On March 26, 1875 a band of Mexican raiders attacked Nuecestown, a settlement near Corpus Christi. Some twenty men surrounded Thomas Noakes’s store, which was closed. Noakes shot the first raider who entered the door. The raiders set fire to the building, but Noakes escaped via a trapdoor to a trench he’d prepared for that purpose.
Violence had escalated between Mexicans, Tejanos and Anglos, a cycle of attacks and revenge killings. Isolated cattle ranches suffered rustling and murders, with one ethnic group and then another taking revenge for a previous outrage. Following the Nuecestown raid, two companies set out to pursue the raiders. The sheriff of Nueces County captured the bandit shot by Noakes; a mob soon lynched him.
The raiders escorted two wagons of plunder south to Mexico. They created havoc along the border, and after crossing the Rio, the Mexican government arrested them. The infamous Cortina arranged their release.
After the Nuecestown raid, Texans of Mexican descent were afraid to travel to Corpus Christi. Sheriff John McClain requested the assistance of Texas Rangers, who disbanded the violent posses. Sporadic raids across the Rio continued, however, as often against Hispanics as against Anglos. Some thirty years later, Mexico erupted into full-scale revolution.
Nuecestown itself didn’t survive long into the 20th Century. Bypassed by the railroad (a familiar story in the West), the site was engulfed by expanding Corpus Christi.
But I'm still intrigued by Thomas Noakes. What led him to dig that escape trench beneath his store? How did he know? Did others do that, in those days? The past eludes us, no matter how firm our grasp upon it.
March 26, 2015.
“War has rules, mud wrestling has rules, but politics has no rules.” – Ross Perot.