http://www.ftd.de/karriere_management/b ... 28931.html
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Yes, I read the news article I have again and it stated that Herbert Cody Blake actually enlisted one of the uncles of the Gardner boys into the search. Blake even followed the treasure map. It would be nice to find those gold bars though!
If I get enough information I just might make a movie called "The Gardner Boys", kind of like "The Newton Boys".
Leon Metz suggested that I search the El Paso newspapers. The Gardner boys were probably outlaws who formed a gang during the late 1870s and then split into the Guadalupe Mountains. The newspaper suggested that their were copies of these newspapers which mentioned the notorious Gardners, but I would love to know where these newspapers are now.
I have heard of a gunfighter named Zeb Gardner, but again a mystery. I've also found fast guns such as Tom Gardner, a notable rancher during the Johnson County War in Wyoming, and a supposed noted fast gun named Billy Gardner, a prominent New Mexican who was killed in a "Duel to the Death" in 1902 as newspapers reported.
Their was also a notable Texas gunman named "Lige" Gardner, who worked as a timekeeper for the Southern Pacific railroad in 1901 and suffered from Bright's disease. He would often boast, "If I've got to cash - in I might as well take along some of my enemies". He was known to have killed two white men and several blacks. However, he was in Eastern Texas near Beaumont.
I am also researching my ancestor who I have wondered might have been the leader of the gang, but most gunmen were loners instead of desperadoes, plus he was never in that area.
However he lived in south Texas around Brownsville near the King Ranch, and hardly any information there either.
My ancestor, Lewis Gardner, was a sixty something year old gunfighter in south Texas. He was born about 1810 at SC, lived in GA where he married and fathered about thirteen children, farmed, owned slaves, removed to MS where he owned a farm, his wife divorced him during the Civil War, he gave her the farm and then he went to Texas. He lived in Houston County for a time where he remarried to a widow, and he made his living as a horse trader. Gardner was a notorious gunfighter and I need to find newspapers from the 1870s in south Texas. His death is a mystery. He was supposedly ambushed and killed in a gunfight with horse thieves at a place pronounced "Natchez" in Texas while transporting horses to Louisiana, but it is also stated that he spent his last years in Johnson County, Texas. He was supposed to have been described from a postcard photograph as a tall, big boned man, with a long flowing white beard, and striking sky eyes.
I did find a professional gambler named Gardner during the early 1870s in Refugio, Texas.
A lot of horse traders migrated to south Texas and Mexico to buy cheap horses, and transported the horses to Mississippi and Louisiana.
Thank you for the information and it will probably be awhile before I find anything, and I need money to travel, and since microfilm is difficult, then I will probably have to hire a researcher!
If you know anybody who has searched through newspapers from the late 1870s, for example Billy the Kid, and has read about these outlaws, just let me know.
The Gardner boys were perhaps the most ruthless desperadoes in the West if the gang actually stole over a million dollars.
Is there anyone out there that knows anything about the Gardners? If so, please join us in the discussion and see if we can help Corey find some of this. Post a comment or email me.
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I hope and believe that the Gardner boys are real, and just the fact that Blake mentioned, or the newspaper mentioned those old newspapers, it convinces me.
I am not hunting treasure, don't have the time, patience, and money to do so. Herbert Cody Blake didn't sound like he would believe anything written by this guy named Dobie.
Herbert Cody Blake debunked just about everyone, such as Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill, and he would have ripped Dobie a new one.
Could you somehow get somebody who has come across old newspapers from the 1870s and 1880s in the west Texas area that mentions the Gardner boys?
It annoys me that people have researched every outlaw gang or outlaw character without the name Gardner. It's like the name is cursed or something. Their was a famous outlaw named Roy Gardner with a way more amazing and real tale than any other outlaw. Another was a noted Missouri horse thief named George Gardner, alias "Skoddallo" mentioned in newspapers in 1889, but can't find anything on him. Their was a very infamous outlaw named Big Phil Gardner who was the leader of a gang in the Colorado Territory, but he was gunned down in 1870 at Montana.
Their was a Gardner family in west Texas that could have been the Gardner boys. Their names were Alex, John, Peter, Tom, Charlie, and Willis Gardner. They were cattle raisers, a rough crew. These men were cowboys and Indian fighters, but only one seemed to have a bad man reputation.
These Gardner brothers were only together from 1877 to 1880 in west Texas.
Alex Gardner was a cowboy, Confederate soldier, Indian fighter, and rancher in west Texas and later moved to Arizona to raise horses.
John Gardner was a notable trail boss mentioned in "John Gardner's Trail Herd", a Texas folk song which described him as the "biggest cow - thief" and "you meet him on the square". He was a Texas Ranger, cowboy, Indian fighter, and an alleged member of the Sam Bass Gang, but by 1877 he was a family man. He was definitely a friend of Sam Bass, because Bass talked about his friend John Gardner on his deathbed. However, no evidence states he was a wanted man. Gardner wrote a short bio on himself in which he stated that he was involved in many fights with Mexicans and Indians, but would not give details as it would sound "fishy" these days. He lived his life as a rancher in Frio County and his son, Joe Gardner, was a very noted roping champion.
"Peter" Gardner was a distinguished Indian fighter, trail driver, and rancher in Frio County, Texas.
Tom Gardner was a cattle raiser and lived in Tom Green County, but married and moved back to Frio County, Texas.
Charlie Gardner was a cattle raiser and moved to New Mexico where he married in 1889, which I found interesting.
Willis Gardner died at age eighteen in 1882, strangely.
Their was also a famous army scout and Indian fighter named Raymond "Arizona Bill" Gardner, known for his tall tales. He was indeed an army scout and served with Custer, Miles, and Crook, and he claimed he had been raised by Indians, knew every Old West character, did every frontier trade, was a Wild West performer, lawman, Arizona Ranger, and many other claims. He looked kind of goofy when he was in his nineties, smiling and riding a burro, but I had seen a few pictures of him when he was about seventy and he looked like he could handle himself in a fight.
He was a very shady character aside from his military service. I read that he "reportedly" buried a treasure near Camp Grant, Arizona in 1877 from a robbery, and was sounds truthful is that it wasn't his claim. He might have had his own gang. His book, which is terrible, stated that he had a brother named Charlie Gardner who was a ranchman.
I don't know if they were known as the Gardner gang, or the Gardner boys, but some of those possible first names might help.
I don’t doubt the Gardner boys were real people and if you dig deep enough, you will find some information about them. But that means you must look at more than just newspapers to find what you are looking for. Problem #1, there weren’t any newspapers in west Texas in 1877 to 1880. There were newspapers in Austin and Houston beginning in the 1850’s. There weren’t many Anglos or towns in west Texas before 1880. Newspapers did not exist before the coming of the railroads in the early 1880’s. The Marfa New Era did not go into business until 1888 and sadly most of the New Era newspapers were destroyed sometime in the 1920’s. or ‘30’s. The Alpine Alvalanche started about the same time. The Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University have the Avalanche on microfilm but there is no index. The Avalanche in those days was a poor newspaper, little news, just lots of gossip about who was coming and going. Fort Davis had a newspaper, I think called the Rocket but I have never seen any copies of it. The El Paso Herald, later called the El Paso Times published from the 1880’s. The El Paso Public Library has all of the Herald and Times on microfilm and has an excellent card index. I think that might be a good place for you to look. UTPB Library in Odessa has El Paso Times on microfilm but no index.
Another source you will need to examine is True West Magazine. The Haley Library in Midland has a good collection of True West Magazine and an index. The Haley Library has probably the best collection of ranching, outlaw stuff and might well be able to help. I found a few articles about the Gardners treasure by searching for Blake at newspaperarchive.com. But only reprints of the article you have only found. Also, the Barker Texas History Center at U.T. Austin has the largest collection of microfilm newspapers in existence. They also have a great collection of vertical files on many Texas subject. Maybe something is there.
I think the first think you should do is prepare a list of names of who you are looking for and where you think they lived. Search U.S. Census records to try to establish if these people are shown in the Census. Probably an outlaw would not have wanted to give any personal information to a census taker. Another place to look is Civil War records such as the Records of the War of Rebellion. The National Archives has an on search site. I think Records of the War of Rebellion are also now on line. You might find some things if any of these people fought in the Civil War but must know their full name and where they lived. Same for U.S. Census on line at ancestry.com. See my links. Also look at the county histories for the counties you know the Garners lived. Example, try finding Tom Gardner in Tom Green County books and records. No reference to Gardners in Presidio, Brewster or Presidio County histories. Go to the local libraries and check their vertical files and county histories. San Angelo State University in San Angelo has a wonderful West Texas collection and has San Angelo Standard Times. Read every book you can find on the Sam Bass Gang and check the references.
Good luck on your project. It won’t be easy but will be fun. However, you may find information on the Gardner Boys to be as elusive as their treasure. Don’t be annoyed that other historians have not written about the Gardners. Maybe they couldn’t find anything either. The historian is bound by the document, no document, no way to write a history.
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According to the article, the Gardner boys had robbed a smuggler's pack train from Mexico, (I believe the smugglers were Mexican bank robbers) and the outlaws stole gold bars and jewels. A box of diamonds stolen during a famous Mexican bank robbery was with the loot. The Gardner gang was forced into the Guadalupe Mountains where the outlaws buried their loot in one of the many caves of New Mexico near Carlsbad. I believe the robbery took place in west Texas.
The news article also stated that anyone hunting for a job in West Allis, Wisconsin should go treasure hunting and will get free sample newspapers that mention the Gardners. It also stated that long time residents of the Southwest remembered the Gardner boys. An uncle of one of the Gardner boys was enlisted in the search and had a supposedly authentic treasure map.
I have met two people who have heard of the Gardner gang. I have contacted every great historian and none can help. Do you know of anyone who has old newspapers that mention these bad hombres?
Corey, so happens this historian has heard about the Gardner Boys, their so-called lost treasure and Herbert Cody Blake’s pretty much forgotten search for it. Below is a clipping I located. It is likely a reprint of the same article you have. This one was published in The Chronicle-Telegram of Elyria, Ohio on Friday, October 12, 1928. I think I can unearth numerous other newspaper accounts of Blake’s search for the treasure over many years. Some are as recent as the 1980’s. But I offer this word of caution, if you are researching this to write a story of this myth, it’s a fine old treasure tale and these things are fun to delve into. However if you are doing this in hopes of finding the treasure, I advise you to not waste your time. It’s just an old, much repeated story that sounds like so many of those written by J. Frank Dobie.
