If anyone has any difficulty posting comments on the blog please email me. Also, the book is available and in stock at Front Street Books in Alpine and Marathon. Telephone 800-597-3360. Let the discussion begin!
Friday, August 22, 2008, 08:41 AM
The Casas book can only be classified as a novel, complete with descriptions of its characters' mannerisms, emotions, and dialog. Had a New York publisher taken it on, I'm certain they would have put "hisstorical fiction" on the spine and published it as a mass market paperback -- but they didn't take it on.
A few family letters are offered as "historical documentation." And the only thing that might be considered factual is the use of real people's names. The author confesses to fictionalizing the Jorge Villalba trial [p.301]. And [p.XI] he tells us he "recreated" events as they might have happened from his family's perspective. But, even the author has to admit he injects his own biased "perspective." For instance[p.219]: The author -- in his own voice -- describes the prosecution witnesses as "lying sonsofabitches" and hostile -- and this without the benefit of a trial transcript which he tells us no longer exists [p.301].
Another instance[p.151]: In a fictinal setting -- again, complete with mannerisms, emotions, and dialog [and even snifters of Cardinal Mendoza brandy (!) which defense attorney Mead fusses over so eloquently]-- Frederico Villalba asks Mead, "How hard could it be to prove self-defense?"
" 'If it was the other way around and your boys were Anglo and the deceased were Mexican...not too hard," Mead said with a shrug of the shoulders." [Rimply read the inference behind the words the author has put into the mouth of the character Mead. To be fair, the author might have contacted Mead's descendants and got their take on what he might or could have said and felt. They might even tell us Mead didn't like Cardinal Mendoza brandy.] But this was obviously not meant to be an objective story with two sides.
There are other examples...
For the sake of argument, let me play on the author's own previous comment, and call it "anecdotal fiction." If that is accepted, then some might consider it a "good read." But don't call it fact-based "history" because it is not.
Thursday, August 21, 2008, 11:34 AM
I know that Mr. Ruan is a student of the Big Bend. Although I have never met him, I have learned to respect him and his knowledge by way of his friend and colleague, Mr. Glenn Willeford. His pointing out that I used the term “Villa interloper” is a bit pickyuny. Villa and his men were, by then, notorious cattle rustlers along the border. His activities, though not yet politically motivated, were very well-known and highly unappreciated by my great-grandfather and others. If the reader will recall, my great-grandfather called Villa the “accidental hero”. Per my great-grandfather’s assessment, Villa was a criminal who, by fortuitous circumstances, transformed himself into a “man of the people”. In deference to Mr. Ruan, perhaps I should have called the cattle rustlers just that. Now, had I used the term Villista, Mr. Ruan would certainly have had a bigger bone to chew on.
As for the comment that the “racial issue is overblown”. I submit to the reader that the racial climate is unfortunately, well-portrayed by events that took place in that era, and not by my invention. I did not concoct Porvenir, the transgressions of the Texas Rangers and the Army, the trial of my great-uncle Jorge for murder when it was clearly self-defense, or the murder of my great-uncle Jacobo.
To Mr. Ruan, I feel privileged that you chose to read my work. Aside from your points of disagreement, I hope that you enjoyed meeting the Villalbas. And, by the way, my book is an anecdotal history, not a novel.
Juan Manuel Casas
Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 11:08 AM
In my opinion Casas' book reads well as a family history or as a novel. Unfortunately, I think that anyone who is familiar with the history of the Big Bend and the Mexican Revolution would have some problems with factual statements.
Case in point: on page 17..."In 1909, Federico was approached by tghe sheriff who encouraged him to accept a commission. [as a Texas Ranger]Federico did so for one big reason. He didn't much care for Pancho Villa. It offered the American government's protection if he or any of his vaqueros killed an interloping Villa sympathizer." In 1909 Villa was not even a minor player in Mexican politics and history. Probably nobody in the United States had even heard of him. What was the possibility that "an interloping Villa sympathizer" would appear in the Big Bend and need to be killed.
I would agree wholeheartedly with Glendenning that the racial predjudice issue is overblown.
There are a number of other obvious historical errors.
Well written, interesting novel.
Monday, August 18, 2008, 10:19 PM
GJ, I'm surprised! There was so much YAH! YAH! about Mr. Casas book before it hit the shelves, and now, it seems, nobody wants to argue with him. Could it be that Casas turned out a better product than the naysayers expected>
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In 1882, twenty-four year old Federico Villalba left his parents home to take up ranching initially at San Carlos, Chihuahua before moving north into the Texas Big Bend. Villalba’s Rancho Barras located near Burro Mesa did well with his cattle herds growing to over 2,000 head in a few years. His Rancho Barras brand became well known. Villaba also owned property west of the Chisos Mountains where quicksilver was discovered in 1899. In addition to his ranching and quicksilver operation Federico engaged in the manufacture of saddles and leather goods and opened a small store that stocked necessary supplies. By the time Villalba reached thirty years of age and married, Federico had established three successful business operations. His family grew to include three sons and three daughters. Early in the 1900’s, Villalba entered into a quicksilver mining partnership and opened a general merchandise store at Study Butte.
