In its early years, wild cattle and horses dominated Duval County’s ranges. By 1880, the scene began to change dramatically as great sheep herds started moving in. The sheep industry was so big the San Diego sheep prices were listed daily in the Galveston News in a distinctive market report.
The Galveston News reported in its September 21, 1880 edition that there were 275,257 sheep and 83,816 goats in Duval County. Cattle only numbered 7,951 and horses and mules totaled 16,789.
The largest sheep raisers in Duval County included Manuel Vela (12,000), E. G. Perez (10,000), C. Hoffman (10,000), Rios Cayetano (10,000) and Hubbard and Company (8,000). The newspaper reported that Jacinto Guerra had 100,000 pounds of wool in storage in his store in San Diego.
It seemed like everyone in the county was in the wool business. The largest buyers of wool, buying millions of pounds annually, were N. C. Collins and James O. Luby of San Diego. Other important buyers included E. Garcia Saenz, M. C. Spann & Co., Croft & Co., Jacinto Guerra, all of San Diego, and R. Schubert of Concepcion.
Duval County’s population had reached 5,732 by 1880. San Diego’s population had reached 1,000 and the town had a bank, three churches and a newspaper, El Progreso. Part of the town’s population included Company E of the 8th Calvary, which still maintained a post in San Diego.
The county’s second election produced similar results as the first. Luby was reelected county judge. Other countywide officials included Andrew R. Valls, County and District Clerk; George R. Hale, County Attorney; M. C. Spann, County Treasurer; John J. Dix, County Surveyor; Lafayette L. Wright, Sheriff and Tax Collector; Frank Curly Gravis, Assessor of Taxes; and Juan Puig, Inspector of Hides and Animals.
Joining Judge Luby on the Commissioners Court were Collins, County Commissioner Pct. 1; William Hubbard, County Commissioner Pct. 2; Julian Palacios, County Commissioner Pct. 3; and Charles Roach, County Commissioner Pct. 4. Elected Justices of the Peace were James Arnold Mattison, Pct. 1; Zenobio Cuellar, Pct. 2; George W. Davidson, Pct. 3; Charles Roach, Pct. 4; and Manuel Garza Diaz, Pct. 5. Newly elected constables included Charles Hutchinson, Pct. 1; Camilo Garcia, Pct. 2; Richard Hancock, Pct. 3; Abraham Santos Cruz, Pct. 4; and a man named Rangel, Pct. 5.
The Corpus Christi, Rio Grande and San Diego Railroad reached “a place” called Benavides in 1880. There Toklass & Company had erected a two-story building and a windmill was set-up for furnishing engine water. Further, down at a point known as Realitos, Rufus Glover took a contract for getting out wood for the train’s engines. Realitos had a bar tended by a woman in a rebozo, a long scarf worn over the head and shoulders, and a pair of sandals.
The small trains running on a narrow gauge road were struggling with ever-increasing loads of freight. In Benavides, for example, the Toklass warehouse housed 1,100 barrels of merchandise and another 1,000 barrels were ready for shipping in San Diego.