward; Antonio de Espejo arrived the following year. In 1598 came Juan de Onate, who alone of the early explorers took formal possession, proclaiming the country the property of King Philip II of Spain. He reached the crossing of the Rio Grande on May 4, 1598, and named it El Paso del Norte, "the Pass of the North."

Missionary efforts to convert the Mansos resulted, by 1659, in the establishment of Mission Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, in present Ciudad Juarez. Other mission settlements sprang up on both sides of the river, about 1680, when the Pueblos of New Mexico turned on the Spanish colonists, who fled to the Rio Grande. El Paso del Norte became the seat of government for northern Mexico and a base of operations for attempted re-conquest of the Pueblos in 1681, but not until 1827 was settlement made in present El Paso, that community growing around the ranch house of Juan Maria Ponce de Leon.

El Paso del Norte knew little of the Texas Revolution, remaining a thoroughly Mexican town long after Texas became a republic. Prairie schooners were venturing across the Rocky Mountains to California and Oregon, and across the deserts to Sante Fe before Anglo-Americans began trickling toward the mountain pass, attracted by trade with Chihuahua and Sonora. James Wiley Magoffin, a Kentuckian, came down the" Santa Fe Trail in the early forties and built a home on the north side of the river; the settlement that sprang up around it was called Magoffinsville.

The Civil War came to El Paso with the surrender of the Federal garrison at Fort Bliss, March 31, 1861. Texas troops occupied Fort Bliss, July 14, 1861, and on July 23, Colonel John Baylor moved north up the valley against the Federals in New Mexico. By August I he had accomplished his mission and returned to the El Paso region to establish headquarters at Mesilla. Brigadier General H. H. Sibley reinforced Baylor in December of 1861 and took over command of the column, which was designated as the Army of New Mexico. Sibley made his headquarters at Fort Bliss. After an ineffectual campaign to conquer New Mexico, he withdrew to San Antonio about the middle of July, 1862. Federal troops occupied Fort Bliss on August 18. From that time until the close of the war the Federals remained in undisputed control of the Middle Valley of the Rio Grande.

El Paso was incorporated in 1873 when the population consisted of 23 Anglo-Americans and 150 Mexicans. Benjamin S. Dowell, who ran a saloon as a side line, was its first mayor. "Don Benito," as he was called, found his hands full when he attempted to make the settlement a city. The first city ordinance made it "... a misdemeanor for any person to bathe in any acequias in this city ... or to drive any herds of sheep ... or other animals into any acequia ..."

  1. Works Projects Administration, Federal Works Agency, Federal Writers' Program, Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State, American Guide Series, Texas State Highway Commission, 1940.
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