County Seat: Brownsville * County Population: 387,717
The Oscar C. Dancy Courthouse in the county seat of Brownsville was restored and rededicated in 2006. The historic courthouse was fashioned in 1912 in a Renaissance style with Classical Revival elements as designed by Atlee B. Ayres. The county constructed a new courthouse in 1981 and named the historic structure for Oscar Dancy, who served as county judge for 45 years. The Dancy building still houses several county offices.
Cameron County was organized in 1848 and named for Capt. Scot Ewen Cameron of the Mier Expedition. Brownsville honors Maj. Jacob Brown, who died while defending the fort in the earlier days of the Mexican War.
The Brownsville Chamber of Commerce describes the area as “a semi-tropical paradise of stately palm trees, ever-blooming bougainvilleas, exotic birds, and coastal breezes.”
The following provides a mere snapshot of the county’s natural beauty and popular attractions:
During the fall and spring migrations, hundreds of species of birds flock to Cameron County. Brownsville is actually the southern beginning of the Texas Coastal Birding Trail, and each year Brownsville is part of the Great Texas Birding Classic. In 1999 the Texas Legislature and Texas Department of Fish and Wildlife finalized and funded plans to establish the World Birding Center with one of its main sites in Brownsville.
The county waters house speckled trout, snook and redfish, which make their home in the Brownsville Ship Channel. Other favorite spots include Falcon Lake, irrigation canals, the Arroyo Colorado, Laguna Madre and, of course, the Gulf of Mexico.
The climate and tropical environment afford year-round golfing. In fact, the county seat is home to seven golf courses!
Gladys Porter Zoo
This 31-acre zoological preserve built on an old channel of the Rio Grande River showcases more than 250 species and sub-species of tropical and neo-tropical plants and more than 1,600 animal specimens representing 464 species, 47 of which are listed as endangered. The collection includes Jentink’s duikers, Galapagos tortoises, Philippine crocodiles, spectacled bears, Przewalski’s horses, orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, African elephants, tamarins and hippos.
Just 25 miles from Brownsville is the modern beach resort of South Padre Island. Boca Chica is a pristine beach bordered by the Brazos Santiago Pass jetties to the north, and the Rio Grande River mouth to the south.
Along the banks of the Laguna Madre, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest remaining protected wild areas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Considered one of the most biologically diverse refuges in the nation, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s amazing diversity spans over 100 tracts to include tidal flats and beaches, subtropical forests, thick semi-arid brushlands, and grassy savannas along the last 275 river miles of the Rio Grande. Finally, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is located where the subtropical climate, Gulf Coast, Great Plains, and Chihuahuan Desert meet. Millions of birds and over half of all U.S. butterfly species funnel through this area on their way to and from Central and South America.
(Texas Almanac 2008-2009)