Friday, July 28, 2017


(After Mexican President Benito Juarez died, the new Mexican president Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada convened a Investigative Commission (Comision Pesquisidora) in 1872 to determine the extent of cattle and horse rustling on both sides of the border by Mexicans as well as Texans and U.S. Citizens. They assembled in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and then proceeded to Matamoros, Tamaulipas to hold their hearings. An invitation was sent to authorities and ranchers on both sides of the Rio Grande to provide proof of their claims. No U.S. citizens or officials attended the commission's hearings, so the commissioners relied on newspaper accounts and official documents for their findings. The following are excerpts from their report.)

"In examining the the relations between both sides of the border since 1848, one of the most important aspects of this relationship is the widespread commission of rustling. During the Texan war for independence (1836) and up to 1848, the theft of livestock, both bovine and equine, saw an extraordinary increase in the region between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River to the point where the area was left uninhabited and almost completely devoid of all livestock.

"Parties of Americans, Texans, Mexicans and Indians, depleted this area in a few years of the wealth of animal husbandry it once had: Sparsely populated, and absent the presence of either Texan or Mexican authority, not only did it lose this wealth, but it also generated immense immorality. The first wave of migration into the area (between the Nueces and the Rio Grande) did not correct this situation, but on the contrary, worsened it, because the new immigrants did not distinguish themselves by the righteousness of their character...

"...Fugitives from Mexico who had committed crime there found refuge from punishment for their crimes, as did fortune seekers from the United States who acted without measure to achieve it, and criminals who were fleeing Texas justice – due to the disorganized nature of the area could blend into the population who was unaware of their crimes...To be sure, there were persons of good character among them, but, in relation to the general mass of the people there, constituted by a small percentage of it, which leads us to believe that they had but a small part in establishing the general character of the inhabitants.

"The thirst to acquire wealth had evolved to a point that, to acquire it, all methods to achieve it seemed acceptable. Since the herds of horses and cattle in the area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande had been completely depleted, there was only one other source of wealth: land. The rapacity for his resource led to the spoliation – sometimes by force of arms – and the majority of it abetted by the new judiciary.

"Along the river, on the Mexican states, there at one time existed a great number of wild horse and cattle herds until wholesale rustling of animals from Mexico to Texas started and increased to alarming proportions, and the sale of these stolen animals, in Texas, became over time the sole commerce of some individuals...The ease in which the rustlers had since 1848 to sell them on the north side of the Rio Grande increased this crime to extraordinary levels...

"The level of rustling in northern Tamaulipas acquired such huge proportions that on March 11, 1852, the municipal government of Reynosa felt it necessary to request aid from the Mexican consul in Matamoros to relate to him the depredations on Mexican ranchers there from Texas rustlers. They told him that in the past few days, a party of Americans led by Federico Mathews had set up camp in Salinas and gathered a herd of some 400 horses that they stole from the pastures along the river and told the consul that it was not the first time that Mathews had raided the area and asked him to report this to the authorities in Brownsville to put an end to this situation...

(John S. Rhea, the U.S. Customs administrator in Point Isabel, told the Mexican consul that he had issued an order for the arrest of Mathews for introducing contraband into the United States and that Mathews was reported near the Nueces on his way to San Patricio with the stolen livestock. The Mexican consul also reported that the customs administrator would publish a warning in the local newspaper warning buyers of the penalties for buying contraband.)

"On April 17, 1852, the warning appeared in the Bandera Americana (American Flag), a newspaper published in Brownsville, notifying the residents that a large herd of animals had been stolen in Reynosa, had been introduced clandestinely into the United States, and were being driven into the interior of Texas for sale and that potential buyers should be aware of the penalties for becoming involved in the fraud.

"Not all the herd that was stolen by Mathews and his raiding party was recovered, except for a part of the herd on its way to San Antonio de Bejar, Texas, a fact which the consul of Matamoros conveyed to the Reynosa ayuntamiento. Such was the state of disorganization in Texas that when the owners of the horses went to collect them and drive them back to Reynosa, they were waylaid twice on their way back by other bands of horse thieves who tried to rob them again at gunpoint."


Anonymous said...

Who gives a flying shit, bro! Means squat to me!!!! write about the cantinas, dammit! shit.

Diego Lee Rot said...

White Devils

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Nueces Strip, i.e. the land between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers was a lawless area where no man's life or property was safe. So Gov. Coke in 1875 sent Cpt. Leander Mcnelly and a company of Rangers to clean up the Nueces strip and to establish law and order.

Ncnelly did just that and the means he used often were neither pretty or legal. Before we get to critical, consider the times and circumstances. Handing our flyers with the counsel to obey the law and be good people would have little effect. Truth is there were few good people either Mexican or Anglo in this part of the world at that time.

But today we can drive on the Texas Highways with little fear of getting ambushed, robbed or murdered, which is not the case today in Mexico. We can give Leander Mcnelly much credit for the safety we enjoy today.

KBRO said...

thanks also to Rand McNally for making maps.