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The Irish Colonies-Index | Coahuila y Tejas-Index


Culture, Landmarks, Legends & Tales from The Irish Colonies

Flag of Ireland

Learning from Mexicans

Old Cemetery on the Hill

The Church of San Patricio

Mist Over the Door:
The Death of John McMullen

Legend of Chipita Rodriquez

Tales from San Patricio

Reminiscences of Annie Fagan Teal

Depositions:  William St. John & Rosalie Priour (Hart)

Flag of Mexico



Gregorio Sanchez & FamilyOut of the 84 grants issued to the colonists of the McMullen-McGloin Empresario Grant, eleven were issued to Mexican rancheros. Besides these quite a number of vaqueros lived in San Patricio and on the ranches. They proved to be a great help to the Irish in many ways. The Irish had come to a land totally different from Ireland. They had never seen such open stretches of prairies with no fences in sight as opposed to miles and miles of stone fences enclosing small plots of green meadows and fields in Ireland; neither did they know how to make these stretches of land productive. It was from the Mexican ranchero and vaquero that they learned the techniques of cattle care and Mexican horsemanship which they in turn had learned from the Spaniards. They learned to use the villa de campo which was a forerunner of the Western saddle, the lazo and the reata for roping, the "cutting out" an animal from the herd for branding, the roundup, and the drive (how to watch for signs of a stampede, how to keep the cattle calm and to watch for anything that might upset them). They were taught how to handle the cow pony, though it took the vaquero to break him to the saddle and the rider.  From the Mexicans they learned how to battle the droughts, how to gather and singe the prickly pear (cactus) for the cattle to eat. During the droughts the prairies were dry and burnt, and covered with blowing dust. In 1893 there was a "die-up"; so much dust blew in that the dead cattle were barely visible. The Mexican was a good weather prophet in Texas. Through years of observation he could make very accurate predictions. He knew that only a drenching rain from the west could break a drought. Years of observations by his forefather had been handed down to him as to the behavior of the erratic Texas weather.

Aside from their knowledge of cattle raising and their knack at forecasting the weather, they introduced the Irish to the snake, a reptile which did not exist in Ireland. They taught the Irish colonists which snakes were poisonous and how to kill them. The diamondback rattler and the water moccasin together with the coral snake were the most poisonous. One could not mistake the sound of the rattler giving a warning with the shell-like discs at the end of its tail. The coral was much smaller, silent, colorful but even more poisonous. The water moccasins, if left in their habitat, which was the edge of the river and the lakes, would not bother unless he was disturbed.   Another field in which the Mexicans were of much value to the Irish was in knowing the medicinal herbs that grew in Texas and the use of each as a remedy for certain sicknesses. They also taught them what plants were poisonous and how to treat skin that was exposed to them. The Spanish dagger was used to puncture the swelling caused from a snake bite.  The Mexicans introduced them to corn, which they planted and from which they made their bread. The Mexican tortilla was a curiosity to the Irish. They realized after trying that only the Mexican could pat them with success. It was almost an art that was handed down from mother to daughter. Each tortilla bore the stamp of the maker; some small, some medium, some large, but all patted to thinness and an evenness that any novice who tried could never attain. The tortillas made now by machine cannot compare in taste or quality to those patted by hand. There was a definite process to making the nixtamal. The corn was put on to boil with lime in the water; when it reached the exact point of being done it was taken off to cool. Before grinding on the metate it was washed in three waters. Then the grinding began: the first grinding was to break up the corn, the second made it into a paste, and the third was the making of the testal which were made by a certain movement of the mano on the metate. Now the tortillas were ready to pat. The Irish did not achieve the art of making the tortilla, but they were fascinated by the whole process.

Besides corn with its many uses other vegetables grew in Texas. First in importance was the frijole, which became a staple in every ranch kitchen. In town, on the ranches, and in the jacales, beans were put on to cook no matter what else was on the table. The main vegetable was squash the large crook-necked variety called calabaza. The Mexican way was to serve it as a quisada (stew) with fat, tomatoes, onion, touch of garlic and cominos, perhaps some chili peppers all of which would make any dish delectable. The Mexican was expert at cooking game. A rabbit stew could be cooked to satisfy the taste of a gourmet for its savory quality.

