Fabens is located on the Southern Pacific Railroad and State Highway 20 a mile southwest of Interstate Highway 10 and twenty-five miles southeast of downtown El Paso in southeastern El Paso County. The history of the town dates from the late nineteenth century, though in 1665 a mission branch known as San Francisco de los Sumas was established just southeast of the future site of Fabens, and a stagecoach station called San Felipe was in operation about three miles northeast of the site before 1870. In the 1870s Teodoro and Epitacia Alvarez owned a small farm on the actual site of Fabens, which was known as the Mezquital. In 1887 the townsite was sold to E. S. Newman by Sabas Grijalva and Diego Loya. The first permanent settler in what is now Fabens was Eugenio Perez, who came from San Elizario around 1900. He owned a small farm and opened a small store shortly thereafter, when the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway built through the area and established a water-pumping station. In 1906 this store became the first Fabens post office. The town was named for George Fabens, an officer with the Southern Pacific.
Patrick O'Donnell, a native of Ireland working for the railroad, and his wife, Johanna, arrived in 1901 and lived in a section house. In 1910 Fabens had a few section houses and two stores, and in 1914 the estimated population was 100. The next few years brought to the area as many as 1,000 people fleeing the Mexican Revolution. The townsite was laid out in 1911, but development of Fabens did not begin in earnest until the Fabens Townsite and Improvement Company acquired it in 1915. The completion in 1916 of the Franklin Canal and the rise in cotton prices during World War I attracted a number of wealthy investors to the area. The estimated population rose from fifty in 1925 to 2,000 two years later, despite a major flood in 1925 or 1926. The price of cotton dropped during the Great Depression, and the estimated population of Fabens fell to 1,623 in the early 1930s, but it had risen to 1,800 by 1939. In the ensuing decades it continued to rise, to 2,100 in the mid-1940s; 3,089 in the mid-1950s; 3,300 in the mid-1960s; 3,400 in the mid-1970s; 5,599 in 1990; and 8,043 in 2000.
In the summer of 1969 the University of Notre Dame sociology and anthropology department conducted a community study of Fabens. The study, published in 1970, called the town "basically unattractive," and noted that more than 40 percent of the families in Fabens were poor. Five-sixths of the local farms were owned by non-Hispanic whites, and virtually all the laborers on those farms were Hispanic
Courtesy The Handbook of Texas Online
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