Tag Archives: McRoberts

Texans Face Savage Peril With Bible, Rifle, Pistol

Pilgrims pray for relief of dysentery.
Pilgrims pray for relief of dysentery.

PILGRIMS IN PARAGUAY

January 1, 1964, Section 1, Page 1

Texans Face Savage Peril With Bible, Rifle, Pistol

By BERNARD MURPHY

Every man of Camp Beulah group has a Bible. He also has a rifle, as well as a six-shooter at his side.

As Brother Jack Wood of Houston put it, “Every man will have to take his life in his own hands. Here it’s a case of praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

The 76 pilgrims from Texas, who are seeking a new life in the wilderness of Paraguay, find that defense is one of the problems in their goal setting up a self-sufficient community.

APART FROM the jaguars, pumas, snakes and crocodiles, Wood said that on the back of adjoining land bought by McRoberts lives the Moro tribe – the most savage tribe in all Paraguay.

They‘ve killed three missionary families in the last four years,” he said.

Brother St. John’s predecessor, the former manager of Del Sol, also died with his boots on.

He was an American, a native of Virginia, named Letcher Winthrow.

WINTHROW, a strange, hermit-like man, had lived in Paraguay for about eight years. He finally took a Guarani woman to live with him as a common law wife. They had a baby daughter, a pretty little girl who is now going to school in Asuncion. Fortunately, Winthrow, shortly before he died, acknowledged that he was the father of the child. Thus his common law wife and baby were able to inherit his estate.

One night at the very place where we stayed, Winthrow found some rustlers, as he called them. He said they were stealing two of his cows. When it ended one of the alleged rustlers was dead.

WINTHROW SAID that he did not know he had killed one of the men. He went back to his shack and went to sleep.

Later, the dead man’s body was found. There was a bullet wound in the man’s back. Relatives started a hue [sic] and cry.

Meanwhile, Winthrow had decided to go to the settlement at Olimpo, the nearest village,

See PILGRIMS on Page 15

PILGRIMS IN PARAGUAY

Continued from Page 1

January 1, 1964, Section 1, Page 15

and report the incident. When he got there he discovered that the police were looking for him to arrest him for murder.

Winthrow told his story. He was tried at Asuncion on a charge of murder. The court decided that he was justified in killing the rustler and he was acquitted.

A BROTHER of the dead man warned Winthrow: “I’m going to kill you.”

Despite the warning, Winthrow returned to Del Sol. Hr had sold some cattle and had about $2,000 on him.

With complete disregard for his safety, Winthrow went riding in the dusk. He was bush-whacked near a water hole and shot dead.

The $2,000 vanished. Winthrow’s killer is believed to have taken it and fled across the river into Brazil. The rustler’s brother has not been seen since. Winthrow, whose body was not found until two after he was shot, is buried where he fell. His grave marked by a pile of stones.

RUSTLING IN Paraguay, said McRoberts, is not a serious problem. He said there are no bands of rustlers running off large numbers of cows. If people are hungry, they sometimes kill a cow, cut it up, and take away the carcass. The rustler’s are hard to apprehend. They live little evidence and it is hard to tell whether the animal has been killed by humans or a jaguar.

Many of the cattle ranches in the Chaco are of immense size and cowhands only see the animals, at most, once a week.

One ranch about 40 miles from Del Sol covers 11 million acres.

McROBERTS believes that there are tremendous opportunities in Paraguay, although he does not expect to make any profits out of his ranching there for at least ten years.

He says that from the vast areas of rich grazing land a great meat producing industry can be built. He intends to ranch scientifically with the modern methods of the United States. Just before we arrived at Del Sol, McRoberts completed the purchase of another great tract of land adjoining this property.

Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc. is investing a vast amount of money in Paraguay.

McRoberts, a puckish man of great enthusiasm, had a personal interview with President Kennedy a $1 Million loan repayable at 9% to develop his ranches.

HIS COMPANY IS matching each United States Government-loaned dollar with its own capital.

