Wild Horse Desert Byway
WILD HORSE DESERT BYWAY
In the early 1800s, the seemingly endless open range filled with tall grass located in the heart of the Texas Tropical Trail Region was known as the “Wild Horse Desert”.
Large herds of mustangs ran wild in that desert of yesterday that today is filled with towns, highways, railways and fenced ranch land.
These herds are said to have drifted over the northern border of Mexico and others were left behind from 17th century Spanish expeditions. The number of horses in these herds was so great that early explorers wrote of having to hire guards to watch their horses and pack mules to keep them from running away with the herds.
The early cowboys and ranch hands perfected their skills in capturing and taming the mustangs by building makeshift corrals. The mustangs were eventually sold to ranchers, cowboys and soldiers including Ulysses S. Grant, future General and President, while he was camped on Corpus Christi Beach with Zachary Taylor’s Army.
By the end of the 1850s, the wild mustangs had been hunted to near extinction much like the buffalo.
Visit the King Ranch and Kenedy Ranch museums to experience the feel of the Wild Horse Desert of days gone by and to understand the influence of ranch life in today’s world.
Find out how the railroad played such an important part in the development of this Byway by visiting Kingsville’s Train Depot Museum and then experience the culinary heritage of Tex-Mex cooking by stopping by Hillcrest Tortilla Factory in Hebbronville.
Don’t miss the Don Pedrito Jaramillo Shrine in Falfurrias to learn about the importance of curanderos (folk healers) in the Mexican culture and make time to enjoy the flora and fauna of the Wild Horse Desert during a nature tour of the famed King Ranch.
As you drive through the over 6,000 square miles of the Wild Horse Desert, you will pass through few towns and find it easy to look out over the wide open spaces and imagine those thousands of wild mustangs running free in the untamed west of yesteryear.
BEN BOLT (Jim Wells County)
Ben Bolt was founded in 1904 by L. B. Collins. Influenced by the contemporary popular song, “Ben Bolt”, and the seven mile proximity to Alice, the name was inspired by the line, “Don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?” In 1914 the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway built a line through the town.
La Copita R&D (www.lacopitaranchtours.com), southwest of Alice, a Texas A&M University Demonstration and Research Ranch located at 3091 County Road 440 near Ben Bolt. David McKown, Ranch Manager, leads the ranch operations and educational programs aimed at helping Texas ranchers.
La Copita Ranch and the Texas Tropical Trail include a wide variety of local flora and fauna like the Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), previous page.
BISHOP (Nueces County)
Established by agriculture and F.Z. Bishop in 1910. Bishop acquired 2,300 acres along the railroad line and planned a model community surrounded by farm tracts complete with industrial and residential districts. By 1923 Bishop was known as the “Cotton Capital of the Coast”, followed in 1941 with the title of “Grain Mart of the Coastal Bend”. Bishop is home of the Wild Horse Desert Round-Up, an annual event featuring arts, crafts, games and food.
DRISCOLL (Nueces County)
When the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexican Railway built south from Robstown in 1904, landowner Robert Driscoll, Jr. named the town site for himself.
FALFURRIAS (Brooks County)
Falfurrias, county seat for Brooks County, was founded in the late 1890s by rancher Edward C. Lasater. San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway extended a line to his La Mota Ranch in 1904.
Brooks County Courthouse in Falfurrias, 100 E. Miller St., along the Chisholm Trail, bears the trail’s historic marker.
Falfurrias is the home of Don Pedrito Jaramillo, legendary faith healer of Los Olmos. Pedro (Don Pedrito) Jaramillo religious shrine, just outside of Falfurrias, commemorates the story of a young healer who came to the area in 1881.
415 N. St. Mary’s Street
HEBBRONVILLE (Jim Hogg County)
The town dates from 1883 when the Texas Mexican Railroad built a line through the area. Francisco Pena was the stationmaster at the stop known as Pena. He refused to sell a right-of-way to the railroad, so they loaded the station onto a flatcar and moved it to land owned by rancher James Hebbron. In 1913 Hebbronville became part of the newly established Jim Hogg County.
In 1921 the Scotus College, a Franciscan seminary moved from Mexico in 1926 to avoid persecution.
A big part of the culinary tourism in the Tropical Trail Region is the myriad of tortilla factories such as family owned and operated Hillcrest Tortillas in Hebbronville (above).
KINGSVILLE (Kleberg County)
Birthplace of American Ranching, home of the 825,000 acre King Ranch, Kingsville represents the heart of the Wild Horse Desert. Originating as a town on the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway, Kingsville is the county seat of Kleberg County.
Downtown Kingsville, next to the railroad tracks, 1904 Train Depot Museum will take you back in time to the founding days of Kingsville. The depot was inaugurated July 4, 1904.
102 Kleberg Avenue
Tour the historic King Ranch and see Mrs. King’s 1915 Carriage House and (above) the 1899 Main House.
PREMONT (Jim Wells County)
Premont was founded in 1908 by Charles Premont and Andres Canales who established a general store there. In 1914, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway added a stop in Premont.
RIVIERA (Kleberg County)
Riviera was founded in 1907 by Theodore Koch on land purchased from Henrietta King adjacent to the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway and named for the southern coast of France.
ROBSTOWN (Nueces County)
Real estate developer George Paul established Robstown in 1906 at the junction of the Texas Mexican and Brownsville and Mexican railroads and named it for Robert Driscoll. “Robstown, where cotton is king.”
George Paul offered the “Best Land in Texas” at his Land Office in Robstown. Robstown Area Historical Museum, tells the story of the “biggest little town in Texas”.
110 N. 4th Street
By appointment: (361)877-1724
SARITA (Kenedy County)
County seat of Kenedy County, Sarita is named after ranch owner Kenedy’s daughter, Sarita. Established in 1904, Sarita was a stop on the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway and served as headquarters for the Kenedy Ranch and Kenedy Pasture Company.
The 1927 Kenedy Pasture Company is home to the Kenedy Ranch Museum and the story of Mifflin Kenedy, his family and Richard King. Through his successful business ventures, Kenedy accumulated 400,000 acres of Gulf coast property. His wife, Petra Vela del Vidal, was of prominent Mexican heritage.
200 East La Parra Avenue