Grace Edman

SANTA RITA, TEXAS. Santa Rita was on the Rio Grande five miles west of Brownsville in what is now Cameron County. It was possibly the earliest town that was named by English-speaking people in that area, and was the first seat of government in the county. In the late 1700s the land on the south bank of the river was claimed by José Narciso Cavazos of Reynosa, who called it Santa Rita, and by José Salvador de la Garza, who received the Espíritu Santo land grant. The land eventually became a ranch belonging to a descendant of the two. A community had developed there before the establishment of Matamoros in 1826. About 1830 the river changed course, and the tract was then located north of the stream. In 1834 the Mexican government granted to John Stryker the banco de Santa Rita. When Gen. Zachary Taylor's troops occupied Matamoros, other United States residents crossed to the Stryker place. The Texas legislative act that established Cameron County was approved in February 1848, and Santa Rita became the county seat. An election of officers was held on August 7 of that year, but organization was not completed until September 11. In December 1848 Brownsville was voted county seat of the area, and some of the homeowners in Santa Rita put their buildings on wheels and rolled them to the winning townsite. By the 1930s nothing remained of Santa Rita. During the early 1990s all that remained in the area was the colonia Villa Nueva (South).

Brownsville Herald, May 10, 1936. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas Collection, January 1945.

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, Grace Edman, "SANTA RITA, TX," accessed August 21, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 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!

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox