The Town of Bruni
Bruni, in eastern Webb County, approximately 45 miles from Laredo at the intersection of Texas Highway 359 and Farm to Market Road 2050 was named after Antonio Mateo Bruni. Bruni an entrepreneur and rancher, the son of Mateo and Dominica (Bogales) Bruni, was born on September 19, 1856, in Bozzi, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. His parents died when he was a young boy. In 1872 he moved to San Antonio, Texas to live with his uncle Antonio Bruni. Five years later he moved to Laredo, Texas and opened a mercantile store with his brother Luigi Bruni. The two brothers also had a store in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. His mercantile business took him into Webb and Zapata counties, where he acquired an interest in the sheep and cattle industries. In 1882 Bruni was appointed tax assessor of Webb County and in 1892 was elected a county commissioner. He was appointed county treasurer four years later and held this position until his death. Among other business activities, he was vice president of the First National Bank of Laredo, director of the Texas-Mexican Railway, and director of the Border Gas Company. He owned land in Webb and Zapata counties.1
He established a commissary on one of his ranches after the Texas Mexican Railroad made it a station about 1881. In 1886, when the first school was opened, the little community was known as Bruniville.2 Bruni married Consolación Henry in 1879, and the couple had nine children. Consolación was a descendant of José de Urrutia and William R.Henry.3
William R. Henry, a notorious filibusterer, adventurer, and Texas Ranger, was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, around 1821, a grandson of Patrick Henry. He ran away from home while still a young man and joined the United States Army, lying about his age since he was too young to enlist. He reached Texas around 1844 after fighting in the Seminole War. During the Mexican War (1846-48) he attached himself to his old Florida regiment, the Second Dragoons, and saw action in Vera Cruz, Puebla, and Cerro Gordo. He returned to Texas by land. Eventually he settled in San Antonio, where he was sheriff from 1856 to 1858.
Henry was supremely confident and fearless, but his boldness often bordered on folly. John Salmon (Rip) Ford said that Henry “had rather exalted notions, and was difficult to control. He was brave, and possessed merit, but had the credit of interfering with his superior officers. He was not always in the wrong.” Henry’s schemes were often grandiose, reflecting that fervor so common at the time in Texas that the United States, and especially Texas, indeed had a hemispheric manifest destiny. On March 15, 1862, Henry quarreled with a man named William Adams over who was going to command the local company of Confederate troops. In a gunfight in front of the old Plaza House on the north side of Main Plaza in San Antonio, Henry was shot dead. An inquest held soon after determined that Adams, having been repeatedly provoked, had acted in self- defense. Henry’s wife was Consolación Urrutia. One of his daughters, also named Consolación, married Antonio M. Bruni, who became one of the largest landowners in Webb County.4 Bruni died on August 18, 1931. When he died, his ranch holdings came to over 200,000 acres. Bruni Plaza in Laredo, Texas is named for him.5
The building at the rear of the Louis H. Bruni home served as the location for the school.6 Louis served as the postmaster of Bruniville from 1910 to 1915.7
Lodovico (Lod) Moglia, one of the early settlers in Bruniville served as the first postmaster, holding the position from February 16, 1900, when the post office was established, until 1910.8 Moglia, on Farm Road 2050 fifteen miles north of Bruni and forty-five miles northeast of Laredo in eastern Webb County, was named for Lod Moglia, the original grantee of land. Ludovic Moglia operated a general store between 1900 and 1920. The population of the community was reported as twenty-five from 1920 to 1940. A post office operated there from 1913 to 1916. Highway maps of 1948 showed two residences in Moglia, and the community was still listed on highway maps in the 1980s.9 Lod Moglia served as the only post master for the town of Moglia from March 17, 1913, until it was discontinued August 31, 1916. Mail was sent to Bruni.10
