Cavalry, stockmen and railroad brought civilization to San Diego frontier area

N. G. Collins felt so sure about the success and need for a railroad that in 1875 he hired R. Hollub, an engineer, to survey and subdivide a tract of land 52 miles from Corpus Christi, which was to become an addition to Old San Diego. Collins had settled in San Diego when it was still close to a wilderness and had become its biggest sheep man. He believed so much in the railroad that he contributed $2,500 for the first 20 miles of line.

James O. Luby, along with Frank W. Shaeffer, E. J. Nickerson and Hollub, partitioned the town of San Diego, which at that time was a large sheep and cattle round-up center. Pioneers also knew it as a citrus growing center.

On Sept. 18, 1875, the Corpus Christi, San Diego and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railroad Company came into being with Frank Davis and Frank W. Schaeffer of San Diego among the original members of the railroad’s board of directors. The railroad’s charter called for a direct line to San Diego then to Eagle Pass with a branch to Laredo. A Mr. Leavitt of Philadelphia and James J. Dull of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania accompanied Uriah Lott to San Diego to inspect railroad construction.

As the railroad bigwigs made their way in the country, they heard shots and a band of robbers jumped out of the brush, took all their valuables and stripped down them to their underwear. The bandits left the railroad men tied to a mesquite tree. They freed themselves and made their way back to San Diego.

While the railroad promised to bring more civilization and commerce to San Diego, as the railroad men found out it remained a frontier outpost. In March 1875, a gang of 150 bandits crossed into Texas from Mexico near Eagle Pass, breaking up into four bands they set out to rob the settlers in the unprotected hinterland. United States Calvary stationed in San Diego caught three of the groups putting a stop to their activities. Later that year, in September, another bandit gang was active for 10 days peeling hides out of a camp near San Diego. Locals found some 400 to 500 hides. Stockmen decided to fight back. They appointed Hines Clark to organize and lead the temporary companies intended to bring in the lawbreakers and to bring order to the frontier.

These were some of the last raids made by bandits, and like the Indian attacks, they soon ended. The cavalry, the stockmen and the railroad were beginning to have an impact in settling the frontier.