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The Galveston Daily, May 27-1915. "A Texas ranger and a river guard have been ambushed and killed by Mexicans near Pilares, on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, according to official advices received today by Adjutant General Hutchings from Marfa, Texas. Ranger Winfield F. Hulen, brother of former Adjutant General John A. Hulen of Houston, and Joe Sitters, a river guard, are the victims of the ambush."

"Ranger Hulen and River guard Sitters were killed on the morning of May 24. The bodies were not found until the evening of May 25, and both had been shot to pieces. They were in such condition that they could not be moved and they were buried at McGee Gulch, near the scene of the fight."

"The information received by the adjutant general also stated that Ranger Eugene B. Bates was killed, but Bates later sent a telegram to Hutchings denying the report."

"Governor Ferguson declined to discuss the subject further than to say he would make an investigation. The adjutant general was in conference with the governor during this morning."



Houston, Tex. May 26-1915 General John A. Hulen, general freight and passenger agent of the Trinity & Brazos Valley Railroad, was apprised this morning of the death of his brother, a state ranger, at Pilares on the Mexican border, 600 miles west of Houston. Until three months ago Mr. Hilen resided in Houston.

According to information received today by General Hulen trouble has been brewing at the particular on the Rio Grande River for several days. Some smuggling has been going on and a few and a few days ago some Mexican soldiers crossed the river, raided a ranch on the Texas border and killed Pablo Jimenez, a naturalized citizen of the United States. It presumed that the trouble between the rangers and the Mexicans arose over this incident.



SAN ANTONIO, TEX., MAY 26-1915 A report from Marfa says that the bodies of Ranger Gene Hulen and River Guard Joe Sitters, who were killed by Mexican bandits, showed that the two officers had been literally shot to pieces and their heads crushed with rocks. The bodies were in such condition that they could not be brought to Marfa, but were interred on the McGee ranch. The Mexicans had robbed their victims of everything, even to their boots and coats, their saddlebags and horses. The official report of the band of of Mexicans numbering thirty-five and headed by a notorious outlaw, escaped into Mexico.

Note: The McGee Ranch where Hulen and Sitters were buried is today's Rancho Viejo located some 17 miles north of Candelaria. The bodies were later moved. Joe Sitters lies in the Valentine cemetery and I am not sure where Hulen's grave is located. Gj

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Oral Interview, Glenn Willeford With Dr. Gerald G. Raun Concerning Walter Prescott Webb's The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense (1935).  
"I'm Glenn Willeford and this is the eighth of April 2008. We're at the house of Dr. and Mrs. Gerald Raun in Alpine, Texas and I will be asking Dr. Raun a few questions, one of which I think is of great importance. First, Dr. Raun, what is your background at the University of Texas in Austin? What we're referring to specifically is getting around to the point of you being at the home of Walter Prescott Webb one evening as a graduate student."

Raun: I was a graduate student in biology a the University of Texas 1956 to 1961 and I do not exactly remember the occasion why there were a group of us, at Walter Prescott Webb's home near the University of Texas in Austin, Bedichek was there..

Willeford: That's Roy Bedichek?

Raun: [Affirative] Perhaps he's the reason we were there because he's a naturalist.

Willeford: "All right".

Raun: But, ah, somewhere in the conversation the question was asked Dr. Webb about his book on the Texas Rangers..

Willeford: "This would be the 1930's.."

Raun: Yeah, the original. Well, its been reprinted, that's the original 1930's edition. He discussed it a little bit and said rather sadly that he was sorry that he had written it the way he did and that it desperately needed to be redone. And I think he was planning to re-do that when he was killed.

Willeford: "Okay, and how was he killed?"

Raun: "In an automobile accident; I don't remember the exact date, in the sixties I think."

Willeford: "He and his wife, if I am not mistaken."

Raun: I believe that's correct, I believe that's correct, yeah.

Willeford: "Do you remember how the subject came up that evening or was it in the afternoon?"

Raun: I'm pretty sure it was afternoon but I don't recall specifically who asked the question but somebody did bring up the subject of the book and asked him about it.

Willeford: "Did he go into any other specifics why he thought he needed to revise it?"

Raun: "No, we changed the subject, or he did probably."

Willeford: "Okay, that will end the interview. Thank you, I think this is a very important short interview." [End].

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El Paso Herald January 19, 1915. Sierra Blanca, Texas. "The body of H. F. Boykin, who was killed by H. L. Robertson at an early hour Saturday morning, was interred in the Sierra Blanca cemetery at 2:30 p.m. Monday. The casket and grave were beautifully decorated with flowers. Relatives from elsewhere who attended the funeral were: Miss Ada Boykin, sister of the deceased from San Angelo, Texas ; Miss Florence Boykin, sister, El Paso, Texas: Mrs. T. C. Armstrong, sister, El Paso, Texas; C. Barren, San Angelo, Texas; Mrs. D. M. Logan, Colorado, Texas; Bert Humphris, Marfa, Texas."

