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The West Texas Collection at Angelo State University in San Angelo has announced The Excellence in West Texas History Fellowship Program for 2009-2010. Applications are now being accepted for two fellowships of $40,000 each to be awarded in April 2009. Application deadline is February 27, 2009. Fellowships are for a full academic year. In addition, a $5,000 subvention will be provided to an academic press for each completed manuscript accepted for publication. Research must focus on the western half of Texas and utilize regional archives. Applicants must have completed a Ph.D or be ABD in the field of humanities. Fellows will be expected to spend the 2009-2010 academic year utilizing the regional archives in West Texas. For more information contact: Suzanne Campbell, West Texas Collection, 1901 Rosemont, San Angelo, Texas 76909, phone 325-942-2164 or email

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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Felton Cochran, owner and operator of the Cactus Book Shop, has just put on line a fine new web page at 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 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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Texas Monthly has just published an article by Katy Vine in their October issue about the Candelaria bridge. Check it out at: ... 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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-Felton Cochran, my good friend and associate at one of our few remaining independent book shops, Cactus Book Shop in lovely old San Angelo, Texas: greetings. I read your criticism of Federico Villalba's Texas: A Mexican Pioneer's Life in the Big Bend by Juan M. Casas on Glenn Justice's Texas History Blog. Villalba's Texas indeed takes a new turn concerning one aspect of Big Bend history, the Mexican point of view. To my way of thinking it is a subject which time has come; in fact, had it not come along in our generation it probably would never have; therein rests the problem.

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.

Glenn Willeford
Cd. de Chihuahua, Mexico

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Its official, William A. (Andy) Cloud is the new director of the Center For Big Bend Studies 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. 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: ... 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.

Congratulations Andy!


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Preface: Why Heroes and Heroines? 
I came to Mexico in 1994 to accept a job teaching English literature, History, and Composition in English (the latter, basically a course in writing the so-called "college essay,") at the Facultad de Filosofia Y Letras, a discipline within the Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua at Chihuahua City. As with most colleges, so often wrongly nominated "universities," most of the students were less than enthused about the curriculum. That notwithstanding, there were exceptions. Srta. Blanca Estela Moreno A., a Spanish-speaking native of Mexico, was one. This essay, now four-years-written, while not perfect, remains a stirring example of a young woman's attempt to express her love of country. Perhaps we norteamericanos should ponder over Blanca's words and reflect upon our own endangered heritage.

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.
Mar'a 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 Do'a Mar'a Luc'a 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 D'az 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 Obreg'n, so Villa decided to go to the North and attack Agua Prieta, Sonora, that had the defense of Plutarco Elas 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 D'az, 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 D'az 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 D'az, 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
Group: A
Date: 10/02/04

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On Sunday, August 24, 2008, 02:32 AM, Domingo Garcia Cano wrote:

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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Having posted my review of the new Casas book I invite open discussion of the work here on the blog. I did not see the manuscript and based my analysis of the book after it went to press. A recent review of the manuscript by Jim Glendinning says that Casas overstates racial prejudice in South Brewster County and that some of the "stated facts are just plain wrong". Do begin this discussion I pose the following two questions. Do you feel Casas or any other writers have overstated racism in the Texas Big Bend? Also, what in the book do any of you consider to be not to be factual?

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.

Felton Cochran

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.

Gerald Raun

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>

Glenn Willeford

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Iron Mountain Press has just published an attention-grabbing new book titled Federico Villalba's Texas: A Mexican Pioneer's Life in the Big Bend by Juan Manual Casas. Casas begins his absorbing account of the Villalba family with the arrival in present Mexico of a Spanish ancestor, Lt. General Juan de Villaba in 1767. Appointed by King Carlos III, General Villalba inspected northern Chihuahua and reported to the King his recommendations of how the new frontier might best be defended. Later the General settled in the Spanish Province of Nueva Vizcaya at San Geronimo putting down roots for later generations of the Villalba family. Casas proudly recounts the fact that his family has noble Spanish blood and by the time his great-grandfather was born in 1858 had become prosperous landowners and merchants at Aldama north of Chihuahua City.

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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