The Massacre At Porvenir, Texas

21 Apr

In the late fifties, I ran into Zane Grey’s book, “The Texas Rangers”.  I was most impressed by his interview of Texas Ranger Joe Sitter.  Little did I know that my daughter was destined to marry a grandson of Sitter, and that one day I would meet a man who had actually known the Ranger.

A few years into my research I received a call from Elida Tobar, who turned out to be a prima.  Her great-great grandfather was the brother of my own great-great grandfather, Crisanto Acosta.

She mentioned that a relative had been killed in a massacre that took place in Valentine, Texas.  I  told her that it was not in Valentine, Texas,  but in Porvenir, Texas and that I had recently looked up a sole survivor that was living in Odessa, Texas.  She quickly surmised that the man was our uncle and she headed out to meet with 94 year-old Juan Flores.

To her amazement (and mine) she discovered that Juan’s family knew nothing of the inhumane massacre.  Juan’s daughter, Benita, did recall how, as a child she would awaken nightly to her father’s screams.  The nightmares continued until he was sent to a State hospital where he underwent shock-treatment.

Thereafter, he ceased his unintelligible rambling of the past. That is until Elida showed up at his home.  It was easy to talk to Elida.  Juan had known her grandfather, who was one of the fifteen who were killed during the massacre.  Written history has it that it may have been Texas Rangers, or the Army, or both, that carried out the atrocious act.

Prima Elisa & Juan Flores (at age 95)

I met Juan the following year, but I did not pressure him to speak about the massacre.  Rather, I asked him if he had known Ranger Joe Sitter, and his alleged killer, Chico Cano.  He replied that Sitter was a fine man, and that he camped outside the family home whenever he was in the area.  Sitter, he said, gave his father a rifle that was taken by one of the masked men who helped round up the fifteen men and boys who were killed.

Juan did recognize the man who took the rifle, but he would not reveal his name.  When I asked if Chico Cano had indeed killed Sitter, Juan gave me a secretive smile and said, “Adonde aprieta, no chorea.” (“It does not leak where squeezed.”)  I took that to mean that I was not going to get anything specific from him.

Still a little later, I met Gode Davis who was working on an “American Lynchings” documentary.  I told him about the Porvenir incident and introduced him to the family.  He went to Odessa and filmed Juan’s recollections of the tragic incident.  Sadly Gode has been unable to secure monetary support with which to complete his filming.

Juan Flores died at age 101.  His last wish was to be buried at Porvenir because “That was where his umbilical cord was”.

footnote:  Juan’s mother eventually lost her mind and ended up shooting herself through the heart.

Prima Elisa

43 Responses to “The Massacre At Porvenir, Texas”

  1. Jan April 21, 2010 at 11:15 PM #

    Oh, my goodness. Such a sad story and one that I’ve not heard before. Will definitely add it to my ‘must read’ list. There is so much history that is not being taught and I thank you for sparking/reviving an interest for all of us that read your blog.

  2. Elida Tobar April 22, 2010 at 4:58 AM #

    Elisa,
    I want to thank you in behave of my Great-Grandfather Longino Flores, who was one of the 15 men massacred and also for all who had to live with this tragic memory like my Great-Uncle Juan Flores. It is crucial to relate this unbelievable story. The Porvenir Massacre was one of the most serious acts of ranger misconduct and it brought about the Texas Ranger investigation of 1919, organized by state legislator Jose T. Canales. Due to this investigation it brought about the overhaul and reconstruction of the Texas Rangers we know today.

    • Ismael Mesa Palomino Jr August 1, 2011 at 11:19 PM #

      Juan Flores is my great uncle too and it was a very sad time that he went through all this at a very young age.

  3. Jerry Lujan May 3, 2010 at 7:57 PM #

    Jerry Lujan Says:

    May 3, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Reply
    I just subscribed to Prima Elisa’s blog. The first thing I found was a posting related to the Porvenir Massacre. Ironically, I was just researching that last week, so I could share that piece of history with my son, Jerry Lujan, Jr. What prompted me to research that was due to a story that my mother’s (Consuelo Lujan, 94, wife of the Late Frank Lujan) uncle, Tomas Corrales told me back in the 1970s.

