Politics and death were always nearby in Duval County

Politicians were giving weekly bailes in Benavides as the 1886 county political campaign season got underway in October. Early rumors said four candidates would run for county judge.

The political parties back then were the Guarache and the Bota. The Guarache was believed to be the poor people or working men’s party and the Bota was for the wealthy landed class.

Guarache Party candidates held a large rally in Realitos and another one in Peña; each candidate addressed the crowd in Spanish. Reports of potential trouble between the two factions were dismissed as “bosh”. The Guaraches were steering away from mudslinging, and had nothing but good things to say about the Botas. Professional orators ruled the day for the Guaraches and boasted they had more than enough votes to win. The Botas had not called on Penaites yet, reported Jonis, the correspondent to the Corpus Christi newspaper.

As the political activity reigned in Realitos and Peña, Leonardo Saenz was killed in nearby Benavides. No connection was made between the death of Saenz and the politics underway.

In San Diego, C. K. Gravis confirmed that there would be no trouble between the two parties. He proclaimed that people were too good friends for any trouble to come up between them. But, he admitted the race was getting hot. Although only 573 had registered, politicos estimated more than 1,000 votes would be cast. Most voters were Democrats, and that large a turnout would put Duval County on equal footing with Nueces County, with three delegates each to the state Democratic convention. As the month rolled on, the rallies were equally divided between the Guaraches and Botas, and everyone predicted a close election.

In the middle of the political climate, the community received the surprising news that prominent ranchman F. W. Shaeffer had died at the Martinet Hotel. Shaeffer died at 3 a.m., shortly after he was given brandy to try to relieve his pain. Shaeffer had been at the hotel since Oct. 14 when he was hurt in an accident while going to San Diego from his ranch. His horse team had been spooked and had run away, throwing Shaeffer and his wife out of their carriage. Shaeffer broke his leg above the knee and his wife was seriously bruised. Their children and driver had escaped without injury. Mrs. Shaeffer was still bedridden but was expected to fully recover.

Shaeffer’s body was taken to Corpus Christi on the train for funeral services at the Episcopal Church. Shaeffer was born in Ohio on Aug. 4, 1825. As a boy, he moved to California and later cross-country to New York where he married. After their nuptials in 1857, the Shaeffers settled in Boerne, Texas, and removed to Duval County in 1879 where he was engaged in stock business. He rose from poverty to become a wealthy and influential citizen. He was a successful sheep owner and raised cattle as well. A Republican, Shaeffer was very interested in politics but never ran for office.

Two more tragedies were reported that month. First, Carlos Gutierrez of Concepcion was murdered in Starr County. Gutierrez was shot three times; first in the back and after falling to the ground, he was shot in the body and head. He appeared to have been grabbing his pistol. Gutierrez was reported to be the individual who supposedly had killed some railroad workers in Collins four years previously. The second tragedy involved the suicide of an individual in Benavides. The man reportedly placed his rifle on the floor, stepped over it and shot himself in heart. He had been sick for a year and had become despondent.