J. Frank Dobie started much of this lost treasure stuff many years ago in his books and he sold a lot of books doing so. He was also an old newspaper man who learned how to sell his work with stories of lost treasure. Over the years, I have come across so many of these lost treasure myths in far west Texas that I, at the moment, cannot recall a lot of them. One that does come to mind, however, is the story of Maximilian I the Emperor of Mexico’s lost gold treasure pack train that was supposed buried somewhere in west Texas said by some to be along the Pecos River following his execution by Benito Juarez in 1867. Somebody had a map of the location of the treasure.
Many folks searched for this lost gold, some spending their entire lives doing so. Even one published historian got sucked into the story: namely Clayton Williams Sr. The treasure never existed in the first place; Mexico was broke at the time and had no gold. Perhaps, the Gardner boys were real people. No doubt Herbert Cody Blake was a real person. Dig deep enough and you will find out. But don’t think you can find a lost treasure that never existed in the first place from this old B.S. They all have common elements used by Dobie: treasure, usually gold, somehow lost due to some unfortunate event, a vanished map that exists somewhere and somebody who knows where the map is; the kind of stuff that even today sells newspapers, magazines. This is classic J. Frank Dobie, he must be laughing in his grave.
IN LONG HUNT FOR TREASURE IN THE SOUTHWEST
SOLDIER OF FORTUNE SEARCHES GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS FOR BANDIT GOLD
ALBUQURQUE, N.M.—Soldiers of fortune in the southwest continue the careers that entitle this section to its “legendary romance”.
Herbert Cody Blake, 62, former member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, a veteran of British and American military campaigns, is searching for a perhaps mythical treasure in the Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad, N.M.
After months of prospecting through the tree chains of Guadalupe peaks, Blake encountered bad weather and sought help in Albuquerque for food and money to carry on his hunt before winter comes.
The Gardner boys were forced to flee to the mountains with a rich booty of gold bars and jewels, from a smuggler’s pack train from Mexico. All members of the gang died, Blake believes, before they could remove their treasure. A box of diamonds stolen during a famous bank robbery in Mexico also was supposed to be with the loot.
Blake traced the history of the Gardners through old newspapers and inhabitants who had long been in the southwest. He found, he said, unmistakable evidences of the gang’s activities and of the cache in the mountains.
An uncle of one of the Gardner boys was enlisted in the search and furnished a supposedly authentic map of the county where the treasure would be found. Blake located the country shown on the map after several months of wandering through the mountains and started working his way into what he believes to the hiding place when he ran out of provisions and was forced to return here.
“There’s more than a million dollars in there,” he said. “I’m satisfied of that and I’m going back after it.’
In a few days, if he is fortunate in finding the grub stake, the soldier of fortune will continue to follow the trail of the storied treasure.
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Somewhere out there are promising candidates who will one day will make valuable contributions to the so often overlooked field of west Texas history. This fine and much needed fellowship hopefully will help make this possible. Thanks to Andy Cloud, the new director of the Center For Big Bend Studies, for making Glenn's Texas History Blog readers aware of the fellowships.
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www.cactusbookshop.com/. Felton specializes in books on Texas and the Southwest. While small, Cactus Book Shop stocks a truly exceptional inventory of Texas books in downtown San Angelo, Texas. In addition, Felton has the largest selection of titles by his friend Elmer Kelton. If you are looking for a rare or obscure Texas book, give Felton a call at 325-659-3788 or email him at email@example.com. Chances are he will have the book or be able to locate a copy. The new Cactus Book Shop web page also has an online catalog some of Felton’s inventory on the page. Welcome to the web Felton!
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http://www.texasmonthly.com/2008-10-01/ ... ttexas.php
Also, be sure to view the Nat Stone video interviews with Abel Tellez and Johnnie Chambers at:
Thanks Katy and Nat for your fine efforts to make this issue known to the outside world!
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Celia Ann (Smith) Hill owner and operator of the La Junta General Store in Ruidosa, Texas is no longer with us. She died September 10, 2008 following a short illness. Born May 25, 1928 to Harris Seymore and Winnie Donald Smith, Celia Ann grew up on her parents ranch located on the west side of Elephant Mountain in Brewster County. In the 1930’s Celia’s father and his partner Homer Wilson discovered quicksilver and began mining operations with their Buena Suerte (good luck) Mine in Presidio County. Their mine operated for more than thirty years producing more than 3,500 flasks of mercury and was a large and important producer during World War II. The Smiths kept a home in Alpine for many years so their children could go to school. Celia Ann graduated from Alpine High School before completing a B.A. and M.A. at Sul Ross. She had a long career as a teacher. Celia Ann retired from the Presidio school system about ten years ago. She was an avid horsewoman and loved to ride in the Big Bend In 1982 she was the only woman to complete a trail ride from Fort Davis to Alpine in celebration of the Alpine centennial celebration. She was an avid reader and at the time of her death was writing a manuscript about her experiences in the Big Bend.
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Documentation concerning Mexican immigrants into the Big Bend for the 1880-1930 epoch is sparse. While Federico Villalba was a well-lettered man in both languages, the general Mexican-origin population was not. For the most part they were illiterate, in both Spanish and English language systems. The desert Big Bend is a huge place – larger than some states -- and isolation was a big factor in record keeping, or the lack of it. The long distances to county record centers and regional scarcity of even Justice (JP) courts had an impact as did fear of deportation, particularly during the World War One/Mexican Revolution period (1910-20). These and other factors kept the Hispanics away from authority, even U. S. Manuscript Census enumerators in many cases.
