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Power wedding: wealthy Mexican widow and Anglo rancher marry

April
16
1852

On this day in 1852, the wealthy twenty-six-year-old Mexican widow Petra Vela de Vidal married Anglo rancher Mifflin Kenedy in Brownsville. Though Kenedy was raised a Quaker, he accepted his wife's Catholicism, and she became one of the few upper-class women of Mexican origin in nineteenth-century Texas. In 1850 Mifflin Kenedy had formed an immensely profitable steamboat company in partnership with Richard King, and the two gradually began buying up vast amounts of ranching land. In 1869 the Kenedy family moved from Brownsville to the Laureles Ranch in Nueces County. As did most women in nineteenth-century Texas, Petra dedicated much of her life to childbearing, childrearing, and the domestic support of the family and the ranch. In 1882 Kenedy sold the ranch to the Texas Land and Cattle Company, apparently when Petra became an invalid for reasons doctors could not understand, and they moved to Corpus Christi. In Corpus Christi Petra Kenedy helped the church and the poor. A devout Catholic, she donated three bells for the tower and other gifts for the new Catholic church. She also made generous donations to St. Mary's Church in Brownsville. Petra died at Corpus Christi on March 16, 1885, and was buried at Brownsville.

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