While today farming is a scarce commodity in Duval County, it has not always been that way. In the second half of the 19th century, many landowners were involved in ranching and other livestock pursuits besides cattle raising. It was not rare to hear the joyful news that farmers got rain, and corn and crops looked good and farmers expected a good season.
In a trip to Corpus Christi in April 1887, R. R. Savage reported it rained for hours in San Diego. Calixto Tovar of Duval County had 30 acres in corn and six acres in potatoes and watermelons.
The Corpus Christi Caller editor took the train to San Diego in search of shekels (money) and declared the area as the “Finest country under the sun.” California not excluded.
“As far as the eye could see it was covered with one solid mat of grass and flowers;” daisies and buttercups filled the air with fragrance,” wrote the editor. “Cattle and horses with their sides standing out…and fields of corn and cotton were found in all directions. Duval County it can be safely said is now a cotton belt.”
Avelino Perez who farmed near San Diego raised 100 bushels of corn and $280 worth of cotton. Cottonseed was distributed at no cost to farmers. Potatoes and garden crops came to market in large amounts.
“People busy as bees between working crops and shearing sheep,” continued the Caller editor. Wool began arriving, and wool clips were already in storage at Gueydan & Co. Warehouse, including those of French Colony, Albino Canales, J. A. Perez, and Charles Hoffman.
The editor saw Capt. E.N. Gray in San Diego “carrying roses as big as saucers.” Gray was preparing to ship fruit. At Dr. Kupfer’s home in San Diego, which was for sale, Italian mulberry trees were loaded with fruit. Others, such as Otto Brandt, had beautiful yards filled with fruit trees.
“While not flowing with milk and honey, not far from it,” gushed the Caller editor.
Of course, politics was never far from the minds of Duval County residents. F.C. Gravis called for the Democratic Party Convention to meet at the Duval County Courthouse. Gravis was named chairman of the Duval County Democrats and to the Democratic Executive Committee. He was pushing for a July 25 Congressional Convention at Corpus Christi. John Buckley, meanwhile, was named chairman of 83rd Representative District in place of Capt. Gray who declined to serve. The Caller correspondent took a shot at the San Antonio Express. “Why good Democrats take that paper is a surprise and the articles from this place to it will never ‘dam’ the creek or ornament the Plaza.”
A note in the newspaper reported that a new town named Kleberg was established on the Texas-Mexican Railroad between San Diego and Collins. That town would later be renamed Alice.
Farming and politics were not the only pastimes. Baseball had spread to the countryside where in a game played at Concepcion, Realitos beat Concepcion by a score of 27-25. Gus Staples was on the mound for Realitos and catching his zingers was Sgt. Aten of the state troops. Realitos quickly announced that it was accepting any challenges; no doubt, the San Diego and Corpus Christi teams were their intended audience.