San Elizario’s roots go back to April 20th, 1598 when Juan de Oñate and his caravan stopped to give thanks along the banks of the Rio Grande. By 1789, the area was on its way to becoming an established agricultural community when the Spanish military moved its military base, known as San Elceario, named for the patron saint of the military, from near present day Ft. Hancock to current San Elizario. The move was made to protect the new community from Apache attacks. Thus El Presidio de San Elceario was established and the San Elceario Chapel was built.
From 1821 thorough 1845, the community went through many changes, including a period of rotation under Mexican, the Republic of Texas and finally United States rule. By 1850, San Elceario was the largest town in the area and became the first county seat of El Paso County. The first County Jail still stands today!
San Elizario was first established as a town in 1871 and experienced several incorporations through 1911. The town was disincorporated for the last time in 1920. A few more attempts to incorporate in modern times were unsuccessful. Until 2013.
Beginning in the holiday season of 2012, the City of Socorro began the process of annexation and areas of San Elizario were included in the plan. Due to the community’s unincorporated status and the City of Socorro’s 2-mile extra-territorial jurisdiction, which gave Socorro first right to the land, the annexation seemed to be a done deal.
In March 2013, a committee of San Elizario residents was formed to fight the annexation attempt. All options were explored, from reinstating a long-forgotten incorporation to travelling to Austin in support of legislation that would have essentially changed the Texas Constitution to protect the historic community. The Bills didn’t pass. And incorporation of San Elizario was the only means of stopping the annexation.
So the incorporation process was started from scratch. It was a long shot since permission by the City of Socorro was required. But through the hard work of the committee and the support of many in the region, on November 5th, 2013, the City of San Elizario was born.