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Norias Ranch Raid

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Norias, Kenedy County, Texasmap
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Norias Ranch Headquarters

Norias is in southwestern Kenedy County. Noria is a Spanish word for "well." The St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway was completed into the area in 1904. Norias was owned and operated by the King Ranch as a shipping point and division headquarters. It served as a water stop.

Norias Ranch is located about seventy miles north of Brownsville and about sixty miles from Kingsville.

At the time, Norias was the headquarters for the southernmost portion of the 825,000-acre King Ranch and was also used by the Railroad to water their trains.

The site itself resembled a small town; it included a large two story wooden ranch house, owned by Caesar Kleberg, a small train station, a section house, a corral and a few other buildings.

On August 7, Caesar Kleberg was in Kingsville when he learned that a large group of armed Mexican men was riding on horseback through the Sauz grazing division of the King Ranch with the intention of attacking Norias.

"Sauz" is a Spanish word for the native black willow tree (Salix nigra) found in alluvial soils and other wet areas in the eastern two-thirds of Texas. Sauz was established in 1792 when the San Juan de Carricitos land grant was given by the Spanish Crown to Jose Narciso Cavazos. Encompassing more than 584,000 acres, this was the largest Spanish land grant in South Texas. A ranch house was built in 1884. The Brownsville to Alice stage-line began to use it as a stopover. Sauz is presently in Willacy County.[1][2]

Kleberg informed the United States Army commandant at Fort Brown, near Brownsville, Texas, who informed Adjutant General Henry Hutchings. Hutchings organized a force of thirteen Texas Rangers, including Captains Harry (or Henry) Ransom, Monroe Fox, and George J. Head, plus eight cavalrymen, under Corporal Watson Adams, to go to the Norias Ranch by train and investigate the situation.

  • Adjutant General Henry Hutchings, Texas Rangers
    • Captain Monroe Fox
    • Captain Harry Ransom
    • Frank Hamer
    • George J. Head
    • 9 more Rangers
  • Corporal Allen Mercer, Troop C, Twelfth Cavalry. (or Corporal Watson Adams?)
    • seven privates
"The headquarters, a two- story wood frame house, was fifty feet west of the railroad tracks. A hundred yards south stood a railroad section house, and just across the tracks was a toolshed and a pile of cross ties. A hundred feet north of the ranch headquarters were two bunkhouses. The Rangers found Norias occupied by only a handful of people: foreman and Special Ranger Tom Tate; cowboys Frank Martin, Luke Snow, and Lauro Cavazos; the carpenter, George Forbes, and his wife; and the black cook, Albert Edmunds, and his wife. Several Mexican railroad hands and their wives, including an elderly woman, Manuela Flores, lived in quarters connected to the section house.Boessenecker, John; Frank Hamer and the Texas Bandit War of 1915[3]

Ranch Hands:

  • Tom Tate, foreman (accompanied Rangers to Sauz
  • Frank Martin, cowboy
  • Luke Snow, cowboy
  • Lauro Cavazos, cowboy
  • George Forbes, carpenter
  • Mrs. George Forbes
  • Albert Edmunds, cook
  • Mrs. Albert Edmunds
  • Railroad foreman
  • his wife
  • their baby
  • section hand
  • Manuela Flores, an elderly woman
  • their son

Ranch foreman Tom Tate led Hutchings, the Texas Rangers, and a few local peace officers to a waterhole at Sauz Ranch where raiders had been sighted. They passed the raiders hidden in the brush. Therefore the Rangers missed the biggest battle of the "Bandit War".

The Raid

While they were gone a second train (?) arrived at about 5:30 pm, dropping off Sam Robertson, Gordon Hill, the Customs Inspectors D. P. Gay, Joe Taylor, and Marcus Hinds and a youth named Vinson. All were heavily armed with rifles and pistols.

