San Elizario

San Elceario Church

The first explorer here was Juan de Oñate, whose party arrived in April 1598 and formally claimed the land for Spain. Sometime before 1760, a settlement called Hacienda de los Tiburcios was founded.

In 1752, Presidio de Nuestra Señora de las Caldas de Guajoquilla was established near what is now Jiménez, Chihuahua. In 1789, the Presidio was moved to Hacienda de los Tiburcios to better protect the communities of Socorro and Ysleta. It was here renamed Presidio de San Elzeario (though the spelling has changed over the years). The Presidio had quarters for four officers and forty-three soldiers, as well as a chapel, guardhouses, storerooms, and corrals. During the beginning of the 1800s, Spanish officials worried about the United States intruding on Spanish New Mexico, and many traders and explorers were held at the Presidio - including Zebulon Pike in 1807.

Following the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, San Elizario became a part of Chihuahua. By 1841, a town of over 1000 had formed around the Presidio, but by the time Colonel Alexander Doniphan reached it during the Mexican-Ameican War in 1846 the Presidio was in ruins. In 1848 San Elizario became a part of Texas as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which established the border with Mexico along the Rio Grande (originally, San Elizario sat on the south side of the river, but flooding in the 1830s rerouted the river to the south). The Presidio was used intermittently by the United States Infantry, through the Civil War, after which it was finally deserted.

Meanwhile, when El Paso County was established in 1850, San Elizario was designated the County Seat, where it remained until 1866 and again from 1868-1873; both times the seat moved to Ysleta before finally moving to El Paso in 1883. After losing the seat in 1873, San Elizario began to decline in importance. In 1877, the Salt War occured, when a violent dispute erupted on the streets of San Elizario over rights to salt deposits 90 miles to the northeast. After this, many fled the town. In 1881, the town was also bypassed by railroad, leading to further decline. The population dropped from 1500 in 1890 to just 300 by 1931.

Today, San Elizario has evolved into a suburb of El Paso and has a population of over 13,000. Many buildings from the mid-1800s remain around the old "Placita," and the San Elizario Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

See Also
Socorro Mission la PurísimaMission Ysleta del Sur