East Texas economy depressed Duval County ranchers

The economy in East Texas in October 1899 was having an adverse affect in Duval County. Don Placido Benavides returned from a horse selling trip to East Texas with his entire herd. He could hardly give away a horse, money was so scarce. Daniel Gonzalez had a little better trip to East Texas; he sold all his mules, but had to bring his horses back. Adding insult to injury, Don Placido’s son Ysidro had a horse and saddle stolen in Benavides. Smugglers were very active in the area. Rangers jailed three smugglers caught with horses and mescal. Three smugglers escaped into the brush.

Many blamed the smugglers and transient Mexican labor for the hard times. Some 5,000 Mexicans were allowed into the country to help with the cotton crop. Five hindered passed through Duval County on their way back to Mexico. Cotton had become an important crop with cotton gins operating 24-hours a day during the picking season in all three communities of San Diego, Benavides and Concepcion. Cotton replaced cattle as an important part of the economy. Julian Palacios of Concepcion was also shipping bell pepper, garlic and other crops to Laredo.

Archie Parr, meanwhile, was preparing for a cold winter by stocking up with a large supply of cotton seed and fodder to feed his stock. Parr also received five Durham Bulls and two stallions at his ranch near Benavides. Charles and John Megerue also gathered corn, hay and fodder to feed their stock during the winter.

Duval County was doing better than East Texas. The county government was in the best shape than in the previous 10 years with more than enough money in its treasury to pay scrip. The good financial situation encouraged Benavides Road Overseer John Megerue to place a number of people to work on the San Diego road, which was never worked on.

A number of Duval County citizens were summoned to Laredo to serve on the Federal Grand Jury. Among those called were Parr, W. W. Meek, John D. Cleary, A. D. Smith and L. Levy. It was the first term held at the new Federal Courthouse in the border city. Cleary was named foreman of the grand jury.

While its notable citizens were serving in a grand jury at Laredo, some of the county’s less distinguished residents were busy back home. In San Diego, a free-for-all broke out between local gamblers and peace officers over game of Monte. The county attorney warned gamblers that he would enforce the state’s gambling laws and to the surprise of everyone no “tiger dens” had opened to entice the county’s young people. The Corpus Christi Caller reported that “no gambling [was] seen through open doors in Benavides.”

In the societal scene, schools in Benavides, La Motta de Olmos and Piedras Pintas were doing well. Miss Pye had 65 students attending school daily. Aurelia Abrigo married Macario Trevino of San Diego with Father J. P. Bard officiating. She was the daughter of Margarita M. De Martinez, one of leading merchants of San Diego, and the groom managed his mother-in-law’s business. Phillip Pope Price moved to Duval County to practice optometry and teach school.

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