In his view, with American know how, the rich earth of land-locked Paraguay can be developed to compete with Argentina as a source of meat supply. He has many other plans of marketing the produce of this fertile land.

The new ranch – Estancia Puerto Guarani- lies about 20 miles down the Paraguay River. It is one of the world’s largest ranching operations, occupying about 2 ¼ million acres of waist high grass. It has freshwater streams, extensive farm buildings, citrus groves, and its own deep draft docks on the river, which is almost a mile wide at this point.

UNLIKE DEL SOL, Estancia Puerto Guarani has been established as a ranching community for a considerable time.

The Paraguay River, one of the world’s largest waterways, provides a means of transport all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Tributaries of the river interlace the 2.5 million acres of the ranch, making it one of the most highly irrigated regions of the country.

The ranch has its own quaint railroad, engine and machine shops, a general store, private police force, a church, school, workers’ quarters, and a population of more than 1,000 persons.

“When I first brought the Texans over,” said McRoberts, “I intended to house them at Del Sol until they could build their own permanent homes.

I THOUGHT that with their tractors, bulldozers, and generators, they could soon make the place reasonably comfortable.

“But now that we have bought Puerto Guarani, I think I will move Saint John and his followers over there. It will be much easier for them. There is already electricity there and fine buildings and every kind of facility.

“I think they will find it less arduous until they have become thoroughly accustomed to the climate and the terrain and the language.”

After nearly a week of life in the wilderness, I found myself longing for some hot water with which to shave, a floor that wasn’t uneven mud, a bath and a cool drink.

FOR A WEEK I had lived with no more exciting drink than tepid water. I was so hungry most of the time from the excess of fresh air and heat that I wolfed oatmeal, spaghetti and noodles, rice and bread, made in the frying pan with relish. Even the Guarani rolls -almost as hard as wood- were welcome.

On Friday I packed my dusty belongings because on Friday the weekly mail plane lands on the landing strip beside the camp and I wanted to catch it.

I said goodbye to my kind hosts of Camp Beulah, Inc. Larry, Randy, and Brother Couch helped me with my gear over the rock-hard ground to the landing strip. I presented my water bottle to Larry and prepared to wait for the plane. It was due between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.

IT WAS SO HOT on the landing strip that a phonograph record I had bought on the way down in Chile curved at the edges.

It became necessary to move under a tree. Here about 10 cows and several bulls were also sheltering. For three hours the cows and I waited. I had to get up frequently from my resting place on the ground to shoo the cows away from my belongings.

About 1:30 PM Brother Saint John sent a small boy to say he didn’t think the plane was coming. So I returned, somewhat embarrassed, to join the group for lunch.

I found a few days later that the plane had not come because the cross wind on the landing strip was too strong for a safe landing.

Jack Wood -Displaying fishA GAUCHO who rode in from the radio station about 10 miles away reported that a plane with McRoberts on board would pick me up at 7 AM Sunday.

The radio station is a small one by which McRoberts, in Ascuncion.

Two more days of life in the Chaco persuaded me to rise earlier than ever that Sunday.

It was a lovely hot morning but there was one distinctive upsetting feature to life. I noticed that none of the women had gone to the cook house, and I was hungry, even for a plate of rice and beans and river water.

LARRY MURRAY gave me the stunning news “they fast on Sundays,” he said.

When the small four-seater plane arrived I rushed across to greet McRoberts. He had with him in the plane Dr. Angel DeAldecoa, vice president of Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc, and his son, a young medical man and an English-speaking pilot who was born in China.

McRoberts took Saint John and another member of the group on a flight to his new property at Puerto Guarani.

Meanwhile, Dr. De Aldecoa, who speaks fluent French, invited me in that language to join him for ‘le petit de jeuner’.

WE WALKED together over to a native house near the camp. I had often seen men, women, and masses of native children pouring from its doors. But I had never dreamed of the good old-fashioned earthly delights it stored.

On a table covered with a neat blue tablecloth places had been laid for us. A native woman brought in our plates, each bearing a massive slice of steak topped by two fried eggs, fresh baked bread, and a pot of steaming coffee; the sort of meal I had forgotten existed.

