Von Ormy, Texas
|Von Ormy, Texas|
|City of Von Ormy|
|Motto: Dios y Tejas
(Spanish for "God and Texas")
|Founded||1827 by Blas Herrera|
|Incorporated||May 30, 2008|
|Named for||Count Norbert Von Ormay|
|• Type||Type C general law municipality|
|• Mayor||Trina Reyes|
|• City Commissioner||Sally Ann Martinez|
|• City Commissioner||Alex Quintanilla|
|• Total||1.9 sq mi (4.92 km2)|
|• Land||1.89 sq mi (4.89 km2)|
|• Water||0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)|
|Elevation||608 ft (185 m)|
|• Density||570/sq mi (220/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||Central (UTC-5)|
|Area code(s)||210, 726 (planned)|
It has been known as Von Ormy since the late 1880s. Prior to 1880, the community was known as "Mann's Crossing", "Garza's Crossing", "Medina Crossing", and "Paso de las Garzas". The former settlements of Kirk and Bexar were absorbed into Von Ormy by the early 1900s.
Von Ormy lies along the Medina River at the crossing point of the historic Upper Laredo Camino Real. The city is now crossed by Interstate 35, with access from exits 140 and 141. I-35 leads 15 miles (24 km) northeast to downtown San Antonio and 143 miles (230 km) southwest to Laredo.
Archeological findings show that Von Ormy has had continuous human habitation for an estimated 8,000 years. The early historical record reveals that Spanish explorers encountered bands of Payaya, Pastia and other Coahuiltecan Indians living in the area of present-day Von Ormy. During the eighteenth century, Lipan Apache and Comanche displaced the earlier native peoples along the Medina River valley. The Medina River and its tributaries were a source of food, flint, and other resources that drew native Texans to their banks.
European settlers, initially Franciscan missionaries and Spanish and mestizo soldiers, arrived in the region in the early 18th century, intent on subduing and proselytizing the natives. Canary Islanders arrived soon after to settle the nearby town of Bejar (modern day San Antonio). They began to raise cattle along the Medina River and were involved in the cattle trade between Spanish Louisiana and South Texas. Notable among these were the Ruiz, Perez, Navarro, Hernandez and Casillas families. Manuel Ruiz de Pesia founded the earliest known cattle ranch in present-day Von Ormy in the mid-1760s. In 1809, Ignacio Perez received a massive land grant south of the Medina River. A ranch house complex was built at the present site of the Von Ormy Castle. In 1813, during the Mexican War of Independence, the Battle of the Medina was fought nearby. Antonio López de Santa Anna served as a lieutenant and became familiar with the area during this campaign. In 1827, Blas Maria Herrera, who married into the Ruiz family, established the first permanent settlement with his wife in the area. Early records of Von Ormians can be found in the baptismal, burial and marriage records of Mission San Jose and Mission Espada; they are usually listed as living "on the Medina" or simply "Medina". By the early 19th century, Von Ormy was an established community, serving as the crossing point of the Medina along the Camino Real.
The Texas Revolution
During the War for Texas Independence, Santa Anna (now the Mexican President and General-in-Chief) camped in Von Ormy prior to making his final march on the Alamo. The spot is marked by the Santa Anna Oak, a large live oak under which the general encamped. This live oak is 12' in diameter at the base and has been estimated by UTSA as over 600 years old. On the site now exists Alamo River Resort a camping and fishing park.
Blas María Herrera, the Paul Revere of Texas, rode his horse from Laredo to San Antonio to warn the town of Santa Anna's approach. Other area residents who served in the Texian Army include Bernardindo Ruiz, Jose Maria Ruiz, Hemergildo Ruiz, Juan Casillas and Juan Martinez. Ignacio Perez remained loyal to Mexico.
Republic of Texas and early statehood
After the war, the doors to the Alamo were taken to the Herrera ranch, where they stayed until 1984 when the Daughters of the Republic of Texas brought them back to the Texas shrine during their restoration of the Alamo. The historic Ruiz-Herrera family cemetery was established shortly after the war and is the burial place of Blas Herrera, as well as Francisco Antonio Ruiz, who was alcalde, or mayor, of San Antonio during the siege of the Alamo.
