Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Duval County Sheriff authorized to use convicts to clear crossing at creek

Judge James O. Luby
Concerned about the crossing at the San Diego Creek, the Duval County Commissioners in 1877 ordered that the sheriff to use convict labor to improve the crossing across from the courthouse. Sheriff R. P. Fly was to seek the advice and consent of County Judge James Luby when using the convicts.

The court directed the sheriff to keep the convicts at “hard labor” fixing the crossing and approaches. In addition, convicts were to remove stakes and corrals obstructing the crossing. The sheriff could credit the convicts for one day’s work for every nine hours of labor. He could also purchase all the necessary equipment to get the job done.

If convict labor was not sufficient to complete the job, the court authorized the sheriff to use road crews to help with the project. Under no circumstances, however, were road crews compelled to work with the convicts.

Commissioners also appointed County Surveyor John J. Dix as sole commissioner to represent the county in working with Starr, Zapata and Encinal Counties in establishing the southern and western boundaries of Duval County. The court authorized Dix to enter into the agreements necessary to effectuate this matter.

The commissioners also directed Surveyor Dix to locate and obtain patents to all lands that the county was entitled to for school purposes. The court agreed to pay Dix fees allowed by law for this purpose.

Finally, the court ordered Dix to cut and establish all approved roads in the county. The court also directed the surveyor to place mileposts on the roads and to use road crews as necessary to get the job done.

In other business at its August 1877 meeting, Commissioners Court agreed to give County Judge Luby a pay raise of $300 annually, from $200 to $500. The court also accepted the resignation of Justice of the Peace for Pct. 2 Saul Tinney and tabled action on the appointment of a county physician.

At the court’s subsequent meeting, commissioners named Eugene A. Glover to replace Tinney as Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace.

The court also approved the payment of a $250 for the “apprehension and delivery to the proper officers at the courthouse door in San Diego of each and every party implicated in the murders of Girtman and Poppell.” Unknown parties had murdered the two sheep buyers in the county.

Monday, January 19, 2015

South Texas Gentle Men of Steel – Los Padres

(This is a news release from my good friend Father Armando Ibañez, OP, which I know many of you would be interested in. Look forward seeing some of you at the preview.)

A new documentary about the great impact Dominican friars had in the history and development of central South Texas, especially on how their presence assisted many Mexican-Americans struggle against injustice and harsh racism, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26-27 in Ball Room A, in the Memorial Student Union Bldg. (Sub-M), at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK).

South Texas Gentle Men of Steel – Los Padres is written, produced and directed by Assistant Professor of Communications / Radio-Television-Film, Armando P. Ibáñez. He is also the director of TAMUK’s RTF program, is also a Roman Catholic priest, a Dominican friar of the Southern Dominican Province, headquartered in New Orleans. He is a native of San Diego, grew up in Alice, and is a former reporter of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

In addition, award-winning editor and animator, Todd Schmidt, is co-producer of the film, and Emmy Award nominee, Joe O. Barrera, a native of San Diego, is the documentary’s music composer and music supervisor. Barrera was named by the Hollywood Reporter as a film music composer to watch, and has won numerous prestigious honors for his music.

The January screenings are the film’s third and fourth sneak previews. The doc screened in the Little Theatre in late November.

“Watching Los Padres was an immersion in the history of my family,” said Jenni Vinson, who teaches at TAMUK. “It was touching to see the church that received my grandfather when he fled Mier, Mexico. This was the same church he later married in and where they baptized their children.”

The film is a tribute to the last two Spanish Dominican friars—Father Benito Retortillo, OP, and Father Epifanio “Epi” Rodriguez, OP. They left San Diego, and returned to their homes in Spain last year, ending an 82-year presence of Spanish Dominican friars in central South Texas. The film is not only a tribute to the last two friars to minister in San Diego and surrounding area, but is also about the great impact Dominican friars had on the lives of many Mexican Americans in South Texas, who struggled against poverty and discrimination.

Ibáñez says that the film represents a chapter of the ongoing universal story of people grappling to understand and accept each other as equals. It is a chapter that traces its roots to the Spanish Conquista—a wrestling match of greed and brutality against equality and Salvation. It is part of the universal story that began with Cain slaying his brother Abel.

Vinson says: “Los Padres is an encapsulation of what we once relied on the narrative to do, the telling of our stories. To see ‘us’ on the screen filled me with joy because Armando Ibáñez took such care with our story and presented us with the dignity my grandparents and the priests instilled in me for our culture.”

In the film, Father Epi says: “When I go back to Spain, I’m going to be a stranger in my own country. It’s going to be very painful for me to leave.” Father Epi ministered in South Texas for more than 50 years, while Father Benito served for about 30 years.

Although Dominican friars no longer minister in South Texas, the work of Father Epi and Father Benito and that of their Dominican brothers had a profound impact on the lives of many Mexican-Americans, especially when they faced the harsh realities of blatant discrimination, which denied them good jobs, education and even kept them out public institutions, such as universities, and businesses, like restaurants.

The Spanish friars of the Order of Preachers, more commonly known as Dominicans, did not lead with anger, but, rather, with a gentle presence that assured their parishioners of their human dignity and integrity.

The Dominicans “didn’t join protest marches” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, TAMUK Professor Manuel Flores says in the film, but they quietly encouraged the youth and activists to continue with their struggles against discrimination. It was a matter of justice and equality.

“They gave legitimacy to the Chicano movement,” Dr. Flores said.

