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Back in the 1980's, I worked for the Texas State Historical Association as a staff writer for the New Handbook of Texas. I penned many history articles about West Texas, the Permian Basin and Big Bend. We had lots of revisions to make especially on articles concerning West Texas and the Big Bend. The largest single reason for so many errors in the original Handbook done in the early 1950's can be traced to one common problem. Most of the articles done in the first edition were written by graduate students in Austin many of whom never set foot West Texas and actually went to the places they were assigned to write about. A good example of that still continues today in the "Pilares, Texas" article. See:

Pilares is an obscure Mexican border village located not far from Porvenir, Texas across the Rio Grande in far Northwest Presidio County. Pilares is and always has been a Mexican border village and was never located in Texas. However, John Earnest Gregg wrote in his 1933 University of Texas master's thesis that Pilares was located on the Texas side of the border in Presidio County. The error has been repeated over and over and continues even today continues to be published in a Handbook article.

And while this and other factual errors continue on the Handbook has finally updated their article about the Porvenir massacre. I wrote the first Porvenir massacre article many years ago. However the Handbook editors at the time simply did not believe the real story of the massacre and had another staffer rewrite my article heavily relying on Walter Prescott Webb's version in his famous Texas Ranger book. This came as no surprise since Prescott Webb created and edited the first Handbook of Texas. As a young professor Webb spent a couple of weeks in Marfa and interviewed some of the same Texas Rangers who actually took part in the Porvenir massacre. They told him the story they wanted to world to know. This is where Webb's version of the Porvenir massacre that lived on for many years originated. According to the Webb version of what happened at Porvenir a group of Captain Fox's Company B Rangers went to Porvenir "looking for bandits" and after searching the jacales in Porvenir came under fire from unknown persons in the bushes. The rangers shot back not knowing if they hit anyone but the next morning found the bodies of the fifteen men and boys who had been shot. This, of course, is not what happened that awful night but for many years was the "accepted" history. Shortly before his death in 1963 Professor Webb admitted to some of his colleagues and students that he had been wrong about what happened at Porvenir and needed to revise his famous Texas Ranger book. Unfortunately Webb died in a car wreck a few months later and the revisions he wanted to make did not happen.

See: ... 422-093645

The real story of the Porvenir massacre has only recently been published by the Handbook of Texas. I cannot honestly say what brought this about. Perhaps the publicity about Porvenir massacre THC Historical Commission caused someone at the Handbook to correct the Webb errors that have for so many years been thought to be infallible and beyond question.


Glenn Justice

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