If we could travel back to about 1500 A.D. in the Paso del Rio Del Norte region, we would find an altogether different physical world than we see when we look at metropolitan El Paso, Texas, we see today. Covering the desert would be tall grasses and huge herds of buffalo. As we travel nearer the Rio Grande, small game and birds are extremely plentiful. Everywhere are large marshes and pools. A unique mixture of people exist in our historic picture. Some are traders, traveling the trading route back and forth through the mountain passes bringing supplies and the Christian message to new settled inhabitants in New Mexico. Others are Native Americans of various tribes who are living by hunting and gathering. Except for a few plains Indians, the scene is very peaceful with inhabitants growing crops and living in adobe houses, having given up on their pit houses.
Starting in 1581, Spain paid for many significant expeditions into the area. Leading the most important of these was the famous Don Juan de Oñate, who the Spanish viewed as pacifier of the west while the native citizens viewed him as a tyrant despite their efforts to welcome him to their land. In the fall of 1598, the first Thanksgiving celebration in the United States was held in present day El Paso.
Fast forward a few years to 1680, and the Pueblo Revolt has just occurred nearby in New Mexico. The result is the historic construction of the first mission in Texas, the Ysleta Mission which was founded in October 1680 by Antonio de Otermín and Fray Francisco de Ayeta. Soon, a mud chinked logs and willow reeds constructed building was built. The land surrounding the mission is the oldest continually cultivated land in the United States. Life was not easy for the earlier settlers around this historical mission. As the Rio Grande demanded on changing its course, the residents frequently lost all their crops of wheat, corn and grapes. Then, they were forced to move and begin anew, building new irrigation canals to divert the water from the mighty river for their crops.