    It was around 1916. Tomas was just a small boy around 5 at the time. His mother (my maternal great-grandmother) and brother, Bartolo age 9, and Tomas were sent form Marfa to Candelaria on a wagon drawn by two horses. They climbed to the summit of the RimRock all day, and made camp when they reached the summit. They made a campfire and pitched a tent. It was dark and they were inside the tent, when they heard several horses arriving. Tomas’ mother reached for her pistol and rifle. One of the men on horseback yelled, “Corrales!”

    My great-grandmother replied, “Soy la esposa de el.”

    “Pues desde temprano los vi subiendo la cuesta. Conoci los caballos de Corrales.”

    At his point they went outside the tent. My great grandmother offered them coffee. The leader of the men asked if they had eaten, to which my relatives replied to the negative. With a “chiflido” the leader made, another horseman galloped to the campsite, and dumped a hind quarter of beef close to the fire. The leader took out a very sharp knife and sliced several steaks and threw them on the ambers.

    Tio Tomas recalls looking around and saw many many campfires and wondered what that was all about.

    The leader then told them that there was great danger, and that in the morning he would send some of his men to escort them into Candelaria, which they did.

    I am not sure who the leader was, but dare speculate that he was none other than Chico Cano, because the next day, they were the ones that raided the Brite Ranch, between Valentine and Marfa. Of course, it was the raid on the Brite Ranch that precipitated the Porvenir Massacre.

    My parents were compadres with Diego and Jacinata Cano. I am not certain if Diego was a son or a nephew of Chico Cano. I do know that Diego had two sons, one Diego Jr. and Tony. In my research last week, I ran across a reference to a book, “Bandido,” by Tony Cano, about his grandfather Chico. I am going to order that book.

    Along with this story, Tio Tomas said that after the Porvenir Massacre, the Villistas avenged it by lauching a frontal assault into the U.S. from Porvenir all the way to Brownsville. I have not been able to confirm this through any documented record of events, other than the hotbed of violence (gringo/mexican) all along the border during the years of the revolution. According to Tio Tomas, his father was an agent of the Villistas operating out of Marfa.

    Hopefully, there will be someone out there who has heard similar stories to corroborate this.

    Leave a Reply

    • Buddy Albarado August 12, 2012 at 6:01 PM #

      Do you have La corrida de Chico Cano ?

    • Bert Lujan October 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM #

      Jerry,

      Please contact me at kd7jeh@cableone.net

      Bert Lujan

  4. Monty Waters June 3, 2010 at 7:39 PM #

    My grandfather, A.G. Beard was a member of Ranger Company B, whose members were responsible for the deaths of 15 innocent people on the night of Jan. 28, 1918 in Porvenir. As far as I know he was not present and I have no reason to believe he was involved directly. But eight (about half) of the members of his ranger company were. Three of them resigned in the months following, and in June of 1918 the remaining five were fired and the company disbanded with my grandfather and others assigned to a new company.

    Their former captain, J.M. Fox, resigned. There are many accounts of what happened that night and a central mystery surrounds who was responsible for the murders. All of the men killed were in custody of the Rangers, so they of course must bear primary responsibility. But there was also a group of four local ranchers, and a larger group of U.S. Cavalrymen who were also present. The degree of their participation is unknown. It is my understanding that the Center for Big Bend Studies is conducting an archaeological excavation at the site of the massacre (now on private property) and there is some ballistic evidence that the men were murdered with U. S. Army weapons.

    There are many good books that tell part of the story. Unfortunately the best are difficult to find. Cano and Sochat’s book, Bandido is long out-of-print and very difficult to find. The Canales investigation was never published but the Texas State Archives have published a version of it on thier website though it is missing some pages relating to Porvenir and difficult to read. Canales was from South Texas and much more interested in investigating abuses there than in West Texas.

