In 1912 John Shary visited the Lower Rio Grande Valley for the first time. During 1912 Mr. Shary started developing the Lower Rio Grande Valley. He purchased the Judge Brooks estate comprising 10,000 - 12,000 acres where the towns of San Juan and Pharr are now located. In 1913 he purchased the Briggs estate and subdivided 6,000 - 7,000 acres which now supports the city of McAllen. In 1914 he purchased 16,000 acres from the Swift Estate, the first portion of land purchased which would become Sharyland. He began developing citrus farms. He cleared brush, dug canals and laid in roads and then sold and leased the land in 40 acre lots to farmers and citrus growers.
The land was generally covered in dense vegetation, including mesquite sometimes two feet in diameter, as well as cactus, guajillo, ebony, retama, tornilla, and huisache trees. In 1915 Mr. Shary planted the first large commercial citrus orchard in the Valley which was the genesis of the citrus industry on a commercial scale. From his own orchards he held the distinction to have shipped from the Valley the first solid car of citrus under standard pack and grade to the markets. Because of this first large scale commercial venture and his continuing activities in the development of every phrase of the citrus industry he has become known as "the father of the Texas citrus industry".
The Shary Mansion was bequeathed to the University Texas Pan American as a gift from the Shary family. It reflects the early age of the citrus industry in The Valley. Its elegance creates a wonderful place to meet new people and enjoy South Texas hospitality.