“No soy culpable” I am not guilty” These were the only words spoken by Josefa Rodriquez during her 1863 trial for the murder of John Savage
Josefa , an orphan from an early age, ran an inn in her tumble-down home in San Patricio County, Texas.
John Savage, a trader who had stayed overnight in her establishment, was found bludgeoned by an ax at the side of a river near her home.
Josefa and her son are arrested for his murder and held for a trial overseen by Judge Benjamin Neal. Judge Neal had a diversified history as a newspaper editor, teacher, politician and boarder raider.
The head of the grand jury was the sheriff who arrested her. Jury members included men who were facing trial for their own crimes.
Josefa did not testify at her trial, only stating she was not guilty. It was thought that she may have been protecting her son, who possibly did the deed. Evidence was weak, and circumstantial. Another theory was floated about that perhaps she was gathering information on reasons to enter the civil war for Texan legislatures, and her death was a political measure.
The jury found her guilty and suggested clemency. She was 63 years old. Judge Neal sentenced her to hang from a tree on November 13, 1863. Some say she is the first woman executed in Texas. She was pardoned inn 1985 by Texas Governor White.
It is also said, that Josefa wanders the river bottoms of Texas when a woman is sentenced to die… Josefa mourning her false conviction and death.
Today in history…
Today in 1885; Montana Territory- the legislature banned “pernicious hurdy-gurdy” houses. Well then…
For all the romance, for all the movie representations about Spoiled Doves. we can name more stories of the pain of prostitution. Often a needed way to make money for women of the old west, prostitution was a dangerous and life sapping activity. Women were subject to beatings, disease, overwork and early death. Many women imported from other countries, were held as slaves dependent on their “owners” to survive. Their lives were sad and rough, Women from an early age entered into this system, starting in youth as a featured member of the house and often ending; older and worn out, in back alley cribs.
Widows, daughters, poor destitute women were forced due to circumstances to turn to prostitution to survive. There were few ways for a woman to make money, teaching, store keeping, millinery and prostitution were primary income sources, and the “good” jobs where few.
Upon the shoulders of these outcast ladies; great parts of our country were built.
In Texas, prior to the civil war, cattle ran free range. During the war many of the ranchers headed out to fight, and then returned, after the war, to discover millions of wild longhorn cattle roaming the prairies, and desserts of Texas.
Needing a way to get these cattle to a rail head in Kansas, where they could be sold for a decent profit, ranchers with names like Goodnight, Loving,Ackly, and Chisum rounded up thousands of these wild beef at a time, branded them, and headed them north in a 900 mile drive. The cattle trails stretched for a over 2 miles, and were managed by a crew of about 20 cowboys, a trail boss, a wrangler or two and the inevitable, cranky, and multi-talented cookie with the chuck wagon.
An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 men trailed six to ten million head of cattle and a million horses northward from Texas to Kansas during these years,
This amazing era of cowboy-dom, lasted about a meager 20 years, ending with the advent of fenced prairies and homesteaders, yet the legends and history of the trail drive years launched thousands of stories that capture our attention for all time