BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The El Jardín colony is a subject that is almost lost in time. This particular track out of the Espíritu Santo Grant was bought by Mifflin Kennedy back in the mid-1880s. In 1887 he made a pact with his wife. Her inheritance was 22,000 acres out of the Espíritu Santo Grant. She was given $60,000 in cash and that was her inheritance. Now what she did with that land was very interesting. She cut it in half; 11,000 acres to her daughter Lily who married Frank Rabb and the other half to the Stark Family.
When Maria Stark had this house built, the river was in full view. Hence you have that big observation peak on the top of the house. They could look out and see the river boats coming up and down the river. Frank Rabb took over the El Jardín colony and started ranching and farming 11,000 acres with an additional 8, 000 acres near Santa Maria called the Santa Maria plantation. That colony started flourishing after the first World War. They brought in potential buyers from the Midwest, Oklahoma, Arkansas and they brought them down in what you would call a dog and pony show. They literally had little buses that they would go out in to the farmland and they would sell them. They would say ‘look at the black land!’ because the farmers out in the Midwest had not seen that black turf and it just excited them.
All the way up the Rio Grande Valley you had this scurry for land dealing, development and planning across, whether it would be citrus or cabbage or whatever and the fortunes were made and turned over many, many times during that period going on up into the great depression in 1929. El Jardín was a colony that was literally by itself. The old folks and I had spoken to said that they did not really know that much about Brownsville because they had their own colony out here.
They had a school that was built and all kinds of public houses that were congregating the various investors. Some of them were in the realm of about 1,000 acres. The El Jardín colony had a society of its own. They had a self-subsistence. They grew all their own crops and they sold them and bartered them between themselves and had a very robust economy. El Jardin’s story is now gone but there are very few people, like the old-timers who can tell you what it was like out here and the camaraderie that they had with the families of this area.