For the first time since its inception, MOSTHistory’s Heritage Ranch Gala will be held in Cameron County. The abundant brush land of the Pair-O-Dice Ranch will set the ambiance of the annual event on Saturday, March, 27. The Board of Trustees is most grateful to Virgil and Carolyn Swanberg for graciously hosting the special event.
Teeming with wildlife, both native and exotic, the Pair-O-Dice Ranch is rich with culture and history. The ranch lies south of the Arroyo Colorado, an ancient distributary channel of the Rio Grande River. Located nearby was Paso Real. With only impressions of a trail and a cemetery to mark its existence today, it was once a stop on the stage coach line from Brownsville to Alice (a thirty-hour trip, one-way!) and a ferry-crossing over the Arroyo Colorado. Also nearby was La Tina where in 1846 General Zachary Taylor had several thousand American troops encamped during the Mexican War.
Today, the ranch is surrounded by 65,000 acres of federal wildlife refuge land, and is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, especially bird watchers.
Only 50 years ago, the land of the Pair-O-Dice Ranch was home to acres of irrigated cotton fields. When the land proved unsustainable for growing cotton, it was retired from cultivation and reclaimed by the monte or brush land. Sections of the irrigation system are still in working order, and when the South Texas sun seems merciless and the heat unending, the pastures can be irrigated to provide food for the grazing Beefmaster cattle that share the ranch land.
Virgil Swanberg’s parents, Emil & Hildegarde Swanberg, with five of their children, arrived in the Rio Grande Valley from Minnesota in 1930. Both Emil and his wife were first generation American children from Swedish parents. Upon their arrival to South Texas, they settled on a farm near Pharr. Just a few years later, the hurricane of 1933 cost them their citrus grove, and by 1937 they sought another place to live and support a family of ten.
During the years in Pharr, the Swanbergs traveled on occasion to Stockholm, a Swedish colony in the Lyford area, for church services and picnics. Drawn by a connection to extended family and a common heritage, the Swanbergs moved to the Stockholm-Lyford area and rented a farm from a fellow Swede. In 1942, they purchased land and moved east of Lyford where they farmed the land growing cotton and grain. Upon returning from military service during the Korean Conflict, Virgil and his twin brother Vernon, both Valley-born, expanded the farming enterprise their father, Emil, had begun. In 1979, the twin brothers were honored with the designation of “Conservation Farmers of the Year.”
On March 27 the 2010 Heritage Associate FRIENDS and guests will gather to celebrate the preservation of our rich borderland heritage and the successful 2010 Annual Fund Campaign to support the museum’s operation. The Heritage Ranch Gala Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Patsy de los Santos and Co-Chairman Josie Cappadona, plans for South Texas cuisine superbly prepared by Don Strange of Texas, Inc. and boot-scooting music from Scott Randolph and the White Lightning Band. The wildlife oasis combined with the bright Texas stars ensure the evening will not be soon forgotten.
The festivities will center around a former horse barn which has been s with native and exotic wildlife cleverly converted into a weekend retreat. In an adjacent pasture, buffalo, donkeys, and maybe even a llama might make a special appearance!
Invitations for the gala have been mailed to all FRIENDS and Heritage Associates of MOSTHistory. To purchase your tickets to this unforgettable event call the museum at 956-383-6911.