Nicolas Balli was born around 1768 and came from a wealthy family in the town of Reynosa, Mexico. He studied at the University of Salamanca, Spain and was ordained a lay priest in 1790-91.
However, his duties did not require a vow of poverty. Padre Balli owned a lot of land and he wanted to increase his holdings. Sometime between 1800 and 1805, he applied to the Spanish crown for a land grant on the "Isla de Corpus Christi", the name the island acquired after the naming of Corpus Christi Bay in 1766. Previously, it had been known as "Isla Blanca" or "La Isla de los Malaquittas" but it eventually became known as "The Padres Island".
The padre owned the island jointly with his nephew Juan Jose Balli: Nicolas owning the southern half of the island and Juan Jose the northern half. On the island Padre Balli and his nephew (and foreman) Juan Jose Balli raised large herds of cattle, sheep and horses. It was not a small operation , as in 1811, Padre Balli stated in his will that he owned 1,000 head of cattle.
After the padre's death in 1828, Juan Jose chose his brother-in-law, Raphael Solis, to take formal possession of Nicolas's share of the island. In 1830, Juan Jose sold his (northern) half and one-seventh of the southern half of the property to Santiago Morales, who kept it until 1845, when he sold it to Jose Maria Tovar.