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UTRGV Digital Exhibits

John H. Shary: “The Father of the Texas Citrus Industry"


John H. Shary was born on his father’s farm in Saline County, Nebraska on March 2, 1872. When he reached school age, Shary attended the county school which required a three mile walk each day. At the age of fourteen, he moved to Crete, Nebraska to live with his sister, May Chmelir. After graduating high school, he attended Doane College and began working at a pharmacy to pay for expenses. Starting off by washing medicine bottles for $1.50 per week, he rose to become one of the youngest registered pharmacists in Nebraska. Assisted by his father, he opened his own pharmacy.

In 1894, at the age 22 he accepted a position as a traveling salesman for the Korbl Brothers, a San Francisco based redwood lumber company. His travels took him through practically all the states and Canada where he gained experience and knowledge of the country’s development


Between 1900 and 1904, he purchased a 30,000 acre ranch between Corpus Christi and San Antonio and succeeded in selling 27,000 acres of it within four years at a profit of $100,000. This success inspired him to enter the colonization and land development business, naming this company The International Land and Investment Company. Later, he went on to develop approximately 250,000 acres of land with his business partner, George H. Paul. This land became one of the world’s greatest cotton producing sections, with cities including Corpus Christi, Taft, Sinton, Gregory, Robstown, and Driscoll, that totaled approximately a quarter million acres.


While looking for his next big project the Rio Grande Valley came up several times, beginning in 1909. He didn’t make it down to the Valley until 1912. Quickly, he saw the potential that the Valley had to offer planted on the property of J. K. Robertson. Before leaving, he purchased the Judge Brooks Estate, which comprised of 10,000-12,000 acres in the San Juan-Pharr area. In 1913, Shary moved to the Valley and purchased the Briggs Estate and subdivided 6,000-7,000 acres in the City of McAllen. Lands that would later become known as Sharyland were purchased from the Swift Estate in 1914. Later, he went on to obtain La Lomita Ranch from the Oblate Fathers that included land in what is now the City of Mission in 1917.

After acquiring enough capital in 1915, John H. Shary planted the first large commercial citrus orchard in the Valley on the southeast corner of Highway 83 and Shary Road, a plan for which he was originally ridiculed. From his own orchards he held the distinction of shipping the first solid car of citrus from the Valley under standard pack and grade to the markets in 1922. This first large scale commercial venture and his continuing activities in the development of every phase of the citrus industry he became known as “The Father of the Texas Citrus Industry.”

John H. Shary: “The Father of the Texas Citrus Industry"