In 1907, a financial downturn signaled troubled times ahead for the Villalbas. Then after surviving the dangerous years of the Mexican Revolution in the Big Bend, tragedy struck the family. The Villalba boys loved to play cards and gamble and Jacabo took up bootleg liquor smuggling. Following a poker game that went bad, Jacabo shot and killed two men that resulted the murder trial of his brother Jorge. The case went to trial in the Brewster County Courthouse in February 1924 and ended with Jorge being found not guilty. But the verdict proved to be bittersweet because Federico lost Rancho Barras to pay legal expenses. In 1931, Jacabo lost his life after being shot while trying to collect a debt. Federico never got over the death of his son and died two years later bringing an end to the Villalba’s time in the Big Bend.
“Federico Villalba’s Texas” is an outstanding and well-told family story. It is an excellent read, one that Big Bend enthusiasts will greatly enjoy and want to have on their bookshelves. Casas has done a fine job of presenting the Mexican perspective in the frontier times of the Texas Big Bend. Although the author should have offered more detailed documentation, the research given appears to be sound for the most part. It is a story that simply needed to be told and begs discussion.
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http://www.odmp.org/officer/18000-field ... e-lorenzo-(hod)-roberson
But there is more to his story. “Hod” Roberson lived by the gun and died by the gun. He should be more accurately described as a cold-blooded killer whose gun was for hire. Between 1911 and 1923 H. L. Roberson killed more than a few men in Texas and in Mexico. One probably inflated story claims he killed 38 men in his lifetime. Robertson first put on a Texas Ranger badge in 1911 at the age of 38 years when he joined Captain John Hughes’ Ranger Company A in El Paso. Within months, the new ranger shot and killed a drunk Mexican at Calaro a village east of El Paso. Following the incident, Roberson spent some time exiled to the Texas Panhandle. Captain Hughes liked Robertson, however and appointed him to sergeant of A Company in 1913. In 1914, Roberson and Ranger Ira Cline tried to serve a search warrant on Carlos Morales Wood, editor of a Spanish language newspaper in Valentine. Although the Rangers shot Wood dead in very suspicious circumstances they were acquitted in a murder trial the claiming the editor had pulled a pistol on them.
Roberson resigned from the Rangers in 1914 and became the foreman of the infamous T.O. Ranch of Chihuahua. As foreman he led some dozen or so gun men that ran roughshod over the huge border ranch. The T.O. men controlled controlled a fair amount of the border north of Candelaria to El Paso on the Mexican side terrorizing anyone who got in their way. Pancho Villa and his agents did considerable business with the T.O. Ranch bringing many herds of stolen cattle and horses to the ranch to be brokered into Texas. About 1914, some said General Villa personally ran Hod Roberson and his men out of Mexico outside Ojinaga. Another account states that the Roberson gang were arrested and deported by Mexican soldiers for branding stolen Terrazas cattle. A short time later, Roberson and some twenty of his men shot and killed Febronio Calanche and Rodrogo Barragan as they slept on the Texas riverbank at the Los Fresnos Crossing north of Candelaria. Justice of the Peace J.J. Kilpatrick wrote of the incident, “I have always felt sure it was either Roberson who shot to death Barragan and Calanche or ordered it done”.
Nothing came of the killings but in 1915, Roberson found himself on trial for more murders in El Paso. Details of the fatal shooting of Henry Foote Boykin and Walter Sitters are in my previous blog article. Here I offer some information about the Roberson murder trial.
Many Hudsbeth County ranchers did not like Hod Roberson. It is likely they did not appreciate the fact that he and the T.O. Ranch illegally brought thousands of cattle stolen in Mexico to Sierra Blanca to sell at very cheap prices. The T.O. Ranch engaged in very lucrative arms for cattle trade during the Mexican Revolution. At one point after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson imposed an arms embargo on Pancho Villa, stolen Mexican cattle brought only $5 a head in exchange for rifle and pistol cartridges priced at $1 per round. Honest Texas ranchers simply could not compete with these prices.
Following the Boykin and Sitters murders, Roberson was charged with murder and surrendered to some of his Texas Ranger friends in El Paso. He posted a $7,500 bond and entered a plea of self-defense. The sensational trial made front-page news in the El Paso newspapers as some of the finest legal minds in Texas met head to head in the district court room. On December 4, 1915, the jury found Roberson guilty of murder and he received a 20-year prison sentence. His attorneys quickly moved for a mistrial after one of the jurors admitted being a convicted felon.
Two weeks later, Judge Dan M. Jackson set aside this verdict and granted a new trial. In November 1916 another jury found Roberson guilty of manslaughter and gave him another five-year sentence. Again his lawyers moved for a new trial. When the judge denied the motion, Roberson’s attorneys appealed the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin that upheld the verdict. Six months later, the court reversed itself for unclear reasons and sent the case back to Hudspeth County for trial. In a change of venue, the case went back to the El Paso District Court in November 1919 where another jury convicted Roberson of manslaughter with a two year sentence. Roberson’s lawyers moved for another trial and a change of venue. Finally in June 1920 a Travis County court let the gunman off the hook with an acquittal.
