MLB Negro League, Immigration in Texas, and a Sorrowful Tale of Lynching

Distance traveled from San Antonio: 1,3224,849

 

Location: Eagle Pass, Carrizo Springs, and Cotulla, TX
Churches: Church of the Redeemer, Church of the Holy Trinity, and St. Timothy’s

 

Opening Prayer
O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name.

Be for us our companion on the walk, 
Our guide at the crossroads,
Our breath in our weariness,
Our protection in danger,
Our shade in the heat,
Our light in the darkness,
Our consolation in our discouragements,
And our strength in our intentions.

So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

Welcome to Eagle Pass, Carrizo Springs, and Cotulla, TX!

Eagle Pass

Eagle Pass has a population of just under 30,000 and sits directly on the border of Mexico. Just across the Rio Grande river is Eagle Pass’s sister city of Piedras Negras, making Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras one of six bi-national metro areas along the border. 

The city offers numerous shops and restaurants in its downtown district and offers many historical attractions. Eagle Pass was first established as Fort Duncan in 1849. Santa Ana and the Mexican army passed through the fort on their way to the Alamo. 

Eagle Pass is home to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. Established in 1878 Church of the Redeemer continues to be a beacon of Christ’s light to the community.

The first minister to conduct monthly services, outside the post of Fort Duncan, was the Rev. J.T. Hutcheson. His report, included in the Journal of the Diocese for 1878 gives a short but vivid description of his first work in Eagle Pass: “Eagle Pass is, at present, a good specimen of a frontier town – no Lord’s Day and no churches. But a spirit of improvement, moral and religious as well as material, is now taking possession of the minds of many of its people. There is a least a desire to have Churches as well as barrooms and gambling saloons.” Today, they offer three services a Sunday, one in English, a bilingual service, and a service in Spanish. 

For countless Americans, the sport of Baseball has been both the national pastime and a way to remember the joys of games from the past.  Whether it was going to a game to celebrate July 4th, or sitting down for a marathon run of the Ken Burns documentary, baseball has played a pivotal role in many of our lives.  The game of baseball has allowed many individuals to shine on a national stage. However, we must also acknowledge the injustices of the past during the era of the “gentleman’s agreement” when players of color were banned from playing in the national league.  While African Americans were not allowed to play with their Anglo peers, this would not stop them from participating in the national pastime in the form of various Negro League teams.  Starting with the first team in the 1880s, countless young African American hopefuls would play in fields across the country, with one of the biggest stars of these leagues being the native Texan, James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey.  Mackey, both in his time and today, is known as one of the all-time greatest catchers, playing for as many as twelve teams in a career that spanned from 1918 to 1950.  

Before making it to professional baseball, Mackey would get his introduction to the game like many children by playing with his siblings in his hometown of Eagle Pass, Texas.  The son of sharecroppers, Biz would first start playing with the prairie league team in Luling Texas, before joining with the professional San Antonio aces for his debut in 1918.  In 1920, Biz signed with the Indianapolis ABCs just in time for the first season of the Negro National League.  

Biz’s career would take him far from his Texas home, barnstorming across the nation and playing in a highly successful trip to Japan in 1927, where he would become the first player to hit a home run out of Meiji Shrine Stadium.  Mackey would continue to play right up till the 1940’s when he would begin managing the Newark Eagles to their 1946 win in the Negro World Series.  As late as 1947 Mackey would appear in the All-Star games at the age of 50, finally retiring from the game in 1950.  

While Biz had been a household name throughout this era of baseball, like many other players in the Negro Leagues he was never given the chance to play against his peers in the national leagues and it would not be until 2006 when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame that Mackey would be given the true credit for his role in developing the game of baseball.

Carrizo Springs

Carrizo Springs has a population of 5,400 and is 82 miles northwest of Laredo. The name of the town is derived from the local Artesian springs, which are known for their purity and clarity. In recent years Carrizo Springs has become home to a local olive orchard and oil press. The Olive Texas Ranch has successfully been growing olive trees and pressing olive oil for fifteen years. The dry, rocky soil mimics that of Southern Spain and parts of Italy which are prime for olive tree growth. To shop their online store, find recipes, or see visitor information you can check out their website here: https://texasoliveranch.com/

The Church of the Holy Trinity provides an Episcopal presence to the community. Trinity offers Sunday School and either Holy Eucharist or Morning Prayer every Sunday at 10:45 am with a beautiful worship space. 

