Gov. Sam Houston throws out votes in first election ever held in Duval County

After the votes were cast in the 1860 election, John McKinney’s supporters attacked the legitimacy of the election from many fronts. They alleged, among other things:

  • that the new precinct in Duval County had been established in secrecy for the purpose of voting ineligible Mexicans; 
  • that the announcement of the election did not meet the letter of the law; 
  • that Charles Lovenskiold had issued rifles from the militia storehouse to the Mexicans; 
  • that at the urging of Lovenskiold the Legislature had passed unwanted legislation that threatened the status quo, and 
  • that land speculators – led by William G. Hale, Lovenskiold, Felix Blucher, and others – were responsible for the turnout to advance their schemes.

Meetings were held throughout the Fourteenth Judicial District and petitions and sworn affidavits were mailed to Governor Sam Houston asking him to invalidate the election results of Precinct 9 and certify McKinney as the winner. Lovenskiold wrote to Hale that attorneys Foster and Givens called a meeting in Live Oak “denouncing the election as fraudulent owing to the votes of Mexican pelados in Nueces County, and declaring they would resist the taking of his seat in that county by Mr. O’Connor.” Incidentally, the attorney Givens who called the meeting at Live Oak County was John S. Givens, the maternal uncle and father figure of Archie Parr who found a political dynasty in Duval County half a century later. Ironically, Givens was complaining about the manipulation of Mexican voters, a tactic his nephew later perfected.

A similar meeting was held in Goliad alleging “importation of [300] votes from the Río Grande and beyond.” In Nueces County, “a secret organization” was uncovered reportedly intended to hang Blucher, O’Connor, Lovenskiold, and Nueces County Judge Henry Gilpin. The Ranchero newspaper in Corpus Christi refused to report any of these activities unless it was paid as advertisements. Hale, who lived and practiced law in Galveston, had represented Saviego in her case against McKinney. He owned land in Nueces County and reportedly voted at another new precinct, Precinct 8 at Santa Gertrudis that would later become the King Ranch.
Gov. Houston was sufficiently impressed by the letters and petitions to postpone a scheduled trip to Washington. On October 15, 1860, Houston and Secretary of State E. W. Cave met in Austin to receive the votes from the Fourteenth Judicial District. The governor concluded:

  • that a “large portion” of Precinct 9 included by Nueces County was actually part of Webb County; 
  • that the establishment of the precinct, including the voters of all of the unorganized county of Encinal was illegal; 
  • that “the returns of election from said precinct cannot be received” and
  • that Precinct 9 was not established at a regular term of the Nueces County Commissioners Court as required by law but in special term and notice of establishment of precinct was not given in the order announcing the August election. 
The notice and conduct of election at Precinct 9 gave the governor and secretary of state a belief that it was “illegal and fraudulent,” and they rejected the returns from Precinct 9 and certified McKinney the winner.

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