The curious part of all this is the fact that even during the midst of his considerable legal troubles, Hod Roberson retained various commissions as a Texas and Federal lawman. From 1916 until he was killed in 1923 he worked as a law officer as an inspector for the Texas Cattle Raisers Association while also holding an appointment as a Special Texas Ranger, Midland County Deputy and Deputy U.S. Marshall. Many Texas lawmen, including Texas Ranger Captain John Hughes, helped Robinson with money for his defense and posting his bonds. Looking back, this certainly does not speak well about the integrity of Texas lawmen of those days.
In April 1923, Hod Roberson and fellow brand inspector Dave Allison were sitting on the porch of the Gaines Hotel in Seminole, Texas. They were in town to testify at the trial of two rustlers. The evening before the trial, the rustlers attacked Roberson and Allison on the porch and killed both of them in a wild series of pistol shots and shotgun blasts. When she heard the shots, Robinson’s wife ran downstairs from her room in the hotel and shot both of her husband’s attackers with his small automatic back up pistol. Although wounded both rustlers escaped after bringing an end to the career of a gunman with a Texas Ranger badge.
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While researching the burial location of my great-grandfather, Henry Foote Boykin, I came across your website listing his obituary in 1915. Since my grandfather, Henry Foote Boykin, Jr., was only three years old when his father was killed, he never could tell me a lot about his father. I wondered if you had any more information about H.F. Boykin that you could share with me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Tammy, you are in luck as I have found a fair amount of information about the murder of your great grandfather, H. F. Boykin. H. F. Boykin was born May 3, 1875 and met a tragic death at the age of 40 years on January 16, 1915 in Sierra Blanca Texas. He and Walter Sitters, son of Texas Ranger Joe Sitters, were gunned down by Horace Lorenzo (Hod) Roberson, a Texas Ranger with a considerable reputation for the killing of many men. For more about Robertson be sure to search the blog archive for several articles including, “A Cold Blooded Killer With A Texas Ranger Badge”. I am working a chapter in my new book, “More Little Known History Of The Texas Big Bend” about Roberson. Below you will find some 1915 newspaper articles about the murders of Boykin and Sitters. Also, there is more information about Roberson’s murder trial in the El Paso Times/Herald. You can find copies of the newspaper microfilm files of the El Paso Public Library. Also, UTPB in Odessa has the Times on microfilm. Be sure to check out the excellent EPT index and vertical files at the El Paso library. Good luck with your research. If you have any family photos of your great grandfather, I would greatly appreciate a good copy to use in my new book.
SIERRA BLANCA MAN IS KILLED: ANOTHER IS WOUNDED BY CATTLEMAN FROM MEXICO WHO THEN LEAVES TOWN
Sierra Blanca, Texas, Jan. 16-17, 1915--H.F. Boykin, a prominent citizen of this place, was shot to death in the Texas & Pacific stock pens early this morning by H.L. Roberson, one of the foremen of the T.O. Ranch, in Mexico.
Roberson, also shot and seriously wounded Walter Sitters, of Valentine. It seems that Roberson had some cattle in the pens, which were placed in Mr. Boykin’s pasture, north of this place, and Mr. Boykin insisted upon counting them before before taking them out. A quarrel insued, with the above results.
It is said that Boykin and Sitters were unarmed.
Roberson immediately left town.
Mr. Boykin leaves a wife and five small children, a brother and a host of friends here, and three sisters in El Paso. The names of Boykin’s sisters are Miss Florence Boykin, at the Central telephone office, Mrs. T.C. Armstrong, and Mrs. B. Taylor.
EL PASO HERALD
JANUARY 16-17, 1915
WITNESSES TELL OF KILLING; HEARING HELD FOR ROBERSON SIERRA BLANCA TRAGEDY IN WHICH TWO MEN WERE SHOT TO DEATH IN DIFFICULTY OVER CATTLE IS AIRED BEFORE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE; BOYKIN HAD A SMALL KNIFE IN HIS HAND WHEN SHOT BY DEFENDANT
The hearing of H. L. Roberson on the charge of killing “Foot” Boykin and Walter Sitters at Sierra Blanca, this county, last Saturday, is in progress in the court of Justice of the Peace J. J. Murphy. Testimony was taken Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and the hearing was then adjourned to the afternoon to await the arrival of more witnesses.
When the hearing was resumed at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning, the testimony of James Burns and William Bartzer, the two young men who were “beating their way” to San Antonio and saw the tragedy, was heard.
Burns stated that the men were quarreling when he and his friend got off the train. They went over to the stock pens, he stated, to see if they could get a job. When they came up, they saw Boykin on the fence, pointing his finger at Roberson. Roberson struck his hand with a rope, and when Boykin grabbed the rope, Roberson struck the hand with his pistol, he said, and then Boykin threw the rope into the lot. Roberson then rode around to the gate. In the meantime Boykin threw the rope over the fence. Roberson asked him to give him the rope, and Boykin refused, but another man climbed over and handed it to him.
