Edinburg, the Hidalgo county seat, is on U.S. Highway 281 and State Highway 107 in the south-central part of the county. It is part of the McAllen, Pharr, Edinburg metropolitan area. Hidalgo, on the Rio Grande, was the original county seat. John Closner and William Briggs, who had land-development projects in the vicinity of Chapin, seventeen miles north of Hidalgo, made Chapin county seat. The townsite was named after Dennis B. Chapin, another of its promoters. Chapin’s involvement in a homicide caused a change of name in 1911 to Edinburg, in honor of the birthplace in Scotland of John Young.
The town grew slowly to some 800 inhabitants by 1915 and remained unincorporated until 1919. During its early years, it served a ranching community, but the arrival of irrigation in 1915 initiated an agricultural economy. Edinburg quickly became a center for buying and processing cotton, grain, and citrus produce. Other economic developments before World War II included vegetable, sorghum, corn, sugarcane, and poultry (eggs) industries. After the war, the economy diversified further to include peach and melon production, food-processing plants, cabinetry, oilfield equipment, concrete products, agricultural chemicals, and corrugated boxes. In the 1970s tourism increased significantly.
The first railroad service in 1909 was a spur line of eight miles, extending from the one connecting Brownsville and San Juan. Seventeen years later the city received direct rail connections with Corpus Christi and San Antonio. After highways and trucks replaced rail service, Edinburg benefitted from its location on a major highway intersection. By the 1980s the city’s trucking industry numbered six commercial freight lines and two bus lines. The city has been named the “gateway city” to the Rio Grande valley.
Edinburg’s first radio station started in 1947 and by 1960 served both a Spanish and English listening audience. In the 1970s and 1980s three more stations were established. An influx of people from both Mexico and various parts of the United States has given the city an ethnic and religious mix. Hispanics constitute 80 percent of the population, and well over two-thirds of them are Catholic.
The Protestant influx made its first appearance with the founding of the First Baptist Church in 1912. Other Protestant denominations arrived later and included the Disciples of Christ, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Christian Scientists, Seventh-day Adventists, and the First Foursquare Church. In 1946 the Rio Grande Bible Institute started its work of training Protestant ministers for Latin America. The first Catholic church, Sacred Heart church, did not open until around 1926. Two others were added later to serve the growing Catholic population.
By tradition, Edinburg is a Democratic stronghold that reflects county politics. The governing body consists of five commissioners, including the mayor, who administers through a city manager. State institutions and agency offices in Edinburg include the Texas Department of Human Services, a Texas National Guard company, the Evins Regional Juvenile Center, the Texas Employment Commission, and the Texas Rehabilitation Commission. In 1976 the city became the home of the South Texas Symphony Association, which sponsors the Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Valley Symphony Chorale, and the South Texas Chamber Orchestra.
The University of Texas–Pan American, founded in 1927 as a junior college, is in Edinburg. It had an enrollment of some 12,200 students during the academic year 1990–91, and offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Also located in the city are Region One Educational Service Center and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.
The major historical landmark of Edinburg is its former city hall, erected in 1909 and located near the northwest corner of Hidalgo Plaza in front of the county courthouse. The plaza has a bust of the Mexican independence leader Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, after whom the county is named. The building, originally the county jail, has a trap door for hanging that has been used only once. Later the building became a city hall, and in 2005 it housed the county historical museum. During the late twentieth century Edinburg had an annual population growth of 3.4 percent. The 2000 population was 48,465. (source)
Prehistoric plants and animal fossils, native people and European colonization exhibits, and a steamboat replica are but a few of the fascinating displays to see at the Museum of South Texas History. For almost 40 years the Museum has chronicled the heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico, preserving its rich history. The Museum has been a part of the community since 1967. It first opened its doors as the Hidalgo County Historical Museum in the old Hidalgo County jail. Built in 1910, the Old Jail continues to be one of the most important sections of the museum.
In 2003 the Museum completed a $5.5 million expansion, including a 22,500 square foot wing that includes the Museum Store, Grand Lobby, and permanent exhibits. At the time of this expansion, the Museum changed to its present name to reflect its mission to represent the history of the entire region.
As part of the 2003 expansion, the Museum installed the first two sections of the Rio Grande Legacy. This permanent exhibit sequence, with bilingual text and state-of-the-art displays, takes visitors on a journey through the prehistory and history of the region.
The first section, River Frontier, illustrates the geological origins of the area, its ancient animals and plants, its native peoples and their encounters with Europeans and the establishment of the region as a frontier of New Spain. The third and final portion, River Crossroads, introduces visitors to the rapid and astounding changes brought to the region during the 20th century. In this and other endeavors, such as preservation of the Old Jail, supporters and FRIENDS enable the Museum to continue its mission of presenting the unique heritage of the region.
In March of 2003, the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center was the first of nine World Birding Centers to open. The center sits on 40 acres within a city park, near the heart of the City of Edinburg. Built on re-claimed farm-fields and next to the city’s effluent & floodwater ponds, the Center is a showcase for wildlife and a native habitat site set amidst an urban setting. The Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center works to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of local wetlands.
The Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center offers spectacular wildlife views along with unique natural and educational experiences.
Wetlands & Garden
The South Texas Motorcycle Museum opened in October 2009 and features dozens of motorcycles that span over the past century. The mission of the South Texas Motorcycle Museum is to educate the public by celebrating and preserving the rich culture, engineering, art, and history of the motorcycle. The South Texas Motorcycle Museum is a non-profit organization run and managed by volunteers who are eager to conserve history on two wheels.
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