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Texas | Columns | Somewhere in the West

The White Lady of Rio Frio

by Linda Kirkpatrick

As you walk along the banks of the Frio River, near the community of Rio Frio, Texas, you may see a wisp of fog, translucent fog, fog that moves with the appearance of a woman dressed in white. So you blink your eyes and when you open them you see that the vision has moved slightly so you rub your eyes and really begin to wonder what it was that you just saw, right there before your very eyes. You might wonder was it a wisp of fog or could it just possibly be the apparition of the White Lady of Rio Frio? Could there really be a ghost that haunts the banks of the Frio River, many say that there is but we all know that a ghost is not real…or do we?

Frio River near rio Frio Texas
Frio River
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick, October 2007

The story of the White Lady of Rio Frio arises from a true story of love. The love story occurred in the early 1900’s and is the favorite ghost story told around campfires today. Maria Juarez and her sister were two of the prettiest senoritas in the canyon. Gregorio, who was married to Maria’s sister, was a young handsome vaquero. Even though Maria was several years younger than her sister, the two were very close and spent a lot of time together.

Maria helped care for her sister’s children and she longed for the day when she would be old enough to marry and have children of her own.

As Maria grew older, Gregorio was quick to notice the beauty of this young girl but alas, he was married to her sister. Maria’s beauty also caught the eye of Anselmo Tobar, a young vaquero from the Patterson Ranch. Anselmo began to court the young Maria for he was also smitten by her beauty. He brought her wild flowers. He spoke to her of love and marriage. Maria was very happy and excited because she knew that one day soon the handsome Anselmo would be her husband. It was a warm summer afternoon when Gregorio called Maria aside to tell her of the love that he had for her. Maria scoffed at his words and told him that her love was only for Anselmo and that soon they would marry. Gregorio went into a rage. His outburst scared the young Maria. She feared him and was worried about her sister. Marie ran to the safety of her home leaving Gregorio ranting and raving. It was here that she anxiously awaited the late evening arrival of Anselmo.

Rio Frio Cemetery
Rio Frio Cemetery
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick, October 2007

Shortly after the sun had set and darkness engulfed the community, Maria heard a noise that she assumed was Anselmo. Anxious to tell him of the incident with Gregorio, she went out to greet him. As the moon light cast a haunting glow on the man standing before her, to her horror, she realized that the noise had been made by Gregorio. Maria froze in fear as she looked into the eyes of her brother-in-law. She watched in horror as he drew a pistol from his belt. Gregorio slowly raised the gun, pointing it right at her heart. Maria heard the fatal shot and slowly the night grew darker around her.

Maria and her dreams died that night. There would be no wedding and there would be no children and without these her soul would never rest.

As Gregorio stood there looking down at the fading life of Maria, the lone shot was still echoing throughout the canyon. As the pool of blood began to spread Gregorio realized what he had done. The gunshot brought inquisitive people to investigate. He realized that he must hide. He threw down the pistol and ran to the barn burrowing behind the hay. He had no plan. He only knew that if he could not have Maria then neither could Anselmo.

A raging crowd soon gathered. The search began for the murderer of Maria. No one suspected Gregorio. As the sun rose the next morning more men came with guns, horses and dogs. The posse began to search while the women prepared the beautiful Maria for burial. They shrouded her in her sister’s white wedding dress and braided white ribbons and wild flowers in her hair.

The only scent picked up by the dogs was around the area of the barn. The men knew that whoever had fired the deadly shot had to be there and they cautiously opened the creaking door. The dogs began to bay louder. Soon a lone, scared man with his hands held high, came out from behind the hay. The silence was deafening, except for the clicking sound of bullets being chambered. The murderer walked forward in fear as he starred down the barrels of many loaded rifles. Everyone was shocked to find that the murderer was none other than Maria’s brother-in-law, Gregorio. He confessed to the murder, all the while swearing his love for the beautiful Maria.

Gregorio’s was arrested and a trial soon followed. The jury found him guilty of murder of Maria Juarez. He was sent for a lengthy stay in prison.

Anselmo Tobar married several years later and fathered the children that Maria wanted so badly.

Rio Frio Cemetery unmarked graves
Rio Frio Cemetery and unidentified graves....
could one be that of Maria Juarez???

Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick, October 2007

Maria’s casket was adorned with flowers. Children sang as her body was carried the short distance to the Rio Frio Cemetery. Her grave is unmarked. Her soul is not fulfilled nor at rest to this day. Her spirit roams the canyon comforting the children in need. It is said that she will cover a child on a cold night or she will just sit at the foot of their bed, guarding them from harm. She is seen by children as a kindly spirit dressed all in white.

Many doubt the legend of Maria Juarez. Many swear to her presence. Many wonder how long her spirit will grace the canyon.

The love triangle of Gregorio, Maria and Anselmo is true. It is true that some children ask their mothers about the woman that was sitting on their bed during the night. But is this Spirit of the Frio really the apparition of Maria Juarez or just a wisp of fog that cloaks the Frio River? And why does the fog sometimes resemble the graceful movements of a woman all in white?

© Linda Kirkpatrick
Somewhere in the West October 15 , 2007 Column

More Texas Ghost Stories

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