SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 2000-2006, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
The Irish Colonies-Index | Coahuila y
THE HANGING OF CHEPITA RODRIGUEZ
Chipita Rodríguez was probably named Josefa and is thought to be the
daughter of Pedro Rodríguez, both lived in San Patricio de Hibernia in the 1830's.
She and Juan Silvera speculated to be a son were indicted for the robbery and murder of
traveler John Savage whose body was found in the Aransas River north of San Patricio with
over $600 in gold intact. Chipita pleaded not guilty, the jury recommended mercy,
but the judge named Neil ordered her executed on November 13, 1863. Most court records were destroyed and there are many variations in accounts
of the trial and irregularities in the proceedings. The trial and the hanging has
been the source material for prolific legend. Some claim she was buried alive, some
say she was framed for political activity. She is the subject of dramatic ghost
stories and is said to haunt the San Patricio area over the years and appears whenever a
women is to be executed as a specter with a noose around her neck roaming the river
bottoms. She was often said to be the first legal execution of a woman in Texas (she
was probably the second). In 1985 the Texas legislature absolved Chipita Rodríguez
of murder. The poetic version by Ms. Hebert is based on the legend that Chipita was
protecting her son who committed the crime and numerous interviews from now deceased
residents of San Patricio. Ms. Hebert (now deceased) was a dedicated researcher and
protagonist for preservation of the history of the Irish Colonies, particularly
McMullen-McGloin and San Patricio. This electronic reprint and modification of her
poetic treatment of the legend in From San Patricio de
Hibernia: The Forgotten Colony by Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas is dedicated to
her memory and that of her aunt Lida Dougherty who came before her.
|Under a tree by the river Nueces
Kate McCumber paused to listen.
There a redbird chirped a song.
Gaily he sang and hopped along
As he watched the water glisten
Where no shadows fell to dim it.
But his notes recalled a story
Far estranged from repertory.
|Years had passed since Kate had listened
To a woman's full confession.
Now a trill which pierced the air
Drew it straight from hiding where,
Pigeon-holed in her possession,
It had lain like faded letter.
There were parts which fell to pieces
When she smoothed out all the creases.
|Then she felt a hand on shoulder,
"Mother, tell my why I find you
Dreaming where the river bends
Just before the sun descends?
Father sent me to remind you
That he's home and there is waiting."
Kate recoiled. These words stunned her
Like a sudden bolt of thunder
More than luminous shadows
Which natives vow have hovered
Near this dying gallows tree
Since the fall of sixty-three
Shadows rise when dusk has covered
All the river's wooded bottoms.
Then on stormy nights they mention
How a wail invites attention.
Kate then said, "This is my answer
Forty years ago to the hour
Here in this secluded spot
Once a woman met her lot.
Time has sorely dulled my power
To repeat each word and sentence
Of Chepita's strange confession.
Memory has made concession
For I've pieced it all together.
Clearly see her now before me
How she looked that autumn night
When she revealed her plight.
Lifting my hand in hers, she swore me
Never to divulge her secret
Until the years had brewed a potion
Which had quieted all emotion."
Then her daughter quickly asked her
"All these years you've kept it hidden?
Let me be the first to know!
Let your story rise and flow
Out of your mind it lies unbidden.
Let it move like the brimming river
Where water eddies and rushes
Past the live oaks as it gushes."
Eagerly she waited and she listened
Ready to hear Chepita's mystery.
"Tell it though it dims with age
That it always be a page
Read by lovers of Texas history."
Kate lifted her eyes to sunset,
Then they fell to moving water
As she began to tell her daughter.
Flight and the Prairie
In the early eighteen hundreds
Pedro Rodriguez crossed the border.
(This was when all Texas still
Lay submissive to Mexican will.)
Santa Anna had spread disorder
Ravaging Mexico like a cyclone.
Pedro, her father, was fleeing for cover
Where this menace would not hover.
Father and child were close companions.
Oft would he sit and hold her.
Then he'd name the tales he knew,
But from the lot she always drew
One from the Aztecs. Then he told her
Swelled with forebears' pride,
Falling Eagle died preferring
Torture and death not demurring,
Rather than tell Cortes, the Spaniard,
Of the Aztec treasures hidden.
