Laureles Ranch House Museum
The History of Los Laureles Ranch House
The Laureles Ranch House Museum once belonged to the founder of Brownsville, Charles Stillman. Now in its new home, located in Linear Park, the fully restored home offers a rustic setting for parties and special events. Largely used for the outside porch space and the grounds outside the home, this house setting is a unique venue.
Charles Stillman in Mexico by 1828
Francis Stillman, Charles’ father, was a shipping merchant from New England who did business along the Gulf Coast and Mexico. In 1828 Charles arrived in Matamoros at the age of sixteen and operated a store for his father in Durango, Mexico where he learned the Spanish language and polite customs of Mexico. Only twenty years later he began a series of entrepreneurial ventures.
Stillman founded a successful river boat company with Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy. In addition to his cotton brokerage business, real estate firms, silver mines in Mexico, warehousing and transportation interests, he also helped establish textile mills in Monterrey, Mexico with José Morell. Much of his wealth was gained by supplying ranches and mines in Mexico.
By the late 1840’s, with partners Samuel Belden and Jacob Mussina, he founded the Brownsville Town Company to establish Brownsville, which was named after Major Jacob Brown who defended the fort during the Invasion of Mexico.
Los Laureles Ranch House c. 1850
Charles acquired significant land holdings in South Texas. He purchased land for “El Rancho de Los Laureles” near “El Rincon de Corpus Christi” from the Jose Perez-Rey family in 1848.
The Laureles home is a late Georgian Greek Revival style ranch dwelling with large overhanging eaves and wrap-around porches for outdoor leisure. Because several roman numeral carvings were spotted on main support joists during its renovation, it is believed that materials for the house were shipped from New England ports in prefabricated form by ship’s carpenters to be assembled once they arrived at the ranch.
Several sections were later annexed to the home but it has been restored as close to its original form as possible.
Home Away from Home
Stillman raised cattle, horses and sheep and transported beef hides through his shipping business. During the Civil War, Stillman entered the cotton trade and earned huge profits with his partners. Los Laureles was a place he could escape the confinement of his business.
By the war’s end, Charles had survived two strokes and sensed the inevitable. so he transferred his interest in the ranch to his
brother Cornelius in 1864 who operated the ranch another four years before selling it to Mifflin Kenedy. Charles Stillman joined his family in New York, where he lived another ten years until his death in 1875.
Stillman enjoyed the outdoors and warm climate of South Texas. He had one day hoped to live on the ranch for his retirement but outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever probably convinced his wife Elizabeth not to remain in Brownsville, Texas with their children.
Thanks to private donations through the auspices of the Brownsville Historical Association, our city has a ranch house built around 1850 to typify the ranch history of families such as the Kings, Yturrias and Garcias that settled the region for raising cattle and building cities in the Rio Grande Valley.
Tuesday: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Wednesday: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Thursday: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Friday: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Address: 1501 E 7th St, Brownsville, TX 78520