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John H. Shary Collection

 Collection — Container: ELIBR-0002
Identifier: ELIBR-0002

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of business and personal files from John H. Shary, the largest collection of which is the United Irrigation Company series. The collection primarily contains business files, correspondence, internal memos, legal proceedings, maps, blueprints, and newspaper and magazine clippings.


  • 1908 - 2001
  • Majority of material found in 1912-1952


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in our collections may be protected by copyright. Publication, transmission, or reproduction of items protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Whenever possible, accurate information about the copyright status of material is provided in the item record and/or documentation for material in the collection. The Library does not own the copyright in much of the material in its collection and is therefore unable to grant copyright permission to publish those items. It is the researcher's responsibility to determine copyright or other use restrictions and obtain proper permission when publishing or distributing materials found in these collections. Researchers must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use. Additional information about copyright and fair use is available via the Library's Copyright Guide at

Biographical / Historical: John H. Shary (1872-1945)

Early years

March 2, 1872 John Harry Shary was born to Robert and Rose Shary on a farm three miles from Wilber Nebraska in Saline County. John's parents had immigrated from Prague, Bohemia (presently Czechoslovakia). He was the youngest of four boys and one girl.

Sometime between 1884 and 1886 he went to live with his sister, May Chmelir in Crete, Nebraska. He attended school there, and eventually got a job during evenings and holidays working in a local drugstore

In 1890 at the age of 18 he passed the examination to become a registered pharmacist, becoming one of the youngest pharmacists in Nebraska.

He attended two years of college at Doane College, Nebraska, but had to leave before he could graduate to help his parents.

With the assistance of his father and a new partner, he opened his own pharmacy. It was so successful, he bought a half interest in another drugstore

In 1894 at age 22 he accepted a position as at traveling salesman. His travels took him through practically all the states and Canada where he gained experience and knowledge of the country's developments.

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.

1904 to 1910 he developed approximately 250,000 acres of land with his 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, Driscoll, Odem, Tynan and Portland.

For many years he operated special trains weekly to South Texas, and it is reported that he has settled more people in the south than any other developer.

Shary builds the Valley

In 1912 he visited the Lower Rio Grande Valley for the first time.

In 1912 he and Mr. Paul went their separate ways, and Mr. Shary started developing the Lower Rio Grande Valley. He purchased the Judge Brooks estate comprising 10,000 - 12,000 acres where the towns of San Juan and Pharr are now located.

In 1913 he purchased the Briggs estate and subdivided 6,000 - 7,000 acres which now supports the city of McAllen.

In 1914 he purchased 16,000 acres from the Swift Estate, the first portion of land purchased which would become Sharyland.

In 1914 or 1915 he purchased an irrigation project from John Conway, the founder of Mission and created the United Irrigation Company. The U.I.C. supplied water to more than 55,000 acres of land. Mr. Shary served as the president from its founding until his death, without salary except for one and a half years.

He began developing citrus farms. He cleared brush, dug canals and laid in roads and then sold and leased the land in 40 acre lots to farmers and citrus growers. The land was generally covered in dense vegetation, including mesquite sometimes two feet in diameter, as well as cactus, guajillo, ebony, retama, tornilla, and huisache trees

In 1915 Mr. Shary planted the first large commercial citrus orchard in the Valley which was the genesis of the citrus industry on a commercial scale. From his own orchards he held the distinction to have shipped from the Valley the first solid car of citrus under standard pack and grade to the markets. Because of this first large scale commercial venture and his continuing activities in the development of every phrase of the citrus industry he has become known as "the father of the Texas citrus industry"

In 1915 Mr. Shary purchased the Mission Times newspaper.

In 1917 he purchased 17,000-20,000 acres of partial development of the Oblate Fathers' La Lomita Ranch (once part of the farming operation of the La Lomita Mission and the James B. Wells-John Closner holdings). These lands were west of Sharyland, where Mission now stands, and was called the "West Addition" or the "Mission Tract" .

Shary's accomplishments

In 1922 he purchased 16,000 acres to the north of his current property creating approximately 49,000 acres of land, all of which was called Sharyland.

In 1922 the first commercial crop of citrus was produced on the Sharyland tract and moved to market under very crude conditions, being hand-cleaned and hand-sized in an improvised shed.

In 1922 the Sharyland Independent School District was formed.

On November 13, 1922 he married Mary E. O'Brien in a civil ceremony at Carthage, Missouri. Mary had run his Omaha Office of International Land and Investment Company.

In 1923 he built the area's first modern commercial packing plant in Mission: the Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange after having toured the California citrus section, observing and studying the handling and marketing. It's purpose was to develop a practical marketing arrangement so that the grower will receive a just return for his labor and interest on his investment. It also assumed the functions of grading, packing, and selling the fruit, while local units were responsible for establishing brands.

In 1924 there were two million citrus trees in the Valley

In 1925 Marialice, the daughter of Mary's sister, came to live with the Shary's at the age of 15. They treated her as their daughter, and she used the Shary name. The Shary's legally adopted her seven years later.

In 1929 portions of the United Irrigation Company were absorbed by the newly formed Hidalgo County Water District 7.

In 1937 Marialice married Allan Shivers in an elaborate ceremony at the Shary mansion.

End of an era

On November 6, 1945 John H. Shary died. His passing was reported in newspapers across Texas, and across the country as far away as New York. On November 8, the businesses in Mission closed for the afternoon to allow everyone to attend his memorial service.

Throughout his life, John Shary also served as president and head of First State Bank and Trust Company of Mission; Citizens State Bank of Donna; SouthTex Mortgage Loan Company; Southwestern Land Company; Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange; and Times Publishing Company. He has also served as chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Extension Committee of the Intracoastal Canal Association.

1946-1956 Allan Shivers served first as Lieutenant Governor of Texas for four years, then as Governor for eight years.

In the 1950's small farms became unprofitable. Two large growers emerged: Valley Onion and John B. Hardwick Co., along with the already-present Shary Farms which still owned 1,000 acres.

In 1952 the United Irrigation Company was absorbed by the newly formed Hidalgo County Water Control District 19.

In 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed at the Shary Estate for three days for the dedication ceremonies for the Falcon Dam

On Nov. 30, 1959 Mary O'Brien Shary died. She is buried in the Shary Chapel near her husband.

In 1973 Allan and Marialice Shivers sold Shary Farms to Ray Hunt's Hunt Investment Co. headquartered in New Jersey. Harry Shimitzu, valley native and a larger grower and shipper was hired to run the 6,000 acre Sharyland Plantation.

In 1980 when rail transportation became obsolete, Sharyland Plantation built a new facility on Shary Road and Military Highway, two miles south of Cimarron Country Club.


332 Records boxes

10 Document cases

4 Oversized boxes

Language of Materials



Alphabetical / Chronological / Numerical

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Shary-Shivers Estate donated the estate house, and John H. Shary's business and personal papers to The University of Texas - Pan American (legacy institution) in 1985. A portion (150 linear feet) of the papers were transferred to the University Library at this time, the remaining papers stayed at the estate house.


In 2005, 151 linear feet where transferred to the University Library.

In 2006, 12 linear feet were transferred and in 2008 the University Library received the final 40 linear feet of papers which consisted of abstracts (10 linear feet) and 100 maps.


Please contact University Library, Special Collections and University Archives at (956) 665-2726 or via email at for more information and requests.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Special Collections and Archives, Edinburg Campus Repository

ELIBR 1.104
University Library
1201 West University Drive
Edinburg TX 78539-2999
(956) 665-2726