Formerly known as Santa Helena
Brewster County, West
On the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park
steam engine, the most enduring relic in Castolon
Photo courtesy Richard Berger, April 2004
a Pecan Shell
In 1903 the first resident was Cipriano Hernández who bought land
and named the place Santa Helena. He irrigated the bottomland,
grew grain crops and opened the first store in the area.
Other Mexican families settled nearby in separate communities. Eventually
Castolon became the center for nearly 300 residents, almost all of
them subsistence farmers from Mexico. In 1910 the inhabitants requested
protection against border incursions from Mexico and a cavalry troop
was stationed there in 1911.
In 1919 the government leased four acres for a permanent cavalry troop.
Named Camp Santa Helena, it was never used. Other investors
opened a trading post and began commercial cotton farming - moving
in a gin in 1923. Alvino Ybarra, a Mexican immigrant became the first
Castolon postmaster in 1926. The post office was granted under the
name Castolon - making the name permanent.
In 1921 the army allowed independent businessman named Cartledge to
move his store into the never-used barracks and he bought the property
at government auction in 1925.
U. S. Immigration laws had been loosely enforced prior to 1927, but
that year many families voluntarily returned to Mexico rather than
After Big Bend National Park was established - the population declined
from 25 to only 3 and the post office closed in 1954. Today the only
residents of Castolon are National Park employees. The Castolon store
remains open as one of the most visited stops in the park.
Hi there, Tomorrow is my birthday. On August 10, 1939 I was born in
a house overlooking the Rio Grand in Castolon, Texas. My father was
raising pigs there. I was only about eight weeks old when there came
flash floods and washed all the pigs away and my family moved to Denver
looking for work. I understand the old house is still there and is
a ranger station for the park. Can you let me know if there are links
to more history of Castolon and more pictures? I always hoped to go
there but never had the money or the time. Thank you. - Phyllis
Hodson, August 10, 2004