As I savored my eggs and coffee I thought it might be a good thing if these Indians did a little missionary work among my late hosts to cap the meal and complete my restoration to civilized living, Dr. De Aldecoa with the magic aid of the Coleman ice box from the plane produced some glasses, a bottle of whisky and huge lumps of ice.

NEVER WAS A lonely sinner of the Chaco brought back to civilization more pleasantly.

Glancing round instinctively to see if any Camp Beulah non smokers were in sight, I lit a cigarette.

Pilgrims in Paraguay (Bernard Murphy)

December 29, 1963
Pilgrims in Paraguay
Temperamental Plane Takes 76 to Life in Lonely Land
By Bernard Murphy

I have just flown 14,000 miles to bring back the story of one of the strangest pilgrimages of modern times.

It is the story of 76 Americans, most Texans and 24 of them from Houston, who have begun, a back-to-nature life in the lonely region of Northern Paraguay called the Chaco. During the Gran Chaco wars of the 1930s it was called “The Green Hell.”

Here the pilgrims, members of a religious group known as Camp Beulah, Inc. plan to build a church and a mission school and their own self-sufficient community.

Until they can become self-sufficient, they are living on a 249,000-acre ranch owned by an American company, Pan Western Enterprises, Inc. The men are working as ranchers and farmers.

They are housed in crude huts made of palm trees and mud by native labor.

Their encampment is 420 miles north of Asuncion, capital of Paraguay. There are no roads in the Chaco and the only way to reach Estancia Del Sol, the pilgrims’ settlement at Puerto Milhanovich is by river or by small plane.

UNDER THE blazing sun of what is now high summer in Paraguay, the group from Texas is leading a life similar in many respects to that of the Swiss Family Robinson.

The women who [*Unknown word*] washing machines, refrigerators and air conditioning, now wash their clothes in the wide River Paraguay.

Their water, about 70 degrees if drunk immediately, and 85 to 90 degrees if allowed to stand, also comes from the river.

They cook their simple meals on a wood-burning stove.

THEIR HOUSES have windows devoid of glass and floors which are the earth of the Chaco itself.

There are no bathrooms, electric lights, modern sanitation or means of communication with the rest of the world. Transport in the settlement is by oxen cart.

Their neighbors are the Guarani Indians and the picturesque gauchos of this rich cattle country.

Masses of wildlife live in the Chaco around them, including jaguars and pumas and snakes. The river is filled with crocodiles, water [*gs] and other beasts.

James A. St. John, a 3[*] year-old former Baptist minister and rancher, a native of Bloomington, near Victoria, is the leader of the group.

I FLEW TO Paraguay with the pilgrims and lived with them for almost a week in the heat of the Chaco.

In keeping with the strangeness of life of these modern-day pioneers was the flight from Texas to Paraguay in an ancient chartered airliner.

The plane was constantly beset by mechanical troubles. It took us six days and six nights to reach Asuncion. Our flight included an emergency landing at a big U.S. Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone and a crossing of the towering Andes Mountains with failing fuel pumps and a radio that went dead. Financial crisis followed crisis during the trip.

In 25 years of flying, I don’t think I have ever met a more reluctant airplane than old ZP.CAS

THIS WAS THE ancient Constellation in which the pilgrims, large dogs and seven puppies flew from Brownsville to far-off Paraguay.

ZP-CAS-dismantled after plane engine failure
ZP-CAS-dismantled after plane engine failure

[Photos from http://www.zoggavia.com/c_n_1964.html%5D

When the plane took off, after nearly a month of delays, most of the pilgrims had been waiting for almost exactly a year to reach Paraguay.
They came together at a missionary training school and boys camp owned by St. John at Coalmont, near Tracy City, Tenn.

Here in December, 1962, says St. John, “God spoke to us and gave us a message to go to Paraguay and do missionary work.”

ST. JOHN SOLD his ranch on which the school, known as Camp Beulah, was situated to buy equipment to take to Paraguay.

He contacted the Paraguayan consulate in New Orleans and eventually got into touch with James J. McRoberts.

