Christmas in Duval County in late 1800s

St. Francis de Paula Church in San Diego in late 1876. Photo by Louis de Planque

Christmas in Duval County in the 1880s held many of the same elements of today, although is some respects it was more lively.As Christmas approached stores decorated with holiday displays. Most merchants closed on Christmas day.

Father Peter Bard celebrated Midnight Mass.

Father Peter Bard celebrated Midnight Mass.

In San Diego, the day started with with Father Peter Bard celebrating midnight Mass or misa de gallo at St. Francis de Paula in San Diego. More than half of San Diego’s residents usually attended the liturgical celebration. Many worshipers had to stand outside the church, which was packed. After Mass, eggnog was served and rockets, Roman candles and fire crackers were lit.

Not unlike today, drinking was part of the celebration. Fortunately, usually no problems arose from the use of alcohol. The Gun Club hosted a shooting match later in the day. In 1888, the Laredo Daily Times reported that “Juan Puig was the entertainment, missing all his shots. Everyone had good laugh.” In addition to the shooting demonstration, horse races were also held as well as several dances. In 1888 one dance was organized by John Buckley Jr. and Willie Rallston at the Spann Building for the younger crowd.

Regrettably there is no book documenting Father Bard’s life; there is, however, one on Father Claude Jaillet who founded the church in San Diego. This book has a lot of good history on early San Diego, I highly recommend it. You can get it in our bookstore.

Father Jaillet: Saddlebag Priest of the Nueces

Father Jaillet: Saddlebag Priest of the Nueces


8 Comments on "Christmas in Duval County in late 1800s"

  1. I live in freer and love reading all the stories about duval county!!

    • | December 24, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Reply

      Thanks. Glad you are enjoying the posts. Freer was not founded until much later than the time I’m writing about, which is why it is not mentioned.

  2. Adriana Richarda | December 26, 2015 at 10:16 am | Reply

    My family on my father’s side all came from Duval county. I love reading your blog. Hoping to read something about them.

  3. I ordered and received the cook book, “”Duval Cookery” and it is great. I love the photos and history in addition to recipes that I wanted and I recognized many of the contributor as I am from Freer. And my grandfather, S. E. Harvill, was mentioned. Thank you so much for making it available so easily! I will spread the word that they are available at your book store along with your other books. Your posts are so informative. All the best to you in 2016!

  4. Fannie Cavazos Hewgley | December 29, 2015 at 11:50 am | Reply

    Father Bard married my paternal grandparents in Agua Dulce in April 1894 and subsequently baptized all their children. I have the marriage certificate and copies some baptismal records secured respectively from the Nueces County Courthouse and St. Francis de Paula Catholic Church in San Diego. I am so grateful to the staff who assisted me at that time.

    • | December 29, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Reply

      Great that you were able to get the records. St. Francis was the mother church of most of the Catholic churches in the Brush Country and has records from throughout the area for sacraments that were administered before some of the churches were established.

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