Scholarly history rests upon documentation. That is, official documents, letters, diaries, interviews with primary-source witnesses, business records, poll tax receipts and the like. When those do not exist, the historian must work with what he/she has at hand.
As a working historian (Master of Arts with a thesis) and author of works in historical fiction I repeat my support for Casas book. I (respectfully) believe that your criticisms, intended as constructive I’m sure, fail to consider the full range of problems in completing a work such as Federico Villalba’s Texas.
As you pointed out the work is certainly not “scholarly history.”
Also my friend, if I read you correctly, Villalba’s Texas could qualify as “historical fiction.” Well, okay. “Every cobbler to his last.” I know not how Juan Casas might feel, but were I the author of Villalba’s Texas, calling the book historical fiction would make me grin all over. The key word, naturally, being “historical.”
As to the “scholarly” approach, such a history, iterated by Spanish-speaking people who immigrated to the Big Bend from northern Mexico, probably cannot now be compiled. We historians are to blame. In our ethnocentricity we waited too long, and the old ones who could have supplied documents and first-person imagery are almost all gone to their “last home.”
It took a Juan Manuel Casas to set the matter aright. God bless him.
Cd. de Chihuahua, Mexico
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Mike Cox, author
New York: A Forge Book (2008)
Getting to know author Mike Cox has proven to be a dynamic experience. Cox, a fifth-generation Texan and third-generation writer, grew up in the Lone Star State and, like most such twentieth-century males, he was weaned on Ranger lore. His lengthy resume, rounded off by the authorship of thirteen books and his election to the Texas Institute of Letters as well as a having been a staff writer for various newspapers such as the Austin-American Statesman, makes Cox seem an almost household guest.
In 1985 Mike became public information officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), a post he would hold for fifteen years. He later went to work for the Texas Department of Transportation as communications manager, retiring in the fall of 2007. His years of contact with DPS officers turned into friendships with many of the men, and later the women, who wore replicas of the Mexican silver five-peso as an emblem, that being the five-pointed asterisk of a Texas Ranger. Across the years his work opened not only doors, yet filing cabinets across Austin and at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco. Cox’s years as an investigative reporter also proved their worth as various other archives unearthed their treasures before a trusted name, and an honest face.
In 1999 Cox was given “the go-ahead to write this book for Forge Books.” The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900, is the result.
Nonetheless, upon hearing of yet another Texas Ranger history in the works I thought, Egads! Isn’t the market flooded already? But that was before I met Mike Cox at the West Texas Historical Association Conference in Canyon last spring. Being a firm believer in the concept that no governmental agency or entity can be bright and shiny all over, a manner in which the Texas Rangers and their parental bureaucracy, the DPS, have often been portrayed -- I have played devil’s advocate in my writings. For that role I make no apology. There is no democracy without a viable opposition.
At any rate, the affable Cox, over dinner at an Amarillo steak house, first mentioned his book and a review. His most convincing line was, “I know people will think [Cinco Peso] is a puff job because of my past connection with the DPS.” Cox then went on to assure me that he was taking great pains to avoid any validation of that untoward presumption. At that point I agreed to both the read and to the review, and am glad of it.
Cox, in the Preface to Cinco Peso says: “[T]he reality and mythology of the Rangers in our popular culture are as closely interwoven as a fine horse-hair quirt. It is hard to separate the two strands, though I have tried with as much objectivity as possible to document both. . . . [T]here is no question that men riding in the name of frontier protection or law and order killed some people who probably did not ‘need killin’[.]”
Granted, that is a praiseworthy admission. Cox, however, then adds one of the few questionable remarks found in the essay: “[T]hose instances [of murder] were rare and often exaggerated.” Now wait a sec, Mike. The bodies of hundreds of Mexican-American and/or Mexican-origin individuals killed by Rangers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas during the nineteen-teens, evidence supported by a Texas Legislature-sponsored investigation and often by photographs, do not lie. Furthermore, the long-festering story of the “Porvenir Massacre” along the Rio Grande in Presidio County, only recently proven true beyond a reasonable doubt by historian Glenn Justice and an aged eyewitness, did take place shortly after frigid midnight on January 24, 1918. Fifteen defenseless men and boys were mercilessly shot down by a group of ranchmen and a US Army soldier led by five Texas Rangers under the command of Ranger Captain J. M. Fox (who was stationed at Marfa, Texas). These two examples are indicative of other probable abuses of murderous power and, hopefully, cannot simply be written off as “rare and often exaggerated.” Due to Porvenir and other outrages dating to the “Cortinas War” in the lower Rio Grande Valley during the 1850s, border Mexicans began referring to Rangers as los rinches, a rather less than complimentary by-name. Nevertheless. . . .
Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900, true to its title, begins with the birth of a Negro slaveholding culture; that is, the Anglo-American colonization of a province in northern Mexico called Tejas. Organized by Moses Austin and led by his son, the empresario Stephen F. Austin, success soon opened the floodgates to land-hungry Whites and their dreams. In almost no time other Southerners, and even Germans led by various empresarios, joined the game. Indians soon became a real problem for the settlers. Karankawa peoples of the Gulf Coast, reputed to be cannibals, proved especially intimidating. The occidental frontier, which ambit was then marked by San Antonio de Bexar and environs, also fell under attack by Plains tribesmen. “All” was not “Quiet on the Western Front.” Therefore, it wasn’t long before “Ten men [were enlisted] to act as rangers.” While Tejanos did not invent “rangering” the appointment of such a body during the epoch while Texas remained part of Mexico began a lasting tradition.
