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Handbook of Texas Online

A Quick Pass Through El Paso History

The Texas State Historical Association is assembling in El Paso on March 3-5 for its 115th annual meeting. El Paso, in addition to being one of the fastest-growing cities in the state, also has some of the richest history in the state, going back to the Spanish explorations of the 1500s and the establishment of missions in the late 1600s. It seems fitting to focus our ninth TSHA quiz on the unique history of El Paso.

As with our prior eight TSHA contests, this is an open-book quiz, and we encourage you to consult our printed New Handbook of Texas or the Handbook of Texas Online, which has received well over 40 million page views since it was launched in 1999. You will also enjoy traveling through our recently launched TSHA Online site, which includes significantly broader and deeper information than the prior TSHA site, including an archive of the first twenty-one volumes of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. We will continue to add to this valuable resource in the months and years ahead.

Congratulations to Mary G. Ramos and Mark West, who submitted the only two 100-percent-correct entries to our last quiz (The Great State of Texas, Part II, which can be reviewed in our quiz archive). There were several school groups that achieved 90 percent scores. We are getting good participation from an increasing number of school groups, and hope that you will continue to spread the word.

Both the Handbook of Texas Online and the Southwestern Historical Quarterly Online have a number of useful search features, including keyword searches. If any of the following questions stump you, the keyword searches should be helpful. Good luck, or as they say in the bicultural and bilingual city of El Paso, ¡buena suerte!

The Questions

Question 1:

El Paso Geography. El Paso is at the far western tip of Texas, in the Mountain Time zone. If you were traveling east from El Paso across Texas to the Louisiana border, it would be a trip of about 860 miles. Indeed, El Paso is closer to San Diego, California (733 miles), than it is to Houston (758 miles). The city is located on the Rio Grande, across the river from its sister city in Mexico, Ciudad Juárez, which was known until 1888 as El Paso del Norte. Ciudad Juárez currently has a population of about 1.2 million, approximately twice that of El Paso, which gives the combined area a population just below 2.0 million.

El Paso serves as a major international crossroads. Ciudad Juárez is located in the largest of the thirty-two Mexican states, based on square miles. Six of the Mexican states are contiguous to the United States, including the five listed below. Which Mexican state borders El Paso?

">Nuevo León

Question 2:

The Pass. The name “El Paso del Rio del Norte” referred to the mountain pass created by the Rio Grande, which allowed settlers to pass from Mexico and the east through the Franklin Mountains, the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains, to New Mexico and points west. The altitude in El Paso is 3,710 feet, which generally provides a dry and pleasant climate, with 200 days of sunshine a year.

Several Indian groups inhabited the area prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. Several Spanish explorers are believed to have visited the area, but one of the five explorers below formally claimed the area for Spain in 1598, and gave the pass its name. He was commissioned by King Philip II of Spain to settle “New Mexico.” Which explorer is it?

">Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
">Francisco Vázquez de Coronado
">Agustín Rodríguez
">Antonio de Espejo
">Juan de Oñate

Question 3:

The Early Settlements. In the late 1650s Fray García founded the mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on the south bank of the Rio Grande, which still stands in downtown Ciudad Juárez. The Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680 sent Spanish colonists and Tigua Indians of New Mexico fleeing southward to take refuge at the pass, transplanting the names of New Mexico river pueblos to a number of new settlements in the El Paso area, including the five listed below.

On October 12, 1680, the first Mass in Texas was celebrated at the first of these towns, which was later placed on the Texas side by the shifting river in 1829. This town therefore has a claim to being the oldest town in Texas, and the mission there (like others in the area) is one of the oldest continuously occupied religious structures in the United States. Which town is it?

">El Paso del Norte
">San Lorenzo

Question 4:

The Fort. After the end of the Mexican American War, the border between Mexico and Texas was defined as the Rio Grande. The United States government wanted to protect the border and the important pass, and thus established a fort in El Paso in 1848. The fort today is an impressive 1.1 million acres, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island. It occupies parts of Texas and New Mexico.

The fort has a significant history. It was surrendered to the Confederate authorities in March 1861 and later reoccupied by Union forces. After the Mexican revolution began in 1910, the U.S. Army gradually increased its strength there to 50,000 men. Gen. John J. Pershing commanded the fort from 1914 through 1916. When Francisco (Pancho) Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico, Pershing led an assault from the fort.

The fort was the home of the First Cavalry Division, and then later became primarily an artillery battalion, given the vast space for an artillery practice range. From 1977 until his death in 1981 Omar N. Bradley, the latest five-star general of the United States Army, lived and worked at this fort. Which of the following five Texas forts is it?

">Fort Brown
">Fort Davis
">Fort Bliss
">Fort Hood
">Fort Polk

Question 5:

Mail Service. Prior to the establishment of the transcontinental railroad, El Paso was an important stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail, established in 1858. It was a semiweekly mail and passenger stage service from St. Louis and Memphis across northern Texas to San Francisco, covering 2,795 miles, probably the longest route of any system using horse-drawn conveyances in the history of the United States. An act of Congress, effective March 3, 1857, called for the conveying of letter mail twice weekly, in both directions, in four-horse coaches or spring wagons suitable for carrying passengers.

