Nancy Hamilton

FRONTERA, TEXAS. Frontera, eight miles northwest of downtown El Paso, was established in 1848 by T. Frank White, the first Anglo-American trader of record in the area. The site was on the east bank of the Rio Grande near Mule (now Cristo Rey) Mountain and was a popular point for fording the river. Since the Rio Grande had become the international boundary, White became proprietor of the first customhouse at the new border crossing. Frontera was on both the Chihuahua-Santa Fe trail and the road west to California.

John R. Bartlett, United States commissioner for the United States-Mexico Boundary Commission, obtained a lease from White and built an observatory at Frontera in 1851 to collect data for his boundary survey. William H. Emory's boundary survey report (1857–59) also described Frontera. White left about 1850, and the trading post was operated by his brother Charles until 1855, when the ranch was purchased by Henry L. Dexter, who became El Paso county judge in 1856. The site was abandoned not long afterward because of constant Indian raids and lack of military protection. Frontera is shown on maps of the 1850s and 1860s, among them Randolph B. Marcy's map for the War Department (1849–52) and the Butterfield Overland Mail route maps (1858–69). The site of Frontera is near the present intersection of Sunland Park and Doniphan drives and is crossed by the Santa Fe Railroad track and paved roads.

John Russell Bartlett, Personal Narrative of Explorations...Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission (New York: Appleton, 1854; rpt., Chicago: Rio Grande Press, 1965). William Hemsley Emory, Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey (2 vols., Washington: Nicholson, 1857, 1859; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1987). Jeannie Marie Hamilton, "The Frontera Settlement," Password, Summer 1985. W. H. Timmons, "American El Paso: The Formative Years, 1848–1854," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 87 (July 1983). W. H. Timmons, ed., Four Centuries at the Pass (El Paso: Guynes Printing, 1980).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Nancy Hamilton, "FRONTERA, TX," accessed October 14, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas AlmanacFor more information about towns and counties including physical features, statistics, weather, maps and much more, visit the Town Database on!
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...