The Mexican recognized instantly the first signs of rabies in a dog or any other animal. He would not hesitate to kill it. When it came to physical danger the Mexican were fearless. But such was not the case regarding superstitions. He believed in mal de ojo (the evil eye) and must have warned the Irish to touch anyone whom they admired else a spell of sickness would result. He believed in the malady called susto (fright), and he also believed in brujeria (witchcraft). Fortunately for each of these there was a remedy, and if the remedy did not prove effective, there was always the curandero (faith healer). The Mexican was expert on medicinal herbs and the remedies for ojo, susto and brujeria. The vaqueros were more positive in their beliefs in these three superstitions than were the rancheros.  The Irish and the Mexican were congenial. They were in accord in their religion, each as full of faith and fervor as the other. They had great love for their homelands, Mexico and Ireland. There were similarities in some of their personality traits. Their besetting sin was jealousy (putting down those who succeeded); both had hot tempers; both enjoyed their dance and were great tellers of tales. One needs only to have lived on a ranch to have heard tales as exciting as the Irish could relate. They believed in ghosts and many tales of the supernatural were in their collection. If Mexico had not been in such turmoil under a tyrannical leader (Santa Anna), there would not have been a parting of the ways between the Irish and the Mexicans because there was rapport between them.  From San Patricio de Hibernia: The Forgotten Colony by Rachel Bluntzer Hebert (Eakin Press, 1981)


From San Patricio de Hibernia: The Forgotten Colony by Rachel Bluntzer Hebert (Eakin Press, 1981)

Oral tradition has it that the Old Cemetery on the Hill at San Patricio was a burial ground during the Spanish regime in Texas.

"Martin de Leon in 1800 made application to the King of Spain for two leagues on the Nueces stating that he had moved to this land in good faith with members of his family and cattle and settled on the Nueces and the ford named Santa Margarita. Martin de Leon erected his home on a lagoon near the ford of Santa Margarita and established Santa Margarita Ranch. The Census report of 1811 lists the population of this ranch as: Martin de Leon, his wife Patricia de la Garza, his children, Maria Candelaria, Jose Silvestre, Maria Guadalupe, Jose Felix, Jose Agapito, in all twenty-three persons including servants and one school teacher." [Oberste, Texas Irish Empresarios, pp. 68-69.]

The first Spanish settler, therefore, in what is known as the San Patricio area was Martin de Leon, who came from Mexico with his wife and family. He occupied two leagues of land that encompassed the Santa Margarita Crossing and present Round Lake. It is evident that he did not receive title to these leagues. Nevertheless, for a number of years it was known as de Leon's Santa Margarita Ranch. On account of the droughts and the Indians he moved his ranch to the Aransas River. Then during a drought there, he drove his cattle to the Guadalupe River Valley on April 8, 1824. He saw the lush pastures of that region. So later in 1824 he applied to the Mexican Government for a contract to colonize 42 Mexican families on the Guadalupe River. As empresario he settled the town of Victoria. During the years that Martin de Leon stayed on his ranch on the Nueces (1807-1811) together with those who came with him, it is reasonable to assume that there were some deaths (infant mortality was high) and that these were likely the first to be buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill.

Oral tradition has it that there had been a Mexican settlement on the site of the present town of San Patricio. [Miller, Mrs. S.G., Sixty Years in the Nueces Valley; Bluntzer, Kate Dougherty, obituaries] It could have been none other than the settlement or ranch of Martin de Leon. Harbert Davenport unequivocally states that Martin de Leon's two leagues were on the Texas side of the river. This being the case, it puts them on the San Patricio side running back to Round Lake. There is a tradition that Round Lake was at one time called Santa Margarita Lake. [Interview with the late Lida Dougherty] When McMullen and McGloin came to the Nueces in 1830, the old Cemetery on the Hill already existed, else they would not have buried their dead there, but would have buried them on the block designated "cemetery" by the Mexican Government in 1831. Early graves, both Mexican and Irish, bore grave markers of wooden crosses. These could not withstand the elements, and in time deteriorated. Ernpresario James McGloin was buried there in 1856. He has no gravestone and his grave is lost. After going over the probate records of the estate of Empresarto James McGloin, one can assume that the reason for this was that his will was contested by his second wife, Mary Murphy McGloin, and was in litigation for twenty years, thus dissipating most of his land. His bachelor son, John J., died in 1857, and his married son, Gilbert, the father of two children, Mary Lizzle and James M., died in 1858. His eldest daughter, Mary Ann McGloin Grover, died in 1857. It is certain that these McGloin graves are here but are lost. If they ever had a stone, it was not one that would withstand the weather. His daughter, Elizabeth McGloin Murphy, who died in Corpus Christi in 1878, is buried there, but his youngest son, Edward, with his entire family is there and have substantial gravestones. [Book of Wills, Live Oak County Courthouse, Will of Elizabeth McGloin Murphy; obituaries, Kate D. Bluntzer]

According to Msgr. E. Bartosch, who was pastor of San Patricio from 1939-63, the Old Cemetery on the Hill is not a consecrated cemetery, but each grave is blessed as it is made; therefore, a non-Catholic, as well as a Catholic, could be buried there. After the Battle of Lipantitlan Lt. Marcelino Garcia, having been wounded in battle, died the next day and according to oral tradition was buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill. No mention of a priest conducting the burial is made. There is a monument erected by the state during the centennial year in honor of those who were killed in San Patricio on February 27, 1836, by Gen. Jose Urrea and his men and those massacred at Goliad. Some were San Patricians and Refugians and others were members of the New Orleans Greys. Harbert Davenport has made an exhaustive study of those who were killed in San Patricio, Agua Dulce, Refugio, and Goliad in his "Men of Goliad," which was the speech he delivered at the dedication of the monument south of La Bahia placed over the spot where the bodies of those massacred at Goliad were buried by Gen. Rusk and his army after the war. He states that two Mexicans in the service of Texas, names unknown, were killed on the 27th of February in San Patricio and were buried with the rest. Their names could probably be found in the Mexican archives. Those prisoners who were sent to Matamoros were thirteen Anglo-Americans and five San Antonio Mexicans in the service of Texas, including Areola and Sambrano, members of well-known families of Bexar. There were 34 in Johnson's Company. Two other Americans, names unknown, were probably killed in San Patricio and buried with the rest. [Davenport, Harbert, "Men of Goliad," Quarterly 48, p. 28-29]

In 1872 Father Maury, pastor of San Patricio, insisted that the burials be in the churchyard in the block designated "Cemetery'' in the town plat because it had been consecrated. This is called the ''New Cemetery" to differentiate it from the Old Cemetery on the Hill. Both are named for Saint Patrick. Most of those who died thereafter are buried in the "New Cemetery." But some insisted on being buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill and even until this day persons ask to be buried there because they want to lie by their ancestors. Empresario McGloin's granddaughter, Mrs. Irma McGloin Handley, was buried there in 1978. Since the Old Cemetery on the Hill has no plat (if it did, it was burned when the first church was consumed by fire in 1858), in some cases one body was buried with the bones of another.

The Old Cemetery on the Hill is hallowed ground. Besides being the resting place of Empresario James McGloin and his sons and daughter, and of Lt. Marcelino Garcia, the three Ayers children, who died within a month of scarlet fever and were descendants of John Alden and Priscilla, are buried there. It is also the burial ground of the mother of Anne Elizabeth Odlum, who married Dick Dowling, an Irishman who directed the Battle of Sabine Pass, the most decisive Texas battle of the Civil War. Besides these there are in the Old Cemetery on the Hill other McGloins, the Mahonys, the Sullivans, the Doughertys, the O'Dochartys, the McFalls, the Harts, the Gaffneys, the Corrigans, the Grovers, and many others. This historic cemetery in the last two decades has been desecrated by vandals and has suffered neglect. Something should be done to preserve it and give it the care it deserves, otherwise in a few years it will be lost as are its innumerable graves. It needs a fence for which part of the money has been donated by the descendants of those buried there. It needs perpetual care so that the wild grass and weeds and thorny native bushes can be kept down. it should have a monument to Empresario James McGloin and his family. It is to be hoped that a monument can be erected containing a plaque on which can be inscribed the names of all those who lie there, as has been done with the old San Fernando Campo Santo in San Antonio.

(Saint Patrick's Church)

From San Patricio de Hibernia by Rachel Bluntzer Hebert (Eakin Press, 1981)

San Patricio Church(Photo:  Picket church built in 1831, improved in the 1850's with a shingle roof, inside paneling and recessed windows.   It burned in 1858)  Within one hundred and fifty-four years four Catholic churches have been erected in San Patricio. They are symbols of the tenacity with which the Irish have clung to their faith despite hardships, fire, and hurricanes. The first community project was the erection of a church in 1830 under the direction of Rev. Henry Doyle, the first pastor, who had come on the New Packet with Empresario John McMullen. The church was constructed with the materials at hand: willow poles driven upright into the ground, a mixture of boiled moss and clay to chink the crevices, wild palmetto to thatch the roof, and river sand to spread on the earthen floor. This little picket church stood through the coming and going of armies during and after the revolution.

Rev. J.T. Molloy, O.P., was the second pastor from 1834-1836. A Father James Kelly was pastor when the retreating army of General Vicente Filisola passed through San Patricio on their way to Mexico. It is not known how long he stayed. During the post-war period three priests from Victoria administered the sacraments at stated intervals. They were Rev. U. Estany, Rev. James Fitzgerald, who died of yellow fever in 1848, and Rev. James Giraudon. In 1854 the church again had a pastor, Rev. Bernard O'Reilly. It was during his pastorate that the church burned in 1858, and all the church records went with it. Such is the story of the first church in San Patricio. After the fire destroyed the church, there was no delay in building another. By 1859 lumber, mostly cypress, came by boat from Florida to Corpus Christi. Some of the first frame houses built in San Patricio were built of cypress so that it is safe to assume that this was the material which was used in the building of the church. Patrick McMurray hauled the lumber by ox cart from Corpus Christi to San Patricio. Alexander McGloin, nephew of Empresario James McGloin, was the designer and carpenter. William Gamble of present Live Oak County was the painter. It is he who was responsible for the artistic decor of the interior. The new church now had a pastor, Rev. Antoine Borlas, and it was dedicated by Bishop Jean Marie Odin, the first bishop of Texas. This was the second church which stood on the block designated CHURCH SQUARE on the plat of 1835. Directly east and adjoining it is the square designated CEMETERY. Among the old-timers and their descendants it is called the "New Cemetery" because the earliest burial took place in 1872. This second church stood for 60 years (1859-1919). Its pastors during this time were: Father Antoine Maury, Father John Biget, Father Edward Smyth, Father Bj. Donada, and Father Michael Puig.

The highlights in the spiritual life of the parishioners were the occasional missions given by visiting missionaries. One of the most memorable missions was conducted by Rev. John Handley, C. S. P., in 1904. The headline of it in a newspaper reads: HOW ZEAL AND DEVOTION TRIUMPHED OVER DIFFICULTIES. This is an apt headline for the church at San Patricio from its very beginning. The hurricane of 1919 completely demolished this church while Father Michael Puig was its pastor. (1900-1928). His memory still lives in the minds of a few old-timers. After the hurricane of 1919, Mass was celebrated in the rectory. There were rumors of moving the church to Mathis. Upon hearing this, the San Patricians immedately wrote and signed a petition in protest to Most Rev. E.B. Ledvina asking that the church not be moved to Mathis. He complied with their request, and in 1922 he received money from the Extension Society to build a small frame building on the same site as the church before it. Later a bell tower was added and an extension put on the back. Rev. E. G. Bartosch served as pastor from 1939 to 1961. In 1961 he urged Biship Mariano S. Garriga to build a larger and stronger church in San Patricio. Bishop Garriga was mindful of the historic role that San Patricio had played in the history of Texas as was its pastor, Father Bartosch.

The present church is simple, yet graceful; its design typical of a village church. It was begun in 1961 and was dedicated in that same year on December 10th by the late Most Rev. Adolph Marx. It is made of brick and strongly constructed to withstand the ravages of fire and hurricane. (In 1962 the third church was moved to make an extension to the Community Hall but it was devastated by Hurricane Celia in 1970.) The present church, Saint Patrick's, stands today under the pastorate of Rev. Louis Joseph, a symbol of the faith of all San Patricians and their many descendants.

Oral history of the death of Empresario John McMullen

From San Patricio de Hibernia: The Forgotten Colony by Rachel Bluntzer Hebert (Eakin Press, 1981)

Mounted on his pony Midnight, Empresario James McGloin had just traveled the Matamoros Road, which cut through the diamond-shaped prairie encompassing the Rio Grande and Nueces Valleys. An unaccountable agitation had stirred within him so much so that he was unaware of his surroundings---the cactus and mesquite that crouched in clumps over the expanse of grassland known as Mustang Desert, the bandits and outlaws that inhabited the region, and the wild cattle and horses that roamed there.

