The common perception is that the San Diego de Abajo and San Diego de Arriba grants are the grants in which San Diego is situated. This is only partially true. These grants cover the part of San Diego north of the San Diego Creek. The area south of the creek is part of the San Leandro grant.
Early Spanish language documents suggest that a fourth grant, San Florentina, was involved but the Texas General Land office has no record of this grant. A legal document used to establish rights to the San Leandro grant contains a notation in Spanish indicating that each of these grants contained four leagues of land. Their owners were Jose Antonio de la Pena y Lopes, Julian and Ventura Flores and Juan Sanchez Rosales who lived near Mier. All were heirs of Don Antonio Perez. The four grants combined, verified on May 30, 1810, contained 16 leagues.
Rosales testified that during the Spanish reign of the area he had settled and cultivated his four leagues of San Leandro on the shores of the San Diego Creek. Located on the San Leandro was the rancho of C. Rafael Garcia Salinas. The ranch was located off the right margin of arroyo de San Diego, 55 miles west of Corpus Christi. The rancho had pens, corrals, stock and servants. The family had possession of that place except when Indians and the wars for independence drove them off.
On July 22, 1831, the state of Tamaulipas recognized that the Spanish government had placed Rafael Garcia Salinas in actual possession of the San Leandro grant. The state of Tamaulipas ratified the grant under Articles 23 and 26 of Decree 42 of Colonization Laws passed on Dec. 15, 1826. The land comprised four leagues.
During Mexico’s war of independence from Spain, between 1810 and 1821, the government put troops into battle, native tribes attacked ranchers in the area and many withdrew to the towns south of the Rio Grande. The Comanche raided extensively since the early 1800s, particularly in South Texas in 1836-37.
Then, in late 1835 the military commander of Tamaulipas notified the ranchers that Texan colonists had started a rebellion against the central government and. he asked everyone on the ranches to arm themselves and fight if the Texans overran the area. After Santa Ana gave up the Nueces Strip 1836, the Mexican government began a process of removing anything of value from the area. They directed inhabitants to leave the land. General Antonio Canales said he would consider a spy any Mexican found three leagues north of the Rio Grande.
In 1839, Canales and Antonio Zapata rebelled against the Central government in Mexico City and moved north with an army of 1,000 men from Guerrero to Lipantitlan on the Nueces. The Mexican Army gave pursuit and Mexican military operations were common in the area, prompting President Maribeau Lamar of Texas to send Texan troops into the area.
By 1844, things had settled down enough where John Dix, a state surveyor, reported some 25 families living in San Diego. However, Indian raids were still a present danger. A band of Comanche, whites and Mexicans were reported killing innocent families throughout the area in 1849.
In the early 1850s, landowners resurveyed many of the Spanish land grants in the area with the intent of clearing clouds over their title. Felix Blucher surveyed the San Leandro grant on Nov. 4-5, 1854 and July 18-20, 1855. Julian Cortez, Refugio Salas, Domingo Escamilla and Andres Gonzales served as chain carriers. On Dec. 11, 1860, Judge Edmund J. Davis heard a case in the 14th Judicial District in Nueces County titled John Levy v. The State of Texas brought under the Legislature’s act of Feb. 11, 1860 to ascertain and adjudicate claims between Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers. The land in question was the original San Leandro grant made to Rafael Garcia Salinas in 1831.
By his time, more settlers and less Indians were coming to the area and an aura of civilization began to take place.