Wisconsin native John Closner established the first steam-powered irrigation system in the lower Rio Grande Valley in 1895. Closner successfully grew sugar cane and entered a sample for judging at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. The award-winning sugar cane and Closner's promotion of the lower Rio Grande convinced a number of financiers and agriculturists to invest in the region's irrigation and development possibilities.
In 1909 H. N. Pharr, J. C. Kelly, John C. Conway, and A. W. Roth formed the Louisiana-Rio Grande (LRG) Canal Company to transform about 40,000 acres of arid land in Hidalgo County into productive farmland. To do this the company built two pumping stations to divert water from the Rio Grande through an elaborate irrigation system to a planned community of small farmsteads.
The agricultural success of the LRG Canal Company, its successor the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District #2, and other similar operations in the region resulted in an influx of Anglo farmers and settlers from the midwestern U. S. into this mainly Hispanic region of Texas. The bountiful harvests propelled the Rio Grande Valley to the forefront of Texas agriculture by the mid-20th century and earned the region a reputation as the "winter garden" of Texas. (1995)