Maverick County Courthouse, Eagle Pass, Texas

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“The Rio Grande forms Maverick County’s western and international border with Mexico; the county is bordered on the north by Kinney County, on the east by Zavala County, and on the south by Webb County. The county is triangular in shape and contains 1,287 square miles, or 824,960 acres. Eagle Pass, the county seat and most populous community, is in southwestern Maverick County on the Southern Pacific Railroad, immediately east of the Rio Grande opposite Piedras Negras, Mexico.”

“In the spring of 1848 Capt. John A. Veatch, in command of a company of Texas Mounted Volunteer militia, set up a camp and observation post on the Rio Grande near Paso de los Adjuntos, a ford at the junction of the Rio Escondido and the Rio Grande. Veatch referred to this location as Eagle Pass, although the original Paso del Águila (Pass of the Eagle) was located west of the Veatch site several miles upriver on the Río Escondido.”

“San Antonio merchant James Campbell established a trading post at Eagle Pass and was soon joined by William Leslie Cazneau, who moved to the border to speculate in lands. Cazneau and San Antonio banker John Twohig, who owned much of the land in future Maverick County along the Rio Grande and who at one time leased the property of Fort Duncan to the federal government, laid out a plan of Eagle Pass in 1850. That same year a Mexican garrison was established on the opposite bank from Fort Duncan, and the village of Piedras Negras was founded.”

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“Eagle Pass’s regional isolation was significantly altered with the establishment of a stage line from San Antonio in 1851. During the decade before the Civil War, the area was a haven for outlaws, slave hunters, and other disreputable people. Frederick Law Olmsted visited Eagle Pass in 1854 and noted the many slave hunters and runaway slaves residing in Piedras Negras, as well as the many saloons and gambling houses, which catered to Fort Duncan’s soldiers and other unsavory characters.”

“Maverick County was carved from Kinney County and named for Samuel A. Maverick in 1856. The estimated population of the county in 1860 was 726. The vote of Eagle Pass against secession from the Union was an overwhelming eighty to three. Fort Duncan was occupied by Confederate troops during the Civil War. Eagle Pass was chosen as a trade depot for the Military Board of Texas. Near the end of the war Eagle Pass was the only port of entry open for the export of the Confederacy’s cotton.”

“The abandonment of Fort Duncan during the Civil War enabled the Indian population to gain control of the region; both American and Mexican inhabitants suffered tremendous loss of life and property. Following the war Black Seminole Scouts were organized at Fort Duncan to aid in the control of the Indians. The last Indian raid in the county occurred in 1877; the site of the gruesome mutilation of three traders, eight miles northeast of Eagle Pass, was for many years afterwards known as Deadman’s Hill.”

“Although the county was established in 1856 it was not until September 4, 1871, that it was officially organized. New ranches were established by Mike Wipff, Frank Lehmann, Patrick Thomson, and John Towns following the organization of the county. Telegraph communication reached Eagle Pass in November of 1875 with the completion of a military line between Fort Clark and Fort Duncan. The historic Maverick County Courthouse was completed by pioneer builder William Hausser on April 4, 1885, at a cost of $20,489. The courthouse, site of the celebrated Dick Duncan murder trial in 1889, exhibits a modified Gothic architecture with high windows and an overall Spanish fortress appearance.”

“In 1901 and 1902 entrepreneurs siphoned water from the Rio Grande to irrigate experimental crops on onions, figs, alfalfa, and cotton. By 1909 the number of irrigated farms in the county had risen to eight and encompassed 1,166 acres. Practically all the agricultural efforts were confined to the Rio Grande valley; the land outside of that valley was owned around 1900 by three or four parties, one title including two-thirds of the grazing land in the entire county.”

“The air age dawned on Eagle Pass on March 3, 1911, when Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois and Phil Parmalee, a civilian, landed a Wright Type B Scout biplane on the Fort Duncan parade ground. This flight from Laredo to Eagle Pass was one of the highlights of early military aviation, and it set a new world’s record for distance by covering 106 miles, nonstop, in two hours and ten minutes. In 1942 the Army Air Force built a single-engine advanced flying school twelve miles north of Eagle Pass.”

