PHOTO BY GLENN JUSTICE
PHOTO BY GLENN JUSTICE
PHOTO COURTESY CLARA LONG@BORDERSTORIES.ORG
The old Candelaria bridge is still here. It spans a muddy trickle some five-foot wide in an almost dry arroyo. It’s hot in the Presidio Valley. Few venture outside after the cool morning hours. The school kids are out for the summer so they are not using the bridge. Few do these days. Everyone waits to see if the bridge will survive. A squad of Border Patrol men and women stationed at the Candelaria school go about their duties patrolling this part of the border. It’s a thankless job and they are the only law we have here. Some Andrew Jackson art painted on an old car hood expresses a lot of feelings about the school being closed. Across the river at the medical clinic, Dr. Maribel Aquino waits and wonders if her link to the outside world will be cut by the removal of the bridge. Manuel Carrasco is doing well and just got his new work visa. Not long ago, Manual suffered a heart attack on the Texas side and thanks to Dr. Aquino’s clinic in San Antonio is alive and well today.
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Above are four Texas Confederate battle flags from the Texas State Archives.
When I see so many Confederate stars and bars the rednecks hoist and stick on their pickups in Texas, it disturbs me. I saw one bumper sticker with the stars and bars that said, “Its not about history, its about heritage”. Truth is, the fine, brave Texans who fought and died in the Civil War did not fly the red, white and blue stars and bars of the south into battle. They did not fight to keep their slaves because few owned slaves. Some 4,400 Texans joined the Confederate cause and fought and died in most of the major battles of the war. They fought and died because they felt threatened by the Federal Government and the election of Abraham Lincoln. At surrender, only 600 officers and men, survived to limp back to Texas, many missing limbs, the enduring mark of a Civil War veteran. So before you defiantly raise or stick on the stars and bars, know your history a little better.
For more see:
http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/fl ... flags.html
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/onli ... /qkh2.html
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Glenn Willeford and Gerald Raun have done an insightful study of Big Bend cemeteries. Their "Cemeteries and Funerary Practices in the Big Bend of Texas, 1850 to the Present" is 240 pages packed full of out of the ordinary tidbits of information that genealogists or anyone interested in finding the grave site of a long lost relative will want to read. While many parts of the country have readily available listings of local graveyards and their residents, final resting places in the Big Bend has been a long overlooked topic.
Willeford and Raun did not simply republish courthouse records but did extensive research of the some 63 graveyards in the Texas Big Bend and personally visited each of them. Many of these isolated family cemeteries have escaped official records in Brewster, Presidio and Jeff Davis counties and the book finally documents these historic gravesites. Included are 42 photographs of various cemeteries as well as detailed locations.
Glenn Willeford is an American writer and professor of history who lives in Chihuahua. In 2004, his first novel, "Red Sky In Mourning" became the first English language book published by Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua. A follow up to Red Sky titled "Passage to Lisbon" is now in the works. Gerald Raun, Ph.D, is the author of four books including the first "Snakes of Texas"ť offerings and over fifty journal articles on biology and history. "Cemeteries and Funerary Practices" is available at Front Street Books in Alpine. Email Front Street at email@example.com or call 432-837-3360.
Also see: http://www.fsbooks.com/books/books.html#willeford
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Five years ago I undertook a project that, like a time machine, catapulted me back to the Trojan War, then to our subsequent ancestral home in Italy, and, via Spain and Mexico, to the Big Bend of Texas.
Initially, my intention was to put together a primer for the immediate ancestors of my great-grandfather, don Federico Villalba, who moved from Aldama, Chihuahua, to the border in San Carlos. The “primer” ballooned into a three hundred-plus-page treatise filled with photographs chronicling the Villalba family legacy. The book was received so enthusiastically by our family that I was encouraged to have it published, not only for ancestral knowledge, but as historical record. I am happy and honored to add that my book, Federico Villalba’s Texas: A Mexican Pioneer’s Life in the Big Bend, is due on the shelves this July.
My mother, Herminia, was born on Rancho Barras on the banks of the Rio Grande, in 1926. She is the daughter of Regina Villalba, Federico’s pistol-packing daughter. He also had five sons: Felipe -- the eldest, Jorge, Federico Jr., Jacobo (“Jake”), and Santos.
Barras Ranch was situated in the present-day Big Bend National Park.
The sixteen hundred-odd acres Federico leased from A. J. Compton are designated as the Diablo Ranch on the Park Service map. El Diablo was the family’s second landholding. The initial ranch, a ten thousand-acre estate, was situated in Burro Mesa. Federico was obligated to enjoin ownership of that holding to the Alpine law firm of Mead and Metcalf in 1924 in return for legal services when his son Jorge was indicted and tried for homicide in the shooting deaths of the Coffman brothers. Jorge was acquitted of the charges by a Brewster County jury.
Federico, at one time, also owned another ten thousand acres on the west side of the Chisos Mountains. In addition to other ranchland Federico had several sections set back as a hunting preserve on the present-day Terlingua Ranch. In the early 1900s he discovered cinnabar on Cerro Villalba, property that had been named for the family. Federico accepted a partner named William Study and began development of the Study Butte Mine. Cerro Villalba was thereafter called Study Butte. My great-grandfather was also proprietor of the Study Butte Store through the 1920s. Not far away was his Bar La Fiesta, a local “waterin’ hole.” Across the Rio Grande Federico also owned five-thousand acres in the vicinity of old San Carlos, which today is known as Manuel Benavides; additionally he had a successful talabarteria, or leather goods shop, at Santa Elena on the Chihuahua side across from today’s Castolón (originally also called Santa Elena) in the national park.
For the two years I engaged in research hardly any contemporary documentation of Federico’s holdings and accomplishments in the Big Bend came to light. It seemed almost as those had been hidden away. Kenneth B. Ragsdale in his tome Quicksilver: Terlingua and the Chisos Mining Company (Texas A&M University Press, 1976), did, however, single out and devote an entire chapter to the shooting of the Coffman boys and of Jorge Villalba’s trial. Ragsdale also mentioned my great-uncle Jake’s murder in November, 1931, and the purloining of the family property in the Chisos.
By and large, the record of Villalba experiences in the Big Bend has been condensed to the tragedies that befell them and various other well-placed Hispano-American families. There is so much more to the historical record of occupation in the region that has as yet been told. I am grateful that Mike Hardy at Iron Mountain Press feels the same way. In this offering, and in my upcoming prequel, Of Cowboys and Kings, we invite the enthusiast to sense the Big Bend border country through the aspect of one of our earliest settlers, my visabuelo don Federico Villalba.
The book will be available through Front Street Books (fsbooks.com) in Alpine, TX, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com and Iron Mountain Press, Houston, TX.
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CANDELARIA BRIDGE ISSUE RESPONSE FROM MARTIN LUJAN-CHEIF OF STAFF FOR TEXAS REPRENSATIVE PETE GALLEGOMr. Justice:
Thank you for the information. While I was not aware of this, Mr.
Gallego may be. Regardless, I will distribute this to everyone in our
office so that it is on our radar.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2008 12:19 PM
To: Martin Lujan
Subject: Candelaria bridge closing issue
Please take a few minutes to look at and consider the impact of U.S.
Border patrol ordered closing of the Candelaria brige. You will find
much information about this issue at Glenn's Texas History Blog:
www.rimrockpress.com/blog. Hope that you will make Pete also aware of
the problems if you and he are not already.
Maybe Pete can help? Texas House Representative Pete Gallego may be contacted at:
http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/di ... llego.htm.
No response from U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez despite repeated attempts. Guess he and his staff are too busy. Rep. Rodriguez may be contacted at:
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Above is James Judson Kilpatrick Sr. known in later years as the "King of Candelaria".
Above is Darwin Dawkins Kilpatrick, son of J.J. Sr. Dawkins or D.D. served as a scout for the last American punitive expedition into Mexico in August 1919. He operated the Candelaria store until his death in the late 1940's.
In the summer of 1919 Candelaria merchant and Justice of the Peace James Judson Kilpatrick Sr. and two of his sons, Jim and Dawkins found themselves caught up in a storm of controversy. Following the Brite ranch raid on Christmas Day 1916, fear ran high along the Rio Grande in the Big Bend. The civil war in Mexico spurred on by Pancho Villa had turned the village of Candelaria into an armed camp. Most of the population of Candelaria left to find a safer place to live. J.J. at first called for help from the U.S. government to fortify and defend his town. Not wanting to run, the Kilpatricks mounted a Colt .30 cal. machine gun above their store to guard their property. Two Candelaria schoolteachers, Pat Greene and his wife packed pistols and stayed ready to climb to the roof of their residence to fight off a an expected raid from across the river. When the new teacher first arrived in Candelaria, J.J. presented schoolmaster Greene a 7mm Mauser rifle and 1,500 rounds of ammunition. A troop of U.S. cavalry under the command of Captain Leonard F. Matlack worked feverously to move their tent camp from old man Engles cotton patch near the edge of the village to Annias Hill overlooking Candelaria, the river and San Antonio del Bravo.
J.J. and Jim wrote letters to congressmen and penned articles at first published by the San Antonio Express, the El Paso Times and the Marfa New Era. Even the New York Times picked up articles about Candelaria. When some of the press reflected badly on the cavalry, a military press blackout was imposed on reporters who were no longer permitted to go to Candelaria. Instead, the reporters could only write stories based on news releases given them from the army at Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa. But the Kilpatricks kept on with their letters and articles. Finally the El Paso Times refused to publish any more from J.J. Kilpatrick because it was too controversial and inflammatory. It didn’t help when J.J. got drunk and accidentally discharged his pistol in an El Paso bordello. The El Paso Times did not fail to report this incident. Following this J.J. started publishing his own newspaper circular printed by his brother H.H. Kilpatrick in Marfa. H.H. was Presidio County judge and publisher of the now lost Marfa New Era newspaper.
This is not to say the Kilpatricks were without fault in all of this. They engaged in a steady and highly profitable illegal arms for cattle trade with Villa agents and others. When Dawkins hauled cotton over the Sierra Vieja trails with large mule drawn wagons, he sometimes returned to Candelaria with the wagons loaded with rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. But their writings to tell their version of the border troubles of that time should not be glossed over or ignored. The following is J.J. Kilpatrick’s attempt to counter the newspaper stories of what happened. These papers were given to me years ago by J.J.’s granddaughter, Marian Walker. These are J.J.’s words, exactly as written.
FALL REITERATES CHARGES THAT CARRANZA SOLDIERS ARE SLAIN BY PURSUING U.S. TROOPS (El Paso Times July 22, 1919.)
An examination into the truth of these charges and an account of the killing of two youthful sotol smugglers and of Gregorio Renteria.
Special to Morning Times. Washington, July 21.-“Senator Fall of New Mexico reiterated his charges on the floor of the Senate that Carranza officers and men have been shot by American soldiers when pursuing Mexican raiders across the Rio Grande.
Reads messenger from Marfa-Senator Fall read a telegram from Marfa, Texas giving the names and dates on Carranzista officers and soldiers had been killed by American troops in repelling raids. There were more than a dozen names of Mexicans given ranging from Captins (sic) to Lieutenants to provates (sic), and all were said to have been in Carranza’s army. He said that bugles and sabers had been found belonging to Carranza’s forces.”
The following is the message probably read by the Senator, or a similar one based on the same records or files at Colonel George T. Langhorne commanding the Big Bend District;
Ten Carranzistas killed in the Big Bend since Dec.1, 1917
(By Associated Press)
Marfa, Texas, July 21.-Records on file in the headquarters of the Big Bend military district here show that the Mexicans killed by Eighth cavalry (sic) troopers in the Big Bend and Ojinaga districts since December 1, 1917, ten were alleged to have been Carranza officers and soldiers, according to Col. George T. Langhorne, District commander.
Of the ten, five were killed on April 2, 1919, when Captain Matlack crossed the border between Ruidosa and Candelaria with troops K and M of the Eighth Cavalry in pursuit of a band of Mexicans who had driven off cattle from American ranches. The cattle were recovered and the bodies of the five alleged Carranza soldiers (were) identified according to Colonel Langhorne.
Names of the Victims. “The names, as shown on the headquarters records, were: Felicito Hernandez, Reyes Callanes, Pedro Fallesco, Andres Rodriguez, Blacida Zapata. The five others, also recorded as Carranza soldiers, who were killed prior that date, were, Lieut. Flores Haciendita, killed December 21, 1918; Captain Avila, killed December 25, 1917; Luis Momoz, Roman Hegura and Carlos Rivera, killed in raids on American ranches the records state. Avila was killed leading the attack on the Brite Ranch Christmas day, 1917, and photographs are on file in military headquarters here showing his body clad in the uniform of a Carranza officer.
“American cavalry troops in the Big Bend district crossed the border eight times during the same period in pursuit of Mexicans who had raided ranches on the American side of the border according to headquarters records.”
We as well as most Americans on or near the border been passive Villa sympathizers and in favor of sort of intervention. However, I am now rather lukewarm if not altogether cold, in my attitude towards armed interference in the affairs of Mexico. This change on my part is due to some extent to the conduct of the Eighth cavalry (sic) while on the border. Holding no brief for the Carranza government, yet I must say the truth of Rio Grande history in the Big Bend, demand’s that Senator Fall’s statements should be challenged and the flimsy and false evidence upon which they are founded exposed. It is inconceivable why the general public, making no effort to ascertain the truth, permitted itself to be hoaxed by the reports formerly sent out, it seems, from military headquarters at Marfa; for, an examination of the facts contained in the Senator’s message will reveal how the people have been deceived and certain officers gained notoriety under false pretenses. The files in the office of Colonel Langhorne at Marfa, July 21, 1918, showed that the Mexicans killed by the Eighth cavalry (sic) in the Big Bend and Ojinaga districts since December 21, 1917, ten were alleged to be Carranza officers and soldiers, five killed April 27, 1918, by Captain Matlock (sic) when he chaised into Mexico a band of Mexicans how had driven off cattle from American ranches; namely,Felicito Hernandes, Reyes Callanes (Pallanes), Pedro Fallasco (Zalas), Andrez Rodriguez and Placida (Plasido) Zapata, and five killed prior to the time; namely Lieut. Flores Haciendita, killed Dec. 21, 1918; Captain Avila, killed December 25, 1917; Louis Munoz, Roman Hegura (Segura) and Carlos Rivera.
Since Roman Segura and Carlos Rivera were killed at the same place, in which, and at the same time when Zalas, Rogriguez and Zapata were killed, the tow former should take the places of Feliceto Hernandez and Reyes Pallanes, killed nearly a year subsequently. Attention is called to the interchange of these names, in rely (sic) to indicate the bungling work formerly done in filing away border reports at Marfa.
Now, April 7, 1918, when Roman Segura, Carlos Rivera, Pedro Zales, Andres Rodriquez and Plasida Zapata were killed, Matlock (sic) did not cross the border in pursuit of these Mexicans; neither had theyor any other Mexicans driven cattle or anything else from American ranches. That there had been no raid of any sort is an incontrovertible fact, and the officer responsible for the report that had been should be dismissed from the army as a sensational prevaricator. Matlock (sic), did cross the Rio Grande at or about the time mentioned upone a manufactured hot trail; and learing in San Antonio that Chico Cano who he doubtless had long been planning to kill or capture, had that morning with nine of his men gone up the river, he, Matlack and his troops following after him in no great hurry. Coming upon the Mexicans with their shoes off and asleep by the side of the regular trail, after their noon meal, the Americans surrounded and shot to death five of them, Chico escaping in his stocking feet slightly wounded. Yet Senator Fall read on the floor of the senate a message from Marfa, saying these five Mexicans were alleged to be Carranza soldiers, who having driven off cattle from the American ranches, were pursued across the border by Captain Matlock (sic), and killed, an absolute untruth.