    There actually isn’t that much about Porvenir in the investigation. Walter Prescott Webb’s book on the Rangers gives the “official” ranger version of what happened, which is now widely discredited. He also misstates what happened to the rangers afterward. Robert Utley’s book on the rangers gives a much better account. Local historian Glenn Justice’s book, Little Known History of the Big Bend is an excellent source.

    Though it repeats a lot of local hearsay and gossip you should also try to find a copy of Joyce Mean’s, “Pancho Villa Days in Pilares”. Her theory is that the men of Pilares were murdered to cover up the theft of livestock by local ranchers.

  5. Martha Aceves September 30, 2010 at 8:04 PM #

    I am happy to see that your genealogy work is paying off in replies from other well informed persons of that region.

  6. Jerry Lujan October 2, 2010 at 10:16 PM #

    Since my last post on this blog back in May, I have read with great interest about the hunger for more information about the Massacre at Porvenir. I have found it. It is a book by Harris and Saddler, two retired history professors from New Mexico State University, entitled, “The Texas Rangers ? date to ? date.” My brother told me about it because he has coffee on a regular basis with the authors who live in Las Cruces. The book is about the Rangers or “Los Rinches” as known to the local Mexicanos. But central to the book is the massacre at Porvenir, which lead to a complete restructuring of the Texas Rangers, of which the desolution of Company B was only a part of. Those interested, google the Texas Rangers, by Harris & Saddler. Happy hunting and happy reading.

  7. Julia Wall November 16, 2010 at 2:25 AM #

    I want to thank you in behave of my Great Great Great-Grandfather Longino Flores, who was one of the 15 men massacred. I have been recently studying my geneology and have discovered this tragic piece of my history. I am the biological daughter to Lee Alvarez and Fela Palacios. If anyone has any other information I am very interested.
    Thank you,
    Julia

    • Benita Florez Albarado September 23, 2011 at 2:53 PM #

      I am the daughter Juan Bonilla Florez and me and my husband did the documentery with my father for the http://WWW.Americanlynching.Com . E-mail me at Buddy3a@Yahoo.Com

      • Julia Wall August 27, 2015 at 3:17 PM #

        Hi Benita,
        My apologies for the long delay in responding to you. I have not frequented this blog. I have just recently opened an email from buddy . I wish I would have sooner I just didn’t recognize the name and dismissed it. I would love to talk with you. Thank you, Julia

  8. Jerry Lujan November 22, 2010 at 11:01 PM #

    The latest and most authentic book dealing with the Texas Rangers and the Massacre at Porvenir, is entitled, “The Texas Rangers” by retired history professors from New Mexico State University, Dr. Harris (un Chicano) and Dr. Sadler. It came out just a few years back, and as far as I know is still in print. In that book, the authors make a case of how the investigations of the massacre lead to the complete reorganization of the Texas Rangers. A must read, from a very “objective” point of view.

  9. deeperrin November 27, 2010 at 5:10 PM #

    I love this story and wish there was one solid book that told the story. It seems like much of the history will never be truly know. I’m thankful for people like you who are preserving the information. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the post.

  10. Katherine Marie December 3, 2010 at 4:46 AM #

    My grandfather was Ambrosio Hernandez also killed in the massacre my grandmother Eulalia Hernandez Sanchez was pregnant with my father Victor Hernandez Sanchez later adopted by Isabel Sanchez Eulalia’s husband. I want everyone to know this story of our families who seem to have been filled with trajedy after the massacre. The importance of this story must be told. To all the stories from the different people involved by this blog Thank you I will be researching all the books and information about the massacre. In a facebook page Porveneir Massacre 1918 we may be able reach more people and families of the men involved. Please sign up and add all your information. Katherine Marie

    • Buddy Albarado September 28, 2011 at 3:18 PM #

      Ambrosio Hernandez is listed as been 21yrs old and Eulalia Gonzales Hernandez as 19yrs with Victorio less then a year old. Is that he picture of Ambrosio Hernandez In one of the books about the El Porevnir Massacre, if so why not post it your facbook wall? When we first meet Victor Sanchez on our way down to El Porvenir and the massacre site Juan B. Florez told Victor about Ambrosio (and Eulalia) braking a wheel on the wagon and flipping over and braking a leg while going to Valentine to get married. Mr. Ed Nevil loaned them another wagon and they went and got married , but the wedding night Ambrosio with his leg entabada sat the dance out.

  11. deeperrin December 29, 2010 at 8:30 AM #

    Did you ever get the facebook page up?

  12. Joseph Sanchez January 20, 2011 at 8:49 PM #

    My 2nd great grandfather Tibrucio Jaquez was on of the 15 murdered in Porvenir Tx. My 2nd great grandmother is Librada Montoya Jaquez, Im am trying to find information for may grandfather. Please help.

    • alyssa September 28, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

      They are also my great great grandparents. Their son, Marcelo, is my great grandfather.

    • Buddy Albarado September 30, 2011 at 6:50 PM #

      Tibrucio Jaquez was 50yrs old when he was massacred along with the other fourteen men and boys. left wife Librada Montoya Jaquez 48yrs old ,daughters Juliana 19, Maria 17, Cecila 15, Isabel 6, sons Jose 14, Marcelo 13, and Alberto 10. Librada M. Jaquez filed a claim in the U. S. Claims Court, but don’t know if she was ever compensated or what. She also gave a deposition ( April 6,!918) in Candelaria, Texas to 1st. Lieut. Patrick Kelly. One affdavit by Eibarco Jaquez given (March 26, 1918) in Valentine to Lt. Hugh D. Chamerlin of Troop “G” 8th. Cavalry, Camp Evett (Campo del Diez Y Ocho).

    • Buddy Albarado September 30, 2011 at 7:40 PM #

      The men and boys were taken from Mr. Manuel Morales Ranch El Porvenir Ranch) and Mr. Roman Nieves Ranch. lLater (1920,s) Mary Daniels set up shop and had mailing list as Porvenir, Texas. Never a Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico across the river, Porvenir is up close to Juarez, Chi. Mexico.Were marched (Herded) by men on horse back to red rock bluff a couple of mile from home, to were more anglo’s were waiting to massacre them. This massacre was committed by about fourty men, these men came by car from a large ranch above the rim rock , to the Pool ranch were others were waiting. The solders were used to surround the houses so no one escaped. The anglo’s were used to killing mexicans and gitten away with it ( the state and local sheriff), would justify all or any killing of mexicans. This time the families of the massacred men and boys got help from the Mexican Government. A Capt. Porcayo who was at Pilares, Chihuahua, Mexico gave them protection and took the mens and ages of all the innocent men and boys, and sent a report to his commanding officer at Ojinaga , Chihuahua. who then sent it to Presidio, Texas, then to Ambiisador Ygnacio Bonilla at Washington. This is also how permission was granted to the families to get the body parts and bury them in Mexico, in one large grave.

  13. deeperrin August 3, 2011 at 6:00 AM #

    Joyce Mean’s, “Pancho Villa Days in Pilares” is a wealth of information for anyone wanting to know more about the people and the area of Porvenir. In some areas it is a hard read, but Joyce has so much information and tells a great story. Although not in print, you can order a copy directly from her on her website.

    http://www.panchovilladays.com/author.html

  14. Jose M. Villarreal August 23, 2011 at 9:12 PM #

    I would like to see that the Porvenir massacre/Norias massacre and others become part of the Texas History curriculum and included in our textbooks. I would like to see if anyone is interested in organizing a committee to promote a memorial build in the city for these inocent victims of hate crimes,thank you.

