W.E. Stewart, who owned a land company in Kansas City, Missouri, purchased a large land tract where he built a clubhouse on Llano Grande Lake to house parties and entertain potential buyers of the uncleared, brush-covered farmland. In September of 1919 four men approached Stewart and offered to purchase some of his land for a townsite. Three brothers Ed C. Couch, Dan R. and R.C. Couch and a brother-in-law, R. L. Reeves purchased 320 acres of the West Tract Subdivision for $250,000. Two of the brothers (Dan and R.C.) changed their minds about the town but the two remaining men stayed and founded what it today known as the city of Weslaco. (The name Weslaco is an acronym for Stewart’s land company, W.E. Stewart Land Company – Weslaco.)
Ed C. Couch and R.L. Reeves – held an all-day auction that would sell residential and business lots ranging from $50 to $400 a lot. To make a claim, individuals had to choose a lot and camp on it until the day of the sale. Lots were given away free to church groups. Fliers were posted in nearby communities and the gentlemen gave away three automobiles during the auction to attract settlers.
Weslaco became a settled community almost overnight. The founders had already reserved the land that would be occupied by churches, parks, schools and the city hall. The town became a settled community almost overnight. The city offices of Weslaco were established in the first Reeves home. The Couch home was completed one week later and was the focal point for much of the town’s early development. Couch later became the president of the city’s first financial institution, Guaranty State Bank, and also helped organize the Chamber of Commerce.
Weslaco Independent School District formed in 1921, when residents petitioned the Texas Legislature to separate from Donna ISD. Upon the district’s creation, board members planned for the first school building, designed by San Antonio architect Harvey P. Smith and completed by Brownsville’s H.L. Fitch and Co. by February 1923.
The Beautification Committee was formed in January of 1926 and Weslaco Beautiful continues that mission today. They were responsible for purchasing the first of many palm trees that line Texas Blvd, buying them at a rate of .25 cents each.
One of Weslaco’s historic landmarks today is the Cortez Hotel, better known as the Villa De Cortez. The Cortez Hotel, was designed by San Antonio architect Paul Silber with a popular Spanish Colonial Revival style. Complete with 65 rooms, the hotel also accommodated offices, contained a barbershop and a large banquet and dining hall. The Cortez Hotel opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1928 with a banquet and dance.
In 1932, 17 citrus associations formed the Rio Grande Valley Citrus Exchange. The exchange began production under the labels of Texsun and Tex Maid, and later had a box company, juicing and canning facilities, and a dehydration plant for citrus pulp-based cattle feed. TexSun Juice Plant was the largest orange juice plant in the world.
The official charter for the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce was filed October 21, 1935. The charter reads, “This corporation is formed and organized for the purpose of organizing a business of Chamber of Commerce, with power to provide and maintain suitable rooms for the conduct of such business and to acquire, preserve and disseminate valuable information, and generally promote the interest of trade and increase the facilities of commercial transactions in the City of Weslaco and vicinities. The founding directors were C.L. Skaggs, T.G. Cressner, J.M. Sewell, L.M. Bruton, Sam R. Weems, Everett Knapp, Judson Friday, J.J. Poinbeouf and Grant Montgomery.
Opening of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the work of the scientists working in the facilities led to the study of crops, soil, water conservation, fertilizer use, insects, plant diseases and the effects of climate. With the work performed by the scientists came better-tasting fruit, improved marketing techniques and the control of plant diseases.
Construction on the overhead tank of Weslaco’s water storage reservoir was completed, making it one of the city’s iconic landmarks.
In 1941, the Chamber of Commerce made a deposit of $1,012.50 on land for the airport. In 1945 it became a reality and was named the Mid Valley Airport.
The First Miss Weslaco pageant was held, naming Linda Link Hunt as the first Miss Weslaco.
Knapp Medical Center opened in Weslaco on January 2, 1962 as Knapp Memorial Methodist Hospital. In the mid-1950's, interest was expressed by Weslaco citizens for building a hospital through a Chamber of Commerce survey.
Weslaco celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a city-wide celebration on December 4-7, documented in an official historical booklet.
The Tower Theater of Weslaco became the home of the Mid-Valley Civic Theatre in 1969. The first performance was held April 2, 1970.
During the 1960s, city leaders called for the collection of stories and artifacts from prominent business and families - a collection that served as the basis for a book published on the City’s 50th anniversary. After the celebration, those same city leaders sought to find a permanent home for the collection. And so, in 1971, the Weslaco Museum was formed. From a private residence to the public library to Downtown.
Dr. Leonard Pike develops the 1015 Sweet Onion at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Center.
Valley Nature Center is established as a non-profit organization, making it the oldest nature center in the Rio Grande Valley.
Bebe Skaggs James, daughter of early Weslaco residents C.L. “Lester” and Florence Skaggs donates property to Frontera Audubon Society for conservation and preservation, leading to the opening of their current location in 2000.
1015 Onion named State Vegetable of Texas by the 75th Legislature of the State of Texas.
Weslaco is one of 10 municipalities nationwide to receive the All-America City Award for 2002 presented by the National Civic League.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began piecing together land parcels in 2000. After land purchases, contributions and support from the World Birding Center, Estero Llano Grande State Park held its grand opening in June 2006.
Weslaco Econonomic Development Corporation holds first Alfresco Weslaco in Downtown Weslaco.