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Chepita Rodriguez

Josefa “Chepita” Rodriguez ran an inn on the old Cotton Road between Refugio and Aransas Pass around the time of the Civil War.   Sometimes her name is spelled Chapita or Chipita, but Chepita appears to be the most common spelling.

Her story began when the body of John Savage, a cotton dealer and horse trader, was found wrapped in burlap in the Aransas River near San Patricio.  Savage was reported to have boasted of making a recent horse sale to the Union Army, not popular in an area that was largely in support of the Confederacy.  Savage had apparently been murdered with an ax as he carried $600 in gold, although the gold was supposedly found still in saddlebags near his remains.  Rodriguez was accused of the crime along with Juan Silvera, her hired hand, who also may have been her son.

Chepita was indicted, tried and convicted for the crime.  The jury recommended leniency due to her age, since she was thought to have been in her mid 60s or older.  Other than minutes of the District Court of San Patricio County, official records of the trial no longer exist.  The jury verdict reportedly read, “We the jury find the defendant Chepita Rodriguez guilty of murder in the first degree, but on account of her old age and the circumstantial evidence against her do recommend her to the mercy of the court.”  Silvera was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to five years in prison.  There was apparently a motion, later withdrawn, for a new trial for Chepita.  At the sentencing, she did not speak on her own behalf, stating that she had nothing to add to her previous statement that she was not guilty.  Chepita was sentenced to death by hanging the following day on November 13, 1863.  By all accounts, the sentence was carried out on the appointed day.  Chepita was reportedly buried beneath the hanging tree, though the exact location of the hanging has been lost to history.

There has been speculation that there may have been irregularities in the trial and that Chepita may have been framed for the crime.  Points in favor include the statement that the county sheriff was foreman of the grand jury and that there were several indicted felons allowed to serve on the trial jury.  These factors are said to have violated Texas statues at the time.  A possible motive was that Chepita was unpopular in the area because of her political statements and activities.  Chepita’s execution is said to have been the first such execution in Texas for a female in Texas, though some accounts place her as the second.

Since then, her story has become a legend.  It has given rise to reports of ghostly visions of a woman with a noose around her neck appearing to people around San Patricio.  Also mentioned is that November 13, 1863 was a Friday, Friday the Thirteenth for the superstitious.  The ghost is said to roam the banks of the river, moaning and weeping. Some say that Chepita walks when a woman is unjustly accused of murder.

ghost

(Image: uncredited)

In 1985, Texas Senator Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi introduced a resolution to absolve Chepita Rodriguez of the murder of John Savage.  After discussion, the resolution was adopted by the 69th Texas legislature and signed June 13, 1985 by late Governor Mark White.

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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in folklore, texas, texas women, unsolved mystery

 

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Goddess of Liberty

Standing on the dome of the beautiful Texas Capitol Building in Austin is a statue known as the Goddess of Liberty.  Installed in 1888, she carries a sword in her right hand and her upright left hand holds a star.  The figure which stands 15 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and weighs one and one half tons was designed by the architect of the Capitol, Elijah E. Myers.  Texans were proud to boast that the statue made the Texas Capitol Building several feet taller than the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in history, texas, texas women

 

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The Flying Stinsons

Eddie Stinson had begun his career in aviation in San Antonio, Texas and was the brother of pioneer aviatrix, Katherine Stinson.  Katherine was a prodigy in the new world of aviation.  The youngest of four children, she had been captivated by the lure of airplanes, so much so that she sold her piano to raise the money for flying lessons.  The year was 1912, only a few short years after the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight in 1903.  Her first solo flight was in a similar-looking aircraft to the Kitty Hawk plane, which more nearly resembled a box kite than what we know as an aircraft.  She said that at the time, it was supposed to take 250 minutes of flying lessons to learn how to fly.  Katherine quickly took to it and indeed soloed after four hours of flying lessons.  Licensing requirements were not as strict back then.  Katherine said that all she had to do was climb to 800 feet, do some figure-eights, glide with the power off and make a smooth landing.  She was the fourth woman ever to obtain a pilot’s license.

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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women

 

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Kate Ross Padgitt and Steamboats on the Brazos

Kate Ross Padgett was born January 6, 1851 and was the first white child born in Waco.  Her parents were Shapley Prince and Catherine Fulkerson Ross and they lived in a log cabin built near the Brazos River.  Her older brother was Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross who was a young child when the family moved to Texas.  The exact location of the home is thought to be on the west side of the Brazos near downtown Waco, near the intersection of what was then Bridge Street and First Street, roughly where the Waco Suspension Bridge meets the river today.  There was a natural spring nearby.  The cabin was later replaced by a hotel, the first hotel in Waco, when the Ross family moved to a home near 12th and Dutton streets.

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women

 

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Ima Hogg

imahogg

(Image credit: Houston Museum of Fine Arts)

One of the more unique and recognizable names in Texas was Miss Ima Hogg.  Her father was James Stephen Hogg, the first native born governor of Texas, who served as governor from 1891 to 1895.  James and Sarah Ann Stinson Hogg had three sons and Imogene, their only daughter.  It is not known for certain who Imogene was named for, but the story is told that James had a brother named Thomas Elisha Hogg, a Confederate Captain, who had written a Civil War poem “The Fate of Marvin.”  The poem was about a Southern girl named Ima who had cared for a Union soldier.  There are some stories floating around that she had a sister named Ura, but according to published genealogy records, Ima was the only daughter of Jim Hogg and Sarah Stinson Hogg.

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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in history, texas, texas women

 

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Dale Evans, born in Uvalde

daleevans_gettyimages

(Image credit: gettyimages.com, showing Dale Evans between the actor Jimmy Stewart and Dale’s husband Roy Rogers.)

Dale Evans was born Lucile Smith (later changed to Frances Octavia Smith) on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas to Walter Hillman Smith and Bettie Sue Coln, according to published genealogy records.  The family later moved to Osceola, Arkansas where she attended high school.  When she was 14, she eloped and married Thomas Frederick Fox with whom she had her first born son, Tom Fox, Jr.  The marriage ended shortly thereafter and two years later, she married August W. Johns.  In 1936, she married Robert Dale Butts, which relationship lasted about nine years.  She had no children from the latter two marriages.  In her early years, she struggled as a single parent and supported herself by working as a secretary, a singer and working in radio in Chicago, Memphis, Dallas and Louisville.  She was given the stage name of Dale Evans by a radio station manager who suggested it because it was easier to pronounce than Frances Octavia Smith.

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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women

 

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Rachel Parker Plummer

Cynthia Ann Parker’s tragic story is better known, but there were other individuals including Rachel Parker Plummer who were taken by the Comanches in the attack on Fort Parker.  The battle occurred on May 19, 1836 at a fort near Groesbeck, Limestone County, Texas.  At the time, there were thirty or more members of the extended Parker family living in or around the stockade fort.  Killed were Silas Mercer Parker, John Parker, Samuel Frost, Robert Frost and Benjamin Parker.  Those who were captured included Cynthia Ann Parker, her brother John Richard Parker, Elizabeth Kellogg, Rachel Parker Plummer and her three year old son James Pratt Plummer.

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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in biography, history, texas, texas women

 

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