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Nuecestown Raid of 1875

Cynthia E. Orozco General Entry

The Nuecestown raid of 1875, also known as the Corpus Christi raid, can best be explained as part of a cycle of violence between Mexican citizens, Hispanic Texans, and Anglo Texans. By 1875 raids and murder were common on the part of both ethnic groups. Raiders from Mexico were particularly active from 1871 to 1875, when the raiding of South Texas ranches reached a climax. Richard King's ranch was raided twice in the spring of 1875. There was a lucrative trade in stolen cattle and horses in Mexico (see CATTLE RUSTLING). Skinning wars or "hide-peeling" incidents were also common at the time. Persons of Mexican descent worked in collusion with the raiders or were intimidated by them. In the case of the Nuecestown raid, however, cattle theft was apparently not the raiders' goal. Juan N. Cortina, Mexican outlaw and later Mexican general, was probably an instigator of the raid, if not actually involved. The Mexican raiders concentrated their efforts on Nuecestown and the surrounding area, but other areas between Nuecestown and the Rio Grande were also hit. In late March 1875 a number of men left Mexico in small groups and met about twenty miles from where the raid began. They were joined by others with fresh horses. The first overt act of the raid was against a man named Campbell and occurred near Tule Lake, where horses were stolen. Next, the raiders robbed the Page home, less than nine miles from Corpus Christi, and took Mr. Page hostage. On March 26, eighteen to twenty raiders arrived at Frank's store on the Juan Saenz ranch, demanding and taking all valuables as well as supplying themselves with horses and saddles from passersby. A Hispanic who worked for Frank was killed after he refused to join the raiders. Eleven Anglos and a number of Hispanic women and children were taken captive at Frank's. The raiders then left, driving their captives before them, and headed toward Motts (Nuecestown, then located about thirteen miles northwest of Corpus Christi in Nueces County). Arriving at the store of Thomas Noakes, they found it closed. Noakes shot the first raider to open the door. Immediately afterward a man known as "Lying" Smith rushed out and was shot and killed. The building was set on fire, but Noakes escaped through a door in the floor to a trench that had been dug for this purpose. All of Noakes's property was destroyed. The raiders stayed about an hour, freed the female captives, and left for Penitas.

When word of the raid reached Corpus Christi, two companies formed to pursue the raiders, one led by Nueces county sheriff John McClane and the other by Pat Whelen. The latter group of ten caught up with the raiders (who numbered about thirty-five) near Hunter's place and attacked them. One of Whelen's men, John Swanks, was shot and killed, and the Anglos retreated when they ran out of ammunition. Subsequently the raiders released the male prisoners. Sheriff McClane's posse caught the raider shot by Noakes; he was hanged by a mob a few days later. The Mexican raiders sent two escorted wagons of plunder ahead. Though this should have slowed them down, neither posse made further contact. The raiders passed through Piedras Pintas, shooting and killing a man for his horse. On April 2 they surrounded the town of Roma in Starr County with the intent to rob the customshouse but were stopped by United States troops in the area. It appears also that several people were killed by the same bandits in Hidalgo County and Laredo. Once back in Mexico, some of the raiders were identified, and Mexican authorities arrested them, but Cortina was able to assist them in avoiding trial.

Anglo residents of South Texas retaliated with a vengeance. Bands of volunteers organized "minute companies" in every county from the Nueces to the Rio Grande. They proceeded to hunt down Mexican outlaws, peaceful rancheros, and merchants; the avengers looted property and burned homes. Since saddles were among the goods stolen by the raiders, Mexicans seen with new saddles were killed. Retaliation extended outside of the immediate geographical area, as well. In Encinal County at La Parra, the jacales of squatter Mexicans were burned. The Anglo avengers also killed all the adult males at the Mexican-owned La Atravesada Ranch in what is now Kenedy County. Similar incidents occurred at El Penascal, Corral de Piedra, and El Mesquite. Those killed were farmers and stockraisers. Stores at La Atravesada and El Penascal were also burned down. After the devastation, Mexican rancheros in the area fled in fear for their lives. According to the Corpus Christi Gazette, "good Mexicans" were afraid to travel to Corpus Christi. Sheriff McClane requested the assistance of the Texas Rangers , who thereafter disbanded the companies and reported that the acts committed by "Americans" were "horrible." While the Texas Rangers prevented the "minute companies" from further acts of violence, raids and atrocities from across the Rio Grande continued, as often as not against Hispanic Texans. After Noakes died, his sons sought a $50,000 claim from the Mexican government, but it was to no avail until 1945, when the Mexican government paid $7,125 to his heirs. Hispanics in Texas received no recompense for the violence they suffered.

Ruth Dodson, "The Noakes Raid," Frontier Times, July 1946. William Hager, "The Nuecestown Raid of 1875: A Border Incident," Arizona and the West 3 (Autumn 1959). Leopold Morris, "The Mexican Raid of 1875 on Corpus Christi," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 4 (October 1900). U.S. House of Representatives, Texas Frontier Troubles (Report of the House Special Committee, 44th Cong. 1st Sess., Report No. 343, February 29, 1876).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Rebellions, Raids, and Wars
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Military
  • Boundary Disputes and Ethnic Conflict

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cynthia E. Orozco, “Nuecestown Raid of 1875,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 06, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: