Hats drying out at Ogdee's Dept. Store after the 1933 hurricane. Photo courtesy of San Benito Historical Society

Much of the glitter of the preceding decade was superficial. Underneath, the citizenry suffered from the hardships of the Great Depression as much as any other area of the country. It had been a free and easy era of lavish spending and easy credit, and now it was over. While the San Benito Bank and Trust managed to hold out, the Farmer's State failed.

And apparently the municipal goverments of the period had seen enough expansion. As early as 1928 Sears Roebuck had looked into the area and found Harlingen more conducive to its business. Now, the city's leaders embarked on a negative policy from which the city has never recovered, a policy which Lupe Aguirre said made San Benito

"a town where you lay down and die."

The great heyday, the time for unlimited optimism in San Benito was over. It remained for nature to provide the final blow.


On Sept. 3, 1933, a hurricane devasted the Valley. As citizens dug themselves out of the wreckage in the following days it might have seemed the town had been hit by a massive artillery barrage. The Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches were among the places of worship which had been destroyed. School buildings were in ruins. Over a mile of warehouses and packing sheds had been flattened, and one of the first tasks was clearing what was left of them off the railroad tracks. The masonry wall of commercial buildings on Sam Houston held up. But their roofs, awnings and facades lay partially submerged in the flooded streets. Again it was a time of mass graves.

Down at Del Mar on Boca China, Sam Robertson lost almost everything where the tourist resort he was developing was destroyed in the storm. He barely escaped with his life.