Sheep was king in Duval County

The summer of 1884 was hot, dry, dusty and dull in Duval County. Amateur weather forecasters looked at skies and predicted rain but it did not come. Old timers complained of old injuries and said it was a sign the weather was about to change, but it did not. Sheep and cattlemen remained discouraged over the lack of rain.

The big question in San Diego that summer was how much would wool be worth? While most sheepmen were readying for shearing, William Hubbard had already sheared his herd and had his clippings in the Collins warehouse in San Diego. While some wool was beginning to come in, prices were questionable. The outlook seemed dismal. Trade in wool was fair, trouble was not whether they could sell, it was whether they would get money for their work.

The importance of the sheep trade can best be demonstrated by citing figures reported in the Houston Post that summer. For the year ended July 31, 1884 the Texas Mexican railroad reported shipping , 1,084,051 pounds of wool from San Diego, compared to 1,226,375 from Laredo. It shipped 226,227 pounds of hide and only one car load of horses and cattle.

A stock raiser who bought cattle months earlier from men who had showed him papers that looked in order had to pay for them again when it turned out the livestock had been stolen from a cattlemen in the Brownsville vicinity.

While the talk in town was about the lack of rain and the upcoming shearing, George Copp had other preoccupations. Copp was suffering from a sprained ankle and was alone at his ranch 18 miles from San Diego when he was awakened with a belduque held to his throat. Six men surrouded him. While four of them ramsaked the house and took $50 in silver, jewelry and other valuables worth $140, two others guarded Copp. The bandits left Copp unharmed, but warned him to keep his mouth shut or they would return to kill him. Next morning Sheriff L. L. Wright picked up some suspects, but Copp could not identify them as his assailants.

Politics was never far from the minds of Duval men. James Luby gave a stirring speech at the Republican state convention in Houston in support of R. B. Rentfro for the 7th Congressional District. Luby predicted William H. Crain would not carry a single county west of the Nueces. The 23 delegates represented 17 of 26 counties, including seven white and 16 black delegates.

Luby stopped in San Diego for a visit on his way from Houston to his post as Collector of Customs in Browsnville. Also in town for a visit was Henry Gueydan, a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy.

2 Comments on "Sheep was king in Duval County"

  1. The sheep thing is compelling because it flies in the face of Hollywood's notions about Texas and the West. The looms of Liverpool depended upon the Cerralvo – Lampazos – Guemez production area until the Aussies went inland finally from Botany Bay and began their long love affair with mutton and wool. The sheep tending gradually changed to goats in the old area in what would become Mexico (thence, cabrito), and over into southernmost Texas. Your article co-incides well with the facts…..facts that are generally unknown or disregarded….especially by people who are looking more for political lore and leverage in lieu of facts.

    It is a pleasure to "find up" with you. You can read through my blog site by connecting with privatouring.blogspot.com . Once there, besides the ranting and raving as any self-respecting rightwing crazy must, we also make commentary about Mexico and Texas….frequently with historical emphasis and/or overtones. You can, once openning the privatouring.blogspot.com site, check on the right-most column and you will see a frame referencing the Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre. There is a picture of the little mud hut behind the gate. If you click on the gate, you will be conducted to our little place that serves as a retirement home and as a bed and brunch that we operate under the above name. We invite, urge, and require that you look the page over.
    You might also like to see some of my commentary especially around the Days of Glory….from around 2nd and 6th of March….and then around the time of the Battle of San Jacinto. There are other branching out points, but if you look down in the Blog Archive….especially beginning around, say 2010 or 2011 through last year….centering around those dates…it might be rewarding for the both of us.
    We are going through your very interesting material as well, bit by bit. Tuesday next, I shall be heading down to the Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre for a stay of three weeks…perhaps a month. We have people who will be coming to drink Mexican beer and look for birds….(we are situated in a really ultra-exceptional birdwatching venue….world class…common and exotic….and weird birds.)

    We had learned some time back, of course, that you had taken over the reins of government in San Diego, my comment being then, "Archer and George are rolling and rolling around in their graves."

    Give me a shout, any time, any place. privatouring@gmail.com will get you there!!

    David Christian Newton

  2. Thanks for your comments David. Sorry it took so long to post it but have been a little preoccupied with my book Balo's War and have not kept up with all my duties re this blog.

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