Cox’s Cinco Peso is a chronology of facts running threadlike through almost eighty years of Texas history. From the Anglo-American/Negro-slave settlement colonies through the Texas Revolution (1835-6) and subsequent Independence, followed a mere decade later by the “War of Intervention” between the United States and Mexico, Texas Rangers played a hand. Their primary role throughout most of the nineteenth century was the protection of the western frontier. Boiled down, that meant preventing Indian depredations.
The Karankawas, probably due more to pandemics of European-originated diseases than any concerted military action by “raingers,” or anyone else for that matter, soon faded from the stage. Those natives who remained, and became predominate, had adopted a horse-centered culture by about 1660. They hailed from the Western High Plains region of the present-day Texas Panhandle, notably a higher, drier, cooler, and therefore more salubrious climate. “Hostile” is too kind a word for those bands of Kiowas, Wichitas, and other predominately Shoshone-speaking peoples who came to be known collectively as Comanches. These raiders were the causative factor for the later Republic-cum-State of Texas having raised a ranging militia for protection. Men and officers so appointed were soldiers, not peace officers. The efficiency of those early-day Comanche-fighting rangers has never been adequately detailed, although Cox takes aim at so doing.
No doubt, with the invention of the “Paterson” Colt .34 caliber revolver and its 1844 acceptance by Captain John C. “Jack” Hays as the ranger weapon of choice, the Comanches came to respect, even fear, contact with the Texas militia. Savages they were; stupid they were not. The frontier extended hundreds of miles north and south; los Comanches soon learned to avoid the far-flung rangers; they continued to raid, pillage, and plunder so far east as San Antonio (Texas) and Nuevo Leon (Mexico) while thrusting ever deeper into the Mexican Central Plateau.
The American Civil War (1861-5), fought mainly in the eastern states, bled the Texas frontier of manpower and resulted in renewed Comanches incursions. The frontier line was pushed back 100 miles in places with some counties losing one-half to two-thirds their population due to out-migration. Cox, keeping his word in Cinco Peso, bursts open several long-standing Texas Ranger myths. Concerning the Comanches the author concedes: “the Army [under Gen. Ranald Mackenzie] dealt with the last of the hostile Plains Indians in Texas.” Rangers had provided merely a buffer to Comanche incursions east of the frontier line; contrary to legend, neither they nor any “cowboys” had anything to do with the Plains Indians removal from the state.
Another overblown Ranger story concerns the 1877 capture of Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin in Florida, an effort supposedly accomplished by Ranger Lieutenant John B. Armstrong. Mike Cox, an ardent researcher, found that Hardin was actually arrested by “twenty-seven-year-old [Florida] Sheriff William H. Hutchinson” and “one of his deputies.” Armstrong, who had failed and been humiliated in previous attempts at capturing the outlaw watched from an adjoining express car while his informer, an undercover Dallas deputy city marshal named Duncan, remained outside. As the Floridians wrestled Hardin, whose sidekick Jim Mann had just been shot and killed by a Florida deputy sheriff, Armstrong reportedly joined in the affray “hammer[ing] Hardin’s head with the barrel of his Colt.” It was undoubtedly Armstrong’s wire to Austin that engendered this particular “one riot, one ranger” folktale: “Arrested John Wesley Hardin, Pensacola, Florida this P.M.” the telegraphed message related. “[S]ome lively shooting. One of their number killed. . . . Hardin fought desperately. Closed in and took him by main strength.”
Our precise author summarizes: “In the strictest legal sense, the rangers and other officers had kidnapped Hardin. A Florida grand jury later indicted the sheriff [Hutchinson] for that offense, but the case never went anywhere.” Hardin, the prototype for many a pulp novel’s “gunslinger” role, was tried for murder in Texas. He went to Huntsville prison to serve a fourteen-year sentence, did so, and was released after which time the gunman removed to El Paso. He was later shot and killed by “old” John Selman, an elected constable.
Cox, having proven himself not just another Texas Ranger apologist, refuses to dwell at length on these vagaries of Ranger lore. That is as it should be. The fact that he, despite his connection to the DPS, mentions these questionable tales at all mark the author as a reputable, and far more than just regional historian.
With the final removal of the Comanches and, by the mid-1880s, the Apaches from Texas soil Ranger work slowed down. Counties had been formed and, in the best tradition of Anglo-Saxon-American democratic ideals, elected local law enforcement began filling the needs of constituents. Ever budget-wary, the Texas Legislature had reservations about extending funding for a militia no longer needful. All that changed in the Lower Rio Grande Valley when, in a trial by fire that had been presaged by the Cortinas War, all hell broke out near Brownsville. The resultant death and destruction took place in the early twentieth century and, as assistant editors love to chide, are “outside the subject area” of Cox’s volume one. Be that as it may, the author will hold forth in volume two, I’m sure. Regardless, the factors leading up to the tragic events had begun to take place in the last decade of the nineteenth century when a railroad from up the coast laid tracks to Brownsville and the Anglo invasion of an isolated pastoral Spanish culture, situated within a more dominant milieu, started taking place. The process of acculturation had begun in the “Magic Valley,” and the first stage of the process, that time when two cultures clash, would provide a new impetus for maintaining a state paramilitary force. Culture shock hit the Hispanic community situated at the mouth of the Rio Grande like a brick to the face. A decade later violence coincidental to the Mexican Revolution ensued. And the results would insure that state Rangers kept their jobs.
