Thursday, April 30, 2015

Large crowds turn out for Fourth of July 1899

Claude Tibilier, one of San Diego’s most prominent citizens, died on March 6, 1899 after becoming paralyzed following several days of dengue fever. He was buried the following day with Father J. P. Bard officiating over a Catholic funeral. Serving as pall bearers were Paul Bears, W. W. Meek, C. H. Hufford, P. Eznal, Frank Feuille, S. H. Woods, and B. Miret.

The Corpus Christi Caller reported the funeral was one of “largest seen in San Diego”. The funeral procession left the Tibilier home for St. Francis de Paula Catholic Church and from the church proceeded to the San Diego Cemetery. Tibilier was survived by a wife, eight children, a brother, and several sisters. He was a member of the fraternal organizations the Knights of Honor, the Knights of Pythias, and the Woodmen of the World. He believed in “Republicanism of the heart and Democracy of the fireside”.

Two months later, Tibilier’s widow was building a $1,200 home. M. D. Cohn was also building a $1,500 residence, showing San Diego still possessed economic vitality. In another sign of this healthy economy, John A. Cleary bought the E. D. Sidbury lumberyard in San Diego.

The Texas Mexican Railroad, meanwhile, named A. Puig of San Diego as its agent, replacing D. M. Morris who the railroad transferred to its Monterey depot. The post office, located at E. C. Cadena’s store, also made changes, naming L. Fernandez assistant postmaster and bookkeeper to take over from Santos Ramirez. A prominent Mexican politician, Amado Garcia Hinojosa, was visiting in San Diego.

Over in Realitos, large crowds came out to celebrate the Fiesta de San Juan. The newspaper reported that the town was filled with “gamblers, smugglers, illicit liquor dealers, and soiled doves. Open-air gaming, brass bands, and hoodlums with all calibers of pistols from 45 Colts to 22 Winchesters make night dangerous.” Chuck-luck lotteries and Monte tables attracted gamblers and other louts.

In San Diego, local residents were also partying in observance of the Fourth of July, with large crowds gathering around the picnic grounds. Judge J. O. Luby donated ammo for 12-pound cannon which arrived by train. Pedro Cruz, who was in charge of the cannon, fired a 21-gun salute. Bands played music throughout the day and political types made speeches. Among the orators were A. D. Smith and Alice resident T. E. Noonan who “made one of his characteristic speeches, logical and eloquent.”

Johnnie Nichols, the only greased pole contestant, tried to climb the pole time after time but failed each time. Someone felt sorry for him and gave him a quarter. Frank Feuille Jr. won the watermelon-eating contest and also received a quarter for his effort. Willie Hoffman and Claude Tibilier Jr. tied in the potato race. The tub race provided the most hilarity and paid half a dollar to winner Willie Nichols. Lawrence Tibilier also took home a half dollar after he easily won the swimming competition. Other winners included George Lewis in the wheel barrel race; Eugene Spence in the sack race; and Jorge Rodriguez in the greased pig challenge.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Duval County liked to celebrate often and late into the night, fiestas and dance were common

Special celebrations in Duval County were many and held often in the nineteenth century. They were also quite different from today’s fiestas. In 1887, the July 4 celebration included the San Diego Gun Club putting on a remarkable display of American flags on the fiesta grounds. Tent stands also dotted the ground selling everything from lemonade and to cold while a band struck up a musical fare. The affair more than made up for the community’s failure to celebrate San Jacinto Day on April 21.

The large crowd enjoyed a large display of both American and Texas flags. Ferdinand Tibilier raised the Irish flag and the Mexican flag was also flown. The Corpus Christi reporter claimed there were “no Americans … more enthusiastic than were the Mexicans in celebrating the day”.

Old Gun Club members taking part in the celebration included Charles Hoffman, M. C. Spann, Tibilier, George Bodet, and Frank Gravis. New members taking part were Avelino Garcia Tovar, Eusebio Martinez, and Antonio Rosales. Also enjoying the festivities were W. B. Croft and John Buckley. The Gun Club marched onto the fiesta grounds in procession accompanied by musicians and followed by a large crowd. Because the Club’s president, J. O. Luby, was busy attending to his law business, the Gun Club members marched to his office to serenade him. At least that was Luby’s excuse; others theorized he absented himself from the celebration because he was of English descent and the orators were making some nasty comments about the British.

Benavides did not put on quite a show for the Fourth; the only celebration reported was the firing of 13 rifles.

In Realitos a couple of weeks before, on June 26, the Spanish-speaking community had celebrated feast day of San Juan with horse races, cockfights, and other entertainment. Apparently, the day did not generate the same interest in San Diego, where no celebrations were observed. Perhaps they were too busy preparing to the Fourth of July.

