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Refugio is located on the north bank of the Mission River, northeast of Corpus Christi on US 77 and US 77A/187 near Copano Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

It is the seat of Refugio County, and goes back to the mid-1700s.

The discovery of oil in Refugio County in 1928 led to a population boom in the city and rapid development. In 1925 Refugio had an estimated population of only 933, but by 1930 there were 2,019 people living there, and sixty-five businesses had been established.

It began to decline after the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, as local petroleum production declined. The population dropped to 4,340 by 1970 and to 3,898 by 1980. In 1990 Refugio remained a center for the area's petroleum and petrochemical industries, but its population had dropped to 3,658.

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