Manuel Ancira building housed first courthouse

An election to organize Duval County, Texas was held on November 7, 1876. The newly elected Commissioners Court met at the store of James O. Luby in San Diego where they presented their election certificates to Nueces County Judge Joseph Fitzsimmons.


This is the Manuel Ancira store circa 1876. It is not clear whether this was the courthouse since Ancira owned several lots adjacent to each other. The courthouse was in lot two, this building appears to be in lot one.

One of the Court’s first order of business was the securing of a courthouse. In December 1876, the court agreed to offer Manuel Ancira $400 annually for the use of two houses located on Lot 2, Block 11 in San Diego to be paid $100 quarterly. The court also authorized Luby, who had been elected as county judge, to secure an “iron cage” for use as a jail. They also authorized newly elected County Clerk Andrew R. Valls to buy furniture and seats for the court.


This is most likely the original courthouse. It is located in lot two in block 11. It was recently undergoing remodeling.

A year later, in November 1877, the court voted to extend the rental agreement with Ancira for the county courthouse building. Plans were underway to secure a new courthouse, but Ancira agreed to give the county an additional six months, beginning on January 1, 1878, to use the building for $40 per month, an increase from the $33.33 monthly average during the first year agreement.

Commissioners appointed a three-man committee to begin corresponding with an architect and iron dealers for a new courthouse and jail. The commissioners requested plans and specifications for a 36′ x 40′ courthouse to cost no more than $4,000. The jail was to be of 2′ x 6′ “spiked boards” or an iron cage. The court empowered the committee to develop plans and specifications and to enter into a contract with the “lowest and best bidder.” The committee had until the court’s December 17, 1877 meeting to gather the information.

In February 1878, citizens presented the Court with a petition to delay the construction of a new courthouse and jail. Commissioners refused the petition, pointing to the petitioners the unanimous vote of the Court in favor of the project. The Court also approved a special tax for the courthouse and jail at a rate of ½ of 1 percent or 50 cents on $100 of valuation.

This was the first courthouse built in Duval County. It burned suspiciously in 1914.

This was the first courthouse built in Duval County. It burned suspiciously in 1914.

In July 1879, commissioners court entered into a contract with Hugo Heldenfels of Corpus Christi to build a Courthouse at a cost of $3,700 on Lots 7, 8 and 9 of Block 36 in the town of San Diego on or before the first day of October 1879. The courthouse was to be built of wood frame 31′ x 51′ and have two stories. It called for six offices in the first floor and a court room in the second floor. The foundation was to be made of mesquite blocks.

The court also accepted the donation made by N.G. Collins of San Diego town lots in which to build the new courthouse and jail. Later the court authorized Collins to exchange the three lots he had donated to the county for the building of the courthouse and jail for three lots owned by E. D. Sidbury, which they preferred. Collins arranged for the exchange and sold the county Lots 7, 8, and 9 in block 36 in the town of San Diego.

In December 1879, the commissioners court purchased a safe for the new courthouse from Thad Herring & Company of New York City at a cost of $900. It was to be delivered to Corpus Christi.

In March 1883, the courthouse got new furniture, including a “handsome” railing in courtroom; fine desks and swivel chairs; and reclining seats stamped with “Duval County.” In December 1887, the Commissioners Court contracted Mr. Niland to paint the courthouse inside and out. The paint job, including the jail, was completed the following month.

(This is the first in a series of blogs on the Duval County Courthouse, which is celebrating its centennial.)

4 Comments on "Manuel Ancira building housed first courthouse"

  1. I have a fragment of an old photo from San Diego that is of the inside of an office. It could have been taken inside Judge Luby’s office, or possibly it could have been taken inside the courthouse. If provided with an email address, I will send it to you.

  2. Having been born in Las Piedritas, Tx, Duval County, I found this article interesting. Love to read all that you post in soydeduval! Keep up the good work!

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