The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900 has been as pleasurable a read within the genre as ever I’ve experienced. Almost regrettably, the 375-page narrative concluded in only three long sittings. Like many historians, I begin reading a book near the end, which is to say I first took a look at the bibliography. Must say, Cox’s end leaves are first class, taking up twenty-five pages. Those include government documents (38 entries); unpublished material (16); books (16 pages); articles (7 pages), as well as theses and dissertations. He includes an index and uses unobtrusive, chapter-by-chapter endnotes for references. The author says he is an “independent historian, not an academic.” However, one wouldn’t guess that by examining the 114-pages of end material.
Counterpoint: the narrative evades any hint of la academe. In like tradition of Texas authors T. R. Fehrenbach (Comanches: The Destruction of a People) and Thad Sitton (The Texas Sheriff: Lord of the County Line), Cox molds images with words and phrases, and with sentences and paragraphs and chapters that draw the reader “in” the way an early riser focuses the front-page banner of his daily. A master at quality prose, his transitions glide like fresh-churned butter slathered over sourdough while the oft-utilized similes execute fulfilling images, as of one’s apron-strung mother, kitchen grinning, her long finger a-shake with “I-told-you-so.”
A clear advantage for the independent historian is freedom. Cox’s lack of concern for the chains that bind others, the academician particularly, come across as refreshing as a cold-beaded bottle of root beer in August. Cox is unafraid to call an Indian an “Indian,” a gore-drenched Comanche a “hostile,” or a Mexican a “Mexican” (which is, by the way, what they wish to be called). Huzzah and hurrah! Politically inspired censorship, with Cox, is out the window. It’s about time.
An over-the-shoulder glance: Walter Prescott Webb, dean of Texas historians, published The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense in 1935. According to Dr. Gerald G. Raun, Webb lamented having “written [the Ranger book] the way that he did and [indicated] that it desperately needed to be re-done.” Raun, a graduate student at the University of Texas from 1956 to 1961, was present in Webb’s home and heard the declaration. Raun adds: “And I think he was planning to do that when he was killed [in a 1963 automobile accident].” If Webb were able to reach out from the grave today and hand us a message I’ll bet it would say, “Hail the responsible revisionist historian. May facts and logic rule the day.”
It is past the day when a modern, “definitive” history of the Texas Rangers should have been made available. Two historians I’m aware of are attempting to do just that. Mike Cox is one. The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso comes in two volumes; as I have yet to see the second, I can only suggest that his offering may rank high on the list of candidates. Mr. Robert M. Utley’s Ranger tome has yet to cross my desk. I hear good things. A fine historian is Utley. His offering may be the other nominee. Only time will tell.
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http://www.sulross.edu/cbbs/ at Sul Ross in Alpine. The center could not have found a more qualified and experienced new leader; Andy knows his Big Bend archaeology. He holds a B.A. in Archaeological Studies and an M.A. in Anthropology with focus in Archaeology from the University of Texas in Austin. A native Texan, Cloud has more than thirty years experience in Texas Archaeology serving, since 1995 as Senior Project Archaeologist, for CBBS. He has written extensively researching, writing and co-authoring more than forty archaeological reports as well as teaching anthropology at Sul Ross. In addition, he worked for the Office of the State Archaeologist at the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Big Bend National Park, and the Texas Archaeological Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. Andy is also the lead author for the La Junta exhibit on the website.
www.texasbeyondhistory.net. Lots of good stuff on the site, check it out.
Also take a look at Andy’s exceptional work at the La Junta sites in Presidio County:
For some of Andy’s other articles see:
http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/local ... p;exclude=
I have known Andy for many years and am so pleased, as are quite a few of us historians that he has been chosen to lead the CBBS. We look forward to the continued growth and success of CBBS in the future with Andy and know he will make it happen.
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Glenn Willeford, M. A.
Someone has to do something
Blanca Estela Moreno Arias
One single person could never imagine how normal summer vacations could change his perspective of life. That happened to me last summer, when I met, in a literal way, this great woman. She was a woman just like me, or also any of my classmates or friends. The only difference was that real love she always felt for her native country.
The story of this woman captivated me since the first moment I heard it. Since the first moment I knew that was a special story, a story that taught us something very valuable that must of us have forgotten, and that valuable thing is the love we must have to their country. This noble woman is the perfect example we must have. But it is time to finish with the pending ... let´s introduce her.
María Elisa Martiniana Griensen Zambrano was the hero who Parral never will forget. Elisa Griensen was the model of person who the country was looking for, and she´s also the model of person who I´m very proud of. The important fact Elisa Griensen did would make that not only Parral, but also Mexico was cover with pride of her.
But actually...who is Elisa Griensen and what was her heroic act? That´s a very common question that most of you have in your mind in this precise moment. That is because unfairly, only a few people outside Parral have heard about Elisa Griensen and her historic fact. Therefore, I invite you to know the story of this woman who really loved her motherland.
Elisa Griensen was born in Parral from a noble, but big family, that´s where our story begins. Don Juan Griensen and Doña María Lucía Zambrano were the parents of nine children: Elisa was one of that 9; actually, she was almost the youngest. That was happy times for the Griensen family; unfortunately, the happiness is not for always.
