Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

Sometimes the historians lose the spirit of the story in doing so.1 The story of Petra Kenedy and most Tejanas must be told like those gleaners because so many facts of their lives and their families have fallen between the cracks of history. Thus we have at times gone outside the mainline historical sources to find more of the story. However, as can be noted from research of various historical events, and as ...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-6

She became Mifflin’s wife, mother of their children, and matriarch of one of the most powerful families in Texas. He became one of the most successful frontier capitalists and the patriarch of three generations of Kenedys. Little has been written about these two in spite of the fact that their lives touched most of the major historical people and events that ...

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C h a p t e r 1: 1823‒54: “Into Her World”—Petra’s Story

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pp. 7-23

The hot Texas sun was beating down on the city of Brownsville and the adjacent Rio Grande. A thin layer of dust covered the city outside as candlelight reflected a soft glow on the group gathered in front of the altar. Father Jean Marie Casimir Verdet, the local pastor and head of the small group of French Oblate missionaries in the Rio Grande Valley, was there to perform a ceremony that would eventually affect the lives of ...

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C h a p t e r 2: 1823‒54: “Into Her World”—Mifflin’s Story

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pp. 24-45

His mother, Sarah Starr Kenedy, was a devout member of the Society of Friends, a Christian sect founded in England about 1650 by George Fox. The Society of Friends had such distinctions as plainness of dress, amounting almost to a uniform, and “plainness of speech,” especially illustrated by the uses of “thee” and “thou” rather than “you,” expressions ...

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C h a p t e r 3: 1855‒60: Forging a Life in Brownsville

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pp. 46-75

Petra also established her place in the emerging Brownsville community and helped the church build one of the finest structures in Texas. During this period Mifflin’s company survived a difficult time, maneuvering through drought and competitive pressure to emerge prosperous. Mifflin and King, always looking toward the future, turned their eyes north to the Wild Horse Desert and the beginning of ...

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C h a p t e r 4: 1860‒62: War Clouds Gather

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pp. 76-97

There were nineteen members of the household. Mifflin was forty-one years old and a steamboat captain with a real estate value of $50,000 and personal value of $50,000. Petra at thirty-four years old was listed as a housekeeper, as was Henrietta King. Petra’s children, Louisa, eighteen; Rosa, sixteen; Adrian fifteen; Concepción, thirteen; and Vicenta, eleven, are all in the household. ...

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C h a p t e r 5: 1863: War Closes in on the Rio Grande Valley

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pp. 98-116

The boys needed to be in school and Mifflin knew they would receive a good education in Pennsylvania. Even though they would not be completely out of the war in Coatesville they would be in Quaker country and, he hoped, removed from most of the conflicts. Brownsville schools closed as the northern army successfully blockaded the mouth of the Rio Grande on the Texas side and began ...

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C h a p t e r 6: 1864‒65: Chaos along the Rio Grande

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pp. 117-140

Union officers and troops occupied Brownsville, and most of the citizens had fled to Matamoros for safety. Petra and Mifflin were surrounded by friends and family who were now living in Matamoros, which was full of Union sympathizers, Confederate supporters, and foreign merchants hoping to make money in the cotton trade. The town and surrounding ...

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C h a p t e r 7: 1866: Home Again

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pp. 141-152

On January 5, 1866, the Union troops at Clarksville, who were newly mustered out of the army and waiting for transport, turned their frustrations across the river. Three hundred troops crossed the Rio Grande and attacked Bagdad. In what is known as the “Bagdad Raid,” the mostly black soldiers killed the justice of the peace, damaged buildings, and left twenty people dead. ...

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Ch a p t e r 8: 1867‒68: “Woe to Brownsville! Woe to Matamoros!”

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pp. 153-170

After the war, over a thousand soldiers on the Rio Grande left the army and many of them stayed along the river. Cameron County, which included the city of Brownsville, needed to reorganize. Mifflin served on the Brownsville City Council with Stephen Powers, Adolphus Glavecke, Alexander Werbiski, Henry Miller, and Robert Shears. These men were all ex-Confederates or ...

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C h a p t e r 9: 1869‒71: “¿Quién Viene? ”

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pp. 171-188

The firm of King, Kenedy & Co. was now virtually dissolved. Charles Stillman had moved to New York. The other partners had found new involvements, and the businessmen of Brownsville began to sit back while the more aggressive merchants of Corpus Christi and San Antonio bid for leadership and control of the steamship trade.1 Kenedy and King had lost much of their influence ...

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C h a p t e r 1 0: 1872‒74: One Foot in Brownsville, One in the Wild Horse Desert

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pp. 189-198

They were still involved in Brownsville with their family and business interests. However, the steamboat business was slowly dying, while the cattle business was on the verge of exploding. Thus they had one foot in Brownsville and the other in the Wild Horse Desert at their Los Laureles Ranch. The decade from 1870 to 1880 would be full of challenges and turmoil for ...

