About Brownsville

The Welcome to Brownsville sign with three flags and trees behind it.

Purpose Statement

To provide the best value in service to the citizens of Brownsville through Participatory Leadership.

About Brownsville

Brownsville's semi-tropical climate is recognized as one of the most delightful in the nation. The city has an average temperature of 74 degrees and an average rainfall of 25.55 inches. Average relative humidity is 75.25%. The comfortable year-round climate provides for an abundance of recreational fun and activities.

Residents regularly visit Matamoros and South Padre Island as both places are only minutes away. Brownsville's population is quickly approaching 200,000 and growing. Our sister city of Matamoros has a population in excess of 750,000. As the seat of Cameron County, we are a city rich in history and one of the fastest growing areas in the United States.

An image of Old Downtown Brownsville that reads A Brief History on it.

Our Valued Past

Time has seen Brownsville grow from a Mexican War military post to the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley and one of the most important historic sites in the State of Texas. Brownsville was a prominent player in the Civil War, earning the title "back door to the Confederacy" by virtue of the fact that trade goods especially cotton could be taken to Mexico and shipped out, avoiding the Union blockade of Confederate ports.


Long before Brownsville came into being, Matamoros was an important city for residents of both sides of the river. Matamoros went by name of San Juan de los Esteros and Congregacion del Refugio before taking its present name in 1828. Europeans had been in the area since 1519, 1689, respectively, before Jose de Escandon brought the first group of European families to settle the area in 1746. For nearly a century, all of Texas was either a part of Mexico or claimed by Spain. After Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821, it was not long before revolutions and wars brought the Texas boundary to the Nueces River and the Rio Grande.

Texas Revolution

Jump ahead to the Texas Revolution of 1836 when the dispute over the boundary between the fledgling Republic of Texas and the Republic of Mexico began. That dispute simmered even as Texas joined the United States of America in 1845 and was finally settled by the War with Mexico, 1846-1848. That war began on May 8, 1846 with the battle of Palo Alto, followed by the battle of Resaca de la Palma the next day. It was during this time that Brownsville had its beginning. U.S. Army Major Jacob Brown was killed by cannon fire in Fort Texas on the Rio Time has seen Brownsville grow from a Mexican War military post to the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley and one of the most important historic sites in the State of Texas.

Brownsville Beginnings

The settlement around the fort was called Brownsville, a founding date of 1848 is generally accepted for the city. Finally incorporated in 1853, Brownsville was named the county seat of Cameron County (named after Ewen Cameron, a U.S. soldier killed by a Mexican firing squad during the war). Its location on the river helped establish Brownsville as a trade center for southern Texas. The city prospered and steamboat traffic on the river further enhanced Brownsville's status as an economic center.


The secession came in 1861, as Texas became part of the Confederate States of America. As a result of the North's naval blockade, Brownsville's importance was further magnified from a trade perspective. With its proximity to the Mexican port of Bagdad, Brownsville was more important to the rebels and their fight against the U.S.

Civil War

Of particular local interest is the fact that the last battle of the Civil War took place just east of Brownsville on May 13, 1865, with rebel Col. Rip Ford besting the union forces in that last fight. Brownsville thus claims the first battle of the War with Mexico and the last battle of the Civil War. Great fortunes were made in Brownsville and Matamoros during the Civil War, as trade with both sides was the rule. One of the most successful businessmen to make money during the war was Charles Stillman, one of the first developers of Brownsville. After the war, many merchants turned their attention to the cattle industry.

Chisolm Trail

The Chisolm Trail began in Brownsville with the owners of big ranches:
  • Garcia
  • Kennedy
  • King
  • McAllen
  • Young
  • Yturria
All of which supplied cattle for the drives to rail-heads in Kansas.

Beginning Modes of Transportation

Steamboats were still a major mode of transportation after the Civil War, with traffic as far upriver as Camargo and Roma. In the late 1860s, a group of Brownsville investors, led by Simon Celaya, built the first South Texas railroad, a narrow-gauge line from Point Isabel to Brownsville.

It took 40 more years before Brownsville connected to the outside via railroad. When the first big steam engine came chugging into Brownsville in 1904, it was cause for celebration because passengers could travel by rail from Brownsville to anywhere in the U.S. while farmers and merchants could ship their wares to any market in Texas or the U.S. The 20th Century had arrived!

Firsts for Brownsville continued in 1929 with the first Pan American flight to Mexico City from the City Airport, piloted by none other than Charles Lindbergh. In 1936, the Port of Brownsville was opened, providing a deep sea outlet to and from any port in the world. By this time, Brownsville could boast transportation means by highway, rail, air and sea.

Brownsville Today

The City of Brownsville Today Brownsville is the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley with a population of approximately 185,000. It covers nearly 150 square miles and has some 350 miles of paved streets. With an assessed valuation of more than $7.5 billion, the city has nearly quadrupled its wealth in the past 15 years. Brownsville is proud of our past and annually hosts thousands of tourists who not only take in the history but the climate and proximity to Mexico as well. Follow the City of Brownsville at cob.us and on Facebook.