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 seƱoritas 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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Close of nineteenth century Part 3

On Sept. 21, 1899 the Sociedad Mutualista Hijos de Hidalgo in Benavides celebrated Diez y Seis de Septiembre and folks came in from all the surrounding communities and ranches to join the festivities. The fraternal organization, organized the previous year, had 70 members with Jose Elizondo serving as president and Loreto Arguijo as secretary. It was created to serve the Mexican American population and had a good effect.

Doors to the mutualista hall were opened to the public and they were greeted by pictures of Washington and Hidalgo and U. S. and Mexican flags. The outside of the hall was adorned with banisters with red, white, and green, and red, white, and blue ribbons. Families of members enjoyed a free dance.

Over in San Diego, Tax Assessor Collector Arturo Garcia built a rock house, considered one of the nicest homes in town. Sam Lewis built cottages for M. D. Cohn and Mrs. C. Tibilier. Croft & Co. fenced off four lots and rumors were going around town that they would build a bank at the site. John Ball bought the Shaeffer home located north of Charles Hoffman’s residence. Mrs. Morgan bought the W. B. Hubbard home, which was formerly the home of ex County Judge Coyner. Tim Edwards bored five wells and was boring a sixth at the new Cohn residence. In Benavides, John J. Dix was surveying the homestead of Placido Benavides.

On Sept. 20 Lida Craven married Newt Wright, with Father J. P. Bard officiating at the bride’s residence. The bride was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D. Craven and the groom was the son of Cotton Wright of Nueces County.

The Benavides gin processed 110 bales of cotton, twice what it had done the previous year. The San Diego gin shipped 600 bales. Mr. Parkman of San Diego also ginned 100 bales at his Alice gin and 300 at his San Diego gin. Mr. Gusset ginned same amount. No boll weevil was reported in the cotton, and farmers were expecting an even better year in 1900. Those who passed on planting cotton were “kicking themselves”.

In nearby Hebbronville, which at that time was part of Duval County, a large crowd was on hand when Bishop Vedaguer dedicated a new Catholic Church. Father Puig of Hebbronville, Father Antonio Serra of Goliad and Father Donado of San Patricio concelebrated the first Mass with the bishop. Father Donado gave a sermon in Spanish and the bishop gave the English sermon. After Mass, worshipers enjoyed a barbeque dinner near the depot. A concert followed at the church with a large number of visitors coming from surrounding towns.

The sanctuary was under construction for a year and Father Puig had worked on the plans for three years. The church, built on a hill on the east side of town, was made of white stone; stained glass windows; and had a large bell donated by Carmen Morell Kenedy of Corpus Christi. The building will cost $3,000.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Close of nineteenth century, Part 2

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, July 3, 2014

Close of nineteenth century

As the closing year of the nineteenth century opened, the San Diego Sun reported on the social life in the "City in the Woods". Mrs. A. Rosales hosted a New Year's Eve dance at the family home. Miss Croft meanwhile hosted a party for young people at the Miret Hotel with a large turnout.

The Woodmen of the World invited ladies in the community to put on a program. The organization’s hall was full to capacity the day of the event. Hays Dix and his sister Mag Sutherland performed; Olgy Tyler presented a recitation; and Terrel and Callie Smith “brought down the house” with a duet. The quartet of Mrs. Sutherland, Dix, Dr. J. S. Strickland and Deputy Sheriff Stockwell were the highlight of the evening’s entertainment. Woodmen members Coyner, Tyler, Tibilier, Vannort and Sutherland debated the subject of “Art and Nature”. David Craven Jr. read a composition.

The joy at the Rosales home soon dissipated as news came that someone had broken into their general merchandise store. Burglars drilled a hole into a lock and gained entrance to the store. They made away with $150 of merchandise, including Winchester rifles, watches, and jewelry. Authorities managed to recover a rifle and some jewelry.By the end of February, Sheriff M. Corrigan had arrested all the suspects in the robbery, rounding up the last suspects in the southern part of the county.  In an unrelated criminal case, Juan Moreno was sentenced to three years for horse theft.