On this autumn day of 1853 when dusk was hanging her gray fringed shawl over the chill shoulders of the prairie, the Irish empresario, tall and slender, dark-haired but graying at the temples, began his descent into the river bottoms of the Nueces. McGloin had been tough-fibered enough to have withstood twenty-three years of pioneering. But now for the first time an unaccountable sense of foreboding persisted and shut out all else. His accustomed feeling of oneness with his adopted land and the serenity which twilight always brought were inexplicably lost. As he neared San Patricio he began to review the happenings since October 1829, hoping to search out the reason for his misgivings.   Of the events which he recalled one kept coming back to him. It was that day in 1844 when the fifty-nine-year-old adventurous Irishmen John McMullen, his stepfather-in-law and partner in business, approached him. Graying more noticeably at the temples, his cropped, reddish hair was losing its color and had turned to a rusty gray. Wide, bushy eyebrows shaded his amber eyes. His was an aquiline nose with nostrils as sensitive as those of a race horse. His mouth in repose revealed a choleric desposition, sullen almost, but when he smiled, it was the bright smile of the Irish. Unable to get along with the proud and untamed spirit of his colonists, McMullen had left his partner with them at San Patricio, moved to San Antonio, and in 1839 became an alderman in the administration of Mayor John W. Smith.  [Oberste, William H., Texas Irish Empresarios, p. 283  "Soon after McMullen removed to San Antonio as a merchant he participated in public and political affairs." In 1840 he was occupying the office of alderman in the administration of John W. Smith. (Minutes of the City Council, Office of the County Clerk, Bexar County Courthouse, San Antonio, Texas.)

After a friendly handclasp and the usual inquiries about the family, McMullen broached the subject which was most on his mind.  "Jimmie, I'll sell you my share of land in the empresa. I want to get out. You're a younger man, Jimmie, and you have always had faith in this part of Texas. " He watched anxiously for McGloin's reaction.   "Yes, I have faith in Texas, and in this part of it. " He paused but did not hesitate as he said, "I accept."  [Deed Records, Office of the County Clerk, San Patricio, County Courthouse, Sinton, Texas, certain properties from McMullen to McGloin, for a consideration of $5000, August 7, 1844]

He saw the relief in McMullen's face.  "It's luck I'm wishing you, Jimmie, if luck is the word, after losing your wife, my Esther's beloved daughter, Eliza. For my part, I never want to see this place again." [James McGloin married McMullen's stepdaughter, Elizabeth Cummings, in 1825. She died in 1844 in San Antonio and is buried in Campo Santo, now Milam Park. Name listed on marker.]  Feeling McMullen's cold palm as he clasped his hand to seal the agreement, he noticed standing beside him the Mexican boy, Felipe Cantu. He could not fancy the young fellow. His shifting, green eyes did not seem to match his swarthy skin, and there was arrogance and pride in the tilt of his head and the thin line of his mouth. He wondered again why McMullen had taken such a liking to this boy. Some said he had adopted him.

[According to oral tradition McMullen adopted a Mexican boy. It is interesting to note that oral tradition has carried "a seed of truth" which leads to the uncovering of facts, namely, the McMullens did adopt a boy from "Carolina of the North," and at the age of nine they took him to San Fernando Cathedral in 1833 and had him baptized, Jose Antonio de Jesus, and the McMullens served as his godparents or sponsors. (See Baptismal Records of San Fernando Cathedral #405.) Whether he was an Anglo-American or of Spanish descent is not known. He is never again mentioned in the records. Anti-Mexican feelings were running high after the Revolution, and this would account for oral tradition taking it for granted that he was a Mexican and the assassin of John McMullen. McMullen's assassin was never made known. The name Felipe Cantu and the motive for the killing are both fictitious]

