A Brief History of Los Fresnos

Retired Los Fresnos High School teacher, former mayor, owner of Keillor Construction & Lumber Inc and local historian James A. Keillor drafted his A Brief History of Los Fresnos while attending UT-Brownsville while a student in Dr. William L. Adams’ class. The full document can be found at the LFCISD website in the 100th Anniversary section. We present this excerpt as part of our coverage of the Los Fresnos Independent School District’s 100th year anniversary celebration.

A photo from 1948 of the Los Frenos train station. The station linked Los Fresnos to the rest of the developing Valley in those days. Photo: For We Love Our Valley Home by Miriam Chatelle, 1948.

A photo from 1948 of the Los Frenos train station. The station linked Los Fresnos to the rest of the developing Valley in those days. Photo: For We Love Our Valley Home by Miriam Chatelle, 1948.

by James A. Keillor

Los Fresnos, a small community located in Cameron County approximately twelve miles north of Brownsville, was one of the last unsettled frontiers of the Rio Grande Valley. It was almost the last tract of land to be opened under the land company” system. The upper Valley had been quite well cleared by northern farmers by 1915 when the first settlers came to Los Fresnos.”The town grew rapidly from its beginning until the Great Depression and again during the decade of the 1940s, but has always maintained a Small town atmosphere.

It is not clear how Los Fresnos received its name as several versions may be found. According to one account, it was named after the Rancho Los Fresnos established by Mexican ranchers as early as 1771.

Another account tells us the proposed town was initially named Moseville by Lon C. Hill, Sr., naming it after his son, Lon C. (Mose) Hill, Jr. , but the name was subsequently changed to Los Fresnos.” However, Harry H. Whipple, an early settler who moved to Los Fresnos in the summer of 1915, states that it was already called Los Fresnos when he arrived.

A third account gives the credit directly to Hill, Sr. for the eventual name. “As he rode through the senderos” (winding lanes) viewing, and planning for the future development of, this beautiful country, he saw many ash trees scattered in the woods and on the banks of the resacas”.

Because of this he began calling the locality Los Fresnos – Spanish for “The Ash”. To help settle the issue one might have to look to the account offered by Juanita Zumwalt Steer, a member of the first family to settle in the new town, having arrived in April of 1915.

She states, One afternoon I remember my mother and Mose Hill talking about giving our place a name. They decided on the name of Los Fresnos. . . .”

Many individuals were responsible for the development of the town site. In 1909, Hill, Sr. purchased several thousand acres within the Espiritu Santo Grant including shares or portions of shares 12, 20, and 22. He subsequently organized the Rio Grande Canal Company” in 1912. This company then sold 9778.94 acres to the Los Fresnos Land and Irrigation Company for development. The principal parties of the Los Fresnos Land and Irrigation Company were J. B. Scott, Juan Fernandez, and S.C. Morton.”

Whipple remembers “the Scott Fernandez  land company owned the land where the original town site of twenty acres was created; however, they were only the owners of the land” and another company was responsible for the promotion of the town, building the school house, and arranging the train excursions.”

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15 Responses to A Brief History of Los Fresnos

  1. Although I live in Santa Maria CA. Now Los Fresnos will always be my home.

  2. Paula Moses Adams

    I enjoyed it Very ……Much
    Thanks Herman K,

  3. I just want to say I’m proud to be from Los Fresnos. From what I remember my great grandparents arrived in the1920’s from Mexico. Although, I now reside in Austin, Texas I still have frequent visits to LF because my parents still reside there and I have tons of friends there. Cheers

  4. My roots run deep in Falcon territory.

  5. Very interesting. I LOVE Los Fresnos. Ben living here since 1997 ☺

    • Debbie Noble Baecht

      Sitting with my mom and aunt who grew up in LF. They remember many of the above people that replied. Their maiden names are Sue and Donna Nixon.
      My grandmother also grew up in LF, going to school there. Her maiden name was Dorothy Sanders. I have wonderful childhood memories of my visits to LF.

  6. Letty Garcia Sanchez

    Born and raised in Los Fresnos, I moved away in 1985 I’ve visited my family they still live there. Go Falcons!!

  7. My parents roots ended there and my roots and memories are and will always be there.

  8. Great history lesson of the best small town in Texas.

  9. CLASS OF 1993 BEST SCHOOL AND TOWN GO FAL;CONS

  10. I have lived in many places throughout the US. This is one of the most corrupt towns in South TX.

  11. What a nice article. I did not know a lot of history about Los Fresnos but have many fond memories of growning up there. I now live in Wichita, KS.

  12. …I was the first American Field Service exchange student to Los Fresnos High School Senior Class of 1964, coming from Venice – Italy…after that I’ve been traveling an living in many foreign countries…but deep in my heart, for several reasons, I definitely consider Los Fresnos my “deputy” home…I’m still corresponding with the Neff’s who treated me as a son from the first minute…and also with some of the beloved schoolmates of my fantastic “Happy Days” adventure…love y’all Falcons…

  13. I love history to begin with, I have in the past tried to research the history of Los Fresnos, Texas Falcon territory but did not find much information. This has always been my home and I have great memories of days gone by. The people are great! the schools were and still are the best in RGV. It is a great place to live.

  14. Jose Raul Diaz

    “This is home!”
    I remember checking out Mrs. Chatelle’s book when I was in elementary school, while Mrs. Chatelle was our librarian. Does anyone remember her? That would have been in the late 60’s or very early 70’s?
    I remember the book talking about a bad train wreck near Olmito.

    My buddy and I would go rabbit hunting in the sugar cane fields all the time.

    Bueno, God Bless Everyone! Go Falcon’s ! ! !
    Class of 78.
    US Army 1978 – 1982
    came back home !!!

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