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Between the Texas Revolution and the Mexican War most of what is now La Salle County lay in the disputed area between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River. Since neither the Republic of Texas nor the Mexican government could establish control over this strip of land, it became a haven for desperados. Even after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo definitively assigned the Nueces Strip to Texas, outlaws and hostile Indians delayed the development of the area for years. When La Salle County was officially formed from the Bexar District on February 1, 1858, the county had only begun to be settled. Some of the earliest settlements in the county grew along the road from San Antonio to Laredo. In May 1852, to protect travelers on the road, the United States Army established an outpost, Fort Ewell, where the road crossed the Nueces. The site proved to be unhealthful, and the fort was abandoned in 1854; meanwhile a small town, Guajoco, also known as Fort Ewell, had developed 1 miles from the fort. When the fort was decommissioned, its few remaining inhabitants moved to the settlement. By 1871 perhaps sixty people, most of them probably of Mexican descent, lived in or near Guajoco, which had a post office, a saloon, a general store, and a stagecoach stop.

Meanwhile, other settlers were beginning to find their way to La Salle County. In 1856 William A. Waugh, a native of Ohio who had spent some time in the California gold fields, established a ranch where the San Antonio-Laredo road crossed Cibolo Creek. He abandoned the site in 1858, but returned in 1861. By the 1870s Waugh maintained a large herd of cattle in the area, and his ranch headquarters became a stopping point for travelers. A store was established on the spot, and the place became a center of activity in the area; in 1879 it was granted a post office under the name Waugh's Rancho. Iuka, another early settlement, was established by a group of families in 1868 about eight miles west of the site of present-day Cotulla. Iuka served as a stage stop and a meeting place for cattle buyers; according to one source, most of the inhabitants of the town were of Mexican descent. The settlement was granted a post office in 1880. More than twenty-five ranches were established in the county during the 1870s, including the La Mota Ranch, run by William and Amanda Burks. In 1870 the census taker found only sixty-nine people residing in La Salle County; in 1880 the population was 789.

 


La Salle County was formally organized in 1880 with Stuart's Rancho, near Guajoco, designated its first seat of government. The political organization of the county closely coincided with other developments that helped to change La Salle County from a collection of isolated frontier settlements and ranches into a more stable environment for economic and social development. The last Indian raid in the county occurred in 1878. In the early 1880s the International-Great Northern Railroad extended its tracks into the county. These developments, along with the gradual elimination of outlaws, helped to make ranching a more predictable and profitable enterprise, and no doubt helped to attract out-of-state capital. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, for example, James J. and Andrew J. Dull, two wealthy brothers from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, purchased large tracts of La Salle County land, including much of W. A. Waugh's property, to put together a vast ranch.




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Surrounding Counties

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