Ruben E. Ochoa

FRIO TOWN, TEXAS. Frio Town, originally known as Frio City, was a frontier community off Farm Road 140 immediately south of the Presidio Crossing of the Frio River, sixteen miles northwest of Pearsall in northwest Frio County. The Presidio Crossing, on the Old San Antonio Road, was so named because numerous cannonballs, swords, and sabers were found there. Juan de Ugalde in the eighteenth century, Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1836, and Adrián Woll in 1842 are thought to have used the crossing.

The town was laid out by A. L. Odin in 1871. The first mail was delivered to the community on horseback from Benton City; later it arrived from San Antonio by stage. Frio City became the first county seat of Frio County in 1871. Builder L. J. W. Edwards used cypress shingles carted from Leakey to complete the first courthouse in January 1872. The same year a stone jail was constructed; in time it housed such famous personages as Sam Bassqv, Jesse and Frank James, and William Sydney Porter. The high cost of obtaining building materials from outside led to the establishment of a cypress-shingle mill, brick factory, and limekiln in the community.

A Frio City post office was established in 1872 with James McClain Elledge as the first postmaster. Levi J. W. Edwards was the first merchant. The county's first school was in a private home. A local Masonic lodge was established during the 1870s. The courthouse burned in 1877, and a new two-story native stone building was constructed with the financial assistance of local resident W. J. Slaughter; it reportedly had an ornate walnut staircase. Comanche Indian raids in the mid-1870s triggered a call for the Texas Rangersqv and caused many frightened settlers to seek refuge in town. The last Indian foray in the area occurred during the spring of 1877.

Frio City was a "cowboy capital" and outpost cultural center during the 1870s. Estimates of its population in the early 1880s reach as high as 1,500. Evangelists John Wesley DeVilbiss and Andrew Jackson Potter preached in the area; the Rio Grande Baptist Association was organized at the courthouse in 1880. That year the International-Great Northern Railroad was extended through Frio County and missed Frio City. In the summer of 1881 Pearsall was established on the route, after which a general exodus from Frio City to Pearsall ensued. In 1883 Pearsall became the county seat, and in 1886 the name Frio City was changed to Frio Town. The courthouse was purchased in 1884 by W. Yancey Kilgore. It subsequently housed a general store, the post office, and in 1884 Frio Academy.

By 1890 the population was estimated at 100. In 1906 seventeen pupils attended the two-teacher Frio Academy. By 1914 Frio Town had telephone connections, a general store, and six cattle breeders. In 1929 the community comprised the school and five dwellings. The old courthouse was the site of the Rio Grande Baptist Association's fiftieth anniversary celebration in June 1930. By 1953 Mrs. A. C. Roberts owned most of the structures of the generally abandoned townsite, including the courthouse and roofless jailhouse. The population of Frio Town remained constant at an estimated twenty throughout the 1960s and increased to forty-nine in 1969. By 1990 all that remained was the Frio Town Cemetery on Farm Road 140 and the largely intact remains of the original courthouse and jail on the Roberts Ranch.

Mrs. W. A. Roberts, "Frio County Has a Colorful History," Frontier Times, June 1936. Frances Cox Wood, Using the Social and Historical Heritage of Pearsall, Texas, in Teaching Fourth Grade Children (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State Teachers College, 1953).

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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, Ruben E. Ochoa, "FRIO TOWN, TX," accessed April 21, 2019,

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