"Walter Sitters, who was fatally shot by Robertson at the same time, died about 5 p. m. Saturday evening and his body was shipped to his father's home in Valentine, and was employed by the T. O. Ranch at the time of his death. Mr. Sitters, the father, arrived Saturday, expecting to take the wounded boy to the hospital in El Paso, but the son died just a few minutes before the train arrived."

Many thanks to Doyle Phillips for the documents! Gj

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I am researching some family oral history which occurred in Presidio, likely in the summer of 1917. I am looking for a newspaper/official account of this event. Can you suggest some directions/web sites?

Hugh Fletcher

In the summer of 1917, Presidio County deputy sheriff John Fletcher Rawls, a rancher in the Casa Piedra area of Presidio County, Texas was wounded in a shootout in the Anaya Cafe on Main Street in Presidio , Texas. The gunmen were renegade members of the US Army who were protecting the border against Pancho Villa. Rawls, commissioned by Sheriff Ira Cline, of Presidio County, Texas was the only lawman in the immediate area and alone, challenged the band of seven armed men when he discovered them in a back room of the cafe with the waitresses who had been taken prisoner for sexual purposes. The waitresses were daughters of the owner, part of a family that had taken refuge in Presidio to avoid the revolution that was taking place in Northern Mexico, particularly in their home state of Chihuahua. When Rawls opened the door to the back room the shoot out began. Rawls tripped on the step to the room which was raised above the ground floor level of the main floor, and as the shooters ran past him, as he scrambled to get up off the floor, they unloaded their service pistols into him, escaping but leaving the girls unharmed. They were never identified or tried as their identities were never known. Somehow Rawls lived, although severely crippled. After a year of hospitalization with a huge amount of doctor bills, Rawls sold his ranch and moved to El Paso, Texas He died in Austin, Texas Dec 21, 1958. After the revolution, the Anaya family returned to their home in Chihuahua.

Suggest you check the El Paso Times index at the El Paso Public Library and also see the El Paso Time microfilm for summer of 1917. UTPB library in Odessa also has El Paso Times on microfilm. Also see vertical files at El Paso public library. Keep Googling the web, you might be surprised at what you find. Set up a Google email alert for your key words.Gj

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Hi Glenn,

What information can you give me about Dias y Ocho Army camp?
All I have is one paragraph from the Electric Coop article. Also the church on the Rio Grande. North of Porvenir.
Octaviano's place.

James Lopez


Also known as Camp Evetts the Dias y Ocho U.S. Army was located at Soldier's Springs not far from Porvenir. The camp was constructed from abandoned railroad ties salvaged from from the Rio Grande Northern Railroad that ran from Chispa to the coal mine near San Carlos. In 1918, Camp Evetts was home to Troop G of the Eighth Cavalry. In February of that year, a group of Texas Rangers and vigilantes came to Camp Evetts on their way to Porvenir where they massacred 15 men and boys before putting the village to the torch. By the fall of 1919, most of the upper Big Bend border cavalry outposts had been abandoned by the U.S. military. Although I know of the church or Octaviano's Place, don't know a lot about it. It lies at the crossing to Pilares. Pilares is shown on some old map's as a Spanish prison camp in the 1700's. Also, there was supposedly a gold mine located in the moutains outside Pilares about that time. Pilares Mexico is often confused with Pilares or Porvenir, Texas. The Handbook of Texas article confuses the two places. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that following the Porvenir massacre, the postmaster fled across the river to Mexico taking with him the Porvenir post mark stamp. For years after that, letters bearing Porvenir, Texas were actually postmarked in Pilares, Mexico. Gj

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My name is McKenna Apodaca and I am the Great Great Grand Daughter of Ranger Joe Sitters. I am nine years old, and I have just finished reading a chapter about Joe Sitters in Mike Cox's book about Texas Rangers. My father and I decided to search my GG Grandfathers name and your site came up and to our surprise we saw his picture. Thank you for having it up there, and can you tell me where you found this great photo? I would like to get a copy myself. Thank you and take care.


McKenna Apodaca

The photo of your grandfather was made sometime before 1913 on the steps of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa. It is the photo, third from the left at the top of my blog. Texas Ranger Joe Sitters is shown at the left of the photo with Jack Howard next, an unknown man and at the right, U. S. Customs inspector Luke Dowe. I got a copy of the photo from Marian Walker of Candelaria. Marian was Jack Howard's daughter who along with her sister, Nell Howard owned and operated the Candelaria store for many years. In 1913, Sitters and Howard were ambushed near Porvenir, Texas. Jack Howard died from his wounds and your grandfather, Joe Sitters was shot in the head. He survived but was killed in another ambush on the Mexican border in 1915. My apologies for taking so long on this, I misplaced your email and only now found it. If you will email your mailing address, I will make you a high quality copy your grandfather's picture and mail it to you. I am presently working on a chapter about Joe Sitters for my new book. Gj

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Hello Mr. Justice,

Saw your website and decided to send you an email.

It's possible we have crossed paths at the West Texas Historical Assoc. meetings?

Like yourself, I am also very interested in West Texas history.
Currently I am serving on the Board of Directors for WTHA, and teach US History part-time at Dallas Baptist University. At this years WTHA, 2007 meeting (Abilene) I planned to attend your session, however, I also had a paper to present during the same hour.

I have done quite a bit of research over the years in Jack/Young/ and Palo Pinto Counties, where my family settled during the frontier period. For some time I have wanted to publish my research. I have considered submitting my work to a regional University press, however I think the flexibility of self-publishing might be a better route.

I noticed you have published several books, (I have a copy of your
Revolution on the Rio Grande). If you don't mind I have a few publishing questions for you.

I noticed you operate under the name of RimRock Press, a label that
promotes your work. I assume you contract the printing of your books independently and under the label of RimRock control the marketing and distribution?

The reason I ask I have observed your site as a close model of what I would like to launch to promote my own research. I have secured the domain name of BRAZOSBOOKS.COM, which I plan to use as the main website to promote my work. I plan to find a source, which will print the books with my "Brazos Books" name, and I will then assume all marketing, sales, and management. I have heard is a possible source to accomplish this? So is this the arrangement you also use?

Any advice would be appreciated. I really like your website, you have obviously spent quite a bit of time creating it.

Best Regards,

Wes J. Sheffield

Rimrock Press is my publishing company that I use to produce and market my books. I chose this approach some years ago after becoming frustrated with the attitudes and policies of commercial and university presses. I have used both and not had a positive experience with either. Generally commercial presses are simply not interested in publishing regional histories. And while University presses do publish most of our history books, they frequently have their own agendas and tend to only go to press with works done by writers associated with the university. No matter how fine your work, it's not what you know but rather who you know in these circles. Another problem is the fact that these publishers want your work and your copyright but don't want to pay for it. The same applies to historical associations who publish in their journals. After spending years researching and writing my books I feel my time is worth something more than the usual $1 per copy sold by these outfits.

Having said this, the world of self-publishing is not something most people will want to undertake. For one thing, there is absolutely no money to be made publishing history books. You will have to spend your money going to press and it will take years for you to see any return on your investment. There are numerous book manufactures who offer publishing services but few have much interest in doing regional histories. I use Bookmasters and have been well satisfied with their services. See

Finally, once you have managed to produce a press ready book, you will be responsible for the marketing of your book and the world of book distributing is a snake pit. None of the big book stores such as Barnes and Noble or Borders or any of the others will buy books directly from the publishers. You must go through one of their "approved" distributors. These distributors are a very tight knit group and will do their best to squeeze you out of business before you even start. They will not take you books without heavy discounts and not even consider a publisher with only a few book offerings. Bookmasters will market your books for a monthly fee. The only market you will find for your history books, other than single copy internet sales, are local book stores who many times will only take your books on consignment and then not pay you. In short, if you want to make money writing books probably the best advice I can give is write trashy romance novels, not history books. Gj

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In going over my father's library we found a stack of post-cards stuffed in a small binder. They were postcards of scenes of the conflict with Villa at Columbus and other locations. The cards are in fair condition. Not great, and show some gristly scenes as well
as scenes of troop trains etc.

Is there any interest in these postcards? It is very possible that
they are just a set of cards which were distributed widely and not very unique.

I can send scans of several if that would be of interest.

David Sims

Today these postcards of the Mexican revolution are a little known but collectable glimpse into the horrors of that bloody civil war. While their monetary value has increased only slightly in the last few years, collectors do seek them out. During the years when they were produced and mainly marketed to U.S. soldiers stationed on the Mexican border, many thousands were sent home to families of these border guardians. Curiously the postcards seem to be more common in the states away from the border. You can find these postcards for sale on ebay but beware of overpricing and fakes. To learn more about these postcards I suggest you read Border Fury: A Picture Postcard Record of Mexico's Revolution and U.S. War Preparedness, 1919-1917 by Paul J. Vanderwood and Frank N. Samponaro published by University of New Mexico Press. Gj

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Mr. Fain, as Glenn Justice reminds us, more needs to be done on the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 in the Big Bend region of Texas. At present, Dr. Paul Wright at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, may be the best resource for obtaining new information. Wright's research into birth and death records in the Big Bend region, taken largely from U. S. Manuscript Census data, reveals much.

As co-author of the recent (2006) book, Cemeteries and Funerary Practices in the Big Bend of Texas, 1850 to the Present, I admit that there is no "definitive work" on the subject, nor is there likely ever to be one; nonetheless, I believe mine and Dr. Gerald G. Raun's book comes a closer than anything to date.

While preparing to draft the text of Cemeteries I advertised in area newspapers for information as well as for people to come forward with information. A few did, but not so many as we would have liked; accordingly nothing was learned about Ben and Viola Pettus; other members of the Pettus family were not only mentioned but their deaths recorded, graves photographed and so forth. Additionally, I interviewed individuals in Marathon about the flu epidemic and other matters and the Ben Pettus's were never mentioned. I suspect those few months in the autumn of 1918 were such a horrid period in life that once it passed, most folk didn't wish to talk about it, or even to remember; after all, families were giving up their dead to passing wagoners for mass burial without funerary honors being rendered. Why? It was much safer to stay indoors. Under the circumstances it was not shameful to do so, either. Yet, in glancing back it may seem a sort of familial betrayal, i. e., something to be put behind.

Cemeteries and Funerary Practices in the Big Bend of Texas, 1850 to the Present does contain a story of self sacrifice in order to fulfill one's duty in caring for the sick. That is the story of Dr. Roy R. Longino, the city health officer and sole physician in Fort Stockton at the time (see pps. 62-3).

Has I known about the "influenza quarantine tent city" south of Marathon and Mrs. Viola Pettus's charitable nursing of the sick at great risk to herself it certainly would have been in the book. What a story! But nobody came forward with it. Que sera.

Glenn Willeford
Chihuahua City, Mexico

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Glenn -- I really like your blog. I am looking for background on a woman named Viola Pettus who is known locally as having been the "nurse" at the influenza quarantine tent city just south of Marathon during the 1918 outbreak of "Spanish flu". Her husband Ben was a well-known cowboy. Viola may have been one of those early frontier nurses that made up for lack of formal training with guts and compassion. A friend who is a nurse/researcher is interested in determining if there is enough available material to piece together the story of her sacrifice in 1918.
Any leads will be appreciated including pictures, records, letters, descendents, photos etc Ben and Viola appear on headstones in the Marathon cemetery - close to the dividing line between the Anglos and "Mexican" sections. There were a number of black "seminole" families in the Big Bend, none more remarkable than the one Viola and Ben formed.

Tyrus Fain

Your friend has touched on a topic that very much needs to be done. The emerging threats of another influenza epidemic especially in the Big Bend is one that should be addressed. History always repeats itself. I suggest a start with some background reading on the flu epidemic in Texas. See the Handbook of Texas article on epidemic diseases at: ... sme1.html. I think it a good idea to begin with the bibliography for the article. The Handbook also has two articles on Seminoles that have helpful bibliographies: ... bms19.html ... bmb18.html
The best single book I have on Seminoles in my library is: The Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole by Grant Foreman, University Of Oklahoma Press, 1934.

Narrowing the research specifically to Viola Pettus will be difficult but I do not mean to say impossible. Its just one of those topics that will take a lot of digging and that is the only way to determine if there is enough available material to piece the story together. I think I would do some digging in Marathon. Are there any Pettus family members living that might have some info about the story? You might need to do some oral history interviews with them. To find them try running a newspaper ad. Next I think I would check with the Archives Of The Big Bend at Sul Ross in Alpine. They might well have a file on this. Also be sure to look though the newspaper index of the Alpine Avalanche at the archive and spend some time with their extensive oral history collection. See:

Another suggestion is to go through the El Paso Times newspaper index at the El Paso Public Library. Perhaps the Barker Center For American History at U. T. in Austin will have some holdings. See: And don't forget to look at U. S. Census records for Marathon. You might be surprised at the population decline due to the epidemic.

One final suggestion, when I take on a project like this I always put together a list of search terms. This way when I start to dig for material, I have an idea of what I am looking for. Here is a suggested list for the topic: Viola Pettus, Ben Pettus, Spanish Influenza, Texas Seminole Indians, Big Bend Seminole Indians, Brewster County Influenza emidemic, Marathon Influenza epidemic, Brewster County Influenza and so on. As your research progresses add to your list. Hope this is helpful and good luck!

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