These five Mexicans wore no uniform and were not soldiers, but were locally known as Chico Cano’s men. While in the employment of the Carranza government, their exact status of function no one seemed to know. Some said they were border patrollers; others that they were secret scouts; that Chico himself held no commission as a Carranza captain, but was merely chief o the patrolers or scouts. That point, however, is immaterial, since they had not raided any American ranches, or as an organized band committed any depredation on this side of the river. As individuals some of them may have been guilty of the sporadic stealing of horses from ranches in Texas, but that the individual wrongdoing of soldiers is proof of connivance on the part of the government with the commission of crime is simply absurd.
The misleading and worthless character of the files from which Senator Fall’s telegram is yet to be told. And it is amazing how reports which are pure fabrication found their way into the former military records at Marfa, yet just listen; Felicito Hernandez and Reyes Pallanes, both of whom I knew, recorded in the army files of the Big Bend district as Carranza soldiers killed prior to April 7, 1918, while raiding American ranches, were only two youthful sotol smugglers, cruelly shot to death by two of Matlock’s (sic) soldiers the night of June 1, 1919. Being Justice of the Peace, I investigated the killing. The soldiers late in the evening made an engagement with the boys to bring over some sotol that night-and then shot them down in the shallow water about ten feet from the bank, then they returned with the liquor.
But I have not finished with the crooked files; Luis Munoz, also recorded as a Carranza soldier, etc., was no other that the worthless son of Pablo Munoz, and was hung in Mexico for hog stealing by the Mexicans themselves. I know what I am saying.
Captain Avila-the bandit killed by Sam Neill Christmas day 1917 had on a tight fitting coat fitted with brass buttons. Somebody in Marfa said the picture of the dead outlaw resembled a certain Captain Avila who fled with two thousand others to this side when Villa took Ojinaga. Hence, it seems brass buttons on a coat and the resemblance; somebody imagined he or she noted, was sufficient evidence to prove a Carranzista captain had been killed raiding an American ranch. Ever if the dead raider had once been an officer in the Mexican army the only logical conclusion that could be drawn from this fact is the he was a deserter, Villistas and Carranzistas raided the Brite ranch.
Lieut. Flores Haciendita killed December 21, 1918, was probably intended to read: Lieut. Flores, killed at Haciendita; however I have been unable to locate anyone who has ever heard of the lieutenant or of anyone’s being killed on the date above mentioned. Anyway if a Mexican was killed at that place on or about that date his lieutenancy was no doubt similar to the Captaincy of Sam Neil’s bandit, namely of American manufacture.
My criticism is not yet exhausted. These files tell of bugles and sabers belonging to he Carranza forces having been found. When and where the message read by the New Mexico senator did not say; and noting in the papers the bugle and saber statement I marveled at the Senator’s lack of information. In the homes of a number of Americans on both sides of the border, may be found bugles, sabers, swords, etc., exactly line those in the Eighth cavalry’s museum or war. Mr. Fall, no doubt, has a Carranza (Mexican) saber and may be that we gave it to him for we have given away several since the revolution in Mexico first began. My purpose in part for exposing the worthless character of the telegram read by Senator Fall on the floor of the Senate is this: Colonel Shaw was recently sent out by Washington by General March to ferret out the truth in regard to certain border reports. It will be remembered that Major Collins a little pussy footing whitewasher, exonerated Matlock (sic) of all charges I made against him or to any members of my family and among the other things recommended that no more money be spent investigating any charges we may make. But the flowers of truth though withered by time will, as long and justice and right will live, blossom and bloom again. The war department paid no attention it seems to this little swivel chair Major who is no other than the son in law of a life-time political enemy of ours and so disqualified to investigate anything which my family and I were interested.
In his two hour interview with me Colonel Shaw asked how I knew the reports sent out from the border were generally grossly exaggerated or fictitious. Because I explained such was their character as reflected in the newspapers. While admitting that, since I had not seen the reports on file in military headquarters, I could not say that the newspaper copies were correct, yet I called the Colonel’s attention to the fact that charges were made prior to this testimony and from the telegram read by the New Mexico Senator, the inescapable conclusion that my charges were true. Without going into detail, I will say of the 21 Mexicans killed on this side of the river since 1917, only one was a bandit, the other 19 being unarmed Mexicans or prisoners; and of the 96 so called outlaws killed by American troops on the other side of the river during the same time, only 16 had corporal bodies, only two of whom being bandits; five were Chico Cano’s men; seven were prisoners; one an old blind Mexican killed at Pilares; and one a lunatic killed at the Jacal settlement opposite Indio, by Matlock (sic), so a government scout informed me. Of the remaining 80, six were killed at San Jose on the telephone wires; seventeen killed by Matlock (sic) with spyglasses at the so-called second day’s fight opposite Indio. And fifty-seven on paper with hot air rifles.
Of the eight raids implied by the telegram from Marfa, July 21, 1918, only two were genuine bandit excursions-Brite and Nevill raids; two were simply cases of cattle thefts by border thieves-the Tigner and Nunez ranch incidents; one was a bogus thing-and the phantom raid of Chico Cano, and three, if they ever happened must have been trivial affairs, for I have been unable to find anyone who knows anything about them.
James Judson Kilpatrick, Sr.
Circular No. 3
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Yes, the children live their homes on the U.S. side during the week in Candelaria and these children are U.S. citizens. Their parents who may or may not be U.S. citizens and some are also have residences in Mexico and own or rent houses in Candelaria so the kids may go to school. But the non-citizen parents may not work legally on the Texas side. Renters do not pay property taxes. Anyone who owns property in Presidio County pays the school taxes. Just like in San Angelo where property owners foot the bill for educating the children of renters. The same probably goes for taxpayers in any other place in the U.S.
The children also live in Mexico with their parents on weekends, during the summer or when ever they can. They are going to school in the U.S. to learn English and because their school in San Antonio del Bravo has been closed. There is no other place for them to go to school. The schoolteacher in San Antonio was shot and killed on the steps of the school and no longer operates. This has long been a thorn in the side of the Presidio ISD. The two room Candelaria school became known as the “wetback school” in its century of existence and the Presidio ISD solved their problem by simply closing the school a few years ago. They also closed the Redford school. Now the kids spend more than two hours a day on a bus in order to get an education. This is very hard for them especially the little ones. The Border Patrol today uses the Candelaria school buildings and property as a base of local operations. It costs the school district more money to run the buses back and forth that it did to operate the school. It costs the district the same to pay the teachers in Presidio or Candelaria.
There are no quick and easy answers for all this. The good decent folks on the river do their best to make a living for their families and get an education for their children. The result of the border crossing closing at Lajitas only brought economic ruin to the Mexican town across the river when the lifeblood of the community, tourism, was cut off. The school on the Mexican side at Paso Lajitas closed and the good people had to move away. Now Paso Lajitas is a ghost town, only to the benefit of the smugglers.
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Also, several folks have questioned the numbers on the hit counters. The hit counters do not work. At peak times, Glenn's Texas History Blog is read by up to 200 different urls in a few hours. Recently, the blog has crashed because of so many hits. Please feed free to post your comments or questions. Let me know if your are having problems posting by clicking add comment. Also, with the recent software upgrade so I may post photos, the most recent comments does not work on the side bar.
You may also simply have your comments and questions posted by clicking on contact me, emailing and I will post. Your comments are most appreciated and I encourage you to comment. I have a growing number of requests for research help and will respond as soon as I am able. All of those emailed to me are on the list and I will respond with a post of answers and help, so please be patient and check back on the blog for your answers and help.