Burns testified that he heard Boykin say: “Nobody but a ___ ___ ___ ___ or a coward would pull a gun”.
BOYKIN “CAME AT ROBERSON.”
He further testified that when Roberson came around the gate, Boykin came at Roberson and he started for him a second time before Roberson fired the first shot. He, Boykin, had something in his left hand-he did not know if it was a knife. Five shots were fired by Roberson, the last one as Boykin was falling.
To the state’s counsel he stated that he could not remember what Robertson had called Boykin. Words were passed between them but in the excitement he did not catch all that was said. State’s counsel reminded him that his memory had been pretty clear concerning the testimony he had given the counsel for the defendant.
Burns stated that he told the same story to the justice of the peace at Sierra Blanca and that at 2 p.m. on the same day had been told that he and his partner could go their way.
The testimony of William Bartzer was similar to that told by Burns. He declared he did not know whether Boykin had a knife.
The state was represented in the case, by Frank Fulle, assistant county attorney, and by R. E. Thomason, special counsel. The defendant was represented by Victor C. Moore.
THOMAS CROSS TESTIFIES
Thomas Cross, of Sierra Blanca, a witness to the tragedy, was the first witness. He stated that he and “Foot” Boykin and others went to the stock pens about 6 a.m. Saturday, January 16, to load some steers. While thus engaged some of the animals got mixed up with others in the pen and they were engaged in counting the animals when H. L. Roberson drove up.
“When Roberson, rode up he called out, ‘What in the hell are you doing here?’ He told Boykin to get out,” he testified, ‘Boykin told him he wouldn’t and then Roberson and then Roberson said, ‘You ___ ___ ___ ___ you will get out.” Boykin called him the same name and told him he wouldn’t get out.” Boykin climbed up on the fence and Roberson then struck him with a rope. Then he pulled out his pistol and struck Boykin on the hand.” The he asked for his rope and I handed it to him. Roberson rode around and into the corral and shot Boykin four times. Then he rode away.”
Cross admitted to counsel for the defense that Boykin had a knife in his hand before Roberson hit him with the rope. He also admitted that he did not feel friendly towards the defendant.
HIT BOYKIN WITH ROPE
Elmer Norton, aged 14 years, another witness to the shooting, stated that when he came up, Roberson was telling Boykin to take back what he called him and Boykin refused. He stated that he saw Roberson hit Boykin with a rope and saw the latter pull the rope from his hand. He stated that he saw Roberson hit Boykin on the hand with his pistol, and then he saw Boykin step back into the corral. Roberson, he stated, rode around and came through the gate into the corral. Boykin moved towards him. Roberson’s animal wheeled around and Roberson fired over his shoulder, he declared, the shot hitting Walter Sitters. Then he fired four more shots at Boykin, he stated, the last one being fired after Boykin hit the ground.
He admitted to counsel for the defense that there was considerable bad feeling in Sierra Blanca against Roberson. He also admitted that some indirect efforts had been made to influence his testimony. He stated that his father told him to tell the truth.
TOLD ROBERSON HE WAS UNARMED
To the attorney for the state he stated that Boykin had told Roberson he was unarmed. When Roberson fired the second shot Boykin kept moving from side to side as though attempting to dodge further shots, he declared.
William Norton, aged 17, a brother of Elmer Norton, corroborated his brother’s testimony in its essential details. He was questioned concerning the feeling in Sierra Blanca against, “the T.O. people.” Asked by the defendant’s counsel if he had not been urged not to tell some things about the tragedy, he stated that two or three men had asked when the case was coming up. Later, he admitted that he had told them he was going to tell the truth.
FEELING AGAINST T.O.
“I, Norton, father of the two Norton boys, was the last witness examined during the afternoon. He was examined by the counsel for the defendant as to the feeling in Sierra Blanca and the “T.O. People”. He stated that there was considerable feeling against them.
“Is it not a fact, Mr. Norton, that when I attempted to ask you earlier in the day about the affair in Sierra Blanca, you said you did not have time to talk to me?” asked attorney Victor Moore.
“Yes, I was summoned to the grand jury and testified.”
Norton’s testimony concerning the tragedy, which he witnessed, was similar to that of the witnesses who had d him. Concerning the knife, which Boykin is alleged to have held in his hand, the witness stated that it was a pocket knife with a blade perhaps two and five-eighths inches in length. He stated he had assisted in removing the clothes from the body of he dead man and said that the man was shot once in the back, once in the left side, once in the arm and once in the chest just below the neck.
ROBERSON HELD ON BOND
Judge J.J. Murphy announced Tuesday afternoon, following the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the he would hold Roberson on a bond of $5,000 on the charge of having shot Boykin and $2,500 on the charge of having shot Sitters.
It is probable that Roberson will give the combined bonds of $7,500 pending the grand jury hearing and will be released.