The Republic of Texas began to issue overlapping land titles to Texas veterans on the Ignacio Perez Grant of 1809. This eventually led to a series of court cases which dispossessed the Perez family of their land.
During the Republic of Texas, the ranches along the Medina began to flourish. The first Catholic church in Von Ormy had been established on the ranch of Blas Herrera between 1836 and 1841. In 1866 it was rebuilt by Bishop Odin of Galveston as Santisima Trinidad Mission and was located at Garza's Crossing on the Medina River. Ruins of the church can be seen today, and the historic cemetery is being eroded by the river.
In the 1850s, Miguel de la Garza operated a ferry across the Medina River on the Herrera Ranch. It was at this time that the town became known as Garza's Crossing or Paso de las Garzas.
Civil War and Reconstruction
Secession sentiment was mixed in the area. Von Ormy in 1861 was settled mainly by German and Mexican Catholics, who largely opposed secession and supported Sam Houston's Union Democrat ticket. In 1861, locals organized a cavalry company known as the Medina Guards. Reflecting the local population, it was roughly half Tejano and half Anglo/German. Nearly all of the Medina Guards transferred to the 2nd Texas Cavalry, when their unit was set to transform into an infantry unit. They saw action in the New Mexican theater, including the Battle of Glorieta Pass. A company of Texas State Troops was permanently encamped in Von Ormy during the war to patrol and protect San Antonio from Comanche raids.
Leading up to the Civil War, San Antonio merchant Enoch Jones, who was then the wealthiest man in Texas, acquired one of the overlapping land grants on the south bank of the Medina River. There he built a fortified ranch house adjacent to the old Ignacio Perez hacienda house, locally known as "the Castle on the Medina". Jones opposed secession and believed that his political views would hurt sales at his general store in Main Plaza, so he sold and dedicated the remainder of his life to building the Castle on the Medina. He died in 1863, and soon thereafter his estate went into bankruptcy. Most of the land in the Von Ormy area was sold off to pay debts, but Elizabeth Jones and her sister lived in the Castle until the mid-1880s.
Following the war, Von Ormy became a hub for trade as the North experienced a shortage of beef. Cattle drives originating in South Texas drew a new wave of immigrants from northern Mexico, which was then experiencing its own war. Families such as the Flores, Vara and Reyes arrived during this era from Coahuila, originally as cowboys and ranch hands.
The town's post office opened as "Garza's Crossing" on January 16, 1872, under postmaster William G. M. Samuel. It was closed May 7, 1874, but was reestablished June 10, 1875, under new postmaster Robert J. Sibert. It was again discontinued August 16, 1875. On January 14, 1879, a new post office was reopened using the name "Mann's Crossing", with postmaster Anton F. Krause. This too was closed (November 9, 1880). It was again reestablished under postmaster Branson Bywater on September 13, 1886. On December 4, 1886, the post office changed its name to "Von Ormy", which has since remained the town's designation.
Members of the Ruiz family participated in organization of the Republican Party of Bexar County, along with the other former Union Democrats, members of the occupying Union Army and Texas freedmen. Rafael Quintana arrived in the area following the Civil War as a band leader in the Union Army. He had served as San Antonio city treasurer in the closing days of the Civil War.
Jim Crow and the gilded age
The end of Reconstruction reestablished a racially defined order in San Antonio. Many leading Tejano families left the city and moved to their rural ranches to avoid the discrimination and hostility in the city.
Rafael Quintana moved to Von Ormy where he was elected justice of the peace and later county commissioner. During this early era of post-Reconstruction Jim Crow laws, he was the only Hispanic judge and commissioner in Bexar County. He established a court along the rail line in Von Ormy which soon became the town center.
In 1886, the "castle" was sold to Count Norbert Von Ormay, a count of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for whom the city was named. Count Von Ormay arrived with his wife and servants from Prussia in the early 1880s. He registered a cattle brand at the Bexar County Courthouse and was often cited in the San Antonio Evening Light's gossip page. Many years later, his son emerged in Brazil. The castle was sold to hotel magnate T.B. Baker.
The International–Great Northern Railroad built a rail line on the western edge of the Francisco A. Ruiz Ranch in 1886 and renamed the town "Medina Station". By 1900, the railroad used the name "Von Ormy" once again. Over the next few decades the population of Garza's Crossing shifted closer to the rail line.
