Pilgrims from Texas Get Into Trouble
1965, February 08
San Antonio Light
HOUSTON – (AP) – The golden dream of a group of spiritual pilgrims who left Texas for a “paradise” in the bush country of Paraguay apparently has become somewhat tarnished.
One of the Paraguay pilgrims is in jail and five others were accused of illegally killing cattle.
The Houston Post published a story today of how the pilgrims are faring after having left Texas in December of 1963.
76 AT START
At the start there were 76 of them – many from Houston – but now only 48 remain in Paraguay. The rest, weary and disillusioned, had already given up and gone home.
The result may cause the ill-starred expedition to come to an end, the Post reported.
The Post learned that last month most of the pilgrims remaining in Paraguay took arms against the village of Puerto Guarani and stayed barricaded in a building for five days.
After the conflict ended – without bloodshed – six Americans faced charges of illegally killing cattle.
All were released but the Rev. Jack Wood
Jr. of Houston, who was in a federal prison in Asuncion. He was charged with killing cattle and resisting arrest.
McRoberts said the pilgrims, led by James A. St. John, a former Baptist pastor from Bloomington, Tex., have been living in Puerto Guarani, a settlement on the Paraguay River.
McRoberts helped the clan move there shortly after they arrived in Paraguay because the town had electricity and other conveniences.
He said that since then the pilgrims have done “virtually nothing” to help themselves.
McRoberts said police there had been getting reports of domestic cattle were being killed or rustled.
Permission by Pan-Western had been given the pilgrims to kill wild, unbranded cattle, he said, but not domestic animals.
The five men jailed and later released were identified by McRoberts as William Smith and Eugene Couch, both of Houston, and Robert Watts of Abilene, Dwight Townsend and his brother, Calvin.
The townspeople of Puerto Guarani have asked the Americans be made to leave Paraguay.
“The Post learned that last month most of the pilgrims remaining in Paraguay took arms against the village of Puerto Guarani and stayed barricaded in a building for five days.
After the conflict ended – without bloodshed – six Americans faced charges of illegally killing cattle.”
Too bad no one questioned McRoberts’ refusal to pay for services rendered! I may not remember a lot of what went on, my father did not know how to Do Nothing! I’ll never forget McRoberts; he was a “big deal” to the people of Beulah Land. One day I was walking with my mother and sister when a man on a horse approached. He asked mom if I could ride with him and he leaned down to grab my arm so I could swing up behind his saddle. In the midst of swinging me up, I touched the saddle with my foot and he dropped me to the ground, laughing as if he gained pleasure from hurting a little girl.
Jack Wood, William (Will) Smith, Eugene Couch, Robert Watts, Dwight Townsend, and Calvin Townsend were imprisoned after a stand-off with the policia/vigilante because where we lived, dad was concerned that the authorities were so corrupt, the men would likely be hanged if taken into custody. Dad refused to allow the locals to arrest anyone and an armed stand off ensued. I have letters and contracts somewhere around here that explain more of what was really going on. McRoberts is the contractor with Pan Western Cattle Company.
Missionary work had nothing to do with our existence in South America. A contract with Pan Western involved the men of Beulah Land finding wild cattle and driving them across the Parana River, into Argentina or Ascuncion. Why would McRoberts, the contractor, care if the cowboys ate a cow while driving cattle for weeks on end?
The Guaranians cared about us and Mr. Jiminez made certain the women and children were safe when the men were in prison. Our homes were raided while the men were gone. James St. John wasn’t arrested because he was in a neighboring village. The building in the background of where my eldest brother sits on the grass, with Johnnie standing, and a horse eating nearby, may have been the building where we held up. The men busted holes in the inside walls so that we could pass from room to room of the abandoned “hotel” without going outside. The men were outside and I never wanted to know that kind of terror. The kids were in the midst of a war zone and we knew we were in danger.