    • Benita Florez Albarado 830-278-3606 September 23, 2011 at 3:13 PM #

      Hola Jose:
      I am the daughter of Juan Bonilla Florez and me and my husband (Evaristo Albarado) are the ones that took him down to El Porvenir Ranch. Once down there, he showed us the massacre site which the anglo’s did not care to let anyone know where it was. We also went across the Rio Grande into Chihuahua, Mexico and to the large grave were all the body parts of the 15 men and boy’s are buried. Would very much like to get in contact with you to see about a memorial for these innocent men and boys.
      E-mail me at buddy3a@yahoo.co Thanks Benita

      • Jerry Lujan September 24, 2011 at 12:11 PM #

        Buddy,

        I think the memorial idea is great, especially if you get great media coverage. Thereafter, actively lobby for this event to be included in Texas History. On that note, expose the extensive cover-up that took place, include the book by Sadler and Harris, “The Texas Rangers.” once that is done, proceed with a class action law suit against the State iof Texas and the U.S. Government for retribution to the decendents of the viticims, and even those who survived, that shiowed extreme cases of PTSD, horrific nightmares etc. There is no statute of limitations for murder.Jerry Lujan

      • Johnny De Anda August 8, 2012 at 11:40 AM #

        My name is Johnny De Anda, my mother Leonisia Mesa was related to Juan Bonilla Florez i would very much wish to speak with you if possible.

      • La Prima Elisa August 8, 2012 at 1:08 PM #

        i WOULD BE VERY HAPPY TO CONVERSE WITH YOU—write to me at: primaelisa @yahoo.com

        Elisa

      • La Prima Elisa August 8, 2012 at 1:13 PM #

        Dear Johnny–would love to talk to you. write to:Primaelisa@yahoo.comMe

    • Monty Waters October 4, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

      The full story of the Porvenir massacre has really never been told. Historians Sadler and Harris did a very good job. Though they relied mainly on official records of the Rangers, they missed some that would’ve shed light on it. Captain Fox’s initial report was witheld from the Canales investigating committee by Captain Aldrich of the rangers. This document isn’t in the official Ranger correspondence nor in Alrich’s papers at the University of Texas. It was among a small group of his papers that was donated to Sul Ross when he died (along with his library). Only Cano and Sochat, who wrote Bandido quote from this letter. The U.S. Government brought very strong pressure on the State to take action against the Rangers, which they eventually did in June 1918, firing the five that hadn’t previously resigned. But the only body that could take legal action was the Presidio County Grand Jury (under the law at that time) and they did nothing. I will be talking about some of these issues at the Center for Big Bend Studies conference in November, but there was obviously communication between the U.S. State Dept. and the Governor of Texas that I have not been able to locate. The U.S. wanted to keep Mexico neutral. Though Mexico was nowhere near as powerful as the U.S., remember that during WWI most of the army was overseas in Europe. When the Mexican ambassador complained about the treatment of Mexicans (though they were really American citizens) the government had to do something. The firing of the rangers was really just a slap on the wrist. Some were later issued ranger warrants by the state and some were hired by the U.S. Government to be border guards. One of the documents I found in the Ranger records reflects Governor Hobby’s anger at the U.S. Gov’t: “they insisted that I fire these men, then they hired them themselves!” (my paraphrase). I do hope some future historian tells the whole story without bias or anger.

  15. amy flores March 12, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

    This is MY family history I wish I would of known sooner. Juan Flores was my great-great grandfather, my dad was one of his grandsons. Such pain that was part of texas history. Will be passed through generations so that they are never FORGOTTON!

    • Julia Wall August 27, 2015 at 3:13 PM #

      Hi Amy,
      Juan Flores was also my brother Lee and I Great Grandfather. His daughter Juanita Anzures Alvarez was my Grandmother. Her son Labrado Lee Alvarez was my biological father. This is so extremely sad and I am again trying to piece all of it together. If anyone has any information on this family tree please respond. Thank you in advance, Julia

  16. Noel Ybarra May 12, 2012 at 4:19 PM #

    My grandpa told me about our great, great, grandpa Manuel Moralez being killed but he didn’t tell me it was by the Texas Rangers in a Lynch mob justice . I couldn’t believe it when I found out about it.

    • Jerry Lujan May 16, 2012 at 5:16 AM #

      Noel,.