EL PASO HERALD
JANUARY 19, 1915
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There are more and more excellent Texas history sites on line. I will be posting some of the best as I locate them. Note: These videos may require a high speed connection. If they won't load, sorry. Take a minute and look at University of North Texas fine site at:
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http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2008/ju ... -a-memory/
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http://texascivilrightsreview.org/phpnu ... p;sid=1264
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VILLA TURNS ATTENTION TO OJINAGA AND CAPTURES THE BORDER TOWN: A 1966 PEN FROM THE PAST BY ROSS MCSWAIN
Pancho Villa, well supplied after taking Juarez in mid-November 1913, sent three brigades of about 3,000 men to attack Ojinaga and entrap a long time foe, Gen. Luis Terrazas, who was trying to escape to the United States with gold bullion believed to be valued at $2 million.
The tree brigades, moving from separate areas of Chihuahua, traveled on horseback and on foot. Villa assigned 500 of his own brigade to the battle. The Gonzales Ortega Brigade, commanded by Torbino Ortega, had more than 550 soldiers. Fresh from the brief skirmish at Chihuahua City, the brigade also had two batteries of 75-millimeter cannon and some heavy machine guns.
A member of the Ortega brigade, Pedro Cabrajal, lives in Ojinaga. The 71-year-old veteran of Villa’s army was a foot soldier. Until recently, he served as night watchman at the Ojinaga mayor’s home.
Cabrajal and a childhood friend, Ignacio Rodriquez, 72, fought nearly a month at Ojinaga during that cold January in 1914. Although the two men grew up together in the Ojinaga area, they battled each other. Rodriguez was sergeant with the federal forces.
Recently, the two veterans recalled the battle during an all-day interview which started in the Ojinaga mayor’s office and ended when a hard thunderstorm fell over the battleground as the two men pointed out positions from which each fought.
Cabrajal said the brigade he was in left Chihuahua City a few days before Christmas. According to records, it was on Dec. 22, 1913.
First contact between the Villa forces and the federal troops in Ojinaga came on New Year’s Day, 1914.
Rodriquez said a cavalry patrol saw the first Villa troops moving on the city from the south. The patrol attacked the Villa soldiers and blew up an artillery piece. In the ensuing fight, the federal soldiers caused many causalities and caused the first contingent of Villa soldiers to retreat.
Cabrajal was not in the first fight with the federals, nor was Rodriguez involved. Rodriquez was in the federal troop encampment in the center of town.
On New Year’s night, Cabrajal and other Villa infantry moved closer to the town.
“It was very cold,” Cabrajal recalled, “Many had blankets and some of the soldiers had no shoes. Many hundreds of fires could be seen over the countryside as the men tried to warm themselves.”
On the third day, federal troops, mostly on horseback charged the Villa lines. Rodriquez was one of them. Federal artillery supported the attack.
“We rode right into the first of them, hollering and shooting,” Rodriquez said. “Many ran and were shot. Some were trampled under the horses.”
Cabrajal said he lay in his shallow rifle pit and just fired his rifle at the first horseman he could see. Asked if he saw any federal troops fall, he could only shrug his shoulders. The fight ended in less than an hour. Villa artillery slammed into the federals and forced them to retreat to the town. Only minor casualties were inflicted on the cavalry troops, but Villa lost more than 100 men. An additional 130 were taken prisoner.
According to Mexican official records, Villa lost more than 300 men the first three days of the Ojinaga attack. About 200 were killed in the first skirmish. Another 100 died died in the federal attack on Jan. 3.
The prisoners were herded into Ojinaga and held overnight. They were shot the next day. Although Rodriquez knew of the Villa men being shot, he said he did not take part in the executions.
Cabrajal said the Villa forces retreated a second time from the battle to the base of a mountain just south of Ojinaga. During the withdrawal, federal forces ambushed a Villa column in a draw not far from the present site of the new Ojinaga railroad station.
“Hundreds were slaughtered there like cattle,” Cabrajal said.
The draw, now called Arroyo del Muerte is filled in some. Many Ojinaga residents say more than 1,000 bodies were counted there after the battle was over. Most of the bodies were buried there, they say.
Rodriquez said federal troops were ordered to dig entrenchments about the town during a lull in the fight.
“We were heavily outnumbered, but we were ordered to make a stand,” he said.
Rodriquez said many of the soldiers in the town sympathized with the Villa movement, including himself, but they had to fight or be shot. “Life wasn’t worth much,” he said.
The two men said they knew of many instances in which brother fought against brother and father fought against sons during the revolution.
Cabrajal, a teenager during the battle, joined Villa in 1911.
The old Villa soldier said he was recruited along with a number of relatives to fight by his brigade leader, Ortega.
“It was for a cause,” he said. “My family was poor. We had no land. Ortega said when the fighting was over, everyone would be given land to farm.”
Rodriquez, the federal trooper, joined the army because he couldn’t find work. He said he liked the army because he was given clothes, food, a good place to sleep and he had a fine horse. He said he was given a peso a day (21 cents).
Commander of Rodriquez’s troop was Capt. Marcus Cano. Cano, also an Ojinaga resident, died several years ago. The federal troops stationed at Ojinaga numbered about 350 regulars and about 60 reserves. Federal soldiers with Terrazas boosted the total to about 600.