Carrizo Springs is home to the Influx Car Facility, an unaccompanied minor detention site. Children aged 2-17 who cross the border unaccompanied by an adult can be housed at the facility, which has a capacity of 1,000-1,600 children. The site opened in February 2021 and has since had 3,909 children pass through its facilities. The current number of children being held is 627. As numbers of those seeking refuge in the United States continue to grow it will be a part of our Christian responsibility to ask how we can serve Christ in others and how we will strive to respect the dignity of every human being. The Diocese of West Texas has a vital Immigration Ministry, working toward showing empathy and compassion to those who come among us as neighbors in Christ. St. Luke’s participated in a PPE/Food Kit drive for immigrants traveling through San Antonio, and churches along the border continue to serve refugees and immigrants in need. For more information and to find out how you can help you can go to the diocesan Immigration and Refugee web page: https://www.dwtx.org/what-we-do/ministries/immigration-refugee-ministries

At the bottom of the page is an option to sign up for a bi-weekly Immigration Ministries Update, featuring events, volunteer and giving opportunities, news, and prayer requests.

 

Cotulla
Cotulla has a population of 4,100 and was named after the Polish and Prussian immigrant Joseph Cotulla who established a large ranching business in the area.
When Joseph heard that the Great Northern Railroad was seeking to lay tracks nearby he donated 120 acres of land to the railroad. Joseph’s family still lives in the area and they continue the ranching tradition started by their grandfather and great-grandfather. While the town of Cotulla began its economy through the ranch and farming industry, they now also rely on leasing land for hunting and the petroleum and natural gas industries. Lying along the Eagle Ford Shale deposit the population and growth in Cotulla have been exponential in the last decade. New housing and business are being established and there have been major renovations to many of their historic downtown buildings. 

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church serves the local community, with worship services every Sunday at 11 am. 

The right to a trial by a jury of our peers and protection under the law are rights enshrined to all residing in the US by the Constitution.  However, as we have already discovered during this pilgrimage the history of these protections has not always extended to all members of society and many instances of extrajudicial killings and crimes occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  Texas, in particular, has a long history with the extrajudicial crime of lynching, and in the town of Cotulla, we find a case from 1895 showing that while we associate lynching with groups such as the Klu Klux Klan and violence against African Americans, Hispanic residents of the state were also terrorized by this crime.  

The later years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th are known in Mexican history as the Porfiriato when Mexico was under the rule of President Porfirio Diaz who came to power in a coup in 1876 and would rule until 1910.  While this era of Mexican-US history is characterized by a close relationship between the Diaz government and Washington, as Diaz opened up Mexico to foreign investment, it was also a time of growing racial tension along the border as seen in incidents such as military raids and bandit attacks back and forth.  As this tension grew, so too did the number of crimes committed against Mexican and Mexican Americans as families who had been on the land for generations were being forced off by new settlers.  Terror tactics were often used, and even the protection of the authorities could oftentimes not stop these nighttime attacks.  

On the night of October 12th, 1895, Floantina Suaito was incarcerated in the local jail for the alleged murder of the rancher U. T. Saul in the town of Cotulla.  Early that week Saul had found one of his calves stolen, and while riding out to track down those who stole his calf he found a wagon on the side of the road being driven by Suaito and two women who were also Mexican.  While attempting to illegally search Suaito’s wagon, a shot rang out and by the end of the firefight Saul along with one of the other members of Suaito’s wagon would be dead.  While Suaito was in the jail that night, a group of ten armed hooded individuals overpowered the jailer and took Suaito to the banks of the Nueces River.  Once there, without any trial or due process of law, Suaito would be hung from a nearby tree and his body riddled with bullets as the hooded individuals used his body for target practice.  It would not be until the following morning that Suaito’s body would be cut down, and there would be no investigation or arrests made in his case, despite the identities of the murderers being well known within the local community.  

While these crimes of terror took place well over half a century ago, the impact of these crimes can and still has an impact on those alive today.  The memories of these nighttime raids of terror are passed down through the generations and unfortunately still cause hurt and anguish in many communities today. While taking in these stories is difficult, they are important to remember as we try to understand and build relationships across racial lines and in hopes of healing our nation from its current divisions. 

 

Closing Prayer
God of Heaven and Earth, you created the one human family
and endowed each person with great dignity. Aid us, we pray, in overcoming the sin of racism. Grant us your grace in eliminating this blight

from our hearts, our communities, our social and civil institutions. Fill our hearts with love for you and our neighbor so that we may work with you in healing our land from racial injustice. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Next Stop: Laredo, Hebronville, and McAllen, TX
Steps to next Location: 146,000 to Laredo
Churches: Christ Episcopal, St. James’, and St. John’s