The lively entertainment continued in July with no less than six dances being held in San Diego on Saturday, July 23. All six dances were well attended with both music and dance partners in great demand.

In September, the young men celebrated Dies y Seis de Septiembre with another dance. The following month, Kate Luby, with the help of women in the town, organized a grand musical concert to raise funds for school for girls.

The year’s celebrating was capped in December when the San Diego Gun Club held a shooting tournament and another private dance. The shooting tournament was held on the Monday after Christmas. The Gun Club asked merchants to close for the day. The private “hop” on Saturday night, meanwhile, resulted in dancing through the night until daylight; many went home with girls in the morning. The theatre was also well attended even though the shows did not start until midnight.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Large number of families turnout for dedication of historic Santo Nino Cemetery in Duval County

Orlando Martinez reads marker for Santo Nino Cemetery.
Despite a downpour the night before and threatening skies, a large crowd turned out to commemorate the unveiling of a Historic Texas Cemetery marker at the Santo Nino Cemetery in Duval County on April 18. The day was dedicated to the memory of Jose Noe Martinez for his “commitment and care” of the cemetery.

The Texas State Historical Commission granted the historic designation to the cemetery on March 21, 2012 and Martinez passed away three days later. His son Orlando Martinez of San Diego picked up the torch and guided the project through its unveiling. Also on the Santo Nino Cemetery Association are Gloria Guajardo of Laredo, Sara Flores of Corpus Christi, Shelley Bryant of McAllen and Angel Noe Gonzalez from Dallas.

The Santo Nino Cemetery is located on El Senor de La Carrera land grant. The state of Tamaulipas granted El Senor de la Carrera to Dionisio Elizondo on October 15, 1835. It consisted of two leagues, six labores and 891,000 square varas. It was located about 55 miles southwest of Corpus Christi on the Laredo road which traversed the grant at the very northern tip. Also on the northeast corner of the grant was the Laguna Traviesada. The grant was surveyed on September 1, 2, and 4, 1854 by Felix Blucher. Chain carriers were Refugio Salas, Nieves Garcia, Rafael L. Salinas and Albino Canales. It is recorded in Book E, Pages 127-129 in Nueces County.

El Senor de la Carrera was resurveyed on March 12-14, and 16, 1868 and a judgment and decree was issued to Benito Gonzales Garcia on October 31, 1868. Suit was filed on May 21, 1864 in the 14th District Court in Nueces County presided over by E. B. Carpentier. The suit was brought under an act to ascertain and adjudicate certain legal claims for land against the state, situated between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers approved on February 11, 1860 and amended on January 11, 1862 and Ordinance Number 212 of the convention of the People of Texas passed March 30, 1866. (GLO File 542)

The family of Vicente Gonzalez Elizondo and Benigna Saenz Bravo donated the northern part of the cemetery. Jose Maria Martinez Gonzalez donated the southern part of the cemetery. The cemetery is located off FM1329 on County Road 210.

Luis Noe Martinez served as master of ceremonies for the dedication. Other participants included Lydia Canales, chairwoman of the Duval County Historical Commission; Angel Noe Gonzalez presented the application history; County Judge Ricardo Carrillo who read and presented a proclamation for the occasion; Father Eddie Garcia who blessed the marker; and the San Diego VFW 8931 color guard who presented the colors.

While the cemetery has no doubt existed for much longer, the earliest “readable” tombstone is that of Eleuterio Saenz Martinez dated June 19, 1908. More than 120 burials are located at the cemetery which is surrounded by a chain link fence and is well maintained. Orlando Martinez maintains the records of those buried at Santo Nino. Names and photographs of some 50 tombstones can also be found on the Web site

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Duval Commisioners burn all warrants and scrip in open court

The May 1879 term of the Duval County Commissioners court considered a number of personnel changes at the elected official level, including resignations, appointments and cancellation of bonds. The court met May 13-16, 1879.

At the meeting before, held in February, County Commissioner for Precinct 2, P. W. Toklas had abruptly resigned. At the time, the Commissioners Court had turned down a request from Precinct 2 citizens to have Toklas reinstated. Commissioners, however, were not so inclined to the request of District Judge J.C. Russell who reappointed Toklas in May. The court approved the judge’s recommendation.

County Attorney H. S. Lang then presented Commissioners Court with his resignation, which they readily accepted. The court quickly named Charles F. Whitney as Lang’s replacement. Charles and Frank Gravis provided the Court with Whitney’s necessary bond. The Gravis men, however, withdrew the bond they had previously provided for County Clerk Andrew Valles, who then secured the needed bond from N. G. Collins.

