Possibly one of oldest towns in the United States. Established, according to tradition, in mid-1520s.
Founders were a priest and five other Spaniards of the unsuccessful Panfilo de Narvaez Expedition into Mexico in 1520. Narvaez was sent to arrest or kill Hernando Cortez, conqueror of Mexico, who was accused of disloyalty to the king. Cortez, however, defeated Narvaez in battle, imprisoned him, and took most of Narvaez's army for his own. After Narvaez was released from prison (1521), he and the remnant of his men set out for Florida. But Father Zamora and five officers gave up further plans to travel with Narvaez, and settled at Penitas.
The refugees were befriended by Indians living in huts and dugout-type homes in the vicinity. The Spaniards erected stone houses with whitewashed walls. Father Zamora brought the Catholic faith to the Indians, also teaching them weaving and better farming. The Indians taught cookery to their guests. Cabeza de Vaca, aide in a later Narvaez expedition, is famous for having written of his shipwreck and wanderings in Texas from 1528 to 1535. The founders of Penitas are recalled best by their descendants, some of whom still live in this area.