Villa advised of discontent among brigade leaders, sent an additional 2,000 men into the Ojinaga battle on Jan. 6. he directed Martiniano Servin, an artillery commander to take command of the Villa forces until he could arrive on the scene.
On Jan. 10, it was announced that Villa was with his troops. A stream of refugees, ignoring sniper fire, fled Ojinaga to Presidio. Now more than 2,000 refugees were interred there.
On Jan. 11, Villa mounted the final attack on Ojinaga. He sent a column of 800 men to attack the town from the south, led by his generals Hernandez and Jose Rodriquez. Just west of the town, Villa placed his artillery in an area between the Conchos and Rio Bravo (Rio Grande). Villa with 900 men under his direct command, and Toribio Ortega’s brigade reinforced to 700 men, started advancing from the north just at daybreak.
Salvador Mercado and Pascual Orozco, federal forces leaders, directed the defense of the city from the old customs house.
Pedro Cabrajal, the Villa foot soldier who still lives in Ojinaga, said the rifle fire was intense from the town as the Ortega men advanced across the chaparral area, immediately across from where the international bridge is now located.
“We ran and hollered ‘Viva Villa’,” Cabrajal sid with a gleam in his eyes.
Ignacio Rodriquez, a federal soldier during the night now a retired railroad worker living in Ojinaga, said the Villa forces moved out of the draws and arroyos surrounding the town and started swarming toward them.
“Hundreds and hundreds came yelling and shooting,” he said. “We were frightened but our officers would not let us leave the trenches. They told us to shoot.”
Villa’s artillery pounded the city and the trench fortifications. Some of the shells screamed over the Rio Grande and exploded within several hundred yards of Presidio.
Carlos Spencer, a storekeeper in Presidio, said he remembers his father telling of the shells falling near the first Spencer store. Small arms punctured the store’s kerosene storage tank.
“Presidio was much closer to the river then,” Spencer explained. “The town site was moved back from the river after a bad flood in the ‘20’s.”
Americans sent a note to Villa’s artillery commander asking that the gun’s elevation be lowered. It was done so immediately.
But when the artillery was adjusted, some of the shells then fell among Villa’s own men, Cabrajal recalled.
“Several men near me were blown to bits when a shell landed close by,” he said.
The final battle, fought during the late morning hours and early afternoon, lasted only a few hours.
The federals, outnumbered 5 to 1, retreated to the river and crossed over, only to be rounded up by U.S. cavalrymen from Marfa, sent to protect Presidio.
Villa lost an estimated 100 soldiers in the final assault. Some historians have put the Villa dead at a much higher figure. But Cabrajal said losses were light on the final day.
“The Federalists lost heavily in the last attack,” Cabrajal said.
Rodriquez, one of the federal soldiers to escape to Presidio, was put into a camp with other soldiers. Their arms, munitions and other supplies were taken over by the U.S. Army.
Cabrajal said the chaparral area was littered with destroyed, dead horses, bodies of dead and wounded.
“The wounded were cared for by several doctors in the Villa army,” he said. “Many of the wounded, both Villa and army men were carried to Presidio for treatment.”
Cabrajal said after the town was taken, the Villa troops sacked homes for food, clothing and gold.
“We just stayed around the town for about a week before leaving,” he said.
During the week after the battle, townspeople were told to bury the dead. Some of the federal troops, watched carefully by Americans ordered to protect them from the Villistas, also helped bury the dead.
Cabrajal said most of the Villa men just rested, drank and ate while the townsmen cared for the dead and wounded. Equipment left behind was quickly collected for Villa’s rag-tag army.
Rodriquez walked to Marfa with the thousands of refugees, where all were put aboard trains and sent to Fort Bliss. He stayed in the United States and worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad after the revolution until 1926. he returned to Ojinaga and worked as a laborer.
Cabrajal fought two more years with Villa. He was seriously wounded in a battle on the Durango-Chihuahua border in early 1916. He finally returned to the Ojinaga area about 1920. He lives with his sons. Rodriquez lives with his daughters.
The men said there were several Ojinaga residents who fought in the battle, but most are now gone. Occasionally, Cabrajal and Rodriquez talk over the fight with these few surviving friends.
Both said they wouldn’t fight again if they had their lives to live over.
“We did not get anything out of the battle, except to nearly get killed,” Cabrajal said.
Rodriquez said the fight came about over politics.
“There was no other way except to do battle,” explaining why the political fight ended in bloodshed.
“There were no speeches…just fighting,” he continued. Cabrajal said he has no interest in politics.
“We don’t dedicate ourselves to parties anymore,” he explained.
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SENORA VILLA SAYS OF PANCHO: POOR PEOPLE ARE THE ONES WHO LOVE HIM. A PEN FROM THE PAST BY ROSS MCSWAIN
In mid-October 1965, a new mayor took office in Ojinaga, just across the river from Presidio. A gala fiesta was planned for the change in municipal officials. Dignitaries from all over the state of Chihuahua were on hand for the event.
