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Dear Glenn, 18 May 2008

I am Jim Willeford, Glenn Willeford is my father. If we met years earlier, I hope you will forgive me for not remembering. Regardless, I have read your Porvenir article over and again; I find it and the accompanying photos fascinating.

I first read of the Porvenir Massacre in Robert Keil's book, Bosque Bonito. It captured my imagination and has occupied my thoughts for years since. It was gratifying to hear from Dad that you and he had done some excavating, found some bullets and cartridge casings, and were able to gather information on what may have actually happened at the site. Based on your findings, it appears that Keil's account of who did the killing may have been more than a little biased. As you know, he blames the killing on two unidentified Texas Rangers (who allegedly thereafter fled the area and were never seen again), leaving the shocked and horrified troops behind to clean up the mess and deal with the aftermath. That the evidence implicates the troop of US cavalry itself to have been actively involved in the massacre elevates it to a horrific, bloody travesty. What a helpless situation for the victims, what a despicable action for the murderers, and what terrible memories and devastation for the survivors.

Keil recounts in his book a horseback return to Porvenir later in his life, decades removed from the incident. According to his account, the horse he was riding absolutely refused to go near the massacre site. Why? Perhaps the spirits of those victims recognized a participant from so long ago, and were roused by his presence? Who knows. However, this one significant event, perhaps the only event of consequence in the entire history of the spot, may have stamped such an imprint upon the place that it may be forever stained. That the ballistic evidence remained to be discovered, inspected, and so plainly tell a story after nearly a century is as fascinating as any mystery man could invent. There are probably more evidentiary items to be found, waiting patiently in the grit to reveal their secrets.

I would love to be a contributor to the Porvenir effort in whatever way I can. I am a career Marine and am not residing in Texas, but if you intend to make another trip to the site, please let me know in advance; I would love to make plans and accompany you.

I enjoy visiting your Texas History blog and do so several times per week. Thanks for your efforts, and keep up the good work!

Jim Willeford
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Thanks for your comments! Locals also say horses are are spooked and shy away from the massacre site. Quien Sabe. Take care, Gj

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Friday, May 16, 2008, 06:01 PM
Hello everyone.I appreciate the fact that more ballistics have been recently found at the Porvenir Massacre site where I took a crew to film in 2002.

I am starting to recover my health and would like to return to production and complete American Lynching: A Documentary Feature. (I've revised the title slightly because of a documentary made by Joel Katz called Strange Fruit, about the song bearing its name.)

I have just re-located the transcript of the main interview that I conducted with Juan Bonilla Flores in 2002 and plan to share it with Glenn, if I can obtain the permission of an expert translator who was involved.

I'm also writing The American Lynching Phenomenon, the first definitive work of its kind since James Elbert Cutler's Lynch Law in 1905. (I think an update is somewhat overdue.) I often accept invitations to lecture on lynching-related topics and to show a trailer for the documentary feature project at universities and colleges and other venues for a quite reasonable fee. You can watch me discussing lynching at the University of New Hampshire if you go to the or else google me from the main page of

Your feedback is welcome. My colon closed down for seven months and is now finally permitting me to live productively again!


Gode Davis

If you have comments or would like to make a donation (even a tiny one) to help us finish production, please email me or call me in Rhode Island at 401-828-4435.

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Several years ago, documentary filmmaker Gode Davis videotaped an interview with Juan Flores, the last living survivor of the Porvenir massacre. Davis has written and produced a number of films over more than 20 years including The Nature of Biology; Winter: The Saint Paul-Sapporo Connection: The Palestinian Question: and the 1998 film Tunnel Visions described as "succinct and captivating television" by PBS affiliate WGBH-Boston. The Juan Flores interview was to be part of Davis forthcoming film, American Lynching: A Strange and Bitter Fruit.