      Join the club of ever growing historians on this blog. I can’t express how much my life has been enriched since I joined the blog and entered and began daily long conversations with Prima Elisa. Now we are working in on several projects, one of which is to request the Department of Interior, under Secretary Ken Salazar, to consctruction a memorial of the Porvenir Massacre. And, that the story be included in future curriculum of Texas History.

      • Noel Ybarra May 16, 2012 at 1:55 PM #

        Jerry, I just might do that. I did send an email to Governor Perry about making the site a Texas historical marker and putting a memorial, also asked about adding it to the Texas history curriculum. The email autoreply said it could take up to eight weeks to get a reply.

      • Bert Lujan January 17, 2013 at 4:52 AM #

        Jerry,

        How are you coming along with the memorial of Porvenir? Just heard the news that Ken Salazar is stepping down as Interior Secretary.

        Bert Lujan
        kd7jeh@cableone.net

      • Debbie Pimentel August 22, 2014 at 1:42 AM #

        Hello Jerry, I am wondering if you might know of any other blogs of this type. I would love to continue reading histories of this type.

    • Roberto Moralez December 12, 2012 at 2:21 PM #

      My father Leandro Moralez is the son of Manuel Moralez. He was 12 years when the Massacre accur in 1917. My dad told me a few details of what happen on that day.
      I just curious as to how you are related to my Grandfather Manuel Moralez

  17. gilroy jurado mendoza August 11, 2012 at 5:43 PM #

    I heard stories as a boy about a massecre my grandfather had seen when he was five yrs old .his father my great grand father was killed.my grand father ugenio jurado was adopted from german imegrents he had blond hair and blue eyes.the storie is he was spared couse he was mistken for a white boy .i was born in presidio candearia and my grand parents lived in a villege in mexico called sanatnio del bravo.my relatives still live there

  18. connie flores baker October 4, 2013 at 11:48 AM #

    I guess…the stories he told me weren’t just stories.i loved going to his little house in big spring to hear him talk about his past and all the awesome things he did as a boy and a man. even though he has been gone a while I still miss grandpas stories,,,,the ones I tell my boys…

  19. Debbie Pimentel August 22, 2014 at 1:33 AM #

    To Elisa’s son David; I appeal to you and ask that you do not let these stories, and information she has gathered go to waste. It is wonderful reading. I pray they are not lost with Elisa’s passing. I pray her work is not in vain. I hope something is being put together, Transcripts, book fashion something to bring all this and her other information to the people, to the families, she so disparately, and with Loving care tried to reach. They are wonderful to read this is History of the lives OUR many Ancestors lived. It takes us to them, and shows us their lives. I know it was her plan to bring all her information together in a larger book , and I implore you and the family to bring this forward in her memory. She had packed up documents and records she has gathered on the Rede Familia, and when we met, she became my mentor, she helped me to find many branches or our family that we never new existed this is what she did for us. And since that moment this has happened over and over again, bringing so many family members forward, this is what she did for us, THIS! She had place all her Rede Records in a large box as was going to send them to me, I was going to help her with the postage was all she asked of me. Her generous Heart I could not believe she was so generous, this her life’s work. I think this is just before she had become ill, she told me they were in her car and ready to be sent to me. Then I did not here from her for almost a year after monthly emails and phone calls etc. I finally began leaving messages for anyone who would tell me what was happening, then finally David you emailed me and explained your mother illness I was devastated as I know all that loved her are as well. Reading over her Blog today to find some hint of her Family Tree, I began reading each entry, This is just such a treasured gathering of Histories for the people, and towns, that are all a part of this, THIS HISTORY SHOULD NOT BE LOST. and I pray something will come out of this. I pray her dream comes true. I will be the first one to buy this book what ever the cost, it is our family history, Our countries history. those of you who agree with me, I implore you to let her family know, so that it is not all lost, I know there were many more stories, that she had not entered yet, all her interviews etc. It will make a fabulous book . Please do think about this. I have changed my email address , the old one still good but the new one is best. deblo_pim@aol.com

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