Duval Democrats bolt county convention


At the end of May and beginning of June 1886, four prisoners escaped from the Duval County jail in San Diego after the jailer forgot to lock door and over in Realitos the Texas Mexican Railroad was completing a small railway station built.

But even back then, politics still dominated conversations in the county. Democratic Party Chairman John J. Dix called a county convention for July 15 at the county courthouse but later changed the date to June 30 to allow delegates time to attend the congressional convention. On the appointed date, the party regulars convened and as they say, “all Hell broke loose.”

A group bolted the convention and called a meeting at the schoolhouse in San Diego. The disagreement erupted after Dix ruled out of order motion a motion calling for him to name a temporary chairman and secretary. Dix appointed E. N. Gray, C. K. Gravis, and J. W. Shaw to the credentials committee but Gray rejected the appointment, saying the committee was stacked 2-1. M. C. Spann moved that Chairman Dix appoint delegates from each precinct, but Dix ruled him out of order. Spann appealed to the entire convention to take up his request; Dix again refused to submit the matter to the convention.

Spann and 37 other dissenters walked out and marched to the schoolhouse where Democratic Executive Committee Secretary A. R. Valls called the rebellious convention to order. The group elected Spann temporary chairman, A. J. Ayers temporary secretary and Gray, E. Chamberlain, Julian Palacios, Senobio Cuellar, and H. Garrett to the credentials committee.

The committee accepted Spann, Chamberlain, and John Buckley as delegates from Precinct 1; Placido Benavides, Valls, Florencio Salinas, Nicolas Molina, Ventura Flores, Ysidro Benavides, Vicente Vera, Cuellar, and Agustine Canales as Precinct 2 delegates; Cesario Guajardo, Sotenedo Vera, Francisco Furras, Florencio Palacios, Theo Perez, Juan Leal, Charles Stillman, and Julian Palacios as delegates from Precinct 3; Ayers and James Gullet as Precinct 4 delegates; and F. K. Ridder, M. C. Diaz, and Theodore Weidenmuller as delegates from Precinct 5. The committee based representation based on one vote for every 20 cast in gubernatorial election with Precinct 1 entitled to 15 votes; Precinct 2 to 9; and Precincts 3, 4 and 5 to 3 votes each.

The bolters elected Spann as regular chairman and Valls retained his post as secretary. Also selected to serve on the executive committee were Gray, Placido Benavides, Ayers, Julian Palacios, and Ridder. Spann named himself and Chamberlain as delegates to the state convention; N. G. Collins, George Bodet, and Buckley as delegates to the congressional convention; Ridder, Julian Palacios, and Charles Hoffman to represent the county at the senatorial convention; and Gray, Placido Benavides, and Stillman to attend the representative convention as Duval County delegates.

The runaway convention also adopted a resolution accusing the Courthouse Convention of only having delegates from part of Precinct 1 and had no credentialed representatives from Precinct 2. The convention unanimously approved a motion sponsored by Buckley granting certificates to delegates showing the meeting of Precinct 2 held June 22 was illegal and void. The convention claimed to represent 463 of the 640 votes in the county.

J. S. Penn, a candidate for state representative and editor of the Laredo Times, addressed the schoolhouse convention.

Stay tuned to find out what the convention was happening at the Courthouse Convention.