Thursday, August 21, 2014

Part 2: social happenings in 1887

Victor Garcia, 74, married his seventh wife when he was 40 and reportedly had 15 children with her. All were living and doing well. He had another 16 children by six former wives. The Corpus Christi newspaper correspondent quipped that it looked like Garcia was “good for 20 more years.”

President Cleveland pardoned Robert Doughty, the stepson of Duval County Assessor Frank C. Gravis. His crime was not reported.

Ranch men were feeding cattle prickly pear and cottonseed with success. John C. Caldwell was surveying in Duval County and found some strange antlers. One was of a deer head with a third horn or antler growing out six 6 inches from its forehead. The other oddity was two heads of stag’s antlers horns locked until death during a fight. The horns were on display at Wolfram’s Saloon in Corpus Christi.

Judge Luby was finishing up a house near J. W. Shaw’s residence, which he would rent to L. Pena. Capt. E. E. Deviney will also rent a house from Luby.

Toribio Guerra bought the Ybanez ranch and Juan Puig bought the Glover ranch near Benavides.

Ludwig Brandt, 66, a resident of Duval County for nine years, died suddenly. He was a skilled mechanic from Germany who had worked for the Russian government. He was the father of Otto Brandt of San Diego. He was Lutheran and his wife survived him.

A Mrs. Benavides died leaving eight children and a husband. She had made reputation for herself by fighting a wild cat that had attacked her four-months-old baby in its cradle several months before. She killed cat and saved child.

County Treasurer George Bodet; Sheriff Wright, Deputy Sheriff Leno Cuellar, Juan Gonger (Gongora?), and Ramon Gonzales went to Floresville as witnesses in a case against Guerra and Martinez who were charged with horse theft.

M. Cohn, one of San Diego’s merchants, used to ride a fine horse on city streets. Business has increased so much that he is talking of getting married, settling down, and quitting his “wild habits.”

Judge Luby; Commissioners Edward Corkill, William Hebbron, Frederick Ridder, and Pedro Eznal met as a Board of Equalization.

Father Bard married L. Pena and Adelaida del Barrio. Also married a couple who had run away.

A rattlesnake bit a little boy, whose last name was Bryden. Dr. L. B. Wright attended to his wound.

E. Corkill was gathering cattle in Realitos to take to the Indian Territory. The town was improving rapidly. The “Alcalde” had all stumps and brush cut and cleared out of the city limits. From the amount of freight that arrives weekly, it is becoming an important station. The ranch men and local merchants Downs, Cadena, and Staples do extensive business.

Judge Luby named W. B. Croft, William Taylor, and Henry Parkham to the Board of Examiners. The law required three teachers with certifications to be members of the board, but the judge wrote to the state superintendent pointing out that if he appointed teachers as the law required, he would have to name his mother and sister. He asked that a waiver be granted allowing him to appoint three “competent” persons and it was approved.

At the end of June, A. L. Muil finished the Catholic Church in Benavides.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Social events were many in 1887 Duval County

For our readers interested in genealogy and family histories, we will list a number of social events from 1887, including weddings, deaths, marriages and births. No hard facts involving crime or politics in this blog.

At the beginning of 1887, Caroline Brandis died in San Diego at the age of 55. She was the daughter of Joseph Wright Sr. and a member of the Episcopal Church. Brandis was survived by a husband and two children.

Other deaths reported in early 1887 were James D. Latta and Laura Wright. Latta, a native of Glasgow, Scotland was only 35 when he died on March 13 in San Diego. He was survived by a wife and two children. Wright died in San Diego three days later, on March 16. She was the wife of Duval County Sheriff L. L. Wright, and the sister of R. R. Savage. She moved to Texas in 1877 with her brother and married in 1881. She was a Presbyterian. At the end of the month, on March 30, W. S. Halsey died in Benavides of paralysis. He was 58 and had been sheriff of Starr County at one time. Halsey had only recently moved to Benavides to open a mercantile business. He was survived by a wife, five daughters, and one son. Halsey was buried in Corpus Christi.

In today’s San Diego, the Catholic church is the dominant Christian faith, but in the early days, as seen in the above deaths, many other Christian groups also practiced their faith in the “capitol of Duval.” In April 1887, for example, the San Diego Methodist church held a festival to raise funds to pay for the minister’s salary, putting in new benches, and improving the church. The festival was held at the old Spann Building. A. Nuil provided vocal and instrumental music, and the children enjoyed games such as post office, fish pond, grab-bags, etc. The festival was well-attended and raised $100 during hard economic times. Volunteer helpers included Gertrude Gravis, Lillie Ridder, Nettie Smith, Ardel Lewis, Carrie Farnum, Addie Luby, Miss Croft, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Coymer, and Mrs. Peterson.

Dr. T. C. Hannelly and wife returned after extended absences to New York and Monterrey, respectively. On May 27, Dr. Hannelly went for a walk while in Corpus Christi and did not return. A friend went looking for him and found him lying on ground dead near the power house just north of city. He apparently had a stroke and died. Dr. Hannelly was viewed as a good physician, kind husband, and good citizen. Mrs. Hannelly’s father was Julian Palacios of Concepcion. A number of local residents, including E. G. Perez and his daughter, Sheriff Wright, and others went by train to the funeral. The widow returned to San Diego with family friends.

Early Duval County also had a sizable Jewish population. In 1887, two weddings were announced among the “Hebrew population”, and another prospect was possible as the town photographer also looking to get married.

S. J. de la Vega, who had recently married, died suddenly in May. His death was unexpected.

Father J. P. Bard from St. Francis de Paula in San Diego served Catholics in an area extending from Banquete to 20 miles South of Concepcion.Father Bard was always on the move, performing marriages, consoling the afflicted, and preaching. “Father Bard can marry more couples and bind them together than any person and no divorce follows,” reported Jeffreys in the Corpus Christi newspaper.

Still, the district court in San Diego was hearing four divorce cases and the more were expected to follow. In county court, meanwhile, Andres Martinez was being tried for lunacy before Judge Luby. The jury found him insane.

The social happenings for the second half of 1887 will continue in next week’s blog.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

“Tatita” was hot topic of conversation in 1861 brush country


It snowed in South Texas at the start of 1861; and that was only the beginning of curious happenings around San Diego and Corpus Christi. One particular item had the entire area talking.

A saint reportedly appeared in Camargo. Accounts came to the area that the saint fed thousands with three tortillas and cured the sick and blind. One observer said the saint used a mixture of “agua ardiente” and water rubbed in an affected area to perform amazing healing.

Initial reports had the saint being about 17 but appearing old with a beard. Mexican Federales shaved off the saint’s beard and asked him to grow it back to prove he was a saint. After turning around for a moment, the soldiers looked at him again and the saint’s beard was back. The man said he had come to serve the Mexican people and that another man would kill him but he asked the people not to harm him.

The story got even more interesting. Reports had the devil following the saint in a black horse. Accounts from the border said the devil distributed never-ending amounts of money. D. Glover & Co. advertised in the Ranchero that the “Mexican prophet is coming to Corpus Christi.”

A description of the saint appeared in the Ranchero in a letter received by a reader from a friend in Laredo, who saw the saint in Mier. The writer described the saint as a “nice old fellow” the people called “Tatita.” He further described him as being about 60 years old and was “very dark and vulgar looking.”

He had a “long white beard reaching halfway to his waist; gray mustache and hair” and wore a “hat of old high crowned broad brimmed Mexican style black wool; a coat of striped sack cloth; pants the same, a dirty white shirt opened down bottom.” He wore sandals tied with string coming up the toes on a pair of very dirty feet.

The writer reported between 1,500 and 2,000 people following the saint and kissing his hands and feet. The saint supposedly bought cattle and gave them to his followers. He also distributed clothing. “Don't know where the money comes from,” wrote the Laredo observer. The writer spent and conversed with the saint all day. The saint told him “there would never be peace until the world was destroyed.”

“I have seen, and unless I had, would not believe,” concluded the letter writer.

After three months of dominating conversations in the brush country, reports of the saint faded. “The Mexican Saint,” reported the Ranchero, “at last, has received a commission permitting him to leave the scene of his labors within 24 hours under penalty of becoming a martyr.”

Life returned to mundane activities, such as local politics and the land. Voters elected Rafael Salinas as Justice of the Peace Pct. 9 in Nueces County; Edward N. Gray Justice of the Peace in Pct. 10; and Alejandro Garcia in Pct. 11. In May, Felix Blucher resurveyed the San Andres grant for the heirs of Andres Garcia. Blucher was the Deputy District Surveyor of the Nueces District. Chain carriers for the survey included Antonio Bermudes, Cayetano Villarreal, Abram de los Santos and Cayetano Molina.

All would soon change in the brush country, as the Civil War would invade the area.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Corn crop made big entry in Duval County in 1886

Con artists were common in the frontier. In 1885, an Anglo con artist passed himself off as half Mexican by the name of Federico Milmo. He bought some mules in San Diego without paying, left one at the Lara ranch between Collins and San Diego, and went into Collins and told the Sheriff someone stole his mules at Piedras Pintas. Milmo took the train to Corpus Christi.

The next week, Milmo found himself in jail in San Diego where he persuaded a deputy to let him out so he could go visit a woman friend. Milmo of course disappeared in the wind. The sheriff heard he was in Concepcion and went after him. Authorities believed Milmo was the same con artist who hoodwinked Lazaro Peña of Peña Station two years before.

Another con artist by the name of MacManus deceived some people in San Diego and escaped to Eagle Pass where he continued practicing his trade. Reports from Eagle Pass had him escaping from there as well.

Not everyone was a con artist, some entrepreneurs sought to advance themselves and the community in favorable ways. Fabian Favela, of example, was manufacturing wool hats in San Diego. The hats’ fine quality found many customers for the local manufacturer. Favela was also collecting money in San Diego to buy cottonseed to give to the poor so they could plant and raise a crop. Quite a bit of cottonseed was collected.

An unforgiving cold front hit San Diego in January 1886. The thermometer dipped to 18 degrees and the weather included rain, sleet and snow. While some enjoyed snowball fights, not everything was fun. Stockmen lost a large number of cattle.

The freeze did not deter Favela and area farmers. By March, farming was in full swing. Farmers were harvesting a large corn crop. Due to the success they had with the corn harvest the year before, farmers enlarged their cornfields and were planting on a larger scale. Farmers are thrilled with the outlook of the crop. Favela, who had several years of experience farming, was credited with introducing corn farming in Duval County.

Some of the more prominent planters in the county included Placido Benavides, Isidro Benavides, and Vicente Vera. W. A. and R. B. Glover were using their gristmill to produce corn meal. R. R. Savage shipped 10 carloads of corn to Corpus Christi from Realitos and planned to ship more.

At Concepcion, in addition to a good corn crop, farmers were planting garden vegetables, melon and peaches. Well-known planters in Concepcion were Julian Palacios, Charles Stillman, and Teodoro and Alejo Perez.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pretty women and bad men were all part of the mix

While Duval County residents were abuzz with the rainmaking experiment in late 1891, a reporter for the New York Sun was more impressed with the women in Duval County. “At the risk of offending the fair and fashionable ladies of Gotham City, there crowded into a small barn-like theater or teatro of the town [San Diego] last night were more pretty women than any theater in New York ever held at one time,” wrote the Sun’s N. A. Jennings.

“Their hair,” Jennings continued, “was brushed smoothly back over their shapely heads, a la Mexicana, with here and there a Texas Lilly gleaning like a star. In their tresses the señoritas had the wonderful pure Madonna-like beauty which northern eyes never see save in pictures of Santa Maria painted by old masters. Murillo probably used their great great-grandmothers for his creations of the Holy Mother. . .”

That was quite a compliment coming from a northerner. New York was not the only city with a newspaper named the Sun. San Diego too had a newspaper in 1891 by that name. Editor W. L. Johnston’s motto for his Sun was, “Like the Creator’s Sun, Sparkling and Scintillating for All”. He asked for everyone’s support, which may not have been forthcoming since it did not appear to last for long.

Speaking of newspapers, El Correo de Laredo reprinted an article from San Diego’s El Eco Liberal, arguing that Catarino Garza’s efforts at fomenting revolution in Mexico was nuts. The idea, said the newspaper, “was a dream of madmen, of bums, and of people without jobs.” It added, “The true revolution is work. Long Live Work! Death to the Revolution.”

El Eco Liberal may not have taken a liking to Catarino Garza but others throughout the countryside had a different view. In March 1892, Miguel Martinez came to San Diego from Starr County with the body of Robert Doughty, the stepson of Frank C. Graves. Doughty had been party of seven Texas Rangers under the command of Capt. McNeil. Garza’s men reportedly shot him down.

Ten miles northwest of San Diego in the hills, Enhebio Martinez, James Ashworth, and a third unidentified man were making a run for it after robbing a store 10 days earlier. One of the men, brandishing a pistol and knife, was mounted on a horse taken from a scout named Glover.

Duval County Deputy Nichols Benavidez led a posse that included George Alanis, Augustine Cantu, and Jose Palacios in pursuit of the two. The posse caught up with the trio 28 miles north of San Diego and a gunfight ensued. Palacios shot the horse from under Ashworth but took a bullet in the thigh. Alanis and Cantu encircled Martinez, but the outlaw escaped. Benavidez, meanwhile, caught the third bandit. Sheriff John Buckley made a belated appearance when he arrived with a doctor to tend to the posse.