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Farm Road 666

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San Patricio lies just northwest of Corpus Christi and just south of Mathis. The small town may be the most concentrated haunted area in Texas. It lies down Farm Road 666, a fact which makes it seem more foreboding, more ominous. One keeps expecting to see a scarlet clad figure with horns hitchhiking on the side of the road.

It was early on a Saturday when I first ventured to San Patricio. I went just as a scouting expedition to see what the town was actually like. Alright, my friend and I were on the way to Corpus Christi and the beach and I talked him into going with me just to have a look around. We took Interstate 37 from San Antonio to Mathis and then Farm Road 666 to San Patricio. The above mentioned hitchhiker crossed our minds once or twice. Okay, once again we didn’t take that seriously and we popped in Chris Rea’s “The Road to Hell” and went zooming down the road.

To say San Patricio is small would be an understatement, we went all the way through it before we realized it. We reached the Nueces River and decided to stop and look at the map. The only recognizable landmark was the Old San Patricio Store. The store itself was closed for remodeling and the only people we could see seemed to be attending a funeral. We didn’t want to intrude and headed for the sandy and tar ridden beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast.

Down the road from the store lies Constitution Square where two marble columns stand to commemorate those from San Patricio who died there for the sake of the Texas Revolution over the Mexican Government. The town, which drips with history, played a big part in the Revolution. It contributed it’s land, young men, and eventually, itself.

Old San Patricio Store

The crossing at the Nueces just south of the small town was its beginning. The Santa Margarita crossing was established by ranchers who occupied the Jose Herrera 1804 Spanish Land Grant. A historical marker at the crossing, tells the story of the ranchers and how in 1828 John McMullen and James McGloin received a land grant from the Mexican Government. With it they established and Irish colony just to the north of the crossing, hence San Patricio.

The crossing became very important to the cattle trade and the Mexican government built nearby Fort Lipantitlan to protect the road. It was the fort that brought the war to San Patricio. It was captured in 1835 by a guerilla Texan force and then recaptured by General Jose Urrea’s division of Santa Anna’s army. Urrea marched through San Patricio on his way to Goliad and surprised a small Texan force under the command of Johnson. Nine or ten men were killed, six or seven escaped and 20 were taken to Matamoros as prisoners. The war was unkind to San Patricio, after the battle of San Jacinto the town was destroyed and the inhabitants driven away.

The fighting of the embattled troops is remembered by more than just a marble monument. Fighting between Santa Anna’s troops and Texan revolutionaries can still be heard among the trees and the brush along the river. The battle sounds echo through the night, giving testament to those who fought and died there. Probably the most famous ghost in San Patricio is that of Chipita Rodriquez, the only woman to be legally hung in Texas. The Texas Legislature adopted a resolution in 1985, 122 years later, stating that she didn’t receive a fair trial.

Apparently she was covering for her son, a deserter, who killed a man for his money. Chipita didn’t even try to defend herself, keeping silent while trying to protect her son. It is said she returns and roams the night looking for her son. When strange sounds are heard in the darkness local residents will tell you that it is Chipita looking for her son, they say she is always in the trees down by the bridge where you cross.

The Ghost of John McMullen came back to San Patricio to tell his loved ones that he was dying, or more to the point, that he had died. James McGloin’s partner in the land grant was also his father-in-law. After the battle of San Jacinto, McMullen sold his landholdings to McGloin and moved to San Antonio. There he set up a mercantile business but still remained close to the family he had left in San Patricio.

In January of 1853 James McGloin sat beside a fire warming himself on a cold winter night. Suddenly before him appeared the grim and bloody image of his father-in-law. Shocked beyond belief he stared at the specter no knowing what to do. After a few moments had passed and the thing was still there he finally worked up enough courage to speak, “What do you want John?” he asked it.

The specter looked at him and then slowly dissolved before McGloin’s eyes. McGloin, shocked, but spurred to action, quickly saddled his horse. Telling his family what had just happened he rode at a gallop for San Antonio to find that John McMullen had been brutally murdered that night. McMullen had been reaching out his family from the grave, or near it.

Another ghost that rides the roads near San Patricio is that of yet another Headless Horseman. The hill that one tops coming from Mathis that gently flows down into San Patricio is known as Headless Horseman Hill.

There are two stories that give birth the legend of San Patricio’s headless haunt. The first is that of a wealthy Kentuckian who had come to Texas for a land purchase who found the quaint town of San Patricio to be his last stop. Texas in those times was a rough place to be, and someone who exhibited wealth and appeared to be alone was an easy target. It is said that he lost not only his gold but his head and now roams the night looking for both.

The second story is very similar to that of San Antonio’s Headless Horseman of the Botanical Gardens, a horse thief. The penalty for stealing horses at the turn of the century was rather less than nice. Most of the time it was hanging, but sometimes the vigilante was impatient and a machete was a hasty, yet effective, substitute.

The last ghost is perhaps one of the saddest of all Texas ghosts. It is a story of lost love, young love, it is the story of the lady in green. It all starts with the Mexican Fort of Lipantitlan under the command of young Captain Marcelino Garcia. The Irish of San Patricio had a cannon that was lent to the young captain by the impresario James McGloin to help fight off the Indians.

The young captain became friendly with McGloin and took supper at the McGloin house often. The two were friends and shared much. Garcia told them of his lovely young fiancée back in Mexico, soon he would marry her and bring her to the fort. Frontier life would be both different and hard for the young senorita, but he was sure it would be tempered by the friendly Irish of San Patricio.

Fighting during the war for Texan Independence began in Gonzales and San Antonio and the Captain had received orders from Santa Anna, the cannon was not to be returned to the Irish. The Texan force attacked and captured Fort Lipantitlan and the young Captain was gravely injured.

McGloin rushed the Captain to his home hoping that he would be better cared for there. McGloin fearful, but hopeful, send a letter to the young girl in Mexico by courier alerting her of the Captain’s condition. Garcia grew worse and worseas the days passed yet he hung on as if he was waiting for something. Hope had faded as Garcia near death’s door and the priest readied for last rites.

It was then that she appeared, a young senorita of tremendous beauty dressed in a long gown made of green silk. She moved to Garcia’s bedside gracefully looking not to either side. The Captain looked up, seeing the girl and tried to embrace her, his arms passing through her form.

No one can say when she disappeared, or if she left the way she had come, she just wasn’t there anymore. She returned daily though, ever watchful over her captain. She watched until the day that Garcia passed away.

McGloin buried Garcia on the hill in the little cemetery. They were shocked though to find that the woman still returned to sit by the bed where the young man had lain dying. It was though she didn’t know that Garcia had passed away. The lady continued to return for quite awhile and the McGloin family soon came to accept it.

Then, she just stopped coming, the McGloins presuming that she too had passed away and now the two were together again. The ghostly visitations had ceased when the love that had caused them in the first place was joined on a higher plane.

San Patricio Plaque

Stop in San Patricio, if not for the ghosts at least for the history the town has to offer. They have just dedicated a monument in the Old San Patricio Cemetery to the courageous souls who are buried there. They are the ones who helped forge the legends of the Texas Revolution and the ghosts that still haunt the area. Go there, you’ll find it quite an enjoyable place, just don’t drive too fast or you may miss it, and above all, don’t pick up any hitchhikers.

Updated June 21st, 2009