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According to the latest reports, the little footbridge shown above at the Porvenir/Pilares crossing of the Rio Grande is next on the Border Patrol removal list. The Border Patrol is requesting landowners on the Texas side tear the bridge down. Below is landowner Fred Nelan's response to the Border Patrol.
From: Fred Nelan
Sent: 05/30/2008 10:01 AM
To: 'REYNOLDS, LORAINE L'
Subject: RE: Porvenir Footbridge
To: Loraine L. Richards
Patrol Agent in Charge
Marfa Border Patrol Station
(432) 729-4250 Office
After our conversation this morning I would like to reduce to writing in this email the facts that I conveyed to you. First of all I don’t believe that the bridge in question in Section 65 belongs to us. I therefore will not be destroying it this weekend as we discussed late yesterday.
It seems that congress authorized in 1972 the funding for channeling of the Rio Grande as well as preservation of wildlife on the river. This was in accordance with some Treaty with Mexico and they were to do a similar project on the other side of the river. It appears that many surveys were then conducted as well as environmental impact studies were done. In the early 1980’s the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) began executing the project and acquiring right of way and lands for wetland set aside from landowners with river frontage. We were owners of the subject land at the time and a 200 foot right of way was acquired from land owners between a place called Haciendita on the South and North to Fort Quitman. We received compensation for some 47 acres in this right of way for our river frontage and assume most other land owners did also. The frontage on our Section 65 as well as a small piece of Section 66 was identified also as wetlands. We were compensated for 23 acres and the IBWC took title to this land.
It appears to me that since our land in Section 65 does not touch the Rio Grande at any point ,and what does touch is owned by IBWC, then the bridge is not our responsibility.
As I told you I have extensive files on this matter with maps and plans supporting the whole project including the environmental assessment. These files should be available to you from sources other than from us. I will deliver these files to our Attorney and partner and you can communicate with him regarding these files. He is Robert Perel and he has sent you a letter recently that on the letterhead will appear his contact information.
On a personal note I would hope that somewhere in this great government of ours someone can help alleviate the hardships you are about to impose on a few law abiding US Citizens living in San Antonio de Bravo. Removal of the Candelaria bridge to stop terrorists and Drug smugglers as well a few illegal aliens from crossing is ludicrous . They don’t cross there anyway. Those illegal aliens that do cross are not the ones that are headed into our heartland and are so controversial but they are part of family and culture of our great Rio Grande Valley. We need to allow their children to catch that school bus in Candelaria each morning.
I write this as I see the new wall under construction over the sand hills west of El Paso. It is going down the Border on its way to California. I was raised here in El Paso and it breaks my heart to see such things happening.
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Candelaria is a tiny remote Texas-Mexican border village located in the rugged Presidio Valley of the Big Bend. A muddy stream known as the Rio Grande River separates Candelaria from San Antonio del Bravo, Chihuahua. Very few outsiders understand that these are not two separate villages; they are simply one community with a sluggish stream of water in the middle. The problem is, however, the watercourse has been an international boundary since 1849.
The Candelaria/San Antonio community has been in existence for centuries. The original inhabitants were people the Spanish called Jumano. In the early 1500’s, when the Spaniard Cabeza de Vaca made his way through the Presidio Valley he was the first European to observe these peaceful but resilient farmers and traders who depended on the Rio Grande to exist. But the Jumanos were anything but peaceful when it came to defending their lives and homes from outside intrusion. The Spaniards brought the horse and about half a century after Cabeza de Vaca began introducing military solutions to dominate the land and enslave the people. The Spaniards were not the only outside intruders. When the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 took place other Native American groups from far away became mobile on the horses the Spanish brought. Empowered Apaches and Comanches came to raid and steal and the Jumanos fought back as best they could.
In 1848 the Mexican War resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago and the watercourse in Candelaria and San Antonio became an international boundary. Suddenly the United States acquired most of the northern lands of Mexico when the despot Santa Anna cheaply sold out his country to save his hide. Having little knowledge of their new land, the U.S. government launched an era of exploration and mapping. In 1849, Lieutenant William Henry Chase Whiting set out to discover and map a practical wagon route between San Antonio, Texas and El Paso. In the spring of the following year, he entered the Presidio Valley and passed through what we know today as Candelaria/San Antonio del Bravo. Fortunately for Whiting, the native inhabitants of the community had moved into the Sierra Madre to escape the searing summer heat. Had he arrived a few months sooner his scalp might well have ended up swinging in the wind from a lodge pole. Now Candelaria/San Antonio was on a map.
About 1881, the Candelaria Catholic church received a new bell. Sometime after that, Candelaria got a school. In 1901 Candelaria post office opened and a store serving the needs of a vast area of Texas and Mexico began to prosper. You could buy groceries, beer, hardware, clothing, gasoline, guns and ammunition. In those days, the Rio Grande flowed wonderfully and farming in the Presidio Valley offered new hope of better times. Cotton farming was introduced in the valley and good water and high cotton prices fueled the establishment of cotton gins. Candelaria had two gins and soon a two-story hotel complete with a barbershop. There was also a saloon and billiard parlor. The 1910 Census counted 543 residents of Candelaria. Also, in 1910 a revolution, the first great revolution of the twentieth century, brought war to Mexico. Landless peons, small landowners, merchants, artisans and tradesman took up arms and followed leaders like Pancho Villa into battle. Isolated in Chihuahua, Villa depended on the Mexican border for a steady flow of arms and the materials of war. An arms for cattle trade fueled Villa’s armies. More than a million people died in this war. Border raids into the Texas Big Bend brought the U.S. military into the picture. Candelaria merchant J. J. Kilpatrick pleaded for help to defend his town and in 1917 the Eighth Cavalry built a new border outpost overlooking Candelaria. Most of the people moved away to escape the violence. Fear was everywhere. Not many bandits or outlaws got caught and the military ran roughshod over a lot of harmless peaceful people in the Presidio Valley. The military didn’t stay long and departed Candelaria in 1919 after U.S. cavalry galloped across the Rio Grande at Candelaria drawing more innocent blood during the last American punitive expedition into Mexico.
There have been smugglers plying their illegal trade since the Rio Grande became the border. Without the designation of the Rio Grande as an international boundary smuggling could not exist. From the beginning of the twentieth century smugglers have trafficked a variety of items including prohibited liquor, guns and ammunition and more recently people and drugs. In the early 1980’s, the U.S. government managed to drive the Columbian cartels out of south Florida to the Texas Big Bend. Drawn by the remoteness of the Big Bend, the drug smugglers prospered bringing their loads into the United States. Today in Mexico there is a new war being fought. The drug war is fueled by an arms for drug trade.
As the Mexican drug lords struggle to control their turf across the river, a wave of immigration has come to the forefront of American politics. Again we hear calls to militarize and close the border. Some demand a wall be built between the United States and Mexico. It’s a simple but poorly thought out solution to a very complex issue. Just recently a powerful someone in Washington found out about that Candelaria still has a bridge and ordered it immediately removed. Few have really considered the impact of tearing it down. When the Border Patrol closed the crossing at Lajitas a few years ago, the action resulted in the economic death of Paso Lajitas the little village just across the river. Tourists no long came, the restaurants went out of business and the school closed. There was no work for anyone, the people moved away, and the town became abandoned. Today there are no watchful eyes of good people living there and the smugglers have the perfect vantage point watch the Border Patrol coming and going across the river.
With the little footbridge at Candelaria gone, both towns will wither. The closing the border will devastate the local economies on both sides of the river. Children cannot go to school, good people who need their jobs will have no work. The San Antonio medical clinic will have no way to call for help. There will be nobody to work cattle or fix fence on the ranches. And this only plays into the smugglers hands giving them an empty abandoned countryside to operate in unobserved. The Border Patrol comes, the smugglers stay on the Mexican side, the Border Patrol leaves, the smugglers cross and go about their business. And who is hurt worst by this? Good and decent people who deserve better treatment and more understanding. And the fear and intimidation continues.
