County Election of 1883

Artist: Tino Ortega
Address: 8940 Alameda Ave

The word “Ysleta” derives from the word “little island” in Spanish. Ysleta was also settled in part by the Tiguas from Isleta, New Mexico after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In 1691, a permanent settlement was erected, and it lasted about half a century when the flood waters of 1740 carried it away.[1]

 

Indigenous Communities (life prior to 1883)

“Enemigos/barbaros” – Comanche de Jemez and Apaches (various Apaches tribes)

“Vecinos”  – Mexican residents living near the mission/presidio complex

 

Ysleta Civil Government Records (1835)[2]

Comanches de Jemez (“barbaros”) were an issue when traveling to Santa Fe or Chihuahua.

Vecinos began to amass local troops (“tropas”) from Senecú and Ysleta (Jan. – Feb. 1835)

-Land policy in Ysleta forcing indigenous neighbors to cultivate crops. If there was no cultivation for two years consecutively, then the land will be repatriated to other ‘legitimate’ indigenous families.

(March 11, 1835)

Vecinos figuring out how to avoid Apache raiding for cattle and food

(March 31, 1835)

-Plan was devised by Ysleta civil government to have “vecinos” and “indigenous families” cultivate the land together, while maintaining Apaches/Comanches (“indios barbarous”) at bay

(July 1835)[3]

 

Santa Fe County[4]

Established in 1848, it included present-day El Paso, Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario (San Elceario), extending northwards into all of present-day New Mexico. In 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, the State of Texas ceded its territorial claims in Santa Fe and New Mexico. Santa Fe County was then divided into smaller counties, one of them being named El Paso County. Within this county, San Elizario, being the largest settlement between San Antonio and the Pacific Coast with 1,200 residents was chosen as the county seat in 1850.[5] Then in 1873, Ysleta became the county seat.[6] This would not last long, however. El Paso (or as it was known during the early 1850s, Franklin) was a much smaller settlement than both San Elizario and Ysleta.

 

Railroad Empire

Then everything changed almost overnight as the railroads arrived in El Paso in 1881 (Southern Pacific, Santa Fe, El Paso Railway…) With the coming of the railroads, El Paso saw an unprecedented boom in land speculation and real estate. It quickly outgrew its neighboring settlements as Anglo-Americans from the Northeast flooded El Paso in the chance of getting a piece of that real estate boom.

 

Some notable land speculators in El Paso during the 1880s:

Campbell Real Estate Co.

Anson Mills

Lucius M. Sheldon

Frank B. Cotton – Boston banker who bought the property from Joseph Magoffin and started the Cotton Addition.[7]

 

County Seat Election of 1883

After a contentious vote on December 4th, 1883, El Paso became the county seat. According to the El Paso Times, the county seat election of 1883 was better known as the “big swindle of 1883.”[8] The village of El Paso cast three times its population in votes to transfer the county seat from Ysleta to El Paso. A lot of voting irregularities (White politicians bribing people from Mexico to cross over the river and vote for El Paso instead of Ysleta)[9]. Evidence of voting fraud was very apparent, but still, Ysleta’s protests went unheard.[10]

The move of the county seat from Ysleta to El Paso solidified Anglo-American control of government and commerce in the Paso del Norte region, further marginalizing the Mexican American population that had lived in this region for generations.

 

County Seat Election 1883

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Long, Trish. “How El Paso ‘Stole’ County Seat from Ysleta in 1883” El Paso Times. Nov. 19, 2008, https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2018/11/29/how-el-paso-stole-county-seat-ysleta/2121459002/

Ysleta Civil Government records, MS086, UTEP C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections

Secondary Sources:

Bryson, Conrey “El Paso County,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 14, 2024, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/el-paso-county

Burrus, Ernest J. “Our Missions” in Four Centuries at the Pass: A New History of El Paso on its 400th Birthday, edited by W.H. Timmons. El Paso: City of El Paso Arts Resources Department, 1980

Connor, Seymour V. “Santa Fe County,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 14, 2024, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/santa-fe-county

Hamilton, Nancy “Ysleta, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 14, 2024, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ysleta-tx

Martinez, Oscar. The Chicanos of El Paso: An Assessment of Progress. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1980

Sonnichsen, C.L. Pass of the North: Four Centuries on the Rio Grande. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1968

[1] Ernest J. Burrus, “Our Missions” in Four Centuries at the Pass: A New History of El Paso on its 400th Birthday, edited by W.H. Timmons (El Paso: City of El Paso Arts Resources Department, 1980), 25

[2] MS086 Ysleta Civil Government records, UTEP Special Collections, Box, Folder 1

[3] Ibid

[4] Seymour V. Connor, “Santa Fe County,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 14, 2024, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/santa-fe-county.

[5] Conrey Bryson, “El Paso County,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 14, 2024, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/el-paso-county.

[6] Nancy Hamilton, “Ysleta, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 14, 2024, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ysleta-tx.

[7] Richard Bussell, “El Paso Street Names,” El Paso Times (Oct. 15, 2014), https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/history/blogs/tales-from-the-morgue/2014/10/15/el-paso-street-names/31480379/

[8] Trish Long, “How El Paso ‘Stole’ County Seat from Ysleta in 1883” El Paso Times (Nov. 19, 2008), https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2018/11/29/how-el-paso-stole-county-seat-ysleta/2121459002/

[9] C.L. Sonnichsen, Pass of the North: Four Centuries on the Rio Grande (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1968), 346-347.

[10] Oscar Martinez, The Chicanos of El Paso: An Assessment of Progress (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1980), 7, https://scholarworks.utep.edu/ep-books/7/