After their good-byes, McMullen and Felipe Cantu swung upon their horses, and presently he could hear the hoof beats galloping in the direction of San Antonio. Through his recollections he had discovered that it was McMullen's image that had been bothering him.   Midnight's rhythmic pace had brought the empresario's tired body and agitated mind nearer to San Patricio. He had passed the moss-draped oak trees of the river bottoms without being aware of it, and now he found himself in front of his cabin facing Constitution Square, the block of land laid out for the main plaza. He swung off his horse, unsaddled him, and turned him into the corral behind his cabin which was on the first lot facing north. He was reluctant to go in. His sons, Gilbert and young Edward, would be waiting for him and also his newly-wedded wife, Mary Murphy. [James McGloin married Mary Murphy, a spinster, in 1853. She contested his will and kept the estate in litigation for 20 years. (Probate Records, San Patricio County)  It is presumed that this is the reason that Empresario McGloin never had a gravestone, which is the cause of his grave being lost. He was buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill. The suit was also the reason McGloin's vast acreage was dissipated by the auctioning of land to pay attorney's fees]

Try as hard as he might, the thought of John McMullen returned and slipped into his mind with the persistency of a spoiled kitten. There seemed to be no answer for the foreboding that hung over him like a pall. He opened the gate and strode toward the cabin, entered, and absent-mindedly barred the door. Bright flames leapt up the chimney and lit up a room that was neat and well arranged. The furniture was handmade and consisted only of the bare necessities. The roughly plastered walls were a background for a crucifix which hung above the beds and a holy water fountain near the front door. Two pictures flanked the chimney---one of the Virgin and another of Saint Patrick.  Mary, tall and slender, came in the back door, her warm blue eyes smiling and her Irish face animated with pleasure in his return. Her dark hair was plied high and her delicate skin bore evidence that she wore her sunbonnet faithfully.  "Jimmie," she cried, "if you hadn't come soon, I would have begun to wonder what had happened. " She gave him a kiss of welcome. "Late you are again, and I have so much to tell you."  "Yes," he answered absentmindedly.  "Today was wash day. Sure you'll be hearing the town news tonight." The light of mischief went out of her eyes as she searched the haunted expression in his. "What is it, Jimmie? Don't you want to hear---"

"Yes, of course, the women of the town went down to Jack Hart's watering place---and washed their clothes---and exchanged stories. " He tried to sound lighthearted, but his heart was not in what he was saying. He took her in his arms. This shut out his face, and she felt for a moment that she had just been imagining things. just then he dropped his arms and asked abstractedly, ''Where are the boys?"  "Gilbert, you know is quite a young man now. He's courting the beautiful Mary Molloy."  "Mary Molloy?" he asked as if he had never heard of her.  "Oh, you know, Mrs. Gaffney's daughter who came last year from the convent in New Orleans."   "Ah, yes, I remember." "And Edward went to spend some days with Mary Ann and her new husband.  [Mary Ann McGloin married James M. Grover, died in 1857, and is buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill.  This story was told to my mother, Kate Dougherty Bluntzer, by Patrick McGloin, nephew of the empresario]

" So you've been alone?"  "Yes, but not anymore alone than I am right now."  He did not seem to catch the meaning of her words. He left her standing there while he walked over to the mantel and rested his elbow upon it. Silently he stared into the flames licking hungrily as they flew up the chimney. He was close to her, but he had receded out of her reach. She felt as if she were standing alone on the shore and he had gone out with the tide. Would she ever fully understand this new husband of hers? He had ridden off so bouyantly a few mornings ago. Could he be thinking of Eliza Cummings, his first wife and the mother of his children?  Bewildered by the change in him, she went about the preparation of supper in order to have more time to herself to understand this strange, almost eerie feeling she had when she looked into the eyes of her husband. Bread she had baked that day filled the cabin with its aroma. He came to the table centered with a low candlestick in which a single candle burned. Mary took her accustomed place at the foot of the table and ate her supper without relish. She noticed that the empresario made small pretense of eating. Silently she cleared the table, washed, dried, and put away the dishes. Intuition told her there was no need for words. He himself would have to exorcise the brooding spirit that preyed upon him.