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One wonders, then, whether there remain any lawyers willing to work pro bono, that is: “without compensation for the public good.” The myriad of large landowners in southern Presidio County, mostly distant city dwellers with no traditional or familial connection to the region, may care little about the bridge issue; regrettably, certain of them may even favor it. Certainly folk who reside along the Rio Grande, most of whom bear Hispanic surnames, cannot afford to pay astronomical legal fees. Therefore, so much for Equal Justice Under Law, the famous motto engraved over the portico of the United States Supreme Court. “Equal Justice,” is obviously reserved for those who can afford it.
A lawsuit defending the rights of traditional Candelaria residents, perhaps class-action in scope, timely filed, could result in an injunction that would stop enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security’s order for removal of the bridge. In other words, it would buy time. It seems certain that by early next year the Washington power structure will have shifted. Then this supposed “problem,” exacerbated by politicians who know nothing about acculturative factors at work along the “forgotten Rio Grande” may, like a votive candle, have melted away.
The question at hand is more profound than it first appears to be. Consider history: first, the displacement of Mexican-origin people along the Rio Grande border that began with choplogic interpretations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (the Treaty) in 1848-49 (signed by both countries on February 2, 1848). Second, takeovers and outright swindles, often under coverture of interpretations of the Treaty, Article X (land grants), beginning in the “Magic [lower Rio Grande]Valley” of Texas a century ago; acquisition by sale, the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 for example; another, under the heavy hand of vengeful White ranchers and their agents, those being certain companies of bloody-minded Texas Rangers (the Porvenir Massacre comes to mind); the pandemic of Spanish influenza in 1918 during which 3% or more border dwellers of Mexican-origin died; or as cannon fodder in a series of twentieth-, and now twenty-first century “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” scenarios, and otherwise since 9/11 under the guise of “Homeland Security,” (a catholicon if ever one existed).
One thing seems certain. If something isn’t done to stop the accreting vacantness of the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States above Terrell County, Texas, the region will become a desplobado, or “no man’s land.” Several centuries of progress for the area will be ended and the process of acculturation brought to a standstill. If that’s what a handful of people really want, then shame on them.
Alpine, Texas & Cd. Chihuahua, Mexico
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The letter reads as follows:
300 Madrid Street
Marfa, TX 79843
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
May 20, 2008
760 Rinconada Lane
El Paso, Texas 79922
To Whom It May Concern
The purpose of this letter is to request that you facilitate the U.S. Border Patrol’s enforcement duties by removing the bridge on your property near Candelaria, Texas that spans a channel of the Rio Grande or securing it so that no one can cross illegally from Mexico into the United States. Title 8, United States Code, Section 1357(a) authorizes Agents to enter upon private lands located within 25 miles of the border without a warrant to pursue the investigation of illegal activities. Your property is within that 25-mile area and due to the close proximity of your land to the border, it is likely that unlawful entries into the United States occur on your property. Because we must prevent the illegal entry of terrorists, aliens and/or drug traffickers into the United States, I am asking that your assistance to either remove the bridge or at the very least, secure it so that no one can cross over from Mexico into the United States.
Based on patrolling activities of Agents in the area, it is known that numerous people cross illegally into the United States in the area of Candelaria, Texas. Therefore, within the next sixty days, please initiate measures immediately to secure, seal or completely remove the bridge from your property to ensure that you are not aiding and abetting these individuals illegal entry into the United States. See18 U.S.C. 2 (“Principals”); see also 8 U.S.C. 1321 (“Prevention of Unauthorized Landing of Aliens”), 1324 (“Bringing In and Harboring Certain Aliens”), and (“Aiding or Assisting Certain Aliens Aliens to Enter the United States”).
We appreciate your assistance and will continue to avoid interference with any rights you have with respect to your property. Our goal is to work with all persons who live along the border in a peaceful and cooperative manner. As discussed above, however, we cannot allow your bridge near Candelaria, Texas to provide as a means for people to illegally enter the United States.
If you have any questions, please contact Loraine Reynolds, Patrol Agent in Charge, U.S. Border Patrol, Marfa Station, Marfa Sector, at P.O. Box I (300 Madrid St.), Marfa, Texas, 79843 or via telephone at (432-729-4250. We look forward to your compliance and support of our law enforcement mission.
John J. Smietana, Jr.
Chief Patrol Agent
cc: Asset Forfeiture Office
A. U.S.A. James J. Miller, Jr.
The above only leaves Fred and a lot of us wondering what in the world is going on. How is this achieving the Border Patrol's stated goal to, "work with all persons who live along the border in a peaceful and cooperative manner"? Gj
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http://borderstories.org/index.php/laji ... ssing.html
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The two communities connected by the bridge, which crosses a diminutive Rio Grande on gapped wooden planks suspended by repurposed car chassis, are situated, literally, at the end of the road.
Texas Highway 170 dissolves into rough dirt ranch tracks at Candelaria, leaving the river unaccompanied by road for a 200-mile stretch upstream known as the forgotten Rio Grande. On the other side, San Antonio del Bravo is a bumpy three-hour ride on an unmaintained dirt road from Ojinaga, a bustling outpost for Mexican ranchers.
Dr. Maribel Aquino, 32, works alone in San Antonio del Bravo’s rural medical clinic with no phone or internet connection. She describes how the majority of San Antonio’s women and children spend the week in Candelaria in order to send their American-born children to the school in Presidio. San Antonio del Bravo’s schoolhouse sits empty; most women in the community decide to give birth across the border so that their children become American citizens.
A sign near the footbridge advises crossers that it is illegal to enter the United States at Candelaria, but residents of the community say the warning is un-enforced. If it were, says Dr. Aquino, the community would not survive.
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http://borderstories.org/index.php/san- ... ctora.html
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Sir, we met at Rocksprings, Texas, a few months back when you graciously attended the homecoming for former Edwards County Deputy Sheriff “Gilmer” Hernández after his release from federal prison for “violating the civil rights” of a fleeing violator. You will recall that Hernández shot at a tire on the suspect vehicle in an effort to protect himself and do his job.
Permit me to now express dismay at the short-sightedness being displayed by bureaucrats in Homeland Security. The isolated, economically-depressed region situated forty-odd miles upriver from the Presidio (Texas) Port of Entry has long been a point of acculturation between people of both Mexican and United States origin. One of the factors that have made this interaction possible has been the footbridge which was built by folk of both countries many decades ago at no cost to taxpayers. Candelaria faces San Antonio del Bravo, Chihuahua, a poor Mexican community which has relied upon its connection with the United States in order to survive for more than a century. Everything from sending and receiving mail, making store purchases, summoning help or ambulance services in an emergency up to attending school has been dependent upon the availability of la puente twelve months a year no matter what the weather.
There is no evidence that any Arab terrorists have ever or would ever enter the U.S. at such a place. (If they did, the locals would probably save both governments any trouble and take charge of the matter in their own quiet way. Besides, Canada and Logan International and JFK work better.) Smuggling, always a problem along any border, will not be stopped by removing a one-lane suspended footbridge. What will be stopped, or at minimum greatly interrupted, are the current incessant opportunities for cultural interchange and a significant amount of legitimate commerce that depends upon year-round access a el otro lado.
I ask that you become involved in stopping this untoward effort to further drive a wedge between the people of neighboring nations who want nothing more than to be friends and partners in progress.
Glenn Willeford (historian and novelist)
Alpine, Texas and Cd. Chihuahua
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MISDEMEANOR, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
War is fertile ground for the creative mind. In 1913 a writer who had experienced the American Civil War came to Chihuahua in order to see more bloodshed, this time in the Mexican Revolution. The two conflicts were similar in nature. Had Ambrose Bierce survived his visit to Mexico he would, no doubt, have written some gripping literature about Mexican warfare. But he did not survive, and his literary legacy does not extend beyond his retirement from journalism in 1913. Who was Bierce, and what brought him from the safety of a comfortable retirement to the battlefields of the Mexican desert? To answer the question, one must understand what events made the man, especially his service as a soldier.
