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Brewster County, Texas

Glenn Springs, Texas

On the south end of Chilicotal Mountain is Glenn Springs, called that because an old settler by that name lived there.  He grazed a herd of horses in that section and to provide a better water supply for his horses, he dug out the springs.  It is reported that Indians and Mexicans killed him near the spring which still bears his name.  Researchers have discovered that long before Mr. Glenn's heard of horses grazed in the vicinity of Glenn Springs, a herd of Dinosauria grazed there.

Glenn Springs has had a turbulent history. Not only was a man for whom the springs were named murdered there, but in 1916, while officials of both countries were engaged in a peace conference in El Paso, a couple of Mexicans bandits with a large following of compadres raised plenty of cain at Glen Springs before high-tailing it across the Rio Grande into Mexico.

These bandits moved from Torreon to the Rio Grande, recruiting additional men all the way.  Political affilition made no difference for Carranzistas and Villistas both joined.  On Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), an important Mexician holiday, these bandits crossed the Rio Grande where they were joined by relatives and friends on the Texas side.  No one thought anything about their appearance in gradually increasing numbers because the occasion was an important one and celebrators were explected.  By eleven o'clock that night several hundred bandits moved against the little settlement of Glenn Springs, then garrisoned by eight or nine soldiers of the Fourteenth Infantry in charge of Sergeant Smythe.    The attackers tied their horses some distance from the settlement and crept forward on foot.

Two soldiers were on guard and the others asleep, three inside the adobe quarters and the rest outside because the night was hot.  The bandits attacked, yelling "Viva Varranza y Viva Villa."  For several hours the handful of soldiers withstood the attackers but the bandits had planned their campaign well.  They knew that the soldier's quarters were covered with a thatching of candelilla and that it burned like powder so they threw balls of twine and red flannel soaked in kerosene and in full blaze onto the candelilla thatched roofs.  The soldiers were burned out, and in trying to escape three were killed, one was seriously wounded and the others were severely burned.

Living at the settlement then were W.K. Ellis and his wife; C.G. Compton, who clerked in the Ellis Store; and Mr. Compton's three children, a four-year-old boy, a girl and a boy of ten who was a deaf-mute.  A few Mexican families lived in scattered jacals.  At the beginning of the raid, the younger Compton boy was killed and Mr. Compton escaped, carring his little daughter.  He left the deaf-mute child behind because he knew that the Mexicans were afraid to harm a handicapped person--it was one of their superstitions.  The child was not harmed.

The bandits looted the store and the home.  When the Ellis couple heard the shooting, they hid out in the canyon back of their house and walked for twelve miles to the John Rice ranch.  The bandits ransacked the Ellis home, taking all of  Mrs. Ellis' beautiful clothes, but left her silverware in the bottom of her trunk.  Mrs. Ellis had come to Glenn Springs as a bride, and her wedding present and trousseau delighted the looters, who had never seen such finery.  The next day some of the bandits were seen near San Vicente wearing Mrs. Ellis' hats and carrying her elegant parasols on horseback.  They were having a hell of a good time. 

During the battle that night, neighbors at a ranch about three miles away heard the shooting and went to investigate.  Captain C.D. Wood at first thought it was a Cinco de Mayo celebration, but when the shooting continued he awakened Oscar de Montel, who was staying at Wood's house and together they started to Glenn Springs.  The night was pitch-dark and they got off the road and into a cactus flat.  It took them almost three hours to reach Glenn Springs.  They were within fifty yards of the store when they heard horses eating corn and Mexicans talking. 

De Montel started up a hill to get a better view of the flaming building when some one said, "Quien vieve?"  When De Montel asked "Quien es?" the shooting started.  Wood and De Montel took off like scared jackrabbits and ran into a wire fence which knocked them flat on their backs.  A bullet hit a rock at Captain Wood's feet and shattered fragments of rock struck his hand.  He thought he was shot, but didn't stop to see how seriously.  When the two were out of the range of gunfire they stopped and hid until morning.  The raiders left before daylight and Wood and De Montel went down to help the soldiers, who were terribly burned.  Captain Wood said that they had blisters as large as a man's hand all over their bodies.

The bandits who raided Glenn Springs gathered up their loot and their dead and rode to Boquillas, Texas, where they joined those who had raided the Jesse Deemer store and the ones who had captured the miners and the mine payroll at Del Carmen mines in Boquillas, Mexico.

The peace conference in El Paso was halted when news of the Glenn Springs raid was recieved on Sunday.  Colonel Langhorne and the Eighth Cavalry were ordered to follow the bandits into Mexico and to return the American captives and American property.  But by the time the news had reached El Paso and the army could march to Boquillas, the bandits had four days' start on them and were long gone.  The captives were abandoned at El Peno because the bandits didn't want to meet with the United States Army while holding captives.

Carranza raised sand about the army being on Mexican soil, and President Wilson ordered Langhorne to return to the Texas side of the Rio Grande.  The bandits were never punished but most of the loot was recovered and the captives were returned unharmed.  But Mrs. Ellis' hats and parasols remained in Mexico.

After the raid on Boquillas and Glenn Springs, Texan tempers were pretty hot and a lot of good men would have been shot if Roy Stillwell had not been on hand to give a clean bill of health to some of the Mexicans in the vicinity.  The Texans were mad because the little Compton boy had been killed and because there had been so much destruction of property and life in the raids.  Their impulse was to shoot all Mexicans on sight.  The lead editorial written by W.J. Newsom, editor of the local paper, the Marathon Hustler, May 13, 1916, had this to say about the tense situation on the border after the bandit raids:  "Men joke and laugh in the presence of death and destruciton, and there is no such thing as murder.  Every man would think he was honored to be detailed to fire the fatal shot that would send some raider to his death.   There is an element of Justice running through it all that takes away all sense of barbarism; but there is only two words in everyman's mind, 'Kill and Revenge.'  And heaven help the Mexican that can't show a clean record."

After the Glenn Springs and Boquillas raids, Mexicans in the lower Big Bend country had to have letters of recomendation or some proof that they were not connected with the raiders if they wanted to work or even stay on the Texas side of the river. 

Brewster County

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