This was Cuauhtemoc, the Aztec chief,
Brave and daring but torn by grief,
That his tribesmen were overridden.
Such were the tales Chepita remembered.
From the time that she was christened
She sat on his knee and listened.
Then as Santa Anna threatened,
Pedro decided to flee him.
He and Chepita began to swim
Side by side on the river's brim.
Hoping the Rio Grande would free him,
Pedro again renewed his courage.
There his wife had died with fever.
Pedro wept, but had to leave her.
When Santa Anna pitted against him.
Pedro resolved to flee no longer;
When Texans rang alarms
Quickly Pedro took up arms.
He didn't question which was stronger,
With a hate that burned his bosom,
He joined the Texas Revolution.
Vengeance on Santa Anna's pollution!
Live as a shadow in search of freedom?
Never shall Pedro flee or surrender!
Better death on the battlefield
Than to this ruthless tyrant yield
Liberty born of blood. O pretender,
Hear Hidalgo's Bell re-echo?
Clearly it rings above your guns
Calling to arms all freeborn sons.
Lonely, Chepita lived among strangers
After Pedro's fall in battle.
Like a fox, a beguiling thief
Gave her a son in midst of her grief
Then snatched him away like cattle
As calves are stolen and branded.
Love was the weapon used by the trader
He deceived her and then turned raider.
Empty-armed, she moved to the prairie
Near a river arched by branches.
On the live oaks, moss and vines
Looped and hung to weave designs.
Like a brother, the bordering ranches
Welcomed to their prairies with open door.
Her innocence blighted,
On the prairie life was righted.
Sky and earth became her companion
Alone she learned their changes.
When their silence was so deep
The times when the wily sleep
Left her bed to roam the ranges.
Evening was the hour for watching
Sunset with her brushes
Paint the sky with glowing flushes.
Here listened to symphonies of wild life
Here she sat identifying;
Cunning coyote's treble yelp
Calling for a straying whelp
Came in clear and multiplying.
While she listened down the prairie,
Owls on watch would hoot their story,
Sharing in melodic glory.
Near the river stood her cabin
Covered by vines which nature planted.
Often the dew and falling mist
Turned their grapes to amethyst.
Long ago the Indians chanted
When they tented by the river.
So Aransas they had named it
Long before the Texans claimed it.
Here in the eighteen hundreds
Stretched Texas fenceless pastures
Dotted by cenizo's purple bloom.
Then the mesquite with lacy plume
Waved above where cactus squatted
All along the Texas coast.
So to cross it men would straddle
Horse's backs with pummeled saddle.
There she the traveler beckoned,
Cheered him when he came imploring
That she lodge a passing guest
As he sorely needed rest.
She would sweep the earthen flooring
Under a lean-to roofed with palm leaves.
There she'd place his cot and feed him,
Once inside she scarcely heeds him.
Long before the sun made shadows
Pointing westward when dawn would glimmer,
When the gray of morning spread
Like the nimbus overhead
Till these shadows growing dimmer
Pointed eastward, he would journey.
This was how the Texan traveled.
Thus how trails were all unraveled.
Years passed and Chepita's living
Came from pittance of each stranger.
Death or Time could not erase
Father Pedro's dark stoic face
As he told her, "If some danger
Lurks about and finds you,
Be as quiet as the water."
This was what her father taught her.
Keen to sniff the autumn norther
Coming swifter than a sprinter,
While the blue was banking high
Barricading the northern sky,
She as if to challenge winter
Rushed outside to let its freshness
Press against her. But she shivered
While within her spirit quivered.
Should this cavalry of winter
Trample thus her soul and reason
If there were no danger near?
Would her peace all disappear
With more onslaughts now in season?
Turning back she heard forebodings
Crystallize when hoofbeats sounded.
There a horseman's mustang pounded.
Here was a traveler seeking shelter
Three more days to destination.
Saddlebags which bulged with gold
From the horses he had sold
Signified his occupation.
She forgot her premonition
Since he was no Texas Ranger,
Why should she imagine danger?
