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YSLETA, TEXAS

The Roots of El Paso

El Paso County, West Texas

31° 35' 5" N, 106° 16' 22" W (31.584722, -106.272778)
On the Rio Grande now inside El Paso’s City Limits


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Ysleta Tx - Mission De Corpus Cristo Del Sur
Ysleta Mission de Corpus Cristo del Sur
The oldest parish in Texas

Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, October 2004

History in a Pecan Shell

Easily a contender for oldest town in Texas, Ysleta was founded after the Pueblo Revolt against the Spaniards in 1680. It was annexed by the city of El Paso in 1955. (The opposition to the annexation was so great that the decision ended up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

It had once been known as Ysleta del Sur or “Island of the South.” Due to a change in the course of the Rio Grande (1829-1831), the deepest channel in the river left Ysleta on the northern side of the International Boundary. It was deemed to be American territory in 1848.

As an early agricultural community, its population was originally comprised mainly of Tigua Indians that had been relocated from their New Mexican homeland (1680-1682). From a population of 560 in 1760, Ysleta reached just over 700 in 1841. By 1880, it had swollen to 1,500 residents and in 1930 it reached a new record of 2,000.

The town got its first mayor in 1859 but the city government dissolved. A governing body was attempted again in the early 1870s, but this too failed. Finally in 1880 Incorporation was finalized and in 1889 Yselta became a full-fledged city. But this government wasn’t to last either. In 1895, Ysleta again dissolved its governing council due to legal fights over water and land rights.

In 1873 an election made Ysleta the El Paso county seat, a position formerly held by San Elizario. With the arrival of the railroad in 1881, the population shifted toward the tracks. Another county seat election was held in 1883. Despite local opposition, Ysleta lost its status to the city of El Paso.

In 1929, a bridge was constructed linking Zaragoza, Chihuahua, Mexico with Ysleta.

The Tigua Indians, who had served the U.S. Army as scouts and interpreters during the Indian wars were belatedly recognized as a tribe by the State of Texas in 1967. They continue to reside in the oldest portion of Ysleta.
Ysleta Tx - Mission De Corpus Cristo Del Sur  interior
Ysleta Mission interior
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2003
Ysleta Tx - Mission De Corpus Cristo Del Sur High Altar
Ysleta Mission High Altar
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2003

The oldest town in Texas? by Bob Bowman

"For longer than most of us can remember, Texans have been squabbling over which community is the state’s oldest.

The principal players in this ongoing feud are a couple of East Texas cities, Nacogdoches and San Augustine, and a West Texas village, Ysleta......

Ysleta, now part of the city of El Paso, has been continuously occupied since 1682 when the Tigua Indians came here from their pueblo at Isleta, New Mexico. The Handbook of Texas says with a touch of reservation that Ysleta “is perhaps the oldest town in Texas......” more

Ysleta, TX 1881 cancelled postmark
Ysleta, TX 1881 cancelled postmark
Postcard cancelled with Ysleta, TX 1881 postmark
Courtesy The John J. Germann Collection
El Paso County 1907 Postal Map showing Ysleta 12 miles from El Paso
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Related Topics:
San Antonio Missions by Sam Fenstermacher
San Antonio Missions by Byron Browne
Texas Churches


Ysleta, Texas Area Destinations:
El Paso
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