Death of Walter Joshua Stevens

(Taken from a tape made in 1965 of an inteview of Rebecca Stevens Palmer by her grandson, Gordon Lyman. Transcribed in 2008 by her great granddaughter, Necia Palmer Seamons.)

Prologue: It is 1912. Walther Joshua Stevens and his wife, Elizabeth Kenney Stevens, had been living in Mexico for about 17 years. He and Elizabeth had came through the Hole-in-the-Rock and settled in Fruitland, New Mexico, before moving to Old Mexico.

By 1910, the Mexican colonies had become established and quite prosperous. But civil war had broken out in Mexico. Pancho Villa was on the rampage and the colonists had been asked to leave their homes. Walter didn't want to leave. He took his family up to a cave for a while, but had returned home when the following narrative took place.
The Stevens children and their ages in 1912 are: Phebe, 31, and married; Walter, 29; Rebecca, 27, and married; John (deceased); Ella, 23; William, 21; Ammon, 19; Emma, 17; Abigail, 15; Elmina, 14; Vivian, 12; Daniel, 10; Brigham, 9; and Marian, 5.

(The beginning of the tape is missing.) "… Ella, Emma and Abby, the three older girls that was there.

Well, they were out picking blackberries. We had, uh, an orchard just out from the house, south of the house, and then we had a blackberry patch running north and south... above there ... we called the old blackberry patch; and we put a big orchard in.

And then another blackberry patch across the wash, up kind of north of the other one, you know.

Well, they were up on this farther blackberry patch, the three girls were, picking blackberries. They'd left the cave and been home, I think they said, about two weeks and they were getting the blackberries and making jelly and preserves, you know, using, putting them up.

And these three girls were up there picking the blackberries and they noticed the dog, come down to the patch. So then they began to look around - t'wasn't their dog. And then they noticed two Mexicans duck down where the bank of the creek was quite high, you know, in places, so they could hide in under that bank. And she watched those two fellows duck down there and the dog run on, and so they said to each other, we're being followed. There's some Mexicans here.
They said “Don't act excited.” They said “we'll just go on picking until we see a chance, and then we'll skip across this little wash here in the upper end of the big orchard.” And among the fruit trees, there were blackberries, in between the trees, you know. And they got over there and got picking and figured they were quite safe and then they hurried.

Well, they walked as fast as they dared without being noticeable if those fellows come out in sight again. And when they got, uh, down into the old blackberry patch then they skipped across and went to the house.
And father was out to the barn. And that morning the boys had taken all the firearms and gone out in a big canyon where they had the cattle and the horses hid out, where they thought the Mexicans wouldn't be apt to run onto 'em in a kind of box canyon, you now.

And all father had on the place was the old double barrel shotgun, and he had two bullets for that. And he come to the house and he told one of the girls to watch from the window downstairs, that faced that way, and one of them to go upstairs and watch out that window like I've got here. They could see all over the field.
And I don't know how many of 'em, just how they did..., and Vivian was a little tot. She went and got out on a big rock back of the house, and watched; t' see what she could see. She went for curiosity. Father didn't ask her to go out there. And of course, he told mother to stay in the house. And they never did let mother see him after he was killed.

And he was going along, not thinking they would be down this close as they were.
There was one great big pine, just the other side of this big blackberry patch, the old patch. And he had cut a lot of rack stakes along the ditch that he - he'd made little reservoirs in the wash, here and there, to water his orchard and berries and garden. And he'd cut the oaks along this bank for rack stakes. They used to have a wood rack out of planks, chunk pieces you know wide pieces they bore a hole in there and they stick these oak sticks in to hold the wood in and they just had a solid bottom you know, and the rack, these sticks made the bed part, to put the wood in, and he'd cut a lot of these sticks, and they used them too, as stays, in wire fencing.

Well, he was just going along, just at the edge of this big old blackberry patch and these Mexicans were ambushed right there, in some oaks, just a little north of the ditch. And before he seen them, well of course they seen him, and one had a dagger in his hand and he just jumped out and stabbed him right over the heart. And father said when he stabbed him, he pulled the trigger and uh, give this fellow both, both barrels of buckshot. Just filled him full (inaudible.)

And he just kind of staggered off, and dropped dead a little ways from there, and the other one, I don't know if he took the knife that this one fellow had, or whether he had a knife, but when the girls got there, as soon as they heard the shot, they run. They were watching. And they run up there and the one Mexican straddled Father, with his dagger, and Father was a hold of his wrist, wouldn't let him cut him. And just as the girls got to him, they thought Father fainted, but he had just died.

Just as they got there he let loose of the fellow's wrist, and Emma grabbed uh, one of these oak sticks, and was going to hit it the fellow over the head, and Ella grabbed the gun, picked up the gun, and pointed at him. She didn't know there was no bullets, but she pointed the gun at him. And I don't know what they did say Abby did, whether she grabbed one of the girls. I think he may have died, in Emma. I'm not sure, and the other girl pulled on her, you know, to keep her from getting cut. And then they fled from it, still alive. And the other one was found, dead there, later on.

(Gordon's wife: ... and they buried your father there, didn't they?)
Ya, they called to Vivian to bring the little wagon out and she got the little wagon, and the girls got him in the wagon, and took him to the house. They didn't know he was dead; they thought he'd just fainted away. They took him in and laid him out on the bed and they kept mother out of that room. Never did let mother see him at all.

Then Dan was just a little barefooted fellow, he was there, him and Brig and Mary. And Dan went up to town about a half a mile, and called Brother Harl Johnson told him that the Mexicans were down home and would he come down … and he went right down.

And then the word got around there's some fellows, just went in the night before, from El Paso ... that had gone out and just got back in, thought everything was quiet, and they got hold of some of those. One was Hyrum Porter's brother, the other one was Joe Porter. They got … uh, sent the boys to get the horses and they hooked up teams, and sent mother and the girls out as quick as they could and then they went up on the town, it was a half-a-mile from town.

And Sister Lunt, a aunt of these Lunts here, … this Cline, and, and she happened to have a burial clothes…, there at her place. They got burial clothes there and dug a grave and buried … the boys stayed there and buried father. But they sent mother and the girls out. I don't know who drove the team, and took mother out to Juarez just as quick as they could get her and the girls out of there.

And they went down and told their story to the president of the stake. He was back in there by then… uh, Julius Romney. And the girls told them the story. Of course they didn't believe the girls. They knew very well that the Mexicans had been there and that the mother and the girls had all been raped by these fellows. I don't know what all, they didn't tell.

But they didn't any of them see the Mexicans, only the father and the girls that found him, you know, after it happened.

After he was stabbed, he pulled the trigger and killed that varmint. He died, from that shot, … and the other wandered off, found out that he, … too many for him I guess.

(Gordon Lyman: When did this happen? What was the date and year? Do you recall?)
No. …. Yes! I know the day that father… it was the 26th of August, that father was killed.

(Gordon Lyman: That would have been which year?)

1912. See I left in July and this happened in August.

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