Located about 40 miles southwest of Corpus Christi, Kingsville (population 25,270) is the birthplace of the American ranching industry. It’s the main commercial center of the legendary King Ranch, which sprawls across 825,000 acres and boasts 60,000 head of cattle.
The community is named for the famous riverboat baron and rancher Richard King, who used his business profits to purchase the vast piece of property that would become the legendary ranch. Kingsville’s roots as a city are traced to the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway, which put the town on the map when its tracks were laid in the early 1900s.
Most of the Kingsville’s early business activity, however, was related to the King family, which started a weekly newspaper and built a hotel, an ice plant, and a cotton gin. Kingsville went on to become a busy trade center for ranching families across South Texas.
Kingsville’s population grew significantly when Exxon relocated a district office here in the 1960s. A surge in enrollment at the Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) brought even more folks to town, numbering nearly 30,000 by the late ’70s. Exxon closed its regional office in 1985, and the population has slowly declined since then.
Regardless, Kingsville remains a major draw for birders and naturalists, who delight in the area’s million acres of habitat. Visitors from across the state and the country travel to the historic downtown area to learn about the heritage of King Ranch and to shop at the boutiques and antique stores.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition