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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Hanging preceded death of a town

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Chipita Rodriquez died on Friday, Nov. 13th, 1863.

She is believed to be the only woman ever legally hanged by the state of Texas. Though guilty by circumstantial evidence only, her death seemed to place a curse on the town of San Patricio, Texas, as it signaled the beginning of the end of the small settlement.

History states a horse trader stopped by Chipita's home on the Aransas River between Refugio and San Patricio to spend the night. His saddle bags held $600 in gold taken in payment for a horse herd sold to the Confederate Army earlier and he was returning home.

He left the next morning early but was later found hacked to death, floating in a canvas bag just down-river from Chipita's home. The investigation linked Chipita and her employee Juan Silvera to the death with robbery as the motive.

The pair were indicted for murder and both pled not guilty. Strangely, neither uttered another word during the trial, supposedly protecting each other through silence.

The details have not survived but somehow Juan received a five-year sentence for his part, but Chipita was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to be hanged.

She was hanged at sunrise from a mesquite tree on Friday the 13th, convicted on purely circumstantial evidence and buried in an unmarked grave.

Later, the gold was found intact in the trader's saddlebags sitting on the riverbank. Some years later a dying rancher finally confessed to the murder in a dispute over a horse trade deal gone bad. San Patricio began declining immediately after Chipita's death eventually losing its designation as a county seat and post office, later becoming a ghost town.

If the truth were known, probably every battle fought had a few unsung heros. One "doggone" story involves unsung heros at the famous Battle of Adobe Walls in the Panhandle.

Buffalo hunters nearly always kept dogs for warning of Indians nearby. During the Battle of Adobe Walls the Shadler brothers were caught sleeping in their wagon outside the buildings and were killed immediately. Their dog, a large Newfoundland, put up such a fight defending his masters the Indians honored its bravery by removing a patch of fur from his side like a scalp.

There were several dogs living at the site at the time of the battle. Most took off for the timber during the heat of battle.

Billy Dixon, one of the hunters present owned a dog named Fanny who disappeared during the fight. The men fled to Dodge City immediately after the battle and Dixon figured he would never see Fanny again.

Seven months later, when Dixon returned to Adobe Walls working as a U.S. Army scout, he found Fanny alive and well living in the burned ruins. She promptly gathered up four puppies whose father had to have been the big Shadler dog who had died in the battle.

Such stories remind us that in spite of wars and rumors of wars, amid hard-times and strife and death and destruction the unsung heros keep right on going.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" May 29, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

 
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