He was Savage, first of travelers
Who stopped that night
She surmised he was adept
With the pistol which he kept.
There it lay as he was keeping
Watch on the bags, bulged with gold.
Stiff and tired from all day astraddle,
Glad was he to be out of saddle.
Dusk had settled o're the prairie
When another came to bother.
As he neared in twilight haze,
(Was this a dreaming? Was this a daze?)
She beheld the form of father!
Once in a flash she wondered
Was it clearly apparition
Or simply was it mother's intuition?
Dusk became a curtain of darkness
Under the lean-to where both were lying.
Quickly out the back she strolled.
There in the prairie where she told
All her longings. If she were dying,
She would seek the prairie.
Breathing deep so not to smother,
She whispered, "I am his mother!"
Suddenly she heard commotion
After a blow with echo hollow.
Rushing past where there she found
Savage sprawled upon the ground.
He was limp, a lifeless swallow.
Then she heard a horse's hoofbeats
She pronounced her son the slayer,
But the dead would here betray her.
Trapped with evidence of murder
She paced the trail which skirted
All along her garden edge.
She had made no mother's pledge
That she would shield him who deserted.
Thus her hour of desperation!
Unaware he had forsaken
Alone he left her to be taken.
Savage's horse would carry him
Into Mexico's protection
This she half-wished, but she had learned
Never to hope for what she yearned.
She recalled his fair complexion,
Which was father's contribution,
Clashed with Indian form and features.
Does mixing blood make fiendish creatures!
There lay the body which she covered
Lest a traveler pass and see it.
First to hide it well away;
Then she'd think what she must say.
There was no use to try to flee.
If she could drag it to the river
Then she thought of Juan Chiquito;
He was too far to call by grito.
Now she spied a lone vaquero
Loom upon the moonlit prairie.
Must she hide or ask him to tell
Juan Chiquito what befell?
Then she thought he's phantom, a fairy,
For she saw no horseman's figure.
But the rider, reappearing,
Spurred his horse, neighing and rearing.
She paced the trail and waited
Till he halted and asked to assist her.
But she prayed him to send
Juan who was camping on the bend.
Juan Chiquito would not resist her
If he were there on turn of the river.
He was slight, a mere stripling
Would he leave the river rippling?
He did come, and together they lifted.
Bent by his burden, Juan was complaining
Although he had carried heavier sacks
But not to hide another's tracks.
His were thoughts of his gaining,
When he asked her, "Where's his saddle?"
Her lips like silent water
Held the secret of the midnight slaughter.
They lugged the sack to the river,
Chose the place to hide it;
Here were banks jagged and steep,
Here was the stream calm and deep.
Under moon and star lamps they tied it.
Each with strength unknown to the other,
Heaved the sack, and thrice they swung it;
And on the third, they flung it.
Chepita recalled the words of father
She knew that danger was prowling.
Juan had not questioned any more
She was silent as before.
Then the coyote commenced their howling;
Theirs was a wail ending with yelping.
Once thrilled by this voice of the prairie.
Now it only made her wary.
Coastward near the Aransas River
Moonlight flooded the bottoms and prairie.
The rustling palm leaves overspread
Lulled Chepita there in bed.
Like the moon she lay solitary,
Her mind was strangely darkened
By thoughts as they flitted by it.
(As the moon when clouds fly by it.)
In October, the month when the norther
Bugles her notes across the prairie.
Stars had gone, and the moon was pale,
But she was glad for the blustery gale.
Morning came, and for her all was airy,
As she sauntered down to the river,
Then she saw its banks were brimming;
Into it men were diving, swimming.
Fear clutched her because she had hidden
The crime that helped the slayer escape them.
They might have means to make her confess.
First she'd wait; they might not press!
Shielded by trees whose branches could scrape,
She recalled the words of her father,
"Be as quiet as the water."
Then she fled before they caught her.
She heard the posse coming.
One glance revealed their mission.
Every mustang held a man
Save the horse which trailed the clan.
All had eyed her with such suspicion,
There was no mistaking the reason
For their coming. "Why had she mounted?"
Sadly she sighed and then recounted.