The hardest times for the Griensen family began earlier than ever. When Elisa was four years old both of her parents die, and then is responsability of Virginia, the elder of all the nine children, take care of her little brothers and sisters since that moment. It was a hard work for Virginia.
In that precise moment one man appears to help and to stay with the Griensen family forever. In the year of 1894, Virginia got married with Pedro Alvarado Torres, a man who, with hard work, is trying to obtain the rich silver lodes of his famous mine “La Palmilla”. The love he had for his woman Virginia, made that he took care of all the Griensen family side by side with his dear wife.
An amazing fact takes by surprise to all the family in 1900. “La Palmilla” started to give incredible economic outputs that would the end of the austerity and sacrifice life of the Griensen family forever, and also would give to Parral a worldwide fame.
Don Pedro Alvarado was now the owner of the biggest fortune ever. His fortune was so big, that he built the famous Palacio Alvarado, and sometimes his friend Francisco Villa asked him for some money to buy weapons for his army. The fortune of Don Pedro was so big, that also he wrote a letter to the president Porfirio Díaz where he wrote that he wanted to help to his country paying the external debt of Mexico.
Despite the fact that Don Pedro was the richest man ever, he always was an extremely noble person. He fought with energy to the end to be the sucessful man now he was. In spite that his business made of him an always-busy man, he never stopped helping people who needed him. He never forgot what kind of man he was; Parral was pride of him.
In the year of 1905, Pedro´s happiness began to fall down. On May fifth, his dear wife Virginia dies, and this fact finished with him in an unknown way. Another May fifth, four years later, Don Pedro had to sold “La Palmilla” to pay a lot of debts he had. His economic power came to an end. Elisa, who was then 21 years old, had lived happiness and sadness with Don Pedro, like one of the members of his family.
The pass of seven years was still necessary in Parral to know the heroic act of Elisa Griensen. Now that we know how were the circumstances of the life of Elisa Griensen and the childhood she lived, it is also extremely important to you to know the most important antecedent for Elisa´s historical fact. What´s this important antecedent? Francisco Villa´s Columbus attack.
What were the reasons of Villa to attack Columbus? There are many theories. This is one of them: Villa was defeated in Celaya by Carranza forces represented by Obregón, so Villa decided to go to the North and attack Agua Prieta, Sonora, that had the defense of Plutarco Elías Calles. Villa attacked Agua Prieta; however, Carranza´s forces passed the frontier and defended Agua Prieta by the North American side.
Villa took this attack like treason, so he decided to look for revenge. Villa was extremely upset because the president of the USA, Woodrow Wilson, had admitted the Carranza´s government, and he decided to attack the nearest town to show his desire of revenge: that was Columbus.
But also exist another interesting theory about why Villa attacked Columbus. He had made a business with the Ravel Brothers; they gave to them 265, 000. 00 dollars to buy weapons. The Ravel Brothers accepted the money, but they never sent the weapons. Of course, Villa never would accept that, so he decided to attack Columbus to punish to the Ravel Brothers. This is the most accepted theory about why Villa attacked Columbus.
Villa didn´t find to the Ravel Brothers, but the attack continued. Villa asked to the people where the Ravel Brothers could stay, but the people didn´t want to talk, so he decided to set fire to the Ravel´s house and hotels, but the fire got bigger and affected all the town. A lot of people die that day, and the injured were uncountable. Villa and all his people left the town at dawn.
North American people never would forget Villa´s attack. North American soldiers started to cross the frontier looking for Francisco Villa to punish him for the attack to Columbus. They didn´t worried about to ask for permission to cross the frontier, they only wanted to punish Villa.
The soldiers began to make camps inside the Mexican territory to find Villa as soon as possible and wherever he was. They started to advance inside all the North territory, and after that they started to advance to the South. Finally, they arrived to Hidalgo del Parral on April 12th, 1916. The most important mistake the soldiers made is that they didn´t follow the only order they had: not to cross inside the town.
The soldiers installed their camps in the Plaza Porfirio Díaz, in front of the Escuela 99, without suspect the things would happen later. People were very upset because the soldiers were there. Everybody talked, and also gave his or her opinion; however, nobody did anything about it. Nobody could know that this entire situation would change very soon.
A young woman who was 28 years old would change the complete situation. Elisa Griensen Zambrano was among that entire people watching that horrible landscape where all the persons were talking without do one single thing. Then she went, looking for some help, to talk with the municipal president. He heard all the things that young woman said, but he didn´t do one single thing either. In that precise moment, Elisa knew it was time to act by her own.
Elisa never would stay with the arms folded. She returned to the Plaza Porfirio Díaz and organized the people who were there in that right moment. Then she went to the Escuela 99; she entered to the principal´s office and took the national flag. After she went to the fifth grade classroom and invited to 24 students to help her to take off that foreign force that was invading their country. Elisa returned one more time to Plaza Porfirio Díaz, now with the brave fifth grade students follow her and the national flag on her hands. She told to the people: “I asked for help but no one heard me, however... someone has to do something”.
Elisa invited to the people to help her and they did it. It was a great sucess. Elisa invited to the people to sing the Mexican National Anthem and to expulse the enemy. People and also children began to throw stones to the North American soldiers, and some of them made some shoots to the air. Only a few injured and two die American soldiers were the result of this confrontation, but finally, the foreign forces had gone to the north. Elisa and the people from Parral had got the victory.