I had the privilege of being present when the Flores filming took place both in Odessa and at Porvenir the following day. Sadly, Mr. Flores passed away in 2007 and never got to see the film completed. I have had many inquiries about the status of the Davis production and recently had the opportunity to visit with Gode about the progress of the film and ask that he release a transcript of the Flores interview so that it can be made public. Gode was very cordial in our conversation and remains committed to getting American Lynching completed although he is facing some very serious health issues. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Gode agrees how important the Flores account is and the fact that entire Porvenir massacre story certainly needs to be told. I am of the opinion that the Porvenir massacre and the Flores account is a story that should stand on its own. Hopefully, one day, Mr. Davis will be able to produce a film about the massacre or perhaps focus on abuses along the Texas border during the Mexican revolution years. In addition to his health problems, Gode needs $10,000 more to get American Lynching completed. Hopefully he will be able to raise the money. Anyone wishing to contribute to the effort can contact him at his American Lynching website:

Also, see an interview with Gode Davis about his film by Genevieve Butler at: ... /davis.htm


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Glenn's Texas History Blog contains many archived articles and book reviews. If you wish to search the archive simply type your topic into the search box. Example, if you are interested in articles on Porvenir simply type Porvenir in the search box and the archived articles will come up. Gj

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I read your piece on the Porvenir Massacre with great interest. You see my great-grandfather was Federico Villalba (1858-1933) who, at the time of the killings, had a Warrant of Authority from the Texas Rangers. Federico's 20,000 acre Rancho Barras was located in Burro Mesa. When word got back to him about this horrific tragedy, he sent his son, Jorge to investigate. Jorge returned with an account of the atrocity los rinches committed. In protest, Federico immediately resigned his Warrant. I have written a book about my great-grandfather and his family that should be on the shelves in late July/early August. It is titled Federico Villaba's Texas, A Mexican Pioneer's Life in the Big Bend, 2008, Iron Mountain Press.

My book also contains the account of his son's, Jacobo and Jorge's involvement in the shooting deaths of Aubrey "Jack", and Winslow Coffman in Study Butte in 1923, and the murder of Jacobo by Delfi "Det" Walker in 1931. Contrary to other published accounts of my great-uncle Jacobo's death, he was not shot by Joe Graham Barnett, a former Texas Ranger. It is true that Det Walker hired Barnett to kill Jacobo, but by Jonce Walker's own admission, Jacobo was killed as a trespasser on the Talley Ranch, though the circumstances and manner of his death are highly disputed.

Also, thank you for sharing the pictorial.

Juan Manuel Casas

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San Antonio Evening News-Tuesday-August 19, 1919. "American cavalrymen and airplanes crossed the border at Candelaria, Texas this morning at daybreak in pursuit of the Mexican bandits who kidnapped Lieutenants H. G. Peterson and Paul H. Davis, United States aviators, and to whom $15,000 ransom was paid last night before Peterson and Davis were released. Davis and Peterson are guiding the troops."

"Maj. Gen. Joseph T. Dickman, commander of the Southern Department, left San Antonio at 1 o'clock today for Eagle Pass, and announced that he would be ready to go to Marfa, the headquarters of the Big Bend district in which Candelaria is located, if his services there are required. So far the movement into Mexico has been solely under the direction of Col. G.T. Langhorne, the commander at Marfa. No announcement had been received by Gen. Dickman that the troops had actually crossed the border when he left for the West."

"At General Dickman's office it was announced that nothing would be given out to the newspapers for publication on the movement across the border. From other sources it was learned that the order to go across the line immediately after Peterson and Davis were safe on this side were telegraphed to Col. Langhorne yesterday. Col. Langhorne assembled 200 cavalrymen from close by stations and had several big army trucks ready to make the dash as soon as it was known that Davis and Peterson were in the hands of the American officers."

"At General Dickman's office it was said the pursuit of the bandits was being conductd under the plan recently adoped to chase lawbreakers who were successful in getting back across the Mexican border."


"While no announcement was made, it was indicated that as soon as the bandits are captured, the cavalry force and airplanes will be withdrawn."