Awarded to John Butterfield and associates, the contract provided for compensation of $600,000 per year, in addition to receipts for passengers and express. The contract specified that the route needed to be covered in a specific and very short period of time. How many days were allowed for the trip?

">10 days
">25 days
">50 days
">75 days
">100 days

Question 6:

The Railroads. One of the most significant contributors to the growth of El Paso was the arrival of the railroads in 1881 and 1882. A race developed among several lines to reach El Paso, some coming from the west and some from the east and the south. Within a two-year period, all five of the railroads listed below reached the town, thereby creating a major transportation hub. The population of El Paso grew to over 10,000 by 1890, and the city briefly developed a reputation as the “Six Shooter Capital,” with scores of saloons, dance halls, and gambling establishments.

Which was the first railroad to reach El Paso, in May 1881?

">The Texas and Pacific
">The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio
">The Southern Pacific
">The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
">The Mexican Central

Question 7:

The Mexican Revolution. After 1900, El Paso began to shed its frontier image and develop as a modern municipality and significant industrial, commercial, and transportation center. The population grew from 15,906 in 1900 to 39,279 in 1910 and 77,560 in 1925. Refugees fleeing the disruption of the Mexican Revolution contributed heavily to the city’s growth.

The Mexican Revolution began in November 1910 and lasted almost ten years, with significant conflicts along the Mexican Texas border, particularly after Pancho Villa’s raids into the United States. The revolution was initially a reaction to thirty-four years of dictatorship by one man, who served as Mexican president beginning in 1876. Who was that dictator?

">Porfirio Díaz
">Francisco I. Madero
">Ricardo Flores Magón
">Luis De la Rosa
">Francisco (Pancho) Villa

Question 8:

The Chamizal Dispute. One of the most complex and long-lasting border disputes in U.S. history involved about 600 acres of land at El Paso, about 100 acres of which fell within the business district of the city. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, which ended the Mexican War, set the boundary between Mexico and Texas at the Rio Grande. That seemed simple enough, but did not fully anticipate the regular floods and resulting shifts in the river location.

The Treaty of 1884 clarified the definition of the border, specifying that the boundary should be down the middle of the river along the deepest channel, regardless of any alterations in the banks or channels. The Treaty of 1884 also provided that the alterations had to result from such gradual natural causes as the erosion of alluvium (clay, silt, sand, or similar material deposited by running water) and not from the cutting off of land by floods or sudden changes in the river's course.

The Rio Grande began to shift to the south between 1852 and 1873, particularly after a large flood in 1864. This relocated about 600 acres onto the United States side. Mexico made a claim in 1895 on behalf of certain prior landowners. An International Boundary Commission was established and met in 1910, including a representative from Canada. This interim decision divided the Chamiza Thicket between Mexico and the U.S. (thus the name the Chamizal Dispute), but the land issue continued to be contested.

When the boundary dispute was ultimately settled, which U.S. president completed the final agreement with Mexico?

">Woodrow Wilson
">Franklin D. Roosevelt
">Herbert Hoover
">Dwight Eisenhower
">John F. Kennedy

Question 9:

The Presidential Meeting. On October 16, 1909, the same Mexican president mentioned in Question 7 met with the then U.S. president, our 27th, in the El Paso area. Their initial meeting took place in the Chamizal, the neutral area of land that was in dispute. This was followed by a large banquet in Ciudad Juárez.

The meeting was the first in history between a president of the United States and a president of Mexico. The banquet at the Ciudad Juárez customhouse dwarfed all other events of that historic occasion. The entire building had been transformed into a reproduction of one of the famous salons of Versailles. Which U.S. president was at the meeting?

">William McKinley
">Theodore Roosevelt
">William H. Taft
">Woodrow Wilson
">Warren G. Harding

Question 10:

El Paso Industry. El Paso, in conjunction with Ciudad Juárez, is a thriving industrial center, due in part to its also being a transportation hub. The city was once known for its metal-smelting plants and oil refineries, but more recently has focused on cross-border manufacturing and assembly plants, including “maquiladoras.” The industrial shift has particularly resulted from a focus on environmental issues in the El Paso area.

One well-known local boot manufacturer began in El Paso in 1912, and continues to be headquartered there today. The founder of the company, the son of an immigrant, learned his trade as a cobbler at Fort Bliss. He, his wife, and their six children have all been active in the business, which shifted quickly from military boots to western-style boots. By 1933 the company was producing 40 pairs of boots per day. More recently the production increased to over 3,000 pairs of boots per day. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and then merged in 1990 with Justin Industries. Justin was recently acquired by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.

The boot company bears the name of its founder. Which company is it?

">Tony Lama