McRoberts, an oilman and qualified engineer, is president of Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc., a company with offices in New Orleans and Asuncion, which has extensive land holdings in Paraguay.

At first McRoberts refused to have the Camp Beulah settlers on his lands. But he was impressed with the successful development of agriculture in Paraguay by the Mennonite religious colony at Campo Esperanza. So finally he agreed to provide a camp and to employ the skilled men of Cap Beulah, Inc.

THE WOULD-BE missionaries and their families moved from Tennessee to Harlingen. By May most of them were moved into a former restaurant and tourist camp.

The group grew, as friends said they would like to take the trip.

St. John contacted Hugo Zanelli, a Houston freight forwarder and asked him to arrange for the group’s farm equipment to be shipped to Paraguay.
By the end of October, Zanelli had shipped about 400 tons of equipment for St. John from the Port of Houston.

IT INCLUDED six tractors, three electric power plants, four bulldozers, a sawmill, two boats, food, clothing, refrigerators and three printing presses. With the presses the group plans to print schoolbooks and religious materials.

At the beginning of November, 69 men, women and children were waiting at Harlingen for a plane to take them to Paraguay.
Nov. 7 was planned as the day for take-off. But a suitable plane at the right price could not be found.

Meanwhile, as the group waited patiently at Harlingen, the ranks of the pilgrims grew. Seven new puppies arrived, Gail M. Borden, a 33-year-old Woodsboro cowboy, his wife Mozelle, and two children, Gaylean, 8, and Cheryl, 7, decided to go along. A giant Otoe Indian, Lawrence Pierce Murray of Ponca City, Okla., his daughter, Jacqueline, 4, and son, Franklin, 3, were the last to join.

Gail Borden Pilgrims in Paraguay December 29 1963
Gail Borden Pilgrims in Paraguay December 29 1963

FINALLY LAPSA, a Paraguayan airline company, agreed to fly the settlers out to Asuncion in a Constellation, which it was leasing at Miami.
For nearly a month the plane was expected almost daily to arrive at Brownsville, Time after time the settlers packed their bags, said goodbye to their relatives and prepared to leave. But no plane came.

St. John became so desperate that he explored the possibility of getting a plane elsewhere. But no other line would fly the group for less than twice the sum quoted by the Paraguayan firm.

WHAT THE settlers didn’t know was that the Constellation stood in a hangar for two years without taking to the air.

It was being overhauled and tested and the mechanics were desperately trying to coax it into the air.

They were encouraged constantly by Lorenzo J. C. Joy, a young Paraguayan travel agent, who had flown to Miami to supervise the trip.

For Joy the next few weeks were joyless. All he had was headaches. But a splendid enforced vacation at Miami was enjoyed by two diminutive and charming Paraguayan air hostesses, Miriam Centurion, 18, and Lidia Gimienez, 22, who had flown out from Asuncion to look after the pilgrims.

McROBERTS wasted about a week of his time trying to get the pilgrims airborne. He flew from Asuncion to Harlingen. After repeated telephone calls to Miami, McRoberts flew down to Florida to see what was happening.

“God is sure handling our journey: Hell send the plane when the time is right,” said the patient, prayerful Harlingen campers.

Capt. Fred Sharrer, a veteran ferry pilot of Miami, took command and at least the unbelievable happened – the plane arrived at Brownsville. The excited pilgrims loaded their baggage, their guns, and dogs onto trucks and drove to the airport.

THEY FOUND Capt. Scharrer and his crew of three, including Frank Crosson, of Miami, the flight engineer, Frank Cardus, a pilot from Paraguay, and another American pilot, resting in a nearby motel.

Sharrer explained that fuel pump trouble developed on the flight from Miami. There would be a delay while another pump was flown out and fitted to the plane.

Praising the Lord for having uncovered this defect in time, the pilgrims returned to their camp to wait still further.

THEY HAD ONLY the clothes in which they stood. Since all kitchen utensils had been packed, they ate only sandwiches.

But at long last, at 6:30 AM