"A telegram was recievd at the headquarters of the Southern Department early this morning telling of the release of Peterson and Davis. Peterson was released shortly after midnight and it was about 2 o'clock this morning when Davis arrived at the point where he met the American officer."

"As agreed upon by agents of the bandits, Capt. Leonard Matlock, of the 8th Cavalry left Candelaria shortly before midnight and went to a place three or four miles across the border on horseback. He deposited half of the $15,000 ransom, as per the contract and went away. He returned to the spot where he had deposited the money a few minutes later, and Lieut. Peterson was there waiting for him. He and Peterson then rode horseback to where the other American officers and soldiers were waiting."

"Capt. Matlock then returned to the same place and shortly after 2 o'clock he galloped back to where the American officers and soldiers were waiting with Lieut. Davis riding behind him on the horse."

"One telegram received a the headquarters of the Southern Department stated that Capt. Matlock did not deposit the last $7,500, as he had agreed to do, but that when he found Davis there, he simply pretended to deposit the money and fled from the scene with the rescued man."

"Gen. Dickman did not understand this part of the telegram, and telegraphed instructions to Col. Langhorne to wire particulars. At Gen. Dickman's office it was stated if Capt. Matlock had not paid over the last money to the bandits as he had agreed to do, the money would be paid, as the army would not be put in the light of having broken faith even with bandits. This statement was issued while United States soldiers were actually chaising the bandits."


"The money paid as ransom was supplied by contributions from cowboys and businessmen around Candelaria. The War Department has instructed Col. Langhorne to notify all those who contributed that they would be reimbursed as soon as the gold car arrive there. The bandits stated in their first communication offering to surrender the men that the money must be in gold coin. They were afraid the acceptance of currency would lead to their identification and arrests."

"Peterson and Davis both say that they were well treated, according to a telegram received by Gen. Dickman today. They say they had plenty to eat and were subjected to no indignities."

"They both believed they had fallen on the American side of the line, and are yet badly mixed as to their directions. It has been clearly established, according to the American army officers, however, that the plane fell Sunday afternoon near Las Vegas and Cuehlile, Mexico. This is about 35 miles below the border. Then the men wandered down the Conchos River, which was close to the point where they fell until they reached Falomir. They were captured near this place Wednesday after they had been without food or shelter three days and nights."

"Peterson and Davis both thought they were captured near Valentine, Texas. They spoke of being taken into the mountains near them. They also spoke of passing near the railroad bridge. There is no bridge near Valentine. The only brindge in theat part of the country is over the Concho River near Falomir and it was decided that they were captured there and taken into the hills west of that place."

"The two fliers were kept in the hills until Monday and then started on the way to the place near Candelaria where the bandits had agreed to deliver them upon the payment to the $15,000. They reached that place Monday night shortly after dark."

"The airmen told the officers rescuing them that the leader of the bandit gang was a one-legged and one-armed Mexican who said he was educated in the United States and that he had been a railroad man in Kansas. He lost his arm and leg in a wreck in Kansas, he said."

"There were about twenty men in the kidnapping party, according to Peterson, but he said the leader of the gang told him he had a bandit force of about sixty men."

"The airplane was torn to pieces by the fall Sunday, according to information received here, and the telegram said the machine gun mounted on the pane was put out of commission. The messages received today did not state what happened to the plane to make it fall, but it is believed it was crippled during the violent storm which started soon after the men went out on the trip. If the belief of the army officials here is sustained by later telegrams Peterson and Davis went south while they believed they were going northwest."

"This is explained by fliers who say that that frequently a plane may be heading a wind and seeming traveling 75 miles an hour in one direction when it is actually being blown at that speed in another direction."

"Lieut. Davis, who was stationed at Kelly Field for some time, was sent from here to the border recently to do radio work. While at Kelly Field, he was engaged in installing radio on the planes. Before being assigned to that work, he was one of the assistant adjutants in the personnel department. He is also well known in San Antonio."

For a detailed account of the kidnapping, ransom and the last American punitive expedition into Mexico see Little Known History Of The Texas Big Bend available at Gj

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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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