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San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railroad

Photo courtesy of San Benito Historical Society

From 1823 until the mid-1880's, the bulk of goods imported to and exported from northern Mexico passed through the harbor at Brazos Santiago, situated approximately four miles north of the mouth of the Rio Grande. Goods were transported to and from the interior of Mexico by mule and ox drawn wagons and carts known as "carretas." Because Brazos Santiago was situated north of the international boundary fixed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, all Mexican trade had to pass through the hands of American brokers and traders after 1848. Due to the topography of the 22 miles between the coast and Brownsville, most Mexican trade had to pass through Brownsville. Steambaots offered an alternative to transporting the goods overland to the harbor.

However, the steamboat company owned by Mifflin Kenedy (1818-1895) and Richard King (1824-1885) held a monopoly on this form of transportation. To reduce the cost of transporting goods to the coast, Brownsville businessmen--over the opposition and objection of Kenedy and King--chartered the Rio Grande Railway Company to construct a railroad between Brownsville and Brazos Santiago. Completed in 1871, this railroad significantly reduced the cost of transporting goods between Brownsville and the coast, drawing to Brownsville much of the trade which had previously gone to Corpus Christi. But this transportation monopoly was not to last long, and by the mid 1800's, three major railroads had drawn substantial patience of the Mexican trade from Brownsville-Brazos Santiago.

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