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Published: February 5th 2020
MAUDMAUD HAWK WRIGHT
We had to stop by at a little store in Mountainair to inquire about the whereabouts of the cemetery. A lady in the store who not shopped there in the previous 8 years was suspicious of us and asked why we wanted to go to the cemetery. WE explained that we were seeking to pay our respects at the grave of Maud Medders. She sort of gasped ,and said, "Hell, I knew Maud when I was a little girl. She was our neighbor." We followed her to the cemetery and she helped us locate the grave. It is beneath a tree in the far southwest corner.
A stronger, tougher, more resilient woman has not yet been born than Maud. She tumbled into the world on Memorial Day, 1889 in Bessemer, Jefferson County, Alabama. She was the eldest of five siblings being raised by Thomas Austin Hawk and his wife, Louisa Belle Russell. Like many before him Tom Hawk sought improved opportunity further west. By 1909 the family found themselves in Silver City, New Mexico. Within a year she had eloped with a burly fellow named Ed Wright. They got married and Ed started up a ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. The happy couple was joined by a son named John Edward in 1914. The ranch was beginning to show signs of prosperity by February of 1916 when it was raided by Pancho Villa’s Army. All of the cattle were stolen to feed Pancho’s army, Ed and the hired man were both murdered , Johnnie was given to a Mexican woman to raise, and Maud was abducted for use as a target rider. Those were not good times for her. Several of Pancho’s senior officers wanted to just go ahead and kill her, but they were so fearful of Pancho that they didn’t dare. A target rider rode at the very front of the army in hopes that if they blundered into Presidente Carranza’s army, the federal soldiers would not open fire on women. Pancho and his body guards rode well back in the column for protection. They were on their merry way to attack American soil at Columbus, New Mexico. Several of Pancho’s men died of thirst, or starvation, or exhaustion on their way forward. Maud was barely kept alive because she was the target rider.
Pancho was mad as hell because the Wilson Administration had chosen to recognize Venusiano Carranza as Presidente of Mexico. That recognition came with an embargo on the sale of guns and ammo to Pancho. A fellow named Sam Ravel living in Columbus had been one of Pancho’s arms dealers. He owed Pancho funds for an arms shipment that could not be made because of the embargo. Pancho wanted the money back and he wanted a pound of flesh off Sam’s carcass because of the failed deal. He also hoped to overrun the small American garrison at camp Columbus, steal their guns and horses and rob the Custom House and bank. It turned out that Sam Ravel had a sore tooth and had gone to El Paso to get it pulled. Pancho’s raiders simultaneously attacked the garrison and the Commercial Hotel. They robbed everyone they found in the hotel, and murdered four of the men staying there, hoping that one of them was Sam. They then set the hotel on fire and went off to loot other establishments. In the meantime LT Castleman, officer of the guard, alertly took his men and went to defend the bank. Lt Lucas, commanding the machine gun troop, fought his way barefoot from his house to gather his men and collect the machine guns. They took up positions in the railway ditch flanking Castleman’s position. They opened up and the machine guns immediately jammed. By the time the jammed guns were cleared LT Littlefield came to defend Lucas’s left flank which was open. It was a strong defensive position and light from the fires illuminated the field. The machine guns did deadly work. Ninety of Pancho’s men were killed and many more wounded. By daylight Pancho had fled like a scalded dog back to Mexico. Five of his men were too exhausted to run. They were taken prisoner and hanged for murder. All of the Mexican dead were piled up and set on fire. Eight American civilians were killed, and eight American soldiers were killed.
During the attack Maud remained with the horses and finally managed to escape during the confusion of Pancho’s hurried retreat. She made her way into town and was taken to Colonel Slocum’s house and held for interrogation as a spy. Her story was finally verified and the Wilson Admiration prevailed upon the Carranza government to reunite her with her son, John. They went to Safford, Arizona where Maud had family. She married a fellow named Medders in 1917, moved to a ranch outside of Mountain Air, New Mexico and raised six more kids. In 1960, she and John made a visit to Columbus, and she finally spoke of her ordeal with Pancho. As grueling as that experience was it is not what defined her as a fierce woman. She survived it all because her love for John was even fiercer than Pancho. At age 82 Maud got bucked off a horse and broke her hip. She decided to retire from the active life of a ranch woman. She went up the flume in Albuquerque on Christmas Day of 1980 at the age of 91, and is buried beside Medders in the little cemetery at Mountainair. She was a woman to be in awe of.
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