Miles across the open prairie
Ponies loped as the posse brought her
Near the river called Nueces.
Trees that stood like giantesses
Dropped pecans where gliding water
Wound through swales and marshy bottoms.
Long before the sun had risen,
She was placed inside her prison.
San Patricio, this frontier village
Tamed by daring Irish spirit,
Twice a year would summon court
Which would punish, then exhort
Evil-doers. She had feared it
Waiting then for trial by jury,
For her words might well endanger
Him her son and yet a stranger.
Pistol play for men was common;
Woman was the rare offender.
She had watched the mothers pale
As they saw her chained in jail.
Then their children would befriend her
By such gifts as "smokes" and teacakes.
After standing there and gaping,
They would run to play "escaping."
She could feel the growing tension
Waiting, all alone with none to heed her.
Here came the gamblers leeched to court
Sure of a living off the sport.
There among them rode the leader
Whom she'd housed once by the river.
Now Ben Thompson came to see her,
Told her he would speak to free her.
Kate McCumber watched the sunset
Fade while haze of dusk now hovered.
She had heard the Angelus ring
After the redbird ceased to sing.
While the darkness almost covered
All the trees and winding river.
Kate had paused, her daughter plied her
With a question as she eyed her.
"Why did gamblers follow justice,
Gather where truth was found and sifted?"
Kate continued, "In cattle brands
Lay owner's claim, for lands
Were unfenced and yearlings drifted
Like skiffs on seas of prairie.
Brands all zigzag shone on hides,
One the owner's and some besides.
Every ranchman rounded cattle
Never looking for brands nor owners.
Herds kept at the pace of a snail
As they drove the Kansas Trail.
When they sold them, all were donors
After they gathered here for court,
For they circled round the table
There they reckon as they were able.
Where they sat long after supper
Honesty and Trust presided.
Every ranchman sitting there
Knew the other would not dare
Break the lock where Faith abided.
No one questioned the Texas rancher
As he paid in clinking metal.
This was how he learned to settle.
It was along the river bottoms
Gamblers spread their blanket,
Played at cards by lantern light
Till the sun drove out the night.
Whiskey ran, while they drank it
Bags were emptied; money jingled.
"Gunman" Thompson set the fashion;
Gambling was his driving passion.
He was tall and even-featured
His pants of buckskin leather
Tinkled with fringe he'd strung with dimes
Many said they marked the times
He had won. And while he would tether
Dove, his Arabian mare, in the bottoms,
Ranchers challenged this seasoned winner
Whom the ladies dubbed, "the sinner."
There was a purpose when ranchers gather
Court week, here, in this little village.
If a dispute arose from a sale,
It could be settled, and right prevail.
But the gamblers followed to pillage,
For the ranchers bags of money.
Gamblers, like shearers, never released them
Till they knew that they had fleeced them.
Quickly Chepita rose to the window
When she heard the crunch of gravel
Under hoof and wheel. The coach!
She distinguished its approach
By that single-footing travel
Such were the hoofbeats made by sorrels.
They proclaimed the court's arrival.
(Silently she prayed for her survival.)
When the coach was trailed by horsemen,
She supposed that they had ridden
Miles of prairie just to see
If a woman would go free.
Like a key her tongue lay hidden,
But it still could liberate her.
What if doors were locked and bolted
If the key within revolted?
Now this thought swept fear before it
Just as night recedes at dawning.
Must she give her life for one
Who was a phantom son?
She was not one for pawning
All that was hers was peace and composure.
She wrested life from the prairie.
It had taught her to be wary.
Friday, the ninth of October,
Chains were cut which bound her ankle.
This was the day she entered court
Where she heard the grim report,
"Charged with murder." O the rankle!
Like the sting of a yellow jacket!
There she stood before the people
There, alone, straight as a steeple.
Firmly she answered, "I am not guilty."
But she knew the court was guided
By the evidence of crime.
She could see a mountainous climb
Barring freedom when she decided
She would ascend on the staff of silence.
Givens might spin his web of queries,
But she'd be silent till he wearies.
All the jury had been chosen.
They were "twelve and law-abiding
Faithful men." Now this was read
After the names had all been said.