“Our documentary includes a historical context in order to illustrate the true contribution these Dominican friars made, and to illustrate that Mexican-Americans faced blatant discrimination at one time in this country.” Although discrimination is still very much alive today, he added, but it is not as overt as it once was.

“We should never forget so that it won’t happen again, and so that we also won’t discriminate against anyone else either.”

The documentary is produced by Pluma Pictures, Inc., a non-profit film production company. Featured in the film are writer and historian Alfredo Cardenas, Roberto Juarez, poet and retired postmaster and Servando Hinojosa, visual artist and retired art teacher, as well as an interview with the Bishop Michael Mulvey, STL, DD of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. 

“A unique component of our film is poetry,” said Ibañez, who is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, and wrote poetry for the documentary.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Disorderly bailes and drunkenness not tolerated by Duval County Commissioners

Houses of ill repute came to the notice of Duval County Commissioners in March 1877. The Commissioners Court ordered that the sheriff, deputies and constables were not to provide services to fandangos, bailes and other places of amusement that did not have a license. In fact, law enforcement officials were to arrest any owner of these places for keeping a disorderly house if any misdemeanor or felony crime was committed at their places of business.

Commissioners also urged law enforcement officers and justices of the peace to enforce laws on the books relating to drunkenness forcefully.

The court also accepted the resignation of Apolonio Vela as Constable for Precinct Number 1 and then named him Constable of Precinct Number 2. At a subsequent meeting, the court named Luis Cuellar to replace Vela as Constable for Precinct Number 1.

The court also received applications from W. B. Jones and from Dr. Alexander to be the county physician. Commissioners tabled the request. Meanwhile, Dr. Alexander submitted a bill of $90 for treatment of wounded prisoner Rafael Ruiz. The court and Dr. Alexander settled on a payment of $50 for his services.

The court also named C. K. Gravis to replace John Vining on the committee meeting with Nueces County to resolve boundary and other issues. It seems that Vining lost a limb on a trip between San Diego and Corpus Christi.

The costs of burials were decidedly less in 1877 than today. Duval County Commissioners approved payment of $9.50 to Vining for the care and pauper’s funeral for Gregorio Sauceda.

The court ordered the rent payment of $100 for the courthouse building to Manuel Ancira. The court also asked County Judge James Luby to work with Mr. Ancira on providing a secure ceiling to the county clerk and the county surveyor’s office in order to protect records and maps. The court also directed the sheriff and county judge to look for a building in San Diego that the county could use as a county jail.

Commissioners Court received and approved a petition from Concepcion area citizens for a county road from Concepcion to Clovis. The court designated it as a Class 2 Road and appointed a Board of Reviewers to oversee the road’s development. The court named Eduardo G. Hinojosa, Santa Ana Garcia, Francisco Cadena, Juan Leal and Ignacio Gonzales to the board.

The court also approved as a Class 1 Road, a request for a road from Corpus Christi to Rio Grande City via Concepcion. The court approved the report submitted by the Board of Reviewers consisting of Julian Palacios, Jesus Palacios, Juan Leal, Secundo Vela and Mauricio Salinas. In Duval County, the road was to start a little west, not more than three miles, off the Rosita Creek and the road running from Corpus Christi by Los Indios Rancho. From there it was to run the most direct line practicable to the county line.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Duval County taxed men and dogs

In the 21st century taxpayers complain about high taxes. There was a time during its history that Duval County had the distinction of having the highest tax rates in the state. But, in the early days of the county, the ad valorem tax rate adopted by the commissioners court totaled $1.25 cents per $100 of valuation.

In February 1877, commissioners adopted a half-cent state ad valorem tax, which today is unconstitutional. The commissioners approved a county ad valorem tax of one-quarter cent and a courthouse and jail tax of half-cent.

Men who would be between 21 and 60 years of age during 1877 were also required to pay a $2 poll tax. At that time, the poll tax was not a tax granting the right to vote; that would not come about until 1902. The 1876 Texas Constitution authorized the tax purely as a financial resource and it had nothing to do with the franchise. The court also adopted the occupation tax, as prescribed by the general laws of Texas.

Men were not the only ones taxed. The Commissioners Court also approved a $1 “dog tax.”

Taxes and dogs were not the only thing on the commissioners’ minds. The court appointed a committee consisting of J. W. Moses, E. G. Perez and B. N. Fletcher to visit the butcher stalls and slaughter pens in San Diego to determine if they were contributing to the public nuisance. The committee returned to the reconvened meeting of the court the following day and reported that the slaughter pens on the San Diego Creek owned by Ponciano Garza were a nuisance. The court gave Garza five days to remove the nuisance.

In order to collect ad valorem taxes properly, County Tax Collector Calixto Tovar needed to know which properties were within the county. The commissioners court directed County Surveyor John J. Dix to run a survey line for the eastern boundary of Duval County, bordering with Nueces County. The court further directed that Dix meet with his counterparts from Nueces, Live Oak and McMullen Counties to join him in running the line so that all parties would be in agreement.

The court instructed Dix to begin the work at the northeast corner of Duval County, which was also the northwest corner of Nueces County. He was to designate the northeast corner with a permanent stone monument. The surveyor was also to place similar permanent stone monuments at all the corners of the county. Dix was then to run the eastern line between Duval and Nueces counties. Dix was to proceed to the northwest corner of Duval County and lay the northern boundary line.

The work of the surveyor required that someone transcribe the survey notes of the Nueces County surveyor. Commissioners requested bids for the job.

Thursday, January 1, 2015