The earliest settlers of the Mission area were the Native American Coahuiltecans, which is a name that refers to the indigenous people of 200 tribes along both sides of the Rio Grande from the mouth of the Pecos River to the Gulf of Mexico. These people practiced the same way of life for more than 1,000 years, using natural resources in the area for food, clothing and shelter. During the mid-18th century, Spanish colonization brought foreign diseases to the area, which killed off much of the Coahuiltecan population; those that did survive remained dependent on the Spanish missions that were built.
More than 200 years ago, the Spanish settled the vast area stretching from the Panuco River in Tampico, Mexico to present-day Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1762, King Carlos III of Spain ordered a just and equal division of the territory, and in this process, porciones (portions) of land were established. Each porcion of land stretched approximately 2/3 mile along the bank of the Rio Bravo or Rio Grande, the only ample water source, and proceeded 11 to 16 miles inland. Porciones 55 and 57 were the location of Rancho La Lomita, site of the historic La Lomita Chapel, after which the City of Mission was named.
Written records demonstrate that the site known as La Lomita was granted to Captain Conway and J.W. Hoit, who established the Rancho La Lomita Land Company. Between 1906 and 1908, most of the area’s activities centered around the La Lomita area. In 1908, the Missouri Pacific Railroad established a railway station near the center of the new development, 4 miles north of the mission. That same year, the City of Mission, Texas was founded; Mrs. Ann Voltz, who lived in the Madero area, suggested that the new town be named Mission after the La Lomita Mission. Since 1908, the City of Mission has grown from a railroad stop to a thriving city with a population approaching 70,000.
It was in this area that citrus was first planted in the Rio Grande Valley. The citrus industry is now a multimillion-dollar business, which is celebrated annually with a gala Citrus Fiesta.
Former U.S. Senator and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and former U.S. Congressman and Agriculture Secretary Kika de la Garza are not the first well-known politicians to make Mission their home. Nebraska politician and three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan was one of the first to buy a plot of land from Conway and Hoit and built his winter home in Mission. Mission was also the childhood home of longtime Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, the hometown of Mexican Baseball Hall of Famer Leo “Najo” Alaniz and was a second home to Gov. Allan Shivers during the 1950s.
The Mission area is immortalized in Larry McMurtry’s novel and miniseries Lonesome Dove.
The historic La Lomita Mission still stands and is visited regularly each year by tourists and residents, and the multimillion-dollar citrus industry is celebrated annually with the gala Texas Citrus Fiesta, attracting participants from both sides of the Rio Grande. Mission is a city that is quickly growing but that has not forgotten its vibrant and important history.