Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rio Grande City, Texas

Our second stop of the day Thursday was at another border town, Rio Grande City.  One of the oldest settlements in Texas, it was founded in 1746 by Jose de Escandon, a Spanish colonizer.  The town was once part of a ranching community.  During the 19th century the city had a active passenger and cargo shipping trade with New Orleans.  We came to the city primarily to see Fort Ringgold, which was established in 1848 as a border cavalry post by General Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War.  Driving into the historical area of the city we saw no signs pointing us to the fort, so we decided to get out of the car and walk. We soon found ourselves walking on a shady lane through a park-like area which covered several blocks.  Large concrete picnic benches and tables were located along that path.  The shade was appreciated as it had turned out to be quite a warm day with temperatures in the mid eighties.
This path ended at a Replica of the Lourdes Grotto Shrine.  It was build and dedicated in 1928 by a Oblate Father of the Mary Immaculate.  We decided to ask for help to find the fort.
The shrine was an unexpected surprise, as was our next stop.  We stopped at the Starr County Historical Foundation office building to learn the location of the fort, and that office building was located near the La Borde House, a luxurious, full-service hotel.  Built in 1899 it was once a traveler's way station for many years.  It was also once a trading post.
We did eventually find Fort Ringgold.  General Robert E. Lee served there in 1859 when he was sent to investigate a Mexican raid on Rio Grande City.  His house is still on the grounds of the fort and is pictured above.  During the Civil War Confederate Troops evacuated the fort when Union Troops anchored off the Texas coast.  In 1865 it was reoccupied due to hostilities with Mexico.  It was rebuilt in 1869, and occupation of it continued until 1944.  In 1947 the fort was turned over to the Rio Grande Consolidated Independent School District, who rehabilitated some of the buildings for classrooms and administrative offices.  It has not been very often when John and I have found original buildings of a fort still standing, so this was an interesting fort to explore.  We saw the fort's hospital building, commissary, and several of its barracks.  Most of those buildings, not in use by the school district, are badly in need of repair.  Before leaving the town we made some effort to find a wildlife refuge, which a local citizen encouraged us to visit.  While driving in the back streets of Rio Grande looking for that park we saw some very poor sections of the town. One time I glanced out my window and was surprised to see a calf hanging out on the back porch of a residence!   We asked a local policeman about the wildlife refuge and he showed us its location, however because of its close proximity to the border, he did not encourage us to visit it.  On that note we decided to head for home.

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