Journal of Big Bend Studies
Table of Contents
J.J. Kilpatrick versus the Army: Strife in Candelaria, Texas, 1919—1921
James Judson Kilpatrick (1857–1935), a native of Georgia, came to Candelaria, Texas, in 1908 to teach school. Over the next 10 years he created a cotton empire there, eventually placing 800 acres under cultivation by 45 tenant families. Between 1917 and 1922 Kilpatrick engaged in a controversy with Captain Stephen Matlack of Troop K, 8th Cavalry, that escalated to engulf the entire 8th Cavalry, the Army court-martial system, Senator Albert Fall’s Senate Committee on Mexican Affairs, and, eventually, to involve President Woodrow Wilson. This presentation makes use of the J.J. Kilpatrick Papers at the Briscoe Center for American History and the J.J. Kilpatrick Family Candelaria Papers at the Archives of the Big Bend of Sul Ross State University to examine the origins, progress, and consequences of this controversy.
The People of La Junta in 1750: A Census
Newly discovered documents provide the most extensive and intimate census of three of the historic native communities at La Junta de los Rios during the 1700s. La Junta is at today’s Ojinaga, Mexico, and Presidio, Texas, at the confluence of the Río Conchos and Rio Grande. Coming three years after the only known previous census naming individuals, and a quarter century before the extant baptismal records at Ojinaga, this invaluable census gives the full names of heads of household and the names of their spouses and children. In doing so, it offers a glimpse of the differing acculturation dynamics in the three missions. It also identifies the civic offices and other occupations held by some. Contemporary documentation, also discovered for the first time, reveals the important settlement of Venados (Apaches) and Sumas in La Junta at this time that explains the very high number of persons under instruction for baptism in the census. The presence of the Venados predates by three decades what scholars have previously been able to determine about when Apaches began to figure in a major way in the La Junta population.
The 127 Men of the Callahan Expedition
Texas Ranger Captain James Hughes Callahan led three companies of Texans into Coahuila, Mexico, in October 1855. Their intent was to chastise Lipan Indians who had been terrorizing Texas frontier settlements and then retreating to sanctuaries in Mexico. The Lipans expected anyone pursuing them to stop at the Rio Grande; Callahan and his men didn’t. The incursion became known as the Callahan Expedition. Source documents found in archival resource centers, and Internet digital archives, yielded a treasure trove of new information that provides a more comprehensive understanding of what happened before and during the expedition. This article discusses how Mexicans knew Callahan’s plans, how a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant was involved, what happened to the Texas Rangers who died in the legendary battle at La Maroma near the Río Escondido, the extent of the damage to Piedras Negras, and Santiago Vidaurri’s role in achieving the expedition’s goal of chastising the Lipans. In addition, research revealed that there might not have been a Callahan Expedition if Texas Governor Elisha M. Pease had read one of Callahan’s letters earlier than he did. This paper includes the first-ever compilation of the names of the 126 men who volunteered to ride with Callahan into Mexico—a long-deserved recognition of their service to Texas.
U.S. Army Outposts in the Big Bend of Texas: Twilight of the Indian Wars, 1878—1895
In 1878, increasing Indian raids from Mexico drew a few cavalry troops of the U.S. Army into the Big Bend of Texas, a desolate, forbidding region with which the Army had little experience and scant knowledge. After tentative scouts and limited temporary outposts, the significant threat from the Chiricahua Apache leader Victorio in 1880 brought full-scale operations to the region, principally focused on protecting the new military and railroad construction parties starting to cross the area. Army exploration and mapping patrols blanketed the Big Bend, with other troops focused on finding and guarding water sources, intent on denying this vital resource to Indian raiders or Mexican bandits. The result was a number of long-term outposts and two major new stations, Camp Peña Colorado and Camp Rice, the latter subsequently known as Fort Hancock. Based on research from Army primary documents, the purpose of this article is to precisely catalog the details of Army operations and outposts and place them in the larger context of the intent of senior Army leadership and other historic events of the period.
A Forgotten Aviator: Albert W. Dorgan and the Johnson’s Ranch Army Air Corps Field, 1929–1943
This research explores the background of Albert W. Dorgan—a World War I naval aviator and former ensign in the United States Naval Reserve Force—and operations at the Johnson’s Ranch Army Air Corps field (1929–1943) located close to the Rio Grande in what today is Big Bend National Park, Texas. Johnson’s Ranch airfield is considered unique among Army Air Corps fields in the continental United States prior to World War II and was purportedly under the command of a civilian, Elmo Johnson, who had no background in aviation or military intelligence. In Wings Over the Mexican Border: Pioneer Military Aviation in the Big Bend (1984), author Kenneth Ragsdale described Johnson’s Ranch as “a strange mishmash of quasi-military, quasi-civilian activities.” Lacking the information contained in the private correspondence file, blueprints, and military records of nearby Castolon resident Albert W. Dorgan, which would come to light years later, Ragsdale concluded the airfield was operated by Elmo Johnson. The cache of Dorgan documents indicates that the airfield was likely overseen by Dorgan, and new research suggests that Dorgan oversaw the airfield for the Southwestern Airways Section, G-2 Army Intelligence, 8th Corps Area, Fort Sam Houston.
“. . . this is a healthy country if you don’t talk too much”—Elmo Johnson
The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero, Leader of Mexico’s 1910 Revolution
Francisco I. Madero was the leader of Mexico’s 1910 revolution and president of Mexico from 1911 to 1913, when he was assassinated and the revolution entered a new and violent phase. Today, Madero is remembered as Mexico’s Apostle of Democracy—the visionary leader who overthrew Porfirio Diaz, the dictator who ruled Mexico, directly and indirectly, for more than three decades. Less known is that Madero was one of Latin America’s leading Spiritists and a medium specializing in automatic writing. He wrote Manual espírita in 1910 (the year of the revolution) and published it when he was president-elect in 1911 under the pen name “Bhȋma,” taken from the Bhagavad-Gita, a Hindu wisdom book. C.M. Mayo was the first to translate Manual espírita into English and one of the first to consult Madero’s personal library. She discusses the historical, political, and philosophical context for Madero’s secret book which, when published, was a cutting-edge blend of Kardecian Spiritism, Anglo-American Spiritualism, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, and occult philosophies.
How Indian Emily Saved Fort Davis: A Legend Revisited
In 1919 the story of Indian Emily seemed to spring whole cloth from the pen of Carl Rath in The Romance of the Davis Mountains and the Big Bend Country. Told and retold by local, regional, and national sources, Indian Emily became an integral part of the story of the old abandoned Army post. However, the legend, which was not true in any form, had an important impact on the effort to establish Fort Davis as a National Historic Site. As this tale of unrequited love, repeated in the halls of Congress, went national in scope, it brought attention to the need to preserve Fort Davis. However, the tale did not end there. As the National Park Service worked to develop an interpretive program, staff, attempting to tell the true history, were continually confronted by the tenacious and romantic tale of the Indian girl, Emily—a legend many people still choose to believe.
Life in West Texas: One Woman’s Tale
Gene Miller: a Trans-Pecos woman whose life was changed and shaped first by an historic event, World War II; then by the love of a man, a cowboy; and ultimately by the passion of that man—his love for the land, this land. She chose to abandon everything familiar to her for a hardscrabble but intensely satisfying life. For her, living in this part of West Texas has been a full life, rich with family, friends, good times, and a trove of memories. She has shared these stories with me in numerous informal afternoon chats over the past six years. Many of the best ones are recounted here.