From 1870 to 1880 sheep raising was the most profitable industry in Duval County. There were more than a million sheep in Duval and Nueces counties. Land was cheap and, unlike other sections of Texas, sheep owners and cattlemen had a good relationship.
Many of the sheep men purchased land for as little as 12 cents an acre; often it was originally a Spanish land grant. The sheep yielded a better clip than usual in excellent range conditions. All stock was doing well.
The population of San Diego was 1,083. N. G. Collins operated a store in San Diego where he traded in hides, wool, sheep, mutton, horses, mares, etc.
Not everything was peachy in the sheep business, however. On December 27, 1870, attorneys Løvenskiold and McCampbell sold at auction 2,500 head of sheep and 1,000 head of goats belonging to Diego Garza. The auction was held at San Diego Rancho in front of the Collins store. The sale was to satisfy a promissory note Garza gave from Alfred Moses on June 13, 1869 for $851.60 in Mexican silver dollars; less $200 paid August 1870.
The county was also still contending with Indian attacks. Lewis D. Brown wrote to Col. James Davidson, Adjutant General of Texas, about an Indian attack in Duval County. Writing from Rancho San Felipe on September 30, 1870, Brown said that five days earlier a party of Indians—believed to be Kickapoo from Mexico—killed Thomas Springfield and his wife and “carried off two little boys of his and left wounded a little daughter at his ranch four leagues from here on the Nueces River.”
The Indians killed the Springfields about 100 yards from his ranch and made away with 90 horses. A month later, the same band of Indians killed four or five persons and stole a large amount of horse stock in the area of Fort Ewell, in what is today LaSalle County.
Brown, who had gone to his Duval County ranch for the shearing of his sheep, said he had gotten his information from sources at Rancho San Jose. These individuals were staying at Brown’s rancho and had not been harmed by the Indians. Brown asked Col. Davidson to relay these details to Governor Edmund J. Davis who was very familiar with the area.
As if the Indian troubles were not enough, San Diego was also terrorized by nature. On Sept. 11, 1870, a tornado raged into town from the north sometime between sunset and nightfall. Without notice, dust, wind, rain and hail the size of buckshot and up to four inches in diameter poured on the town. A number of animals, including several mules were killed. The hail also injured several people.
Most of the jacals in town were blown away and the better-built structures were also damaged. The windows and front door of St. Francis de Paula were blown away and the statuary was scattered throughout the floor.