But probably the most important person there was Luz Corral Villa, a spry 72-year-old matron with shining eyes, steel gray hair and a broad smile. Luz Villa is the widow of Pancho Villa, on of the most famous men in Mexico. Although more than 50 years ago Villa’s army of peasant soldiers sacked Ojinaga after a bloody battle in which mort than 1,000 persons died violently, Senora Villa was given one the biggest welcomes any VIP could receive from Ojinaga citizens.
What was the secret of Senora Villa’s acceptance, not only in Ojinaga but in cities though out the United States, including Columbus, N.M., where Americans died before Villas guns?
“The older people remember what Pancho Villa did for the poor.” Senora Villa said, “Even though there was much bloodshed many years ago, the poor classes still remember him as their hero, their Robin Hood.”
Senora Villa, a resident of Chihuahua City, was the revolutionary’s only legal wife. (Note: According to the New York Times of July 13, 1966 Soledad Seanez Holguin also legally married Villa on May 1, 1919)
She readily admits that Villa had many mistresses and sired some 15 children by different women by several women, her eyes sparkle as she speaks of the bandit-general’s exploits and their brief and hectic married life.
Senora Villa maintains a Pancho Villa museum in Chihuahua City. She lives in the same house Villa bought in 1906 from the money taken in bandit raids.
The 50-room house has been rebuilt twice since it was purchased. It was destroyed during the Mexican Revolution in 1913 and during the war between Villa and Carranza in 1917.
“Pancho didn’t especially like politics,” Senior Villa said during an interview in Ojinaga. “He had a strong sense of loyalty to the poor. He was pushed or forced to take part in the revolution,” she said.
During the height of Villa’s successes when he was undisputed dictator of all the northern provinces of Mexico, Senora Villa lived in seclusion in El Paso.
“I saw my husband for several days each month during the revolution when he would sneak into El Paso,” she said. When he and Carranza fought, Pancho sent me to Havana, Cuba for safety.”
Senor Villa was in Havana during the last revolutionary struggle. Her home in Chihuahua City was destroyed a second time.
When the Columbus, N.M. raid was staged in 1916, Villa had just sent his wife to Havana.
“I knew he was planning to attack an American town, but I did not know where or when,” she said recently. “Pancho was furious with President Wilson for stopping the shipment of arms to him. He felt that the American president was in agreement with his actions. The raid was a retaliation for President Wilson’s arms emabargo.”
Senora Villa said stories saying Pancho Villa was not at Columbus during the raid are not true.
“He planned and led the raid,” she said, “even though he was advised by his generals not to do so. They told him the American soldiers would follow and destroy him…but he would not listen.”
Senora Villa said her husband was very hot-tempered but was not cruel.
“He despised cowards and incompetent offices.”
Villa hanged hundreds of persons in Durango and Chihuahua accused of desertion from his peasant army. Historians note, too, he had numerous officers in his band shot for failing to carry out his orders.”
“The poor people are the ones who truly love him and his memory,” she said. “Others hate and despise his name.”
Senora Villa said her husband never drank to excess.
“He enjoyed parties…and found many beautiful women at the gatherings. He was famous. Women threw themselves at him,” she added, explaining his many love affairs and many children.”
The bandit’s wife reared five of the reported 15 children born to various Villa mistresses. Three of his daughters and two sons are still living. A son, Samuel Villa, still resides in Chihuahua City. Octavio Villa, a minor government official, was killed at an ambush at Matamoros about two years ago. Another son, Agustin Villa, is in a mental hospital in Los Angeles. A nephew of Villa’s, his namesake, fought in World War II with the U.S. Army. He was a paratrooper, Senora Villa said. The nephew now lives in Los Angeles.
Villa and Luz were married in 1911 when she was l8 years old. They met in 1910 when he took over her hometown of San Andres. He was a bandit chieftain, she said.
Senora Villa was living in Chihuahua City when Villa was gunned down in an ambush near Parral, Chihuahua, a mining center. His ranch, called Canutillo Hacienda, was near Parral but in the state of Durango.
“The ranch was taken by the government”, she said, “because Villa was accused of owing the government more than $80,000 in taxes.”
The revolutionary’s widow said tales of Villa treasure being buried in the Sierra Madre Mountains is false.
“If there had been a lot of treasure he would not have had to ask for so many loans.”
“The money taken from banks during the revolution went for and ammunition, uniforms and other equipment,” Senora Villa said, “He was always in need of money for ammunition. During the last days of fighting, he had to ay two and three times for it (munitions) than its actual price since most of it had to be smuggled into Mexico.”
In 1922, a year before he was killed, Villa was approached by an American film company about appearing in a motion picture about his life.
“Pancho refused to take part in the picture unless the company could promote the construction of a school in corporation with the Mexican government,” Senora Villa said.
The school, to be used by orphans, was rejected by the Mexican government. No reason was given for the refusal, even though the school was badly needed.
The famous bandit loved children, his wife said.
“Pancho used to pick up children off the streets and take them to school. He took 300 children and fed them and bought them clothes at one time in Juarez.”
Pancho and Luz Villa had a baby girl about a year after their marriage, but the infant died.
“I would have been proud to have had her live,” Senora Villa said.