Lawyers the state were here providing
Waited eager to prosecute her.
There was O'Callaghan, the attorney
Saying this was a worthwhile journey.
Will O'Docharty, the defense counsel,
Would refute the accusation.
Whom would he have to testify?
There was one he might ply
With his questions. His refutation
Of the charge was her fortress.
She'd let silence hang like a curtain
Veiling doubts over minds of the certain.
Big Ben Thompson spoke for Chepita,
Told how he admired her gumption.
Often he had lodged and slept
Undisturbed in the hut she kept.
This, he said, was mere presumption,
Strange to the role of pioneering
Drag Chepita to such a level?
Frankly, it smacked to him of the devil!.
As she sat in the crowded courtroom,
Memory, which never releases,
Echoed hoofbeats galloping past.
Fear swept her son like a blast
For he had flung the coveted pieces
Into the river. This she imagined
When, with prosecuting fury,
Givens displayed gold before the jury.
Pity filled her heart a moment,
For she was once wound in
All the deadly coils of fear.
She would never drop a tear
For the one who left her bound in
Such a maze of mixed emotion.
Peace fled like a faithless lover
Anguish made her crouch and cover.
Grateful to Thompson, the gambler,
When he testified in her favor.
But there came to the witness chair,
Lula, a darky with platted hair.
She could season food to savor,
She was the cook on Welder's Ranches.
They all joined the Aransas River.
Was there evidence she could deliver?
Lula shook when she told her story,
Her bewilderment was gathering;
All the world that she had known
Bordered along the Aransas alone.
Wash-day, there, as she was lathering
Clothes in the quiet river,
She was crooning while she wrung them;
Then she thought of where she hung them.
Gusts of wind furrowed the river
Till waves gently came lapping.
Kneeling on the bank she spied
Something floating on the tide.
Nearer and nearer it came flapping--
A stench repelled her nostrils.
Now she saw a sack concealing
What the stench was fast revealing.
Leaving washing coiled and waiting
Through the brush home she hurried
As a puff of autumn breeze
Skims the bottoms with ghost-like ease.
Up the trail to house she scurried
As she cried for men to heed her.
Bosom heaving like swells in the ocean,
Showed the height of her emotion.
This was her only testimony,
She fled when the sack was recovered.
Three vaqueros came to the stand;
Each took the oath as he raised his hand.
Then each told how he had hovered
Over the body whose skull was broken.
Plain, an ax was the weapon wielded
Straight and smooth the bone had yielded.
Now they called up Juan Chiquito,
Would he take what court had offered,
Tell what he knew and let her slip
Into law's relentless grip?
Would he clasp the hand proffered
Free himself by testifying?
Fear gripped Chepita, like the fangs of a rattler
Pierced his tongue and he turned tattler.
While he spoke, she relived that hour
Struck with pain and desperation,
For he told of the part he took
After he reached Chepita's nook.
She could hear reverberation
Made by hooves of Savage's steed.
She could feel the weight of the trader
Crush her back and then upbraid her.
Silence was wisdom, taught Father Pedro,
But it was silence that betrayed her.
She should have let the tiger law,
Slap the guilty with heavy paw.
Surely Pedro would not have prayed her
Conceal a crime from justice.
The urge to live within her
Gathered strength, now was winner.
Thus her thoughts awaiting verdict;
Soon would come the jury decision.
If they freed her, all was well
Then she'd never have to tell.
All this she would oft envision;
That what happened rise to haunt her,
But hoped that time would minister
Potions to help forget the sinister.
Owen Gaffney, the jury foreman,
Handed clerk a slip of paper.
Grave of face, he rose to read
What the jury bade had him plead.
Every eye was lighted taper
Burning for words to quickly follow.
But he paused as though to warn her
That the jury had forsworn her.
Clearly he read, "We the jury,
Find the defendant now on trial
Guilty of murder--first degree,
But it also is our plea
That the court heed denial.
Evidence is but circumstantial;
So the jury recommended
Mercy and justice kindly blended."
Then the judge turned to Chepita,
Told her jury reached conclusion.