Like the Mexican revolution, the American Civil War was a conflict between paisanos, or countrymen. It was fought because the southern states, which were agricultural areas, and the northern states, which were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, could not agree on a central power structure for governing the country. The South believed in the autonomy of the state. In other words, they believed that the federation of the states was intended solely for economic and military protection in time of emergency; they felt that Washington, D. C. had no right to tell the individual states how to govern themselves. Southerners felt so strongly about it that they believed their home states, such as Texas, Virginia, or Alabama, to be their countries rather than the United States of America as a whole. One issue that became especially important was the future of negro slavery on the North-American continent. The agricultural South, with its huge cotton plantations, felt that it could not function without the inexpensive labor that was provided by slaves. Consequently they did not want the northerners interfering with their "states rights" through Legislative or Presidential mandate.
The North, on the other hand, had about four times as many people as the South, and most of them were willing to work at low-paying jobs. Slaves, therefore, were not needed and the intellectuals and religious leaders of the North could speak out against the institution of slavery without fear of reprisal from the industrial elites. And speak out they did! By 1861, when Abraham Lincoln became President, the South could see the direction in which the country was moving. Slavery would not be permitted in any of the newly recognized states. In the southern mind, Lincoln's presidency signaled the end of their way of life. Ultimately war broke out when South Carolina militia units cannonaded Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, in April; it did not end until 1865 when the South surrendered, but by then about 600,000 Americans had been killed in battle. From the standpoint of casualties, the Civil War was the most horrific war ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. That had been Ambrose Bierce's war. The experience, including a head wound suffered personally, helped to mold the man into a misanthrope as well as a composer of darkly realistic literature.
It is therefore interesting that Bierce, who was 71 years old at the time, came to Chihuahua in order to observe the Mexican Revolution. In fact, he seems never to have left! And therein lies one of the most intriguing -- as well as unsolved -- mysteries, that remains from that difficult period of history.
Ambrose G. Bierce was born in Ohio state on June 24, 1842. As a young man he served as a United States Army officer and fought for the North during the American Civil War. He later became a journalist and an author. Bierce first gained the attention of literary critics with his book of Civil War stories entitled: Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, wherein his most famous story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," is found. His most famous work is a book entitled: The Devil's Dictionary. For thirty years Bierce resided in San Francisco, California, where he gained notoriety as a journalist with the Hearst newspaper chain.
One of the many ironies about Bierce is that he detested William Randolph Hearst, his employer. Hearst, who owned extensive hacienda lands in northern Mexico, had been involved in intrigues that were calculated to reestablish the pre-revolutionary dictatorship. Bierce had written a lengthy expose; of the newspaper magnate but, not wanting to embarrass Hearst's aging mother, a woman the writer admired very much, he stored the manuscript with the manager of a Laredo, Texas, hotel for safekeeping before he went to Mexico. Bierce, it seems evident, intended to return for the material at a later date and then submit it for publication. However (and this complicates the puzzle), before the manuscript could be recovered by Bierce's representatives in 1914 or 1915, it vanished from the hotel, never to reappear! This issue raises the question of the possibility of Hearst involvement in the confiscation of the manuscript by some means, and even of the possibility of some complicity on the part of Hearst, or of his henchmen, in the final disappearance Bierce.
Nonetheless, Bierce is best remembered today not only for his literary work, but for his quixotic journey into Mexico during the winter of 1913 -- at the apex of the Mexican Revolution -- and then for his sudden disappearance in January 1914. The latter topic has resulted in many theories about what actually happened to him, most of which are purely speculative. Mexican author Carlos Fuentes wrote a novel entitled Gringo Viejo that was centered around Bierce. That story was re-written for film and produced as the movie, Old Gringo, by the Fonda Films Company. (Screen legend Gregory Peck played the role of Bierce.) The movie is excellent, but, it must be remembered, it is a fictional account based on the rich imagination of both Fuentes and the screen writers who were employed during the making of the film.
In fact, very little hard evidence concerning the fate of Bierce has ever been found. Nevertheless, what has been learned, especially regarding the last month of his life and travels, may lead to reasonable conclusions concerning his demise. For one thing, Bierce had been making plans for his long journey since the previous spring. Rebecca Tuttle, one of the helpful people at the Huntington Library (a major repository of "Bierciana") in a response to my inquiries in 1999 said that she had located the following in a letter from Bierce to Walter Neale that was written on May 29, 1913: "I'm going to rediscover Tennessee (discovered in 1862) - a feat in which I hope for your assistance. Later still, I mean to go into Mexico - where, thank God, something is doing - and, in all probability, in to South America, a region that has held up a beckoning hand to me all my life."
Except for occasional attacks of asthma, Bierce was in good health when he left the United States. He was relatively wealthy and probably not worried about money. On the other hand, his family life was in a shambles. His two sons were dead, one by suicide after a failed love affair, and the other from acute alcohol intoxication; additionally, he had, by his own choice, been long separated from his wife. Nevertheless, the writer stayed in close contact with his daughter, and she was the only family member who supported him to the end.
Bierce did, however, have friends, associates, and even extended family members who also cared about and maintained contact with him. One of those was Carrie Christiansen, his devoted secretary in Washington, D. C.
Since his best fiction writing had been the war stories the old writer wanted to obtain more war material in order to continue in his profession. The only way to accomplish that was to go and experience another war. On his way to Mexico, Bierce stopped in New Orleans for a rest. While there he was interviewed by several newspaper reporters. One of them asked him why he was going to war-torn Mexico; he replied: "I like the game. . . . I want to see it." Then, by way of San Antonio, Texas, where author Paul Fatout said he was "royally entertained by Fort Sam Houston cavalry officers," he traveled on to Laredo, Texas, on the Rio Grande border. Bierce had intended to cross the international frontier at Laredo, but having heard stories about General Francisco Villa and his Constitutionalist Division del Norte in Chihuahua, and realizing that most of the action was taking place there rather than in Coahuila, he boarded a train for El Paso. In November, soon after Villa captured Ciudad Juarez, Bierce crossed the Rio Grande and, in Fatout's words, had been "cordially received and given credentials as an observer attached to Villa's army marching to Chihuahua." On November 26-27 the Constitutionalist army under Villa engaged and defeated a strong force of reinforced federal huertistas and colorados (Redflaggers) at Tierra Blanca, a railway station some thirty miles south of Juarez. Bierce not only witnessed that battle but participated in it when, after having been taunted by boyish soldiers, he took a rifle, aimed carefully, and killed a federal soldier at some distance. University of Chicago historian Friedrich Katz, in his 1998 tome on Pancho Villa, says that the revolutionaries were so delighted that they gave the grey-headed old man a large Mexican hat (un sombrero villista) as a prize for his marksmanship.
The Constitutionalist army, utilizing railroad trains captured from the federals, then moved on toward Chihuahua City which was in the process of being vacated by the huertistas (as the adherents of the usurper president Victoriano Huerta were called). The federal commander, Gen. Salvador Mercado, along with his army, retreated to Ojinaga, Chihuahua, on the Rio Grande across from Presidio, Texas. Bierce was then present at or near Ciudad Chihuahua for most or all of the month of December, 1913.
Some detractors, such as author Roy Morris, Jr. (Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company, 1996), give utterance that Bierce never came to Chihuahua at all, and that the story was a ruse for him to mysteriously disappear from this life. One of their arguments has been that Bierce was so well known that he could not have been overlooked by the other North American reporters who were present at the same time. However, Bierce, the man who had written so well about one war, was remaining as close to the fighting as he could - so close in fact that it may have gotten him killed. He knew from experience that one could not accurately describe a combat unless he had been present and witnessed it. (I, for one, like to think of Bierce as a forerunner of the gutsy Robert Capra, Martha Gellhorn style journalist.) The fledgling reporters and others who might (or just as likely might not - this was pre-television) have recognized Bierce were undoubtedly lodged at either the Hotel Palacio or the Apolo, where they would be safe and warm as well as sumptuously-fed and lubricated. That is, if they had not already gone back to the United States for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season! Indeed, Paul Fatout in Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Lexicographer said: "In late December he (Bierce) was just outside Chihuahua, expecting to move to Ojinaga, partly by rail. Trainloads of troops left Chihuahua every day. . . . He rode in four miles to Chihuahua to mail a letter that spoke of these and other matters, and that was dated December 26, 1913. The rest is silence." (Fatout cited: "Bierce papers, the Stanford University Libraries.")
In an earlier letter to his nephew's wife, Bierce, who was perhaps sensing trouble ahead or, more likely, simply making one of his devilish jokes, said: "If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think it a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico - ah, that is euthanasia!"
The letter Fatout attested as having been sent on December 26, 1913, was addressed to Miss Christiansen in Washington, D. C., and was the final communication that was ever received by anyone from Ambrose Bierce. It remains today as the most important piece of evidence that he was, in fact, at Chihuahua City and that he planned to go to Ojinaga, for he said as much to Miss Christiansen in the text. Some detractors, however, speculate that Bierce wrote the draft of the letter in El Paso and gave it to someone to mail from Chihuahua City. In reality, how likely is that? Would Bierce have tried to fool his trusted secretary in Washington? When the accomplice noted the ballyhoo concerning the disappearance of Bierce would he/she not likely have stepped forward with information about depositing a letter in the post office at Ciudad Chihuahua? Another point, remembering that Bierce said in the same letter he was planning to go to Ojinaga with Villa, consider how Bierce could possibly have known for certain that the Constitutionalist army was even going to the Rio Grande fight unless he was there, in person, at Chihuahua City during the time. Pancho Villa did not determine to take a leave of absence from his new post as military governor of Chihuahua state and journey to Ojinaga himself until his forces there failed to take the town on the fourth day of January. (This necessarily implies that Bierce, when composing his letter of December 26, meant he was going to Ojinaga with forces under the command of Gen. Villa rather than with Villa himself. When he actually planned to depart we cannot be sure; nonetheless, as he spoke of the matter in the letter it seems that his leaving was more or less imminent. Constitutionalist forces had been leaving, and continued to depart, by train for several days by the time December 26 arrived.)
Villa, with 1,500 to 2,000 fresh troops arrived near Ojinaga on January 9 after an arduous expedition of seventy-odd miles horseback from the railhead near the Rio Conchos. A cold norther was blowing in. US Army Major Michael M. McNamee, commanding US troops at Presidio, kept an official soldiers log of the events. He said that on the forenoon of January 10 the Constitutionalists sighted in their cannons at a distance of 2,000 to 4,000 yards. There was then a long lull in activity until 6 p. m. when small arms fire broke out. "Shortly after dark there was quite a heavy firing of cannon on both sides," he said. The fighting went on for about two hours until the federal front broke just before 8 p. m. A general rout ensued and an entire army of the Mexican Federal Republic fled across the Rio Grande and surrendered to US Army troopers up and down the river at Presidio. The Mexican federal soldiers, officers, and camp followers (3,352 officers and men as well as 1,607 women) were detained by these forces. Provisions and firewood were made available to them as was provender to their animals. The sick and wounded were taken to the American Red Cross Hospital that had been set up on the school ground nine days earlier.
It is possible to piece together what probably happened to Bierce after the last letter had been mailed. The first part of the journey from the state capitol to Ojinaga was to be made over the newly constructed Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway. Since, however, the rails had not been laid any farther northward than San Sostenes (near the Falomir Hacienda along the Rio Conchos), the last part of the trip would have necessarily taken place by horse, wagon, or even in motor-driven conveyances. The winter of 1913-1914 was severe, and cold weather was a factor that the opposing armies had to consider. And severe weather is known to have had an adverse impact on the asthmatic Bierce. (Richard Saunders, author of Ambrose Bierce: The Making of a Misanthrope tells of Bierce having been caught in a storm in New Orleans during the last part of October, 1913, and put to bed with a resultant asthma attack.) The possibility that cold weather and/or overall conditions in the field proved too much for the aged Bierce cannot be discounted. For all we know he may have had an attack and died any time after the 26th of December. Considering the time frame and combat conditions, if that happened in Chihuahua it is unlikely that any death record would have been made, especially if he died someplace outside of the city. Neither is his having been murdered for monetary gain out of the question, for Bierce is purported to have carried $1,100 US dollars into Mexico with him - a lot of money at that time.
One rumor that began to circulate in 1990, seventy-six years after the disappearance, says that Bierce died at Marfa, Texas, after having been transported there from Presidio in an ill condition sometime after January 10, 1914. It is important to refute this tale because it has received a following in parts of western Texas and more recently in a national magazine. The story, found in the Notes and Comments section of the Journal of Big Bend Studies IV (1992) published by the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University as well as in another format in the Big Bend Sentinel November 29, 1990 edition, says:
Abelardo Sanchez of Lancaster, California recently informed the editor that in 1957 he was driving in northern Mexico south of Yuma, Arizona, and picked up a man who, in the course of conversation, mentioned that he had served with the colorados opposing Villa in 1913. . . . When Ojinaga fell to Villa in January 1914 he crossed the Rio Grande seeking refuge in the United States. . . . [During the conversation the man told Sanchez that during the retreat from Ojinaga to Presidio, Texas, he met an old norteamericano.] The gringo was ill and not able to speak well, but it was determined that his name was "Ambrosia" and that his last name was something like "Price" [or Pierce, or Bierce?]. The man told Sanchez that he and several other soldiers put the gringo on a two-wheeled cart and helped him across the Rio Grande at a point [on the Rio Bravo] above Ojinaga. They were taken into custody by soldiers of the [United States] Third Cavalry and escorted to Marfa, Texas, along with hundreds of other refugees. By the time they arrived [in Marfa] the old man was delirious and almost in a coma. He died shortly afterward. . . . Supposedly he was buried in the old Camp Marfa cemetery. . . .
Sanchez' story, however, is flawed in at least three ways. First, one must understand that the line of federal withdrawal from Ojinaga to the Rio Bravo was at no point more than about a mile in distance, and was less than that for many of the combatants. More important, because the retreat did not begin until 8 p. m. and, as it was wintertime, darkness would already have fallen. In other words, the circumstances would have permitted neither the time, the opportunity, nor an inclination to stop and make friends along the way. Second, it does not seem logical that hardened soldiers who were fleeing for their lives would have taken the time to assist an ill person whom they did not know. One could speculate that they had hoped to receive better treatment from the United States Army if they brought a U. S. citizen to safety, but, if that be so, why did they not utilize that resource once they were arrested on the Texas side of the river? According to the story, they did not. Third, it is very unlikely that the US Army troops who, due to an outbreak of smallpox among the federalist refugees, detained all of the refugees from the Ojinaga battle for three days of observation before transferring them to Marfa, would not have transported a sick old man to the American Red Cross hospital that had been set up at Presidio. This is especially so if the man had been an Anglo-American, and even more true if that man had been the famous writer, Ambrose Bierce. In other words, the story told by Sanchez must be discounted for a lack of sufficient evidence as well as for its extreme improbability. Additionally, the editor of the Journal mentioned above, Dr. Earl H. Elam, made a systematic search of records in the Presidio County courthouse and found no trace of anyone with a name resembling Bierce having died there during that period. Importantly, Elam also spent a lengthy period in the military records at the National Archives in Washington, D. C. during 1989. While there he located and recovered reams of documentation concerning military activities on both sides of the Big Bend of the Rio Grande border during the Mexican revolution, but he found no trace of Ambrose Bierce having died at Marfa, or anywhere else for that matter.
Nevertheless, Bierce probably did see Marfa, Texas, one time. It was from a train coach window as he passed through on his way to El Paso during November. Certainly, he never returned.
The most rational explanation for the disappearance of Bierce is that he came north with Villa, arrived near Ojinaga on January 9, and was either slain during the battle on January 10 or that he died of natural causes sometime during that entire time frame. There is even a small piece of information that tends to prove this proposition: after the revolution several groups of investigators went into Mexico looking for Bierce. One method they used in their research was to interview former villistas who were known to have been at Chihuahua and then at Ojinaga during the same time that Bierce was believed to have been there. One officer, a man reportedly named Ybarra, when shown a photograph of Bierce, said that he had indeed seen him at Ojinaga but that after the assault on the federal garrison (which assault we do not know) he never saw him again. So, it is most reasonable to conclude that Ambrose Bierce died at Ojinaga.
Many of the dead at Ojinaga were buried in trench graves. Many others however, were interlaced with dry wood, mostly vigas and wooden planks that had been taken from the wrecked structures in Ojinaga, then doused with kerosene and set afire on the plaza de armas in front of the Nuestra Padre de Jesus church. So, was Bierce's body burned to ashes, or was he buried in an unmarked grave? It is doubtful that anyone will ever know. Doubtful I said, not certain. For tantalizing clues are occasionally brought to light. There is, for example, that piece of information concerning the execution of an old American journalist by huertista soldiers in an old mining village of northern Zacatecas. And, if Roy Morris, Jr. is correct and Bierce never left the United States, there is a yellowed scrap of newsprint about the finding of scattered human remains in the mountains somewhere out of El Paso along with an old key watch, and a United States coin dated 1852, and a rusting old revolver with one shot fired, and most important, a serial number from the firearm! (Try as I have to locate one, a source that can give a description of Bierce's personal handgun or the all important serial number still eludes me. If anyone out there can help, I promise you'll be remembered in the story, whether or not it belonged to Bierce.)
Me? I would like to think that yours truly has been mistaken and that logic, in Bierce's case, must be given a wide berth. His manifest intention had been to take a look at the situation in revolutionary Mexico and then head on farther and farther south into South America. Perhaps, along the way, he was made to stand bravely in front of his "Mexican stone wall." And if that was the fate that overtook him I, for one, must agree that it would, as he put it, have beaten "old age, disease or falling down the cellar stairs."
In summation, all we definitively know about the disappearance of Ambrose Bierce (and all that we are likely to ever know) is that his death left a body of work unfinished. Nevertheless, there are those of us who continue to be intrigued by the man and his legend. We know that something tangible about "the old sinner" (as one searcher from Lincoln, Nebraska, calls him) could turn up even yet. We are waiting.
CHRISTIAN, n. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
Some military strategists might have insisted that Mercado's army, which was then isolated and cut off from any reinforcement, should simply have been bottled up and left to rot at Ojinana. The more important military objectives, particularly Torreon, Coahuila, and Cd. Zacatecas lay far to the south along the Mexican Central Railway. Villa, perhaps sensing that the United States could not be trusted (later on US President Woodrow Wilson recognized Venustiano Carranza as the power in Mexico and allowed Carranza to use American railways to move troops back and forth to fight against Villa), refused to permit the existence of an substantial enemy force at his back. Ojinaga would have to be taken.
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www.youtube.com where you need search Gode Davis to bring it up. He can also be seen speaking at his website:www.americanlynching.com.
Also,you may get information, contact him or make donations to Gode at his website or simply call him at: 401-828-4435.
I don’t normally work to solicit money on the blog but I feel this is a very worthy effort that should not be swept under the table for any reason. Please help Gode with a donation no matter how small. Perhaps there is someone or an organization out there that can help with a sizeable contribution. If so, now is the time. Gj
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I am Jim Willeford, Glenn Willeford is my father. If we met years earlier, I hope you will forgive me for not remembering. Regardless, I have read your Porvenir article over and again; I find it and the accompanying photos fascinating.
I first read of the Porvenir Massacre in Robert Keil's book, Bosque Bonito. It captured my imagination and has occupied my thoughts for years since. It was gratifying to hear from Dad that you and he had done some excavating, found some bullets and cartridge casings, and were able to gather information on what may have actually happened at the site. Based on your findings, it appears that Keil's account of who did the killing may have been more than a little biased. As you know, he blames the killing on two unidentified Texas Rangers (who allegedly thereafter fled the area and were never seen again), leaving the shocked and horrified troops behind to clean up the mess and deal with the aftermath. That the evidence implicates the troop of US cavalry itself to have been actively involved in the massacre elevates it to a horrific, bloody travesty. What a helpless situation for the victims, what a despicable action for the murderers, and what terrible memories and devastation for the survivors.
Keil recounts in his book a horseback return to Porvenir later in his life, decades removed from the incident. According to his account, the horse he was riding absolutely refused to go near the massacre site. Why? Perhaps the spirits of those victims recognized a participant from so long ago, and were roused by his presence? Who knows. However, this one significant event, perhaps the only event of consequence in the entire history of the spot, may have stamped such an imprint upon the place that it may be forever stained. That the ballistic evidence remained to be discovered, inspected, and so plainly tell a story after nearly a century is as fascinating as any mystery man could invent. There are probably more evidentiary items to be found, waiting patiently in the grit to reveal their secrets.
I would love to be a contributor to the Porvenir effort in whatever way I can. I am a career Marine and am not residing in Texas, but if you intend to make another trip to the site, please let me know in advance; I would love to make plans and accompany you.
I enjoy visiting your Texas History blog and do so several times per week. Thanks for your efforts, and keep up the good work!
Thanks for your comments! Locals also say horses are are spooked and shy away from the massacre site. Quien Sabe. Take care, Gj
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Hello everyone.I appreciate the fact that more ballistics have been recently found at the Porvenir Massacre site where I took a crew to film in 2002.
I am starting to recover my health and would like to return to production and complete American Lynching: A Documentary Feature. (I've revised the title slightly because of a documentary made by Joel Katz called Strange Fruit, about the song bearing its name.)
I have just re-located the transcript of the main interview that I conducted with Juan Bonilla Flores in 2002 and plan to share it with Glenn, if I can obtain the permission of an expert translator who was involved.
I'm also writing The American Lynching Phenomenon, the first definitive work of its kind since James Elbert Cutler's Lynch Law in 1905. (I think an update is somewhat overdue.) I often accept invitations to lecture on lynching-related topics and to show a trailer for the documentary feature project at universities and colleges and other venues for a quite reasonable fee. You can watch me discussing lynching at the University of New Hampshire if you go to the www.americanlynching.com or else google me from the main page of YouTube.com.
Your feedback is welcome. My colon closed down for seven months and is now finally permitting me to live productively again!
If you have comments or would like to make a donation (even a tiny one) to help us finish production, please email me or call me in Rhode Island at 401-828-4435.
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I had the privilege of being present when the Flores filming took place both in Odessa and at Porvenir the following day. Sadly, Mr. Flores passed away in 2007 and never got to see the film completed. I have had many inquiries about the status of the Davis production and recently had the opportunity to visit with Gode about the progress of the film and ask that he release a transcript of the Flores interview so that it can be made public. Gode was very cordial in our conversation and remains committed to getting American Lynching completed although he is facing some very serious health issues. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Gode agrees how important the Flores account is and the fact that entire Porvenir massacre story certainly needs to be told. I am of the opinion that the Porvenir massacre and the Flores account is a story that should stand on its own. Hopefully, one day, Mr. Davis will be able to produce a film about the massacre or perhaps focus on abuses along the Texas border during the Mexican revolution years. In addition to his health problems, Gode needs $10,000 more to get American Lynching completed. Hopefully he will be able to raise the money. Anyone wishing to contribute to the effort can contact him at his American Lynching website: http://www.americanlynching.com/.
Also, see an interview with Gode Davis about his film by Genevieve Butler at: http://www.newenglandfilm.com/news/arch ... /davis.htm
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