The Commissioners Court also approved a petition from La Rosita citizens to have a justice of the peace named for Precinct 5. The court appointed F. R. Knight as Justice of the Peace for La Rosita area.

Finally, the Commissioners Court appointed road overseers for the various precincts. Precinct 1 overseer was Encarnacion G. Perez. The Court appointed Rufus B. Glover overseer in Precinct 2 and Edward Corkill for Precinct 3. Named overseer for Precinct 4 was A. J. Ayers and in Precinct 5, the Court appointed George Copp as road overseer.

James O. Luby
In other business, Commissioners Court gave the county surveyor an extension, until August 1879, to complete a map of the county. They also authorized the surveyor to purchase all necessary land records needed to complete the map. They also directed County Judge James Luby to communicate with the state Comptroller and the Attorney General regarding a tax for courthouse purposes. The judge was to report to the court at its June meeting.

The Commissioners Court also ordered the burning of all warrants and scrip issued and cancelled since the organization of the county. Commissioners carefully examined the documents and then burned them in open court. A warrant and scrip book documented the items burned.

The Court authorized Luby to build a bridge and dam “across the arroyo”. The judge also received permission to use convict labor to build a rock cistern and to have a “suitable fence” built around the courthouse lots.

Luby’s salary was set at $800 annually.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bill Buckley had Duval County legacy

On Wednesday, February 27, 2008 William F. Buckley Jr. died in his home in New York City. Why is this of note to readers of this blog? Well, stay tuned and find out.

Buckley was a nationally renowned figure and the premiere intellectual conservative in the United States. He is also responsible, many would argue, with the shape and form of the Republican Party that dominated American politics the last quarter century. However, the Buckleys were not always Republican; in fact, Buckley’s grandfather, John Buckley reportedly was among the founders of the Democratic Party in Duval County, although this may be questionable.

John Buckley
In the fall of 1882, John Buckley moved to San Diego from Washington-on-the-Brazos in search for more suitable climate for his asthmatic condition. He was born in Ontario, Canada and made his way down to Texas to raise sheep. Archie Parr moved the same year to Duval County. John Buckley was 10 years older than Parr and, although they would cross paths from time to time, Buckley would become a political force in Duval County years before Parr decided to take a plunge into politics.

Soon after his arrival in town, Buckley joined the San Diego Gun Club, which was the social club to join for men in the county. He was not a very good shooter, coming in dead last in his first event. Within months, he had improved so much that he came in first in a match shoot against the Corpus Christi Gun Club who had traveled to San Diego for a match. Buckley boasted the San Diego Gun Club was not afraid of any club in the state.

Two years after arriving in Duval County, Buckley won election as Assessor. In 1886, Buckley was among 38 delegates that bolted the local Democratic Party Convention. The Democrats that stayed at the Courthouse Convention accused the bolters of, among other things, being Republicans. Buckley represented Precinct 1 at the split convention and the convention named him a delegate to the Congressional Convention. In 1888, Democrats named a delegate to the Representative District Convention after Capt. E. N. Gray declined to serve.

That same year, Buckley and Parr served on the same jury that heard a case transferred from Starr County against A. Dillard and Victor Sebree for murder of Abram Resendez. Dillard was a Texas Ranger. The trial ended in a hung jury, with 11 for conviction and one for acquittal.

Buckley also joined a group of “Mexican Texans” called to select a ticket to challenge the incumbent county officials. The group nominated Buckley for sheriff. The county commissioners threw out Benavides and Rosita returns because they claimed the clerk failed to place the whole number of votes cast in the precinct, yet the votes for each candidate was plainly put down. J. Williamson Moses, the group’s candidate county judge, filed an election suit that ended up in the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in Moses’ favor and most offices were overturned. The suit alleged that Republican forces loyal to the incumbents had imported voters from Nueces and Starr counties as well as from Mexico. Buckley took his seat as Sheriff in 1890. Voters reelected him in 1894 and he served as sheriff until 1898.

John Buckley died at the age of 54 in Rockport and a special train took his body to San Diego but his family laid him to rest in Austin.

John Buckley left five children, among them William Buckley who was a year-old when he arrived in San Diego. William Buckley became proficient in Spanish and became a close friend of Spanish-speaking residents. One of his early mentors was Father Pedro Bard, pastor at St. Francis de Paula in San Diego. After finishing school in San Diego, Buckley taught at a country school near Benavides. He went on to become an attorney and became a multi-millionaire oilman in Mexico before going to New York in 1921, where four years later William F. Buckley Jr. was born.