While development in the state of Tamaulipas, between the Rio Grande and the Nueces was steadily continuing, war clouds were developing in the neighboring state of Texas.
In 1833, Benjamin Lundy–a Quaker abolitionist in search of a place to establish a colony for freed slaves–crossed through Duval County and described it as “delightfully rolling” country. He is said to have been in the vicinity of San Diego and reported seeing many horses as well as many bones of horses scattered over the “plain” close to a pen that appeared to have been used to catch animals.
The skeletal remains of cattle and horses that Lundy saw were no doubt evidence of the desertion of the area south of the Nueces River during México’s struggle for independence from Spain. Ranching in the area had suffered during this period under turmoil and uncertainty. As Spain withdrew soldiers from the frontier to fight off revolutionaries in the interior, the landowners in the Nueces Strip had to fend for themselves against Indian attacks.
On February 6, 1834, as Lundy and his fellow travelers made their way from Laredo to Goliad, they climbed a high ridge, about three hundred feet above the plain. “The ridge is the highest land between the Rio Bravo del Norte, and the Rio de las Nueces,” Lundy wrote later. “From this submit, one may see, in a clear day, to a distance of near one hundred and twenty miles. From the appearance of the ridge, I am satisfied that it was once the margin of the Rio Bravo, which must have been a wide river then. The ridge stretches a long way, in nearly the same direction with the course of the Rio Bravo.” Lundy may well have been on the Los Picachos hills north of Freer and may have been viewing what in a much earlier era had been the former bed of the Nueces River that traversed Duval County.
Lundy found a number of plant species that were new to him, such as a laurel, the leaves of which resemble those of live oak; a thorn, with a deep green foliage that grows in a manner that it could be used for fencing; and a bush with leaves that were of “a singular shape, and of a beautiful deep green tinge.” The land was “decked in splendid yellow blossoms.”
After leaving the hill, by a gradual descent of ten to twelve miles, Lundy and his party encountered “a fine rich valley of land,” passing “a handsome copse of live-oak,” and then came upon “reservoirs of water, and abundant thick grass, which had been pastured somewhat closely by wild horses.”
As Lundy made his way out of the area, he observed that the Anglo Texans to the north of the Nueces were only seeking an outlet to continue slavery. Indeed, the colonists in Texas that Mexico had invited to settle the area had turned against them and incited a revolution.
While not part of Texas, the Nueces strip would be dragged into the conflict and would again face turmoil and uncertainty.