  • Sam Robertson
  • Gordon Hill (I've yet to find any contemporary reference of the period stating Gordon Hill was a Deputy Sheriff of Cameron County)
  • the Vinson youth
  • Immigration Inspector David Portus Gay Jr.
  • Customs Inspector Joe "Pinkie" Taylor, former Ranger[4]
  • Customs Inspector Marcus "Tiny" Hinds (Hines?), former Ranger (not mentioned in original Brownsville Herald article)
"Now there were a total of seventeen men, four women, and one baby girl at the ranch, including Sheriff Hill, the eight soldiers, the three customs inspectors, four male ranchers, and one railroad foreman. [5]
"In the morning, a northbound train rolled in. Onboard was Robert Runyon, an energetic and enterprising photographer from Brownsville who had created a cottage industry photographing scenes from the Mexican Revolution—many of them morbid images of dead bodies— and selling them as real-photo postcards, which were distributed widely in the United States and Mexico. Now, Runyon unlimbered his heavy camera and took numerous photos, including the Norias ranch headquarters and the six uninjured troopers standing on the front porch. He then carried his camera to the spot where the dead bodies lay in preparation for burial and made several exposures of the corpses. He took two images of Frank Hamer and another posseman, who appears to be Jim Dunaway, posing on horseback behind the dead bodies and holding the captured battle flag between them. In the photos, Frank Hamer is slouched easily on his horse, wearing a baggy canvas brush jacket with a U.S. Army–issue canvas cartridge belt slung across his chest. Runyon also took several photographs of Captain Fox, Tom Tate, and other lawmen with their lariats tied around three dead bodies as they prepared to drag them across the prairie. Boessenecker, John; Frank Hamer and the Texas Bandit War of 1915[6]


  • Gay, D. P.; Attack on Norias and the Facts of Who Was There, various publications including:
    • Peavy, John R.; Echoes From The Rio Grande, 1905 To N_O_W; 1963 pages 102-108
    • Hill P.H.D., Kate Adele; Lon C. Hill 1862-1935, Lower Rio Grande Valley Pioneer, 1973 pages 80-85 (Dr. Hill notes that this is from Peavy's book, but the casual reader could erroneously attribute it to Lon C. Hill)

Frank Hamer and the Texas Bandit War of 1915 by John Boessenecker; The History Reader; Dispatches in History from the St. Martins Press



For Further Research:

South Texas Archives


  1. https://www.elsauzranch.com/history
  2. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hve16
  3. Boessenecker, John; Frank Hamer and the Texas Bandit War of 1915
  4. Brownsville Herald, 08/09/1915
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raid_on_Norias_Ranch#Raid Note: this account is full of inaccuracies<ref> Later that evening at dusk, the folks at Norias had just finished eating dinner when they retired to the porch of the ranch house to smoke. Shortly thereafter, Inspector Hinds noticed a group of men on horseback approaching the ranch from the south, displaying a red flag.<ref>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raid_on_Norias_Ranch#Raid Note: this account is full of inaccuracies<ref> At first, he thought the men were Texas Rangers, returning from their patrol, but when they closed to about 250 yards away they opened fire on the house. At the same time, the second group of rebels attacked from the east and opened fire within ninety yards of the Americans as they took cover behind the railroad embankment near the section house to return the fire. The raiders had failed to cut the telephone so Albert Edmonds telephoned Caesar Kleberg, asking for his help. Kleberg told Edmonds that there was a train in Kingsville loaded with "armed men, supplies, and medical people" but it could not leave because there was no engineer willing to drive it to Norias. When the train did finally arrive the fighting was already over. The four women dispersed when the shooting began. One hid inside a boxcar with her husband, the railroad foreman, and her baby while two others went into the ranch house. A fourth woman, named Manuela Flores, hid inside the section house. Within the first few minutes of the battle, four of the Americans were wounded, including two soldiers and the ranchers George Forbes and Frank Martin. Forbes got hit in the lungs as he was bringing the wounded into the house, _______ shot and killed the horse of the Mexican commander and stopped the initial charge, but the rebels dismounted and regrouped for a second attack on foot. Eventually, the Americans withdrew to the safety of the ranch house but its thin walls provided little protection. Because of this the two women and the wounded were covered in mattresses while he and the remaining men went back outside to draw the Mexicans' fire away from the house ===Seditionistas=== In January 1915 a group of Mexican rebels drafted [https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ngp04 the Plan of San Diego] which called for Mexicans in the American border states to rebel against the U.S. government and kill the white inhabitants. The Seditionistas, as they were called, only launched small raids into Texas from the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. ===After the Raid=== Rangers arrive Train from Kingsville arrives ===The Next Day=== After midnight two dozen dismounted cavalrymen, several civilian officers, Sheriffs Vann and Baker, Lamar Gill, and Lon C. Hill arrived at the scene long after the action with the Sediciosos had concluded.<ref>[http://www.myharlingen.us/page/open/8053/0/Soldiers%20Stationed%20in%20Harlingen.pdf Rozeff Norman; Soldiers Stationed in Harlingen, 1915-1917, and Some of Their Action]</li> <li id="_note-5">[[#_ref-5|↑]] [https://www.thehistoryreader.com/military-history/frank-hamer/ Boessenecker, John; Frank Hamer and the Texas Bandit War of 1915]</li></ol></ref>

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