Cadena murders hit close to home for writer

For those readers who may have missed last week’s blog let me quickly bring them up to speed. In April 1886, Nueces County Deputy Paulino Coy arrested Andres Martinez and Jose Maria Cadena on suspicion of horse theft. He left both men in the custody of Constable Juan Juarez in Collins. During the night, someone mysteriously shot the two men to death. A few days later, people in Duval County found Mateo Cadena and Pedro Peña lynched near the rancho Los Indios.

The local Mexican-American population suspected Coy in the atrocities and reportedly took over the town of Collins in search of the deputy. Martinez’s father offered a $1,000 reward for Coy’s capture.

On May 2, the San Antonio Express reported that Jesus Portio, who was sleeping within five feet of Martinez and Cadena when they were murdered, had “lost his mind” and authorities transported him to Corpus Christi for treatment. The San Antonio newspapers and the Corpus Christi Caller were at odds with their reporting. The Caller claimed reports from the San Antonio Freie Presse were a “slur.” The German language newspaper reported that a Mexican mob looking for Coy had taken over Corpus Christi. “During this time,” said the Freie Presse, “Coy was with another deputy in Duval County to capture horse thieves who would not surrender. A fight occurred and both Mexicans were killed.”

The Caller labeled the story false, reporting that the “Mexicans were found hung.”

“Coy had nothing to do with lynching,” reported the Caller. “If he had and the thieves were killed while fighting and resisting arrest, it is not a crime that they would have died with a rope around their necks.”

The event supposedly made the national news, with the New York-based Illustrated Sporting World reporting the occupation of Collins in its May 10 issue.

This story has a special interest to this writer because of what happened next. The Caller reported that a “Vicente Molnio, brother-in-law, of J. M. Cadena one of the murdered prisoners came here yesterday to pay for the coffin and the pasturage on Cadena’s horse.” This is probably a misspelling by the Caller, and the individual’s name is likely Vicente “Molina.” I say this, because my great-grandfather was Vicente Molina, who at that time lived in Piedras Pintas. His wife, my great-grandmother was Felipita Cadena. It appears that Jose Maria and Mateo Cadena were likely Felipita’s brothers and my great-granduncles.

The Justice of the Peace who had possession of Jose Maria Cadena’s horse was in San Antonio. Mr. White came from Tilden and claimed the two sorrel horses that Coy had found in possession of a boy who said they were the property of Cadena. White claimed ownership of one horse ad said a Mr. Cromwell, also of Tilden, was the owner of the other. Curiously, the Caller makes no mention of the fact that the original search for the stolen horses suggested they belonged to Hilario Cruz.

A month after the killings, Coy resigned his position in Nueces County and took a better paying position in Zapata County; perhaps better paying and a safe distance from those in Duval County who were itching for his life. He went on to serve as a Texas Ranger and died in Cameron County in 1908.

While I cannot definitively say that the Cadenas were my great-granduncles, I feel fairly certain this is the case. I would welcome any information from readers on any aspect of this story and the people mentioned in it.