Dr. Strickland reported a case of small pox in a family that had recently come from Laredo. The family did not report the illness and many others were exposed. Officials placed guards around the home to contain the disease. Episcopal priest Rev. Mr. Thulow cancelled services because the sick family lived close to the church. Dr. Strickland and County Commissioner John Cleary took charge of the problem and the doctor was soon treating three to four cases due to small pox, including a little girl. The newspapers also reported a second case of small pox near Benavides and a case of mumps in San Diego. Later, Benavides officials reported it was free of small pox and that they would quickly bury any one that died of the disease and quarantine any afflicted individual 10 miles outside of town.

The weather may have contributed to the disease. The temperature in February dropped to 5 degrees above zero. Ranchers suffered a tremendous loss of stock. A sheep raiser in Santa Cruz lost 800 head out of a herd of 2,500. The loss of cattle was less severe in those areas of the county where there was brush and prickly pear. In the southern part of the county, where it was more like prairie with sandy soil, the losses were severe.

The freeze hurt the ranchmen, but it was an unexpected blessing for the cotton farmer, because it killed off the boll weevil. Duval County was expected to plant a large cotton crop and with an abundance of cheap labor a farmers expected a profitable planting season.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

East Texas economy depressed Duval County ranchers

The economy in East Texas in October 1899 was having an adverse affect in Duval County. Don Placido Benavides returned from a horse selling trip to East Texas with his entire herd. He could hardly give away a horse, money was so scarce. Daniel Gonzalez had a little better trip to East Texas; he sold all his mules, but had to bring his horses back. Adding insult to injury, Don Placido’s son Ysidro had a horse and saddle stolen in Benavides. Smugglers were very active in the area. Rangers jailed three smugglers caught with horses and mescal. Three smugglers escaped into the brush.

Many blamed the smugglers and transient Mexican labor for the hard times. Some 5,000 Mexicans were allowed into the country to help with the cotton crop. Five hindered passed through Duval County on their way back to Mexico. Cotton had become an important crop with cotton gins operating 24-hours a day during the picking season in all three communities of San Diego, Benavides and Concepcion. Cotton replaced cattle as an important part of the economy. Julian Palacios of Concepcion was also shipping bell pepper, garlic and other crops to Laredo.

Archie Parr, meanwhile, was preparing for a cold winter by stocking up with a large supply of cotton seed and fodder to feed his stock. Parr also received five Durham Bulls and two stallions at his ranch near Benavides. Charles and John Megerue also gathered corn, hay and fodder to feed their stock during the winter.

Duval County was doing better than East Texas. The county government was in the best shape than in the previous 10 years with more than enough money in its treasury to pay scrip. The good financial situation encouraged Benavides Road Overseer John Megerue to place a number of people to work on the San Diego road, which was never worked on.

A number of Duval County citizens were summoned to Laredo to serve on the Federal Grand Jury. Among those called were Parr, W. W. Meek, John D. Cleary, A. D. Smith and L. Levy. It was the first term held at the new Federal Courthouse in the border city. Cleary was named foreman of the grand jury.

While its notable citizens were serving in a grand jury at Laredo, some of the county’s less distinguished residents were busy back home. In San Diego, a free-for-all broke out between local gamblers and peace officers over game of Monte. The county attorney warned gamblers that he would enforce the state’s gambling laws and to the surprise of everyone no “tiger dens” had opened to entice the county’s young people. The Corpus Christi Caller reported that “no gambling [was] seen through open doors in Benavides.”

In the societal scene, schools in Benavides, La Motta de Olmos and Piedras Pintas were doing well. Miss Pye had 65 students attending school daily. Aurelia Abrigo married Macario Trevino of San Diego with Father J. P. Bard officiating. She was the daughter of Margarita M. De Martinez, one of leading merchants of San Diego, and the groom managed his mother-in-law’s business. Phillip Pope Price moved to Duval County to practice optometry and teach school.