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C h a p t e r 11: 1873: Politics, Bandits, and Hard Economic Times

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pp. 199-214

The unsolved railroad issues demanded a great deal of Mifflin’s attention. John Gregory, seventeen, was one year from completing his studies at Spring Hill College. Willie, fifteen, continued his studies at Spring Hill, and Sarah, sixteen, continued at the Ursuline Academy. Tom, twenty, and James, eighteen, were in Texas with Mifflin and Petra. Her married ...

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C h a p t e r 1 2: 1874: Railroads and Cattle Drives

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pp. 215-222

He was interested in providing protection along the border, but it took him a while to get his forces engaged in keeping the peace and stopping the thievery in the Nueces Strip. In the meantime, Cortina’s power had never been greater along the border. Adj. Gen. William Steel said, “It is impossible to conceive . . . of the extent of the power of this great robber chief. It is a well-known ...

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Ch a p t e r 1 3: 1875: Leander McNelly and the Texas Rangers

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pp. 223-235

Willie was sixteen and Mifflin was fifty-three. A gentle and studious boy, Willie took after his father’s side of the family, and he adored Mifflin. In the letter he worried about his father and “the disasters that befell you during my stay at home on vacation and the damage done to our ranch.” He hoped, “You may live to see your ‘Golden Wedding’ and gather your children and grandchildren to give them ...

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C h a p t e r 1 4: 1876: The Apple of His Father’s Eye

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pp. 236-244

The lawlessness continued to surround her and the family on the ranch, everyone living in the Wild Horse Desert lived in terror. In January, Rip Ford accompanied Captain McNelly to Washington, D.C., to testify before a special committee that included former Union Army generals Banks and Hurlbut. They traveled there to describe the conditions in ...

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C h a p t e r 1 5: 1877‒78: “A Fiend in Human Form”

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pp. 245-262

At last the ranchers on the Wild Horse Desert could concentrate on delivering their beef to the northern markets. For the first time in a long time three of Petra’s sons were at home with her. Tom, James, and John worked at Los Laureles,, which was especially nice after the loss of Willie. Sarah and Dr. Spohn would make their home in Corpus Christi and her married daughters ...

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C h a p t e r 1 6:

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pp. 263-271

While Mifflin was away, another tragedy struck the family. Petra’s granddaughter, Fred and Vicenta’s five-year-old daughter Daisy, was attending a parade on January 13 with her family. The maid let her leave her side and Daisy dashed out into the street and was killed under the wheels of a wagon. The maid was so distraught that she ran away and was never heard from again.2 It ...

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C h a p t e r 1 7:

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pp. 272-280

She had grown up on similar land and she was at home at Los Laureles. In the next year she would be moving to town and meeting the challenges of adapting to new friends, to a new home, and a new church. Her heart longed to be back in Brownsville and near her daughters and her grandchildren. Spanish was the language of the ranch and in the family. In Corpus ...

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C h a p t e r 1 8: 1882: La Parra—The Grapevine Ranch

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pp. 280-288

There was less water and less grass. Things were not well at the Santa Gertrudis rancho. Young Bland Chamberlain, Henrietta’s half brother, was working a pasture in the stifling heat and came down with a fever. Although immediately taken to headquarters, he grew steadily worse. The young man was delirious; he asked for Captain King, who had been like a father to him. When King arrived he ...

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C h a p t e r 1 9: 1883: They Were Always There for One Another

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pp. 289-304

The drought came close to forcing one of the families to sell a ranch, and illness reappeared. They had always been there for one another over the past thirty years, and in no year did they need the companionship more than in this one. Both families focused their attention on Corpus Christi and planned to make it their permanent home. In 1883 the town had a population of three ...

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C h a p t e r 2 0: 1884: Farewell to Santiago

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pp. 305-335

She seldom could even go downstairs. Mifflin was staying close, taking care of her and seeing to it that she had the best of care. Mifflin was having financial problems, which he shared with his friend Captain King. They continued to support each other in times of need but, like Petra, King also had a sickness growing inside of him. Management of the ranch challenged Mifflin as his sons’ lives had changed ...

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C h a p t e r 2 1: 1885: Goodbye to Petrita

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pp. 336-347

Nene was not going to let Luisa get ahead of her in bringing a cake to the paper’s employees. Life quickly turned solemn for the two sisters and Petra when Capt. William Kelly recorded in his diary on January 6 that charges had been preferred in the Masonic Lodge headquarters against Fred Starck. The trial was filed for Thursday, January 5. On January 15, Fred Starck was found guilty ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 348-358

Dr. Herff told me she would last some months. It seems to me I cannot grasp the situation. I can hardly believe she has gone.”1 Mifflin had one more death to attend—that of his best friend Captain King. Richard King died in San Antonio on April 14, a month after Petra’s death, with Mifflin and King’s family at his bedside. Mifflin returned with the family to Santa Gertrudis and ...

Notes

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pp. 359-404

Bibliography

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pp. 405-416

Index

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pp. 417-430