Origins of the San Domingo

The Spanish granted “eleven leagues” of land here to José María Uranga in 1831, leading to the first Europeans settling in this area around 1848. They built beside a creek, calling their town San Domingo. Early settlers moved out when the railroad came through, and the old city of San Domingo became a ghost town. It's still there on our ranch, left behind, apparent only by iron nails, cooking utensils, and foundations.

Our family first came to the area as a result of a wave of Irish immigration encouraged by the Mexican government. The Mexicans wanted Catholic settlers, and the Irish fit the bill. The early Irish Catholic Tejanos named their new town after St. Patrick of Ireland. The area became San Patricio de Hibernia County after the Texas Revolution.

Robert Dougherty immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1847. He married Rachel Sullivan of San Patricio, and they moved back there after the Civil War. He subsequently built a school, St. Paul's Academy, on the shores of Round Lake. It opened in 1877, and was immediately popular. Robert and his wife Rachel lived on the first floor with their family. The school, and living quarters for the students, were on the second floor. As of 1990, the building still survived.

Arriving in Beeville

James R. Dougherty, born in 1871, was the eldest child of seven children by Robert and Rachael Dougherty. As a young lawyer who had just passed the bar, he set off on a train with sixteen cents in his pocket, asking the conductor how far that would take him. “Beeville, Texas, sir,” the conductor replied, and Beeville is where James got off to seek his fortune.

He did in fact find it there. James Dougherty practiced law and ran many business ventures; dealing livestock, opening a silver mine in Mexico, and playing a hand in the discovery of many oil fields. Late in life he traded his services for land during the depression, land which proved to be rich in oil. He spoke not only fluent Spanish but also Latin, Greek and French, and funded the translation of works from Greek and Latin.

He married Genevieve Constance Tarlton, daughter of prominent attorney Benjamin Dudley Tarlton, for whom the law library at the University of Texas is named. Together they raised a family of four children. Their youngest son, Dudley, stayed in the Beeville area, making his home on family land at the San Domingo Ranch.

Dudley T. Dougherty served two terms in the Texas legislature and ran against Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1954 Senate Race Primary. Dudley was ahead of his time on many issues and had a true concern for justice and the environment. Prescient about the role that scarce water resources would play in the future of the West, he wrote The Water Problem, a Solution, published in 1957. He also voiced early opposition to the Vietnam War, which was very unusual for a mainstream Texas politician at that time. Recently, the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation was established in his honor, supporting worthy causes such as medical research, education, fine arts, and health care.

At the time that Dudley Tarlton Dougherty acquired the San Domingo Ranch, the land was worth 18 dollars an acre and was covered in brush so thick that no one wanted to try to clear it. Dudley and his wife Patricia Calhoun Dougherty were responsible for making it into the lovely property you see today.

They built the Ranch Headquarters structure in 1950. It sits on a hill with a view, surrounded by ancient oak trees. Over the years many dignitaries have visited here, and many lovely events have taken place in these premises. Lyndon Johnson, Madame Nhu, artists Dong Kingman, Audie Murphy and too many others to name here have enjoyed the graceful surroundings of the San Domingo ranch. Come and make a little history of your own with us.

Our roots here at the San Domingo go deep.