Almost 100 years ago – on the day before Valentine's Day – a few dozen men on February 13, 1911 voted to officially create (incorporate) the City of McAllen.
“For most of its history, McAllen was a dusty little farm town at the southern tip of Texas, long on cactus and short on jobs,” Ana Campoy with the Wall Street Journal recounted in her May 4, 2010 article on the City of Palms.
But a lot happens to a community in 100 years, and during that period, McAllen has been literally transformed from a South Texas border village into what McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz today proudly portrays as “an international American city.”
For many local residents, they still have wonderful memories of McAllen celebrating its “centennial” back in 2004, when a reported 7,000 visitors celebrated at Archer Park, according to the Online History of McAllen, Texas and the Surrounding Areas.
But that event marked the establishment of the first train depot at the intersection of the present Highway 83 and 23rd Street (Depot Road), not the actual 100th birthday of the city.
The true centennial of McAllen won't be reached until February 13, 2011, but work is already well underway to capture – in printed words and photographic images – major highlights of what has become one of the most influential and highly-regarded cities along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The definitive book on McAllen's history”
“The McAllen Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with McAllen Centennial Publications, is publishing a beautiful, professionally produced, hard-covered keepsake historical book on McAllen's first 100 years,” reports Eileen Mattie, a prolific South Texas writer who will be the author of the landmark publication, McAllen's First 100 Years – Leading the Way.
“This book will discuss how our community was shaped, the visionaries, the progress and how McAllen developed over the last 100 years,” explained Mattie, whose work has also graced the pages of local and state publications, including two other books showcasing deep South Texas: Valley Places, Valley Faces and At the Crossroads: Harlingen's First 100 Years 1910/2010.
Her latest venture, McAllen's First 100 Years – Leading the Way, is scheduled to hit the stands on or about February 20, 2011, with a minimum distribution of 1,000 copies certain to make their way into homes, businesses, public libraries, schools, colleges and universities throughout the city and beyond.
McAllen's First 100 Years – Leading the Way will feature at least 250 historical photographs (both color and black-and-white) with Mattie's highly-respected research and writing style incorporated into 160 to 200 pages that will help current and future generations of readers journey through time.
McAllen's First 100 Years – Leading the Way will be “the definitive book on McAllen's history,” she confidently proclaimed.
Family photographs, biographical sketches
Adding to the allure of the project, two other very unique aspects of the book will allow hundreds of local families to guarantee themselves a very personal place in this publishing endeavor:
• Many of the diverse images will be photographs donated by McAllen residents from their extensive personal photographic collections; and
• For a $2,500 investment, the book will include a one-page biographical sketch of individuals, including up to two images, of families, businesses and public institutions which will carry more details on their respective legacies, including their roles in the life of the community. (Additional pages can also be purchased for $2,500 per page.)
There is an August 20, 2010 deadline to purchase the biographical sketches, known as Historical Book Sponsor Profiles. “We are proud to present historical profile sponsorships in which your business or family members can be represented, becoming an integral, permanent part of McAllen's rich history,” Mattie said.
Wanda Reyes, along with Robert Gutiérrez, Jr., owner of GT Services, under the direction of McAllen Centennial Publications, are leading the local efforts to help Historical Book Sponsors secure their legacies in the book.
Reyes may be reached at (C) 210/827-3744 (O) 956/686-2530 (Fax) 688-8310 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, while Gutiérrez may be reached at 956/533-6074 or vie e-mail at Bkgfive@aol.com.
Reyes and Gutiérrez are also available to take pre-publication orders for the book, which can be reserved by August 31 for $37.84 per book.
Once the book – which will measure 9 inches by 12 inches per page with a hardboard cover plus a gloss laminate dust cover – is released next February, the purchase price will increase to $55.16, which will include sales tax and shipping charges.
According to Jeffrey B. Millar with McAllen Centennial Publications, the major categories for the book already have been developed:
• Dust Cover;
• Table of Contents;
• Perspectives: Chapter – the First 100 Years;
Building Bridges; Open for Business; Visionaries; Shaping the Community (Schools, Churches, Associations); Arts, Museums, Culture, Architecture; McAllen Milestones (Pivotal Events, Natural Disasters, Bandits, Floods); Living Legacy (Philanthropy and Community Service); The Future Path (Going Green, Nature Tourism, Business);
•Timeline (Highlighting events in each decade from 1900);
• Sponsor Profiles; and
“Justifiably proud of their city”
Mattie's upcoming narrative on McAllen is sure to go much more in-depth than most – if not all – other related research currently available in print, video, or on the Internet.
But if a Texas Senate resolution, authored last spring by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is any indication of the contributions and successes of the City of Palms, McAllen's First 100 Years – Leading the Way will document and organize the community's history like never before.
According to Hinojosa, the development of present-day McAllen began in 1797 when Spanish settler José Manuel Gómez founded the Santa Anita Ranch in southern Hidalgo County. The ranch grew in size and, after passing through the hands of several heirs, it was inherited by his great-granddaughter, Salome Balli. Salome married John McAllen, and together they continued to add to the property and renamed it McAllen Ranch.
In 1904, John McAllen and other early settlers established a town site called West McAllen, and a year later, the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railroad arrived. Other developers founded East McAllen in 1907, and the two towns eventually merged and became home to several businesses, churches, residences, and a newspaper.
In 1911, the town was incorporated (created), and ever since, McAllen has been a vital and beloved part of the Lone Star State.
“Over the last three decades, McAllen has grown into a center for business, commerce, and government in the Rio Grande Valley, and it is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan statistical areas in the country,” Hinojosa said. “The citizens of McAllen are justifiably proud of their city, which has played a significant role in the annals of Texas history.”
By DAVID A. DÍAZ