1887 opened with dim economic prospects

As the New Year broke in 1887, Walter Meek observed that Duval County was a vast sea of land covered with a thick growth of low brush. “Everywhere I go, the food brought before me is positively uneatable,” Meek wrote to his fiancé back east. “Many ranches I visited, the people were so poor that I did not feel like asking them to even sell me something to eat, and when I do, all I could get was a cup of black coffee and a tortilla. It is awful to be so poor and I have great compassion for their distress.”

The area Meek was writing about was around Realitos. He described La Rosita as a small ranch containing a general store owned by a Spaniard named Don Jose Vaello. The store tried to stock only items the community needed, which were only the bare necessities of life. At that time, Concepcion was also a small ranching community.

Meek described San Diego as always dusty in the summer, and to the people the dust is like a halo “investing their little city in the woods with a charm not appreciated” by those staying temporarily at the Martinet, the lone hotel. “Our district attorney says citizens of Duval County consider horse stealing the highest crime known to the law,” Meek wrote his promised. “And while I am very loath to admit that, I believe myself that murder is often more leniently considered.”

Duval County was experiencing a crisis brought on in part by the extensive credit system that Meek believed fostered “extravagance and ultimately brings ruin to those who indulge in it.” Meek charged that the business community had no courage; energy seemed paralyzed, and the investment of new capital was at a standstill. The only product in demand was wool; therefore, everyone was in need of money. “It is simply alarming o know the number of men who are borrowing and mortgaging anything they can get money on, and paying one percent a month too,” wrote Meek.

Even though the opening of the district court session in San Diego brought some life to the town, the rulings seemed to confirm Meek’s assessments. Judge Russell disposed of every case on the civil and criminal dockets after the attorneys reached agreement. The Corpus Christi newspaper noted the attorneys were “given to procrastination.” The state took forfeitures against A. Mealy and L. E. Riverton for $11,000. The house of Porfirio Garza & Co, that reportedly had experienced financial failure because of illness and absence of the head of the family, corrected its affairs.

Many strangers were in San Diego, including witnesses from Laredo or Rio Grande City. Authorities found one state witness in a murder case dead in his bed. The court assessed a five-year prison term to Jack Pierce, a hack driver from Laredo, after a jury found him guilty of the murder of a Mr. Posyenphol. Pierce boasted he shot Posyenphol; for “shooting his mouth off” he got five years in prison.

On a more positive note, H. W. Paukman’s steam mill was grinding fine corn meal. It had a capacity of grinding 80 bushels of corn in eight hours. Paukman and Mr. Gueydan were building a cotton gin, which they planned to run using the same engine.

A Mr. Harper shipped two carloads of horses and mares to Corpus Christi on the Texas Mexican Road; their final destination was a town in Kentucky. Merchants were at a loss as to what to do about getting goods from New Orleans; a sales clerk from New Orleans was in San Diego but could not sell a dollar’s worth of goods because of the high freight rates.