Family History
Time Capsule



She owned more than a million acres of land in the lower Rio Grande Valley

Rosa Hinojosa de Ballí, a rancher known as La Patrona and the first "cattle queen" of Texas, was born in 1752 in what is now Tamaulipas, Mexico. She was the sixth of the nine children of Capt. Juan José de Hinojosa and María Antonia Inés Ballí de Benavides, Spanish aristocrats whose status as Primitive Settlers gave them priority rights to extensive land grants and public offices. The family moved to Reynosa in 1767, after Hinojosa was appointed alcalde, and joined the elite group of wealthy families who controlled the jurisdiction. Rosa María was educated in Reynosa, probably by the parish priest. She married José María Ballí, a captain of the militia; one of their three sons was José Nicolás Ballí, missionary developer of Padre Island.

Captain Ballí and his father-in-law applied jointly for a large land grant in the La Feria tract, but both men had died by the time the grant was approved in 1790. Ballí's will specified that Rosa María was to inherit his share of twelve leagues (55,000 acres). When Doña Rosa took over the estate it was heavily encumbered with debts; by the time of her death thirteen years later, she had doubled the property and made extensive improvements to the La Feria grant. Skillfully and deliberately, she built up her landholdings. In the name of her brother Vicente she financed an application for thirty-five leagues of land in the Las Mesteñas tract. When the grant was approved, Vicente transferred title of twelve leagues to her, and she named the property Ojo del Agua. The city of Harlingen is situated on it today. She applied in the name of her son Juan José for seventy-two leagues in the San Salvador del Tule grant and bought the Las Casteñas tract from the original grantees for her son José María . She made a joint application with her son Padre Nicolás , who eventually became her business associate, for eleven leagues of what is now Padre Island. When reapplication was required in 1800, Doña Rosa withdrew her name in favor of her grandson.

She oversaw her lands from her La Feria ranch headquarters, La Florida, in what is now Cameron County. She amassed large herds of cattle, horses, sheep, and goats, and her ranches were territorial landmarks. Doña Rosa was perhaps the most influential woman of her time and place. She took full advantage of the opportunities that only widows could enjoy in Spanish society. Devoutly Catholic, she built and maintained a family chapel and endowed churches in Reynosa, Camargo , and Matamoros. At the time of her death in Reynosa in 1803, she owned more than a million acres of land in the lower Rio Grande valley, and her holdings extended into the territories of present-day Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, Starr, and Kenedy counties.

BIBLIOGRAPHY : Vidal Covián Martínez, Cuatro Estudios Históricos (Ciudad Victoria: Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, 1977). Minnie Gilbert, " Texas' First Cattle Queen," in Roots by the River (Mission, Texas: Border Kingdom, 1978). Florence J. Scott, Royal Land Grants North of the Rio Grande, 1777-1821 (Waco: Texian Press, 1969).

Clotilde P. García


BALLÍ, JOSÉ NICOLÁS (ca. 1770-1829)

Padre Island, Texas

José Nicolás Ballí, a secular Catholic priest, the oldest son of José María and Rosa María Hinojosa de Ballí, was born in Reynosa, Mexico, about 1770. His parents were both Spaniards. Padre Ballí was an original grantee of the Texas coastal island later named Padre Island in his honor. He led an active civic and religious life in South Texas and the state of Tamaulipas as a missionary, a rancher, a colonist, and an explorer. His parents, prominent settlers and landowners at Reynosa, Camargo , and Matamoros and in the lower Rio Grande valley, owned over a million acres of land in South Texas. His two brothers, Juan José and José María Ballí, were officers of the Militia of Provincial and Frontier Cavalry. Nicolás spent his childhood in the company of his two younger brothers in Reynosa and received his elementary education there. His parents sent him to the Conciliar Catholic Seminary in Monterrey to complete his secondary and ecclesiastical education. He was probably ordained in 1790 or 1791.

Ballí conducted religious services in all the villas and haciendas in the lower Rio Grande valley. He lived in Matamoros and was a secular priest in Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission from 1804 to 1829. In 1830 he began the construction of the present Church of Nuestra Señora del Refugio in Matamoros. Ballí became the official collector of building funds for the churches of the villas on the Rio Grande. He was well known in South Texas and officiated in more than 500 baptisms, marriages, and funerals between 1800 and 1829.

The properties that he owned in South Texas were the La Feria grant, the Las Castañas grant, part of the Llano Grande grant, the Guadalupe grant, and the Isla de Santiago grant, known as Padre Island. Padre Island had been granted to his grandfather, Nicolás Ballí, by King Carlos III of Spain in 1759, and Padre Ballí requested a clear title to the property in 1827. He was the first to have the island surveyed and was the first settler on the island who brought in families. He also built the first church on the island for the conversion of the Karankawa Indians and for the benefit of the settlers. Twenty-six miles north of the island's southern tip the priest founded El Rancho Santa Cruz de Buena Vista (later known as Lost City), where he kept cattle, horses, and mules.

Ballí died on April 16, 1829, and was buried near Matamoros. Title to the island was granted to him posthumously on December 15, 1829, issued jointly in the name of the padre and his nephew Juan José Ballí. The priest had requested that half of the island be given to his nephew, who had been helping him there. Juan José lived on the island from 1829 to his death in 1853.

BIBLIOGRAPHY : Vidal Covián Martínez, Cuatro Estudios Históricos (Ciudad Victoria: Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, 1977). Nueces County Historical Society, History of Nueces County (Austin: Jenkins, 1972). Florence J. Scott, Royal Land Grants North of the Rio Grande, 1777-1821 (Waco: Texian Press, 1969).

Clotilde P. García



McAllen , Texas

Salomé Ballí was born in Mexico in 1831 and lived in Cameron County, Texas. She was a descendant of one of the early owners of the Santa Anita land grant, which included the McAllen Ranch. In 1848 she married John Young; they expanded the ranch and had a son before John died in 1859. In 1860, at age twenty-nine, Salomé owned $100,000 in real property and $25,000 in personal property. At that time she was one of four individuals born in Mexico enumerated in a group of 263 "wealthy Texans." Some of her contemporaries in Cameron County included J. Cabaza, Juan N. Cabaza , Juan San Román , John V. Singer, and Charles Stillman.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967).

Alicia A. Garza



First Hispanic doctor to practice in McAllen, Texas

Carlos Ballí, physician, was born on November 23, 1889, in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. He studied in the Colegio civil in Monterrey, Nuevo León. His father was a poor shoemaker in Reynosa. Ballí moved to McAllen, Texas, to practice medicine in 1918; the Mexican Revolution and a severe epidemic of Spanish influenza were in progress. He had the support of doctors J. G. Harrison and Frank E. Osborn. He rode on horseback through high waters to attend the sick and the needy. After many nights without sleep, constant closing of schools, and interruptions by war, he was able to finish medical school and obtain his M.D. degree on September 2, 1918, in Mexico City. Two months later he took his medical examination in Austin, Texas, and passed with high honors. He settled in 1920 in McAllen, where he established a clinic and pharmacy on the corner of Seventeenth Street and Beaumont Avenue with the help of Victorino Garza Chapa. Ballí was the first Hispanic doctor to practice in McAllen. On April 18, 1921, he married Elenita García Cerón of Actopan , Hidalgo, Mexico . Elenita gave anesthesia to patients and also took X-rays. Ballí died on May 26, 1947, and was buried in the cemetery El Panteón del Roble .

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Octavio García, Otros Días (Westford, Massachusetts: Grey Home Press, 1984).

Herminia Ballí de Chavana



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