• Crusader

    El Paso County's second poor farm, known as the El Paso Poor Farm, was established in the valley in 1915. John O'Shea, a wealthy farmer and businessman whose farm was nearby, assumed operation of the farm. His wife, Agnes O'Shea, was in charge of the residents. John O'Shea died in 1929, and the couple's daughter, Helen O'Shea Keleher, came from her home in San Antonio to operate the farm with her mother. The farm was scheduled to be closed in 1929, but, with the troubled times of the Depression era, its population grew. Renamed "Rio Vista Farm," the poor farm hosted a variety of public welfare programs beginning in the 1930s. It operated under the Texas Transient Bureau and later the Federal Works Progress Administration. A temporary base for a Civilian Conservation Corps unit in 1936, the farm continued to shelter hundreds of homeless and destitute adults and children. From 1951 to 1964, the farm was used as a reception and processing center for the Bracero Program, which brought Mexican laborers to work in the lower valley of El Paso and other agricultural areas in the U.S. New federal welfare programs and state law reduced the population of the poor farm to four, and it was closed in 1964. Unlike other Texas county poor farms, Rio Vista followed a familial rather than institutional model, accepting neglected and abandoned children in addition to the adult indigent population. In later life, Helen O'Shea Keleher cited the fifty years she spent with the more than four thousand orphans and neglected children of the Rio Vista Poor Farm as her proudest accomplishment.