In 1770 residents of Revilla, Mexico, established a village (4.5 mi. W) on land granted by Jose de Escandon. The same year the Spanish built a fort nearby. In 1842 the men on the ill-fated expedition to Mier occupied the village while they foraged for supplies. First named "Habitacion," the town grew to be second largest on the Rio Grande. It was named for friendly Indians living in "carrizo" (cane) huts. In 1858, after Zapata County was created, the name changed to "Bellville" and then back to "Carrizo." In 1898 "Zapata" was chosen for Col. Antonio Zapata, a rancher executed for his part in the 1839 fight to found the Republic of the Rio Grande.
Henry Redmond, a well-known area rancher, was the first county judge. Another county judge was Jose Antonio George Navarro, son of Jose Antonio Navarro, one of the two native-born signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
The elimination of duty free trade along the border in 1903 caused an economic decline. With the coming of irrigation, a rich agricultural area developed. After the construction of Falcon Dam and the flooding of Old Zapata by lake water, the county seat was relocated at this site on land originally granted to Bartolome Cuellar and Jacinto de Cuellar.