“The Maverick County Canal system, operational by April 1932 and the largest gravity-irrigation system in the state at that time, spurred a substantial increase in farming activity in the Quemado Valley in the north and in the farming district surrounding the community of El Indio in the south.”

“The population of the county experienced its greatest percentage jump during the 1930s (65 percent) since the 1860s. The number of farms increased from fifty-two in 1930 to 272 by 1940, recording a historic high of 344 fully owned farms in 1935. The amount of cropland harvested rose from 2,735 acres in 1930 to 12,319 in 1940, as farmers grew greater amounts of corn, cotton, and hay and introduced cultivation of spinach, pecans, and tomatoes. In the 1940s as many as 34,500 acres were under gravity irrigation. By the 1980s 40,000 acres of Rio Grande bottom cropland was irrigated.”

“In 2014 the U.S. Census counted 57,023 people living in Maverick County. About 95.1 percent were Hispanic and 3.2 percent were Anglo; other ethnic groups accounted for less than 2 percent of the county’s population.”

“Eagle Pass (population, 27,479) is the county’s largest town and seat of government; other communities include Eidson Road (9,158), Rosita (2,744), and Las Quintas Fronterizas (3,463). Tourist attractions include nearby Piedras Negras, hunting and fishing and the Fort Duncan Museum in Eagle Pass.”

- Handbook of Texas Online, Ruben E. Ochoa, “Maverick County

I was the guest of Eagle Pass and Maverick County on August 11, 2014.

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Maverick County Courthouse – 1885

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Truly, all you could ever want to know about this courthouse is as follows (from the Texas Historical Commission):

“The San Antonio architectural firm of Wahrenberger and Beckman designed the Maverick County Courthouse; William Hauser, possibly of San Antonio, built it in 1885. Wahrenberger and Beckman chose to use the Romanesque Revival style with some Second Empire influences. The foundation of the building is stone masonry and the walls are constructed of solid brick masonry that has been stuccoed and painted white. The original plan was a square with a corridor extending through the center. Following a typical pattern, the main offices were located on the ground floor, and the courtroom and secondary offices were situated on the second floor. The exterior composition is somewhat unusual for Texas. On the south facade, for example, the center section is dominant with two levels of receding planes or walls flanking this central section. The center mass actually expresses the form of the second-story courtroom and is a balanced, self-contained composition. Many of the walls are articulated by pilasters. The doorways and windows of the courthouse are topped with Roman arches; the windows feature pronounced archivolts. The first level of the southern facade features triple arched windows, while the second level features singular arched windows topped with bulls-eye windows. The cornice above these two levels repeats this arched theme. The north facade is broken into two levels and does not have an entrance. A single-story brick addition has been added to this side of the courthouse. The west facade is broken only into two levels, with the center or entrance level projecting. This level features a double arched window over the arched door. The arch theme is repeated in the cornice above. The east facade is also broken into two levels. The exterior corners of the basic square plan of the building are chamfered, softening the mass. The walls are constructed of brick and accented with stringcourses and an ornamental parapet with corbeled brackets. The structure is surmounted by a clock tower[.]“ 

There was a famous trial that occurred here in 1889, four years after the courthouse was completed. From an article on RootsWeb.com:

“Four years after the creation of the courthouse, national attention was brought to Eagle Pass when [Dick] Duncan was tried for the brutal murder of three woman and a young boy, inside this very courthouse. That year, the victims had been found weighed down at the bottom of the Rio Grande, and the Texas Rangers had worked tirelessly to find information on the killer. They eventually followed his trail to San Saba and Duncan was indicted. Sentenced to death by Maverick County Judge, Winchester Kelso, Duncan was hanged in the county jail in 1891. This was Maverick County’s only use of capital punishment.” 

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Maverick County Courthouse – 1979

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In 1979, the county built a new courthouse to accommodate the area’s growing population with an expansion of services. It’s on the same block as the historic building; in fact, that’s the 1885 courthouse you see behind it.

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Eagle Pass & Maverick County

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