In January 1906, the first steel bridge over the Medina River at Von Ormy was built by the International–Great Northern Railroad.
Texas Ranger and judge W. G. M. Samuel, who lived in Von Ormy in his later years, was often quoted in local newspapers as stating that the last major Indian battle in Bexar County occurred in Von Ormy.
During the 1900s, the Von Ormy Cottage tuberculosis sanitarium was built in the city.
The Von Ormy school operated from the early 1900s until 1956 when it closed after the creation of the Southwest Independent School District.
In 1914, the town had two grocers, a general store, a cotton gin, and a population of 350.
Hurricane of 1919
Santisima Trinidad Church was washed away by the Great Hurricane of 1919, and a new church was built by Franciscan missionaries in the 1910s about a mile upstream along the new Laredo Highway's crossing of the Medina River. Against much local protesting, this old stone church was destroyed when the Laredo Highway was widened to create U.S. Route 81 (now Interstate 35) during the 1930s. The current church was built in the 1960s and renamed Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In the summer of 2006, a group of Von Ormy residents led by Art Martinez de Vara and Charles Minor Brown organized a series of public meetings in Von Ormy concerning the future of the community, the lack of basic public services and possible solutions to these problems. Overwhelming support for the creation of a City of Von Ormy was expressed by attendees at these three meetings. In order to pursue this community desire, the Committee to Incorporate Von Ormy, a Texas non-profit association, was organized. In addition to residential members, CIVO includes over 20 commercial members representing nearly all local businesses.
CIVO received written endorsements of County Judge Nelson Wolff, County Commissioner "Chico" Rodriguez, Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, State Rep. David McQuade Leibowitz, State Sen. Carlos Uresti, and San Antonio City Councilman Phil Cortez.
After confirming that it was in the best interest of Von Ormy to incorporate, CIVO filed the necessary petition to the City of San Antonio to allow an election for incorporation within its extraterritorial jurisdiction. Following a series of negotiations with the City of San Antonio planning department, the petition was amended on August 15, 2007, to reflect an agreed upon city limits. Von Ormy received the endorsement of the San Antonio Planning Commission on January 23, 2008. On January 31, 2008, the San Antonio City Council passed a resolution to allow Von Ormy to hold an election on incorporation. On May 10, 2008, voters approved the proposition to create the City of Von Ormy by a vote of 88% in favor and 12% opposed.
City of Von Ormy
He sought to establish the city as a leader on issues of economic development, education, and suburban independence. The newly formed city embarked on a large master planning project immediately after the first council took office. In its first three years the city had an aggressive agenda which organized a municipal police department, implemented a curbside recycling program, installed street lighting, cleaned up illegal dump sites, initiated uniform garbage collection, resurfaced two unpaved roads, opened a municipal court, organized a health department, completed a park master plan, acquired funds for an infrastructure master plan, began planning for a sewer system and community center and passed by public election an Economic Development Corporation and Community Development Corporation. Martinez de Vara's tenure is also notable for its four consecutive annual tax cuts of 10% each. The formation of the city of Von Ormy spurred a movement of suburban city formation in South Texas.
In 2013, Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering announced plans to establish a charter school in Von Ormy, becoming the city's first school.
Von Ormy today
In 2008, the Von Ormy Star newspaper was organized in the city. The newspaper covers local and regional news.
Today, several pioneer families who settled in the region prior to the Texas Revolution still comprise a large percentage of Von Ormy residents, including the Ruiz, Herrera, Vara, Hernandez, Guzman, Flores, Mann, Reyes and Quintana families.
Von Ormy is home to a budding South Texas film industry centered around the Von Ormy Film Commission. In 2013, the San Antonio Express News declared Von Ormy the "Farm Film Capitol of South Texas".
At the 2010 United States Census there were 1,085 people, 336 households, and 236 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 70.51% White (12.90% Non-Hispanic White), 0.46% Native American, 0.37% African American, 0.37% Asian, 27.10% from other races, and 1.20% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 86.36% of the population.
- Roy Bean, infamous judge who kept a saloon at Garza's Crossing
- Enoch Jones, merchant and richest man in Texas at start of Civil War
- Art Martinez de Vara, mayor
- Emilio Navaira, Tejano music superstar
- Francisco Antonio Ruiz, mayor of San Antonio during the Battles of the Alamo
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