The first post office in Bruniville was located in a rock building near the school, where it remained until 1924, at which time it was moved to the Bruni Store and combination boxes were added. The community had sixty residents, a general store, and four cattle-breeding business in 1914. 11
In 1922, the Town site Company purchased more that 150 acres of land from Bruni, approximately one quarter of a mile west of the original school and post office and surveyed the town site. The founders of the Bruni Townsite were C. R. Cole and Dudley Tyng. During the years when Bruniville was getting its roots in the new location Nat Wilson, Henry Erchoid and O.H. Baker handled the business of the town site.12
In 1929, the school was moved to a new two-room building, a telephone exchange and electric plant were added and religious life in Bruni began to take form. It was during this time that Bruniville dropped the last part of its name and became Bruni, although the post office remained in its original location.13
After the discovery of oil in the area, oil derricks sprang up and business began to make their appearance with the Bruni Hotel, built by C. R. Cole, being the first. Many other concerns that added to the growth of Bruni were: the Humble filling station, the Valdez Meat Market, Peck’s Grocery Store, Hudson’s Store and the Brice Café. Supply houses and lumber yards followed, as did other businesses.14
By 1939 the discovery of the South Bruni oilfield had increased the population to 800 and business community to thirty.15 Additions to the business district included Vicker’s Café, Mae’s Beauty Shop, City Café, Bruni Pharmacy, Craig’s Garage, Muter’s Café, Bruni Cash Grocery, Western Machine Works, Dr. Harold J. Harper Chiropractor and Hall’s Tailor Shop.16
The number of residents declined to 350 in 1943 and remained near that level until 1964, when there where 275 residents. From 1972 through 1984 the population was 214.17
Since the Texas Coastal Plain had been considered unlikely country for uranium, the discovery of ore of commercial grade and quality was a great surprise to many, and the discovery was followed by a mad scramble for leases and feverish prospecting by all know methods. In 1973 the Wyoming Mineral Corporation (Westinghouse) and the Mobil Oil Corporation operated
pilot In Situ Leach Mining (ISL) sites near Bruni. Using this method, uranium is leached from underground deposits and brought to the surface through wells and then stripped from the solution.18 The discovery of uranium had a strong economic impact on the community. In 1990 Bruni had 689 residents and twelve businesses.19
In 1974 the Bruni, Torrecillas, Aguilares school districts united to form the Webb Consolidated Independent School District. Most recently in 2005 the Mirando Independent School District became a part of the WCISD making the Bruni based schools the only educational facilities operating outside of the Laredo area in Webb County.20
1 Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grebe, comps. The New Encyclopedia of Texas, 4-vol. ed. The Italian Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1973). Laredo Times, August 18, 19, 1931. A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas (2 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1907). As sited in the Online Handbook of Texas.
2 Bruni, Mirando City: A New Town in a New Oil Field, p 86, F. Michael Black, Laredo Publishing Co., 1972.
3 Ellis A. Davis, Handbook of Texas Online.
4 Henry, William R., Handbook of Texas Online.
5 Bruni, Antonio M., Handbook of Texas Online.
6 “Brief History of Bruni”, Historical Edition, The Mirando City Record, Weldon Pharr, editor, 1939.
7Jim Wheat’s Post Offices and Post Masters of Texas, 1846 – 1930, Webb County.
8Jim Wheat’s Post Offices and Post Masters of Texas, 1846 – 1930, Webb County.
9 Drean, Michael D., Moglia, Texas, The Handbook of Texas Online.
10 Jim Wheat’s Post Offices and Post Masters of Texas, 1846 – 1930, Webb County.
11 “Brief History of Bruni,” Historical Edition, The Mirando Record, 1939.
12“ Brief History of Bruni,” The Mirando City Record, 1939.
13 “Brief History of Bruni” and “History of Bruni Schools”, The Mirando City Record, 1939.
14 Various articles on Bruni business, Historical Edition, The Mirando City Record, page 4, 1939.
15 The Mirando City Record, 1939.
16 The Mirando City Record, 1939.
17 Handbook of Texas Online.
18 Uranium Mining, Handbook of Texas Online.
19 Handbook of Texas Online.
20 Webb Consolidated Independent School District.
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