Inhabited by various Indian tribes prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century, El Paso has played an important role in the history of Mexico and the United States. Its four centuries of recorded history span periods of Spanish colonization, Mexican rule, and Anglo railroad building and industrialization.
Early settlements were established on the south side of the Rio Grande at El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North). After the Rio Grande became a boundary between the United States and Mexico, a settlement called Franklin grew up on the north side of the river and eventually took the name El Paso. The original El Paso del Norte settlement on the south side became Ciudad Juarez.
The establishment of Fort Bliss in 1854, the arrival of the Butterfield Overland Mail route in 1858, and the building of the railroads in the 1880s brought an economic boom and increased population. The flourishing frontier community became the seat of El Paso county government in 1883. Its proximity to mining areas in northern Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona, combined with its geographic location on the international border made El Paso a multi-cultural, multifaceted city unique among Texas communities.