But he asked her to speak and say
If some reason blocked the way
Of his rendering judgment. Confusion
Shook her frame, she repeated,
"I am not guilty"--the very warning
Which she made that bitter morning.
Kate paused and now was silent
Closed her eyes to remember.
Then her daughter spoke aloud.
She questioned, her head still bowed,
Hoping her words like a glowing ember
Would dispel the inner darkness,
"With but circumstance to refute her,
Was the sentence to execute her?"
"Yes." Judge Neil, with impatient gesture,
Said to the courtroom packed and peering,
"Law demands, and the court requires
That the guilty hang till she expires."
Soon there arose some rowdy jeering,
The judge pounded for order.
If Life is a river, and she stood near it
She watched it pass by her embattled spirit.
Hushed was the courtroom
when Friday, the thirteenth,
Was named the day of execution.
The hour was that the sun
Warns the moon that night's begun.
If she should ask for absolution,
The priest fathom her silence,
His lips would be more frozen
Than hers, her silence chosen.
Time trudged along in prison,
Each day more calm had hovered.
Now her spirit found repose
Was it because death she chose
Rather than her son discovered?
Was this Cuauhtemoc's exaltation
When he died for Aztec brothers?
Strangely she felt kinship to mothers.
Kate McCumber paused and waited,
As heer daughter quickly plied her,
"Did you think that you must hold
This a secret while she rolled
To the gallows?" Kate then eyed her,
"Death was her choice, hers the oblation.
She found the glory in the giving
Even to life-when it FREES the living.
So I left her one November night
With hanging looming on the morrow.
It was late when I crossed the square;
Hurrying home, I breathed a prayer.
All that night I waked her sorrow
While my candle, vigil burning,
Stood and spent till morning.
Could I drop a word of warning--
Two carts, one mine were in the village
The sheriff's men asked me to lend it.
It was more than I could bear;
A stick I brandished at the pair.
"Tell the sheriff I'll never send it."
Up to Murphy's they went to borrow
Never would I be accused of giving
Cart of mine as a hearse for living.
Dawn of Friday I heard commotion
Hollow blows of a hammer as if
Pounding shelves in Sullivan's Store.
This it was and nothing more,
I followed sound of the clamor.
Such were the boards for Chepita's bower.
Then the saw began its plying
Up and down with sawdust flying.
Sullivan's Store was cross from courthouse;
Chepita heard them
Sawing, pounding all the day,
Driving pegs down all the way
Into the cypress. Nothing deterred them,
For the court had ordered the hanging.
Only her words could set her free,
This was her Gethsemane.
Came the date set for the hanging.
Eliza Sullivan rose preparing,
For she said that day would bring
Crowds to her house by evening.
She had told me they would be faring
Round her table stretched and spreading,
Never had she lacked for boarders;
"Plenty to eat" was now her orders.
Em the darky who always helped her;
As soon as work was finished,
Both they walked to courthouse square
Into the jail with Chepita there,
Her chance for life seemed diminished
Only chain of hours
Held back her execution.
They brought things for last ablution.
Ewer and basin with heated water.
They brushed and neatly braided
All her twisted, crow-black hair.
A fine dress gave to wear
Not an old one, discarded and faded,
But a mull of finest texture.
Rachel Sullivan had always worn it;
It was white with sky and blue adorned it.
All the women spoke as prophets;
Full of Irish intuition
They declared her innocent.
They insisted all will lament
If they failed to block the rendition
Of her sentence. Here were women
Waiting for offer simply to lead them.
Sure the sheriff would never heed them.
Gilpin was the hang-knot tier
Well aware of his reputation--
His was the only hangman's noose
Never stalling or slipping loose
But he caused much provocation.
Hangmen with knots unfailing,
By no means plentiful as rabbits,
Disappearing was one of habit.
There with a shawl about her shoulders
Sat Chepita when priest had entered.
She confessed and then was mute---
On the square the curious centered,
Hoping a cart from Murphy borrowed ,
Then it appeared away in the offin'
Coming to carry her and her coffin.
Now the sun began to lower.
In procession passed, she was sitting
Right upon her cypress box,
Smoking, and stoic as the ox
That were pulling but only pitting
Part of strength against his burden.
Like a flower before it wilted,
There she sat with chin uptilted.
Through the brush into a clearing
Where the twin mesquites were standing.
Gilpin came, for the pendent noose
Ominously was hanging loose.
Near it now the crowd was banding.
"Miserere mei Deus,"
Prayed the padre interceding.
Were dying prayers that he was reading.
A mound of earth was lying
Beneath the tree where men were digging.
Near it stretched a new-dug grave
Jaws outstretched to swallow the brave.
They prepared no further rigging,
Drove the cart thereunder
Under where the noose was swinging,
And faintly where Angelus was ringing.
"Would she hear this call to linger?
Then the heavens arched above her,
Once a riot of sunset hues
Faded into hazy blues.
Dusk had spread her misty cover
Over river and wooded bottoms
In the hush of twilight beauty
She had chosen Death as duty.
There and then she joined the procession
Formed by a world-old line of mothers--
Some who died while giving breath,
Some who knew a living death,
She not only died like others--
Kate was hushed by daughter's whisper,
"Listen---a phantom footstep falls;
Chepita treds historic halls!"
Most of the official records concerning the life and trial of
Chepita Rodriquez have been destroyed. The following remain.
MINUTES OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF SAN PATRICIO COUNTY, p. 111.
The State of Texas vs. Juan Silvera and Indictment for murder Chepita Rodriguez
In this cause now comes the State by J.S. Givens and T.H. O'Callaghan assistant counsel
for the State and the said defendants in their proper persons and by their counsel and the
parties having announced themselves ready for trial and the said defendants Juan Silvera
and Chepita Rodriguez were arraigned and the indictment having been read to them they
pleaded not guilty to the same whereupon came a jury of good and lawful men to wit: Owen
Gaffney, foreman, Thomas Haley, E.S. Nash, John Henderson, James H. Toomey, James
Gallagher, Cornelius McTiernan, George McCown, George Williams, J.E. Hendrickson, and Pat
Hart, who were duly empaneled and sworn according to law to try the said cause and having
heard the evidence the argument of a sworn Bailiff to consider of the verdict and returned
the following verdict to wit,
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. (Signed) Owen Gaffney
We the jury find the defendant Juan Silvera guilty of murder in the second degree and
assess the penalty of five years in confinement in the penitentiary.(Signed) Owen Gaffney,
And the jury having poled each juror severally declared this to be his verdict. The
court was now adjourned until tomorrow morning at half past ten o'clock. Saturday the
sixth day of court met pursuant to adjournment.
The State of Texas vs. Juan Silvera and Chepita Rodriguez Indictment for Murder
At this cause appearing that there was no motion for a new trial and no motion in arrest
of judgment, it is ordered adjudged and decreed by the court that the defendant Juan
Silvera now in his own person present before the court (and the said defendant having been
asked if he had anything to say why judgment should not be rendered and sentence
pronounced against him, said nothing) to be committed to the custody of the sheriff of
this county and that he be closely confined and that he be taken hence under the guard
provided by law, and delivered to the superintendent of the State Penitentiary and that he
be there kept in close confinement at hard labor for the space and term of five years and
the clerk of the court is ordered to make out a copy of this judgment, deliver it to the
sheriff that it may be carried into effect.
The State of Texas vs. Juan Silvera and Chepita Rodriguez The Sentence
In this cause the motion for new trial having been withdrawn by the defendant counsel and
the said defendant Chepita Rodriguez being now before the court in her own person and
having been asked if she had anything to say why judgment should not be rendered and
sentence pronounced against her said nothing but that what she had heretofore said. It is
therefore ordered, and adjudged and decreed by the court that the said Chepita Rodriguez
be taken hence to the jail of San Patricio County or to some other secure place and there
closely and securely confined until Friday the thitteenth day of November A.D. one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-three when she will be taken to the place of execution
and there between the hour of eleven o'clock and sunset of said day she be executed
according to the law by hanging by the neck until she be dead and the clerk of the court
is required to issue to the sheriff a warrant for the execution of the judgment.
More tales from San Patricio
OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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