After supper Mary, having seated herself to do her mending, looked up occasionally to observe the rapt expression on his face as he seemed to be waiting for the flaming logs to turn into embers. With a start she remembered the day's washing was still hanging outside. "Glory be to God, my clothes! '' she exclaimed and jumped out of her chair. "Sure it will be a wonder if Mrs. Ryan's goat hasn't got after them already."   Glad of an excuse to leave the oppressive atmosphere which pervaded the room, she rushed out the back door. Delaying, she carefully lifted the clothes off the line. All the while she pondered, "What is wrong with Jimmie?" Resentfully she muttered to herself, "And didn't I look forward to his coming and think that he would like to hear that Mrs. James' cow had a calf but last night and that the widow Haffey had seen the ghost of her husband since last wash day? God rest his soul! "

James McGloin seemed unaware of his wife's leaving the room. The candleflame flickered. A sound of fluttering wings made him turn toward the door. The dimly lighted room took on an eerie aspect. Something was wrong; he felt it in every fiber of his being. A paralysis of fear swept over him. No part of his body would move, but his fixed glaze was drawn to the door by some magnetic power. Gradually a luminous mist hovered over the front door. There on the threshold stood John McMullen. Blood was streaming from his throat; his white shirt was stained with it. A deathlike pallor was on his face. His lips moved, but no words were audible. "Is it you, McMullen?" his labored voice cried out. He felt that he was in the grip of a nightmare, straining powerlessly to move in his chair. John McMullen vanished as quickly as he had appeared. Only the haze remained an instant where he had stood. Thoughts came pushing quickly upon James McGloin, and he wanted to cry out, but his voice stuck in his throat.  "I swear it was McMullen. Now he's gone! His ghost---My God, his ghost is what I've seen. I should have asked him, 'In the name of God, what do you want?' But I could not think. I could not speak!"

With the power of his body restored, he rushed to the spot where the figure of John McMullen had stood. He tried the door. It was securely barred. His heart pounded, but at last he could speak while thoughts kept blowing over his mind like the circling winds of a hurricane. What he had seen was real. All was not well with McMullen. He must go to San Antonio. Frightened though he was, he felt more like himself---as if the burden of waiting and apprehension had been lifted. Mary would be in presently. He must tell her something.   Her arms full of neatly folded clothes, Mary entered the back door. He walked over to her, put his hands gently on her shoulders, and began cautiously, "Can you manage alone a few days more?" He paused. She was mute with bewilderment. "It's to San Antonio I want to go tonight."  ''Tonight?" she asked as she dropped the clothes in amazement. "Must you go tonight? Sure your bones must be weary with being so much in the saddle. What's the matter, Jimmie?"  "I must talk to John McMullen." There was a note of finality in his voice. "I need his advice."   Her expression changed from surprise to fear. He saw in her expressive blue eyes fear gather into resolution. "Go, Jimmie, if it will bring you peace." Her eyes said, "go," but her heart was a pebble sinking in a quiet stream. He held her close. He pushed her from him. She did not mind; she felt now that there was no barrier between them.  "Get my morral, Mary. Put what you have into it. Any morsel will do. Get my new black hat and black coat."  Putting them on, he unbarred the door and rushed out into the darkness. 

James McGloin, haggard and worn, could discern in the distance the town of San Antonio de Bexar. Trailing clouds painted by the master brushes of the sun spanned the western arc of the heavens with such magnificent splendor that the empresario, though weary, gazed at the scene enraptured. Then he fixed his eyes again on the town which looked like a miniature village with its low, square, adobe buildings dominated by the tower of San Fernando Cathedral. As he passed the Mission San Jose, that venerable pile with its arched rose window, his mind was free for a moment. He forgot his long and strenuous ride. It had been hard for both the rider and the horse. They had journeyed through river bottoms where owls hooted their midnight vigil, through open country where the only sounds except the yelps of the coyotes were the hoofbeats of his pony and the swish of the prairie grass as it parted, then closed behind them, over hills dotted with moss and vine-covered live oaks, and through Mexican villages cut by rivers and streams.  Midnight seemed instinctively to have caught the urgency of his mission and had kept up a speed which had seemed incredible. McGloin had felt compassion for his pony, but now as he was nearing San Antonio, his anxiety made him spur the animal as if there were no I pity in him. Nearer and nearer he came to the town which was quickly being obscured by dusk. When his horse again slowed his pace, McGloin did not press him. A storm of doubt passed over his mind as he crossed the San Antonio River. Why had he come? What reason could he give John McMullen for his coming? Sure, he would think him a fool if he would tell him the real reason!

