Planting, shearing and cattle raising profitable in Duval County in 1885

Map of San Diego in 1885,
After the harsh winter of 1884-85, landowners around Concepcion started planting using American plows and cultivators. They planted twice the acreage they had the previous planting season, mostly corn. One of the largest planters of corn was E. N. Gray of Concepcion, who planted 400 acres.

While farmers in the southern part of the county were busy planting, a hailstorm lasting 15 minutes hit near San Diego causing heavy damage. The storm caused waters in the San Diego, Agua Dulce and Pernitas Creeks to overflow. The rising waters washed away the railroad bridge at San Diego. The Texas Mexican train from Laredo found the bridge impassable and turned around and returned to Benavides.

The hailstorm also knocked down several miles of telephone wire and poles down between San Diego and Benavides. The storms blew away the railroad’s depots at San Diego and Collins. Another hailstorm in May caused extensive damage at the rancho of John Fitch, killing 3,000 head of sheep and destroying his corn crop and windmill.

Planting was of course only part of the business of local ranchers. The shearing of sheep continued with sheep men transporting more than 200 bags of wool to Corpus Christi. Woolgrowers hauled wool to M. C. Spann’s warehouse in San Diego. Buyers were bypassing Corpus Christi and going directly to San Diego to buy the product.

J. S. Beckham of Collins sold his wool in San Diego at 13¢. William Adami of Fort Ewell came to San Diego and sold 43 bags of wool totaling 14,000 pounds to John T. Murphy for 17¢ a pound. The Gravis brothers sold 52 bags to D. Hirsch at 16¢; the Collins clip sold to Cox-Gusset at 15¢; Fred Frank sold to Murphy at 15¢; and T. C. Wright sold to Hirsch at 14¢. The wool traders in the county preferred selling their wool in San Diego to Corpus Christi buyers at 17¢ than take it all the way to San Antonio for 19¢. The Corpus Christi buyers bought the wool “as is, sacks and all.”

Cattlemen, meanwhile, shipped 15,000 head of cattle from Peña station in southern Duval County. Gray left his corn on the field to move some 2,000 head of cattle and 800 horses to “wherever he finds a market.” San Diego was a center for stock buyers who were in town in search of product almost every day.

By June, the corn crop was everywhere. No one remembered ever seeing such a big corn crop in Duval County, it seemed as every pasture had corn growing on it. Farmers expected to harvest a good crop, provided the boll weevils did not get to it first. John Dix and Henry Seeligson recommend horse meat to keep the boll weevils from attacking the crop.

The favorable crops and markets for wool and cattle were not the only items of interest in Duval County in 1885. A fence was under construction by landowners around San Diego with gates cutting across public roads. Some townspeople who feared these gates could cause injury and were a public nuisance asked U. S. Courts to look into the practice.