San Benito Days

Robertson Dreams of a City by the Resaca

The San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railroad

City of "Diaz"

Sheriff of Cameron County

Irrigation Project


Robertson Dreams of a City by the Resaca June 1, l904 is the inception of the very remarkable San Benito Water project which led to the inception of the city of San Benito. As the steel rails of the Brownsville Line penetrated the jungle, Sam A. Robertson, scanning the new dump through the luxuriant wilderness, noticed a peculiar feature of the topography which caused the land to drain from the river instead of toward it --ordinarily, valley lands drain toward a stream.

He found, traversing much of this territory, a resaca or vast river bed that had been created there years ago. Its banks had drifted above the surrounding lands like the bed of the Rio Grande. This resaca, heading about sixteen miles above the present site of San Benito, extended up to within one and one-half miles of the river. Then it was that a gravity irrigation project (practically all of the canals along the river have a lift of from eight to twenty feet) came barn-storming into his head, with dreams of a city there in the brush.

But Robertson had no money with which to buy or develop the land.

Photo courtesy of San Benito Historical Society

However, that mattered not at all to him - opportunity needed to knock but once at his door - so he prepared the way for a future start. On June 1,1904, as the tracklaying crew approached the spot that was later to become "San Benito", James Landrum and Oliver Hicks, accompanied by their families, came out to watch the ties and rail go into place and celebrate the coming of the railroad with a picnic lunch under an ash tree on the banks of the resaca.

Land excursions for the San Benito Land & Water Co. met in front of the San Benito Hotel (to the left) to go out and find land to buy. Photo courtsey of San Benito Historical Society

They enjoyed this and it was repeated again next day. While riding with Sam Robertson on the deck of an old flat car, a three-cornered conversation between them was the starting point of the San Benito Land & Water Company, for, after shaking hands, their informal agreement served as a purchase contract of the land comprising the town of San Benito and the surrounding country.

In the Southwest country a man's word was his bond, and later when it came time to exercise this verbal option it proved to be just as binding with all parties concerned as if it had been formally drawn up in writing and duly executed.