Suddenly his doubt-filled thoughts were interrupted by a voice breathless with excitement.  "Seen a Mexican boy on the road, sir?"  McGloin looked down to see a tall man wearing a large, light colored hat. A six-gun hung at his belt.   "No, I haven't," the empresario answered.  The man stepped aside. He must have sensed McGloin's irritation for he added, "Sorry, sir, but we're guarding all the roads."  "No need for apologies."  "It's just that the green-eyed scoundrel escaped."  The man would have said more, but McGloin dug his spurs into the flanks of his horse and said impatiently, "If you don't mind, I'm in a hurry."  The horse quickened his pace, but soon slowed again from fatigue. Laboring he carried his rider nearer and nearer the center of town. McGloin repeated the words of the stranger whom he had met by the river. With flash-like instancy they pierced his consciousness. "The green-eyed scoundrel---a Mexican boy. My God, what am I thinking? Felipe Cantu."

He bridled his fears with the thought, "To be sure there are other Mexican boys in San Antonio, many of them, and some are greeneyed-- But this reasoning did not assuage his emotion.   McGloin rode on, his face drained of all color. Dark shadows hung beneath his eyes. He felt the need of rest pressing in on him. A numbness spread over his body. Far off he could hear the plaintive notes of the mourning dove.  From the tower of San Fernando Cathedral came the mellow tones of the bells calling the people to pray the Angelus. They seemed to cry out and proclaim the message of that prayer. Though his mind was on the words, he seemed to have another mind within him which drew a parallel to that message.

McGloin began to pray. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary (The angel appeared to her. McMullen, covered with blood and trying to speak, appeared to me).

And she conceived of the Holy Ghost. (Something outside me conceived the idea of my coming.)

The bells pealed a second time and the Virgin's humble words rang out.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. (Behold, I have come, McMullen, if you need me.)

Be it done to me according to Thy word. (Anything I find here I pray to accept, and, in so doing, serve.)

Then came a third and final ringing of the bells clanging and pealing with the magnitude and urgency of the message. He bowed his head in reverence.

The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. (You came, and You're with me still, Lord. I will not fear.)

James McGloin lifted his head to the emblazoned sky. The last reverberations of the bells faded into the evening air. He felt a reassurance which strengthened him for whatever lay ahead. He looked toward the east and saw a moon, red as blood, peering over the horizon. He was nearing the two-story home of John McMullen on Market Street. From the house he could see the candlelight, in the lower windows. Panic seized him. The horse beneath him trembled. His unexpected snort broke the silence. The empresario pulled the reins short and soothed the weary animal with pats on the neck. Nearing the house he could see the moving lights from the pipes of the men standing outside the doorway. There was a sound of muffled voices. A feeling of impending disaster settled over him. The faces of the men were obscured by the darkness. His mind told him now that he should never have doubted his heart.  McGloin swung off his horse; his legs almost crumbled beneath him. From the group of men one emerged to meet him at the gate. He held out his hand.

"You're Empresario James McGloin, aren't you?" he asked calmly. (Too calmly, McGloin thought.) "Yes, I'm McGloin." "You've heard?"  "No, I've heard nothing."  In silence the man led him to the door. They beheld as they entered a coffin flanked by two tall candles. In it lay the rigid body of John McMullen. Stunned and speechless, McGloin stood there.  The man began to speak in a half whisper. "It's the work of Felipe Cantu. He stabbed him in the chest yesterday about this time. It happened in the Market Place. The boy said McMullen had promised him land, but he found that he had sold it all. The boy brooded over it, became insolent; McMullen reprimanded him. This was his revenge. McGloin felt that he was smothering. He must get out of this room, out into the open air so that he might try to put the pieces of this strange puzzle together. He strode toward the door where he looked beyond the plaza. He said to the stranger, "The time for words is past. I shall pray that his soul may rest in peace."  Across the plaza stood the Cathedral of San Fernando, with its bells which had comforted him but a short while ago. The benign presence of that ancient structure drew him toward it. In the moonlit dusk his slender figure in a black coat and hat could be seen, indistinctly, as he climbed the steps of the cathedral and disappeared into its arched doorway. 

[NOTE: The late Lewis Weir attested that his grandfather, Robert Weir, Sr., told his father that the empresario's horse, upon reaching McMullen's house, quivered and fell dead with exhaustion. The Spanish-Arabian horse was bred for endurance; this trip reinforces that assertion]

1997-2006, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved