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Del Rio History

Del Rio History

Del Rio's original name was San Felipe del Rio (St. Phillip of the River). The name was given to the area by early Spanish missionaries who arrived here on St. Phillip's Day in 1635. Their mission was destroyed by hostile Indians, but the name survived until 1883 when the first post office was established. The Post Office Department suggested shortening the name to Del Rio to avoid any confusion with the town of San Felipe de Austin.

There is evidence to suggest the presence of Indians in this area dating back to 10,000 years. Val Verde County has one of the richest concentrations of aboriginal art on the continent. Pictographs are painted on the walls of many area caves and date back some 4,000 years before the birth of Christ. The county has about 400 archaeological sites, including the caves, rock shelters and mounds. Panther Cave, contains some of the most striking pictographs and can be reached by boat on Lake Amistad.

In the 1850s, a line of cavalry posts was built along the Southwest Border of the United States to guard the border and protect the transportation routes from hostile Indians. Fort Clark, built in 152 in Bracketville, still stands. George Patton and Jonathan Wainwright served there. The fort was also used as headquarters for MacKenzie's Raiders, later popularized by a television series. An outpost of Fort Clark was built along San Felipe Springs in 1857 near what is now Moore Park. It was named "Camp Del Rio" in 1881 and remained into the early part of the 20th century.

During the late 1850's, Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, attempting to find an animal more suited to the terrain than the horse, imported a number of camels from North Africa to Indianola, Texas. The U.s Army Camel Corps did not last very long, but San Felipe Springs was designated as an official watering hole during the camels' westward move from Camp Verde in the Texas Hill Country. The springs also served as watering stop on the San Antonio to San Diego Stagecoach Trail.

Formed from Pecos, Kinney and Crockett counties, Val Verde officially became a county in 1885 and is 3,242 square miles in area (three times the size of Rhode Island). Election records from a year show that Langtry citizen Roy Bean was elected to serve as Justice of the Peace. Bean so greatly admired the English actress Lillie Langtry that he took her last name for the name of his town, and he named his saloon after her nickname "Jersey Lily". Unfortunately, a sign painter misspelled "Lily" and the sign still reads, 'The Jersey Lilly.' Upon his election as JP, he used his saloon as a combination bar-courthouse-billiard-parlor-jail.

People came to regard Judge Roy Bean as the "Law West of the Pecos" because he dispensed his own unique brand of justice from the Jersey Lilly Saloon. Although this kept him constantly in "hot water" with Val Verde County officials, it formed the basis for the legends that grew up around him. Judge Bean was to later become the subject of books, movies and a television series due to the notoriety he earned during his tenure as JP.

The staff of Cripple Creek welcome you to Del Rio, Texas and we hope you enjoy your stay!