are, nobody will ever really know the truth about the hanging -
I recall a scene from an old movie that states: "When the legend
becomes fact, print the legend." Perhaps this is the way we should
treat the execution of Chipita and the legend of her ghost that
is said to linger around Old
San Patricio, Texas.
According to The Handbook of Texas, Josefa "Chipita" Rodriquez
was hanged in 1863 after being convicted on what some say was only
circumstantial evidence. But here is where the legend part comes
into play, it seems that the years have erased most of the facts
concerning this sad tale. So we can probably assume that much of
the story comes from mere speculation.
The fact of the matter is, hardly any facts about Chipita can be
verified. Most accounts claim that even her name is speculation.
The Handbook of Texas states that she is believed to have
been the daughter of Pedro Rodriquez who fled Mexico to escape Gen.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Chipita and her father came to the
Irish settlement of San Patricio de Hibernia while she was quite
After her father died, Chipita earned a living by feeding travelers
and giving them a place to sleep at her lean-to shack near the Nueces
River. As the story goes, one of those travelers named John Savage
was murdered with an ax - he was supposedly carrying $600 in gold.
However, when Savage's body was found in a burlap bag near the river,
the gold was also recovered which gave doubt as to robbery being
the motive for the crime.
None-the-less, Chipita was arrested by Sheriff William B. Means
and charged with robbery and murder. One online source reports that
she had a "slow-witted" boy named Juan Silvera helping her with
chores around the place - again, only on speculation, some claim
that the boy was her son and he was also arrested as an accomplice.
The trial judge was Benjamin F. Neal who would go on to be the first
mayor of Corpus
Christi. Although the jury found her guilty, they recommended
that because of her old age and the circumstantial evidence she
should be given mercy. Neal ignored the jury and gave Silvera five
years in prison while ordering Chipita to be hanged on Nov. 13,
legend, she was an old woman who didn't die instantly because her
neck never broke and she strangled to death while still hanging
from the tree. Old-timers said that the terrible way she died is
the reason why her ghost still haunts the area. It's a sad story,
to say the least - some sources reveal that Chipita had no defense
lawyer and the foreman of the jury was the man who arrested her
- others say she was protecting her illegitimate son.
Some sources claim that records of the trial were lost to fire,
flood, or whatever. Also, some historians and writers say that Chipita
was kept in leg irons and chained to the courthouse wall. Another
report says that a witness to the hanging heard a moan coming from
the coffin. Again, we don't know the facts but legend has it that
she was buried in an unmarked grave at the base of a mesquite tree.
She claimed to be "not guilty" throughout the entire affair. Finally,
a state historical marker to honor Chipita was placed on the Old
San Patricio Courthouse grounds in 2008.
As previously noted, the truth of this story is lost to history
and now only the legend remains. Chipita has gained fame in newspapers,
books, and magazines. In 1985, thanks to state senator Carlos Truan
Christi, the 69th legislature passed a resolution to pardon
her - it was signed by Governor Mark White on June 13, 1985.