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Martin Donell Kohout

BENAVIDES, TEXAS. Benavides is at the intersection of State highways 339 and 359 and Farm Road 2295, on Las Animas Creek and the Texas Mexican Railway eighteen miles southwest of San Diego in Duval County. It is the third most populous town in the county. The community is named after Plácido Benavides, whose uncle, also named Plácido Benavides, was called by one writer "the 'Paul Revere' of South Texas." The younger Plácido Benavides was a Confederate Army veteran, who in the 1870s built his Rancho Palo Alto into one of the biggest ranches in Duval County. In 1880 the county asked his permission to locate a railroad depot on his property. He agreed and then in 1881 donated eighty acres to the community that was growing up around the railroad station. A post office was established in Benavides in 1881 with Jacob William Toklas as postmaster. By far the most significant event of the decade, however, was the arrival in 1882 of a twenty-two-year-old former ranchhand and schoolteacher named Archer Parr, who later became the boss of Duval County and founded the most notorious political dynasty in Texas (see BOSS RULE).

By 1884 only San Diego had more than Benavides's estimated 300 residents among Duval County towns, and Benavides had a church, a school, two groceries, two meat markets, and one saloon. A number of the town's leading citizens were of Mexican-American descent. In addition to Plácido Benavides and his brother Isidro, who were among the first to plant cotton in Duval County, these included horse breeder Daniel Gonzales, cotton planter Don Vicente Vera, and Francisco Carrillo, principal of the Spanish Academy, who spoke six languages and also worked as a court interpreter.

The town grew to an estimated 500 inhabitants during the 1890s, and 110 pupils attended the Benavides school during the 1906–07 school year. By 1914, when Parr sought unsuccessfully to increase the patronage and tax revenues at his disposal by establishing a new county, Pat Dunn County, with Benavides as its seat, the town had six general stores, two grocers, a cotton gin, a lumber company, and telephone service. The estimated population had dropped to 250 but by the mid-1920s had risen to 1,897. A bank was established by 1928, and in the early 1930s, when the estimated population was 1,200, Benavides had thirty-five businesses. By the late 1930s and early 1940s the town had grown to an estimated population of 3,081, fueled by proximity to many of Duval County's most productive oilfields; among the town's eighty businesses were a branch of the Southern Alkali Corporation, which produced salt; the J. C. Products Manufacturing Company, which made perfume and cosmetics; and the Duval Gasoline Company.

In 1950 the town's sixty-three retail and ten service establishments had a combined $2,084,000 in sales. The estimated population had already begun a gradual decline that lasted for the next three decades, however, dropping to 3,016 in the mid-1950s, 2,250 in the mid-1960s, and 1,897 in the late 1970s, with an accompanying drop in business activity. In the early 1980s the population began to rise again, and by the latter part of the decade had reached an estimated 2,005. In 1990 it dropped to 1,788 and in 2000 to 1,686.

Arnoldo De León, Benavides: The Town and Its Founder, 1880 (Benavides, Texas: Benavides City Council-Benavides Centennial Committee, 1980). Arnoldo De León, A Social History of Mexican Americans in Nineteenth Century Duval County (San Diego, Texas: Duval County Commissioners Court, n.d.). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Martin Donell Kohout, "BENAVIDES, TX," accessed June 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/HJB04.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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