Cattle rustling and horse stealing reigned in Duval County

In 1871, San Diego had a bank, two hotels, a weekly newspaper, general store and a number of cattle raising and farming operations. There were 135 legal voters in Nueces County voting Precinct 6, which included mostly San Diego. It also had a school with one teacher and as many assistants as were required.

Nueces County voters elected James O. Luby Justice of the Peace in Precinct 3 and later as county commissioner. He served in these positions until 1876 when voters promoted him to be the first county judge of Duval County. Judge Luby went on to earn the nickname of the famous “fighting Republican”.

Luby, a Select Master in the Masons, married Mary Hoffman in 1871. They went on to have five children.

Another Duval County politician to arrive in San Diego in 1871 was J. Williamson Moses. He succeeded Luby as Duval County Judge and played an important role in the county’s early political history.

In 1872, Luby reported that Kickapoos made three raids near San Diego. Citizens sent scouts after them. Indians usually came in the dark of the moon, stayed three to four days before leaving with their plunder.

Thieves often stole horses near San Diego and took them to Mexico. Residents captured a herd of 30 stolen horses on March 30, 1873 on their way to the Rio Grande. One of the horses belonged to Richard King and had the brand defaced. All of the marauding parties came from Mexico.

On Saturday March 28, 1873, neighboring ranchos sent word to Luby that Atilano Alvarado, a bandit from Mexico, and Alberto Garza, a known criminal from Atascosa County, were stealing horses in northern Duval County. They had 60 men under their command. San Diego officers Treviño and Vela organized a posse and went after the bandits.

In the spring of 1873, Garza also known as El Caballo Blanco, Alvarado and their 60 men moved their horse stealing operation to southern Duval County and engaged in skinning cattle. JP Luby, who always traveled armed, sent assistance to Piedras Pintas Rancho to keep outlaws under the command of Garza from burning it to the ground

Garza sent the people of San Diego a message to bring enough money to buy the hides of stolen cattle or else enough men to “skin the hide peelers.” Jasper Clark, James F. Scott and nine other cowmen responded by assaulting Garza’s base camp, and the bandits gave flight, leaving saddles, bridles, and some 80 remains of cattle. The vigilantes found another 575 carcasses nearby.

The cattle rustling and stealing continued throughout 1873 and the killing of Mexican citizens believed or accused of committing the thefts followed.