Since that special day, Elisa Griensen was considered not only in Parral but also in Mexico a national hero. People never would forget the historic fact Elisa Griensen was made on April 12th. It was a day to remember.
However, what were the reasons Elisa had to act like she acted that April 12th? Only a few people know that beautiful answer. A few months later of the historical fact, Elisa and Villa finally found face to face. Elisa boarded Villa´s car without permission. When the General saw her, he got angry and quickly told her: “nobody is brave enough to front General Villa, and less to board his car... who are you little girl?” She quickly said: “I´m Elisa Griensen” Villa spoke again: “you´re the woman who confronted the “gringos”. Elisa answered: “Yes, my General, I´m that woman”. Villa´s last question was: “why did you do that? are you Villista or Carrancista?”. Elisa´s answer was always the same: “Neither Villista nor Carrancista, I did it for Mexico”.
The beautiful example Elisa Griensen gave us never must be forgotten. We must have the same love she had for her country. This story about Elisa Griensen changed my life. I wrote this essay hoping that more people know her story and become an admirator of her and the things she did, because, like she used to say: somebody has to do something.
Name: Blanca Estela Moreno Arias
Grade: 2nd semester
Teacher: Glenn Willeford
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Chico Cano was my great grandfather and he was who the Rangers were looking for when they got to Porvenir,Texas. I visited the masscare site during a family reunion in Van Horn, and all the bodies of the victims were buried in one big pit. Their should be a Texas historical memorial marker at this site. Su Familia, Su Tierra, Su Hogar: Chico Cano fought for family, land, home
Publish Date: February 1, 2006 | Permanent Link
by Sam Richardson
You won’t see many people wearing Chico Cano T-Shirts. The Mexican revolutionary figure is not as well known as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, two of his early 20th century contemporaries. Villa and Zapata have become not only icons but big business as well. Their likenesses are sold and seen on T-Shirts, post cards, calendars, and in many other applications. Even street gangs use them as emblems of power.
But Chico Cano, in his own way, lived up to the revolutionary image of fighter, hero _ even bandit _ as much or mores than other more celebrated figures. And because he occasionally redistributed the wealth of the more fortunate, Cano has also been described as a Mexican Robin Hood.
Chico Cano was not perfect but he was an honorable man, according to authors Tony Cano and Janet Sochat. In their book, Bandido. The True Story of Chico Cano, the Last Western Bandit (Canutillo: Reata Press, 1997), the writers portray him as a man who was driven by the motto: Su familia, su tierra, su hogar. He used the remote reaches of the Rio Grande border as his own Sherwood Forest and its argued that his rustling, gun battles, and banditry, regardless of how others perceived them, were done in the name of family, land, home.
Chico very obviously wore a black hat in his actions against the Americans and some Mexicans but was known to wear a white hat as well in the aid and protection he brought to many people in the areas he controlled,_ the authors write. And they make an important distinction between Cano and other leaders of the revolutionary period. Whereas many revolutionary groups indulged themselves in the spoils of war, Cano drew the line at abusing innocent people, especially women.
Chico admonished those, Anglo or Mexican, who would not respect and care for the Mexican people, but rather raped, pillaged, and intimidated them,_ according to his biographers. And in contrast to Pancho Villa, who had 25 wives, Cano was devoted to one woman all his life. His beloved Teresa.
During the Mexican Revolution, Chico Cano was as enigmatic as the political situation in Mexico. Even though he is portrayed by the authors as a man loyal to his wife and family, and a man who had his own loyal following of armed men, his political loyalties shifted frequently.
He was first allied with Orozco, then with Carranza, both of whom were rivals of Villa. Then he lined up with Villa, then with Carranza again. Eventually he became totally independent. To use an old cowboy expression, He changed horses in midstream a lot. And he wound up being hunted not only by all of his former associates in Mexico but by the U.S. government as well.
None, it should be noted, ever put him out of business.
Authors Cano and Sochat portray Chico Cano on the one hand as a survivor, on the other as a victim. Since his loyalties were negotiable, and since he was constantly changing sides, all his former associates were eager to blame him for whatever banditry and violence occurred anywhere he might have been. Some tried to blame him for the Brite Ranch raid where a ranch south of Marfa was attacked in 1917. Others tacked his name onto every stolen horse or cow that crossed the Rio Grande during those turbulent times.
With one exception, the authors never admit Cano ever killed anybody or was directly responsible for any killing. In a drunken accident, Cano killed a young boy while trying to shoot a bottle off his head. In other instances, including the killing of Ranger Joe Sitter in a famous border gun battle, all possible alibis are entertained by the authors as to why Chico Cano was more than likely innocent.
When he was elderly and on his deathbed, Cano was asked if he was afraid to meet his maker. He said, My Father was my maker. Poverty was my maker. Distrust was my maker. I have met them all my life.
Cano died in 1943 of natural causes, still a hero to his people.
For further consideration is the question how many of the problems between the U.S. and Mexico in the early 20th century were created by the United States? Some would argue that one of the leading causes of the Mexican Revolution was U.S. investment in Mexico which helped create the one-sided economy of the Dictator Porfirio Diaz. His thirty-year reign created abject poverty and great suffering for most of the country while his small ruling elite and foreign investors made millions.
It was into that world that Chico Cano was born. The events resulting from the Diaz dictatorship and the revolution it caused shaped his life and the lives of thousands of others along the U.S./Mexico border defined by the Rio Grande.
Bandido is a must read for students and aficionados of Big Bend history.
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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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