Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Atascosa and Canned Chili

Daniel J. Tobin was the original Atascosa County Clerk. Born in South Carolina, he came to Texas about 1853 with his brother William. they settled in San Antonio where each married well. Daniel married Josefa Elena Navarro, youngest daughter of Jose Antonio Navarro and Margarita de la Garza, and William married Josephine Smith, daughter of John William Smith, former mayor of San Antonio.

Marrying into the Navarro family, who owned a large ranch on the Atascosa Creek, brought Daniel Tobin to the area where he soon became instrumental in the establishment of the new Atascosa County. He and Josefa had four children. She spent most of her time in San Antonio caring for her aging parents. Her mother died in 1861 and her father, Jose Antonio Navarro died in January of 1871. In June of the same year Daniel Tobin was murdered in Atascosa County. Josefa inherited the Navarro home on Laredo Street which today is a Texas Historical Site.

While Daniel Tobin was serving Atascosa County as clerk and part-time Ranger, his brother William was busy as well. William and Josephine had ten children. William rode with the Rangers in 1855, and then served as city marshal of San Antonio. In 1859 he decided to raise his own company of volunteers to march to the aid of the citizens of Brownsville, who were allegedly being terrorized by rancher-bandit-Mexican patriot Juan Cortina. When he offered his services to Gov.Pease, he was given a commission. The bad situation in Brownsville was made worse by a vigilante lynching of a Cortina officer. The vigilante group was suspected to be made up of men from Tobin's company. Tobin's forces are said to have terrorized Mexican civilians, who feared them more than they feared Cortina. Cortina threatened to burn the whole town. It took another Ranger company under "Rip"Ford, and federal troops under Major Samuel Heintzelman to get the situation under control. William Tobin was "mustered out."

William returned to San Antonio and when Texas seceded from the Union he was commissioned as a Captain in the Confederate Army, serving throughout the war. Returning home he bought the Vance Building, once a confederate headquarters, and converted it into a hotel.

William had apparently acquired a taste for chili con carne, probably from the "Chili Queens"who sold the dish on the streets in San Antonio. In 1881 he negotiated with the United States government to provide canned chili to the Army and Navy. He opened a processing plant and canning operation but died (perhaps of chronic indigestion?) just as his venture began to take off. So, a former Texas Ranger with ties to Atascosa County developed the concept of canning chili.

Bibliography: Norman Porter, Atascosa County History through 1912, 2007, Mike Cox, Texas, Texas Tales, Chili, 1-31-2005, Zelime Vance Gillespie, The Handbook of Texas Online, Tobin, William Gerard, Texas State Library & Archives Commission, Angel Navarro to Houston, January 26, 1860

No comments: