From weddings to leopard attacks

The drought that plagued Duval County in the summer of 1884 began to clear in September when heavy rains, which stock raisers welcomed, nearly flooded Benavides. The rain, however, provided cover for a party of robbers who assaulted the clerk of the Levy store in Piedras Pintas.

The robbers threatened to kill the clerk if he told P. W. Toklas or anyone else that they had asked about his whereabouts. The clerk felt Toklas was in danger and told him of the bandits’ interest. Toklas gathered a posse the following morning to look for the robbers but lost their trail because of the recent heavy rains.

County commissioners, meanwhile, called for bids to build a new jail. Several contractors attended the Oct. 1 commissioners court meeting, but the commissioners failed to show up and the item was postponed. With the cost of the project reportedly requiring a $10,000 bond issue, rumors spread throughout the county that large taxpayers would vigorously oppose the jail. The proposal called for the two-story jail constructed of brick with steel cells. Opponents argued the county could make the existing jail adequate at a lot less cost.

On a lighter note, John D. Cleary, who would play an important part in county politics in years to come, and Julia Martinet announced wedding plans. The couple wed at St. Francis de Paula Catholic Church before a packed congregation of friends and relatives. C. Tibilier gave the bride away. Bridesmaids included Addie L. Feuille and Maclovia G. Tovar. Groomsmen were Fred Rider and William Rankin. A reception and ball followed at the Garfield House.

In another less ostentatious wedding, Robert Spence took Bettie Spach as his bride. The C. Tibilier family announced the arrival of a “big fat boy baby.” Methodists were expecting the Rev. A. H. Sutherland to come to San Diego to dedicate their new church. A ball had more women in attendance than men, with some old married men escorting young ladies.

Over in Benavides the social scene took a different turn when Triunfo Serna supposedly tried to commit suicide after his girl left him. A friend intervened and Serna shot himself in a leg resulting in a gashing wound.

Further south at the Hilario Benavides Ranch three miles from Concepcion, the excited sounds of dogs, hogs and goats awoke Pedro Gonzalez at three in the morning. He got up to see what the racket was about and a leopard attacked him as he stepped out his door. Gonzalez wrestled the cat suffering very bad bites and scratches to his hands. The match between Gonzalez and the leopard awoke others at the ranch who shot and killed the animal, but not before it had bit eight goats, a dog and a pig. Five of the goats died from their wounds. It turned out that the leopard had rabies, and a doctor in Conception treated Gonzalez.

As the year 1884 wound down, politics again began to enter local conversations. Rumors had it that there were three men thinking of becoming candidates for county judge and two for county clerk.