RICARDO, TEXAS. Ricardo, on U.S. Highway 77 six miles south of Kingsville in Kleberg County, began as a railroad siding on the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway. In 1908 Robert Kleberg, Sr., manager of the King Ranch, asked the railroad to build a depot at the site. The station was given the name Richard, which was later changed to the Spanish form, Ricardo. The land around Ricardo, part of 63,000 acres put up for sale by the King Ranch when the railroad was built, was all sold by 1917. Cotton was the main crop of the first settlers in the Ricardo area. Their major problem was getting their seed cotton to the nearest gin in Kingsville, six or eight miles away, over ungraded roads. Despite this difficulty the production of cotton grew rapidly, and by 1915 the size of the crop made it profitable for J. O. Newton to establish a gin in Ricardo. By 1931 15,000 acres of cotton was planted around Ricardo.
Dairying also became an important source of income for the farm families. Beginning in 1913 farmers bought Jersey cows and began selling milk and cream to the Dairy Products Company in Kingsville. The number of dairy cows increased in the 1920s, and by 1930 there was hardly a farm without a herd of high-grade dairy cows. The growing of vegetables developed slowly, but by 1930 several carloads of cabbage, beets, and onions were being produced annually. Farmers also earned money from the sale of eggs. In 1912 a general mercantile store was opened, and the following year a grocery and meat market was added. By 1920 Ricardo had around eight stores. Local businesses experienced a setback in the 1920s, when farmers acquired automobiles and began driving to Kingsville to shop.
As settlers moved to the area, an independent school district was formed. In 1913 a schoolhouse was erected, and two teachers were employed. As the years passed and the population grew, the school expanded. Electricity came to the community in 1941, reducing labor by the use of machinery. In time dairying became unprofitable, and the cows were sold. In addition, the poultry industry and vegetable growing ceased to be important. In the late 1980s cotton continued to be the principal crop around Ricardo, but grain sorghum was also significant. The Kleberg County Farmers' Coop, established in 1944, operated a grain elevator and cotton gin, as well as a store carrying farm supplies. The public school offered prekindergarten through the eighth grade and enrolled 500 students. The Ricardo area had a population of 300, many of whom commuted to jobs in nearby towns. In 1990 the population of Ricardo was 120. In 2000 the population reached 1,641.
Sterling Bass, History of Kleberg County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1931). Kleberg County Historical Commission, Kleberg County, Texas (Austin: Hart Graphics, 1979).