Eagle Pass, Texas, the county seat of Maverick County, has a rich history. Located 130 miles southwest of San Antonio, this border town nestled on the banks of the Rio Grande is connected by two bridges to Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. Every March during the International Friendship Festival the shared culture and relationship between the two towns is celebrated.
Eagle Pass evolved as a garrison town laid out as El Paso de Aguila, so named because of the abundance of Mexican eagles taking flight from the wooded groves. It was during the Mexican War (1846–1848) that a company of Texas Mounted Volunteers under the command of Capt. John A. Veatch established El Paso de Aguila opposite the mouth of the Mexican Río Escondido and beside an old smuggler's trail.
Though El Paso de Aguila was abandoned by the military at the conclusion of hostilities, the site remained a terminus and crossing point for trappers, frontiersmen, and traders. In 1849 Fort Duncan (now a restored city park and museum) was established two miles upstream. Its proximity caused a rudimentary settlement to spring up at the crossing below the post.
The village name changed from El Paso del Aguila to Eagle Pass as the Anglo presence grew. Concurrent with the growth of Eagle Pass below the fort, emigrants bound for the California gold fields on the Gold Rush Trail established a staging area above the post known as California Camp. The resulting trade and traffic brought a shift in the settlement of Eagle Pass from the old crossing downstream to its present location above the fort. John Twohig, owner of the 5,000-acre site, surveyed and laid out a townsite, keeping the name Eagle Pass. A stage line between Eagle Pass and San Antonio was established in 1851.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), Eagle Pass became an important customs point for Confederate cotton and munitions trade with Mexico. After the war, the last Confederate force in the field, the Shelby expedition, ceremoniously buried the last flag to fly over Confederate troops in the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass.
When Maverick County became organized in 1871, Eagle Pass became the county seat. St. Joseph's Academy, a Catholic school for girls, was opened in 1872. By 1875 the population numbered 1,500 and consisted of Anglo-Americans, Germans, and Mexicans whose principal occupations were mercantile business and stock raising.
Following the war years, bands of cattle thieves and fugitives dominated Eagle Pass through the 1870s, notwithstanding the efforts of the Texas Rangers. Law and order was restored with the coming of the railroad in the next decade. In 1882 the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway connected the isolated community to the rest of the country. Rail construction was continued into Mexico at Piedras Negras as the Mexican National Railway, propelling the community into an important international center. By 1884 Eagle Pass had an estimated population of 2,000, and a new courthouse was erected the following year. An Episcopal church, the first Protestant church in the community, was completed in 1887.
Eagle Pass grew slowly in the early decades of the twentieth century becoming a diverse community of ranches, coal mines, and farms. Irrigated farming techniques would eventually strengthen the agricultural economy.
During World War I, Fort Duncan served as a training facility, but by 1920, only a small detail remained. In 1933 the City of Eagle Pass began maintaining the old fort as a public park on the condition that the federal government could reclaim the post for military or other reasons. The City formally acquired the property in 1935 and converted it into Fort Duncan Park. In 1942 the mayor offered the fort to the military for use during World War II. The government accepted and used the Fort Duncan Country Club as an officers’ club and the swimming pool for commissioned personnel stationed at Eagle Pass Army Air Field.
Today, Fort Duncan Museum is inside Fort Duncan Park, one of Eagle Pass’ lovely greenspaces. The museum is located inside the restored compound’s headquarters building and is a truly welcoming site for visitors and historians.
The City of Eagle Pass has also grown dramatically. Eagle Pass is a major transportation corridor between the U.S. and Mexico. In fact, it is the fastest route between San Antonio and Mexico, and is often referred to as "La Puerta de México" or Mexico's Door. Healthcare, logistics and distribution, manufacturing, and tourism are central to Eagle Pass’ economy.