In 1950, Mexican president Aleman made an offer to rebuild the Villa home in its original state but nothing ever came of the offer. Senora Villa, however, has restored the home out of her funds, raised though donations to her Villa museum.
She lives alone in Chihuahua City, except for several servants who also help maintain the museum.
Last August and September, more than 3,000 persons visited her home to see the large collection of Villa papers, uniforms and other personal items of the late revolutionary.
On display is the Dodge touring car in which Villa was riding when shot to death, battle flags, weapons of all kinds, uniforms, his desk, letters and other numerous items.
Senora Villa said she had ten volumes of registration books containing more than of visitors to the museum.
“Guests have come from all over the world,” she said.
Senora Villa is also a traveler. She has been all over the United States and has made several jet flights.
Early in 1965, she toured the U.S. appearing in person at premier showings of a documentary film on Villa made during the revolution. The film, put together from silent newsreels, but narrated, was produced by Columbia Pictures, Inc. The film company paid Senora Villa’s expenses on the journey.
She said she tries to make several trips a year to Juarez. Her recent trip to Ojinaga was the first such trip in years. She was a houseguest of Mr. and Mrs. Pete Valenzula who she met in Chihuahua City about 12 years ago. Valenzula is a clerk in the Spencer Store at Presidio and has lived in the immediate area since birth.
Senora Villa’s best friend and traveling companion is Senora Margaret H. Campos, a Chihuahua City music teacher. They have been friends for more than 40 years.
Villa’s wife’s greatest wish is that Pancho could have lived out his life more peacefully.
She said he was a happy man, although he was virtually in exile on his Durango ranch.
He was a big man, standing about six feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds. He was graceful in his movements, and had a commanding voice. His very being expressed confidence.
“He had a strong sense of loyalty to the poor,” she said. “He knew the hardship of being a field-hand, a laborer. He only wanted the poor to have more to eat, better living conditions and better education. These things he and his family had done without.”
In April, a highlight of Senora Villa’s life came when Governor Campbell of New Mexico visited her in Chihuahua City to discuss plans for the extension of U.S. Highway 180 from Columbus, N.M. into Mexico and into the state of Durango. The scenic highway Federal Road 45 in Mexico, would be called the Pancho Villa Trail. The highway should be an international effort.
Mexican peasants still call Pancho Villa, “mucho hombre”. He will always be “a big man” to Luz Villa, his wife. Pancho Villa died on a hot July afternoon in 1923 as he and four bodyguards traveled a dusty road outside Parral.
More than a dozen heavily armed men blasted the Villa car as it started over a bridge crossing a shallow ravine. The gunmen, believed hired by Mexico City politicians, had hidden in ambush in a deserted adobe house.
Senora Villa said she did not know who killed her famous husband. She suspects he was assassinated by political foes.
“He was being mentioned too much in the news,” she said. “He didn’t like the way the government under Obregon was being run and said so on a number of occasions. He was killed because the politicians suspected he was being urged to lead another revolt.”
Luz Villa’s husband died as he had lived…violently and with a pistol in his hand.
“He trusted the government when he was granted the pardon. But they (the politicians) apparently didn’t trust him,” she said.
Thanks Ross for the fine article, a chance for us all to look back and ponder. Gj
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UPPER WALKER CREEK
UPPER WALKER CREEK
UPPER WALKER CREEK
UPPER WALKER CREEK
In the last 24 hours some 2 inches of rain has fallen in Candelaria and the ranches to the north in the Sierra Vieja. Walker Creek and Capote Creeks are running fast and according to reports, the Rio Grande is out of its banks at Candelaria. Candelaria lies in a natural flood plain and is subject to severe flooding when rain falls in the Sierra Vieja.The first two crossings of Capote above Candelaria are impassible. We are marooned.
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ABOVE IS THE BRIDGE ON 3-22-08
PHOTO BY GLENN JUSTICE
ABOVE IS FORMER BRIDGE SITE ON 3-24-08
PHOTO BY GLENN JUSTICE
PHOTO COURTESY CLARA LONG@BORDER STORIES.ORG
PHOTO BY GLENN JUSTICE
Yesterday after I posted the article and photos of the bridge, a large contingent of Border Patrol trucks and personnel removed the Candelaria footbridge. It no longer exists. As soon as we learned of the removal, we drove to Candelaria arriving there about 10:30 am. The last of the Border Patrol trucks were just leaving and the road blocked by heavily armed but courteous BP guards. I ask if the bridge was gone and if I might go take some photos at the crossing. They let us pass after the last truck drove out of the bosque. The bridge is gone. Not even a scrap or tiny piece of it left on either side of the river. Across the river on the Mexican side, a few amazed locals waved back to us. It was swift and efficient removal. Yesterday, it was there, today it is gone. They hauled every piece of the old bridge out on a flat bed trailer. As we drove by the school, the entire schoolyard was crammed full of Border Patrol vehicles. The remains of the bridge sat encircled on the trailer by U.S. government vehicles. We decided it was time to go home. It is a sad day on the river. For more than 50 years, the little bridge stood as a symbol of cooperation between two tiny Texas-Mexican border villages. Now it is history.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
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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