As mentioned in my previous blog, the bandit Alberto Garza was involved in cattle stealing and skinning in the Duval County area in 1873. The first week of April found Garza and his men at Rancho Piedras Pintas. W. L. Rogers told the Corpus Christi Gazette that Garza was “employed in killing and skinning cattle, stealing and robbing generally.”
On Sunday, April 3, Garza and his followers surrounded Piedras Pintas, placed guards on all of the roads leading to the ranch and entered the ranch with 17 men. Six members of a posse were in possession of one the houses and barricaded themselves as Garza and his men entered the enclave. Garza indicated to them that he intended to hold Eugene Glover and Maurice Levy responsible for any interference by law enforcement and would burn Piedras Pintas to the ground.
Cattlemen decided to take action against Garza and his band. On Monday morning, April 14, Jasper Clark, James Scott and others left Banquete for the settlement of Lagartoville, where a squad of men from San Diego owing allegiance to Justice of the Peace James O. Luby was to join them. Luby’s volunteers, however, did not show. After a delay of 12 hours at Lagartoville, the party increased to 11 men and started for San Diego where another vigilante from Oakville joined them.
Judge Luby provided the posse with warrants for the arrest, dead or alive, of Garza and his men. Luby also provided the men with badges, after which the posse set out for the rancho of Jorge Alaniz, 30 miles west of San Diego. At the Alaniz ranch, the party got the services of a guide who took them “to the corral of Los Americanos,” some 25 miles away.
At the camp, Clark’s group camped for the night. The following morning they sent out a scout to reconnoiter. Upon his return, the scout said he had found a day-old camp with 80 carcasses of cattle killed and skinned with the hides left lying by the dead animals. The posse moved to find the camp and after traveling five to six miles, they engaged in a firefight with rustlers and captured seven horses, saddles, and bridles—including Garza’s mount. Neither side experienced fatalities.
Garza was not easily scared. After the encounter with Scott and his men, Garza’s gang returned to Piedras Pintas offering 200 hides for sale. Garza and his men had acquired new horses and arms. They had six-shooters, rifles and plenty of ammunition. Garza gave notice to Piedras Pintas residents that he had sent for reinforcements from the across the border and intended to burn Alaniz’s rancho for aiding the gringos.
Alaniz, a Mexican by birth and education, lived near where Garza was engaged in law breaking. Alaniz, reported a reader of the Gazette, opposed “brigandage and thievery and is always ready to serve as guide or director or in any capacity to rid the county of these thieves.” Alaniz was prepared to take on anyone, anywhere to stem cattle thieves or others engaged in breaking the law. He was the main source of information about the comings and goings of the bandit Garza.
Alaniz also served as constable under Judge Luby, who was more than willing to prosecute those engaged in skinning cattle. The judge, however, would not convict someone unless witnesses were willing to come forward. Luby released two alleged bandits brought in by Clark’s posse, since no one would testify against them.
On May 23, Nueces and Duval county pioneers met to come up with a plan of action to address the problem Garza and his type presented to the growing area. The meeting picked Martin S. Culver, James F. Scott and Alaniz to go to Austin and appeal to Governor Edmund J. Davis and the Legislature for protection. Others attending the meeting included T. H. Clarke, E. A. Glover, Rafael Saenz, Desidorio Salinas, Felipe Oliveira, Joe M. Valadez, Rafael Gutierrez, Leandro Bazan, Nicolas Ybañez, Mariano Garza, Marcial Hinojosa, Apolonio Hinojosa, Francisco Bazan, Ruben Curtis, N. J. Nickerson, and Tomas Lerma. Juan Gonzales, Jose M. Vela, H. B. Glover, William A. Tinney, Calixto Tovar, F. G. Flores, William Hubbard, Maximo Salinas, M. Villarreal, Juan Saenz, J. E. Singleton, Frank Byler, W. W. Wright, Casimiro Alaniz, Antonio Mirelez, E. Garcia Perez and Santos Flores were also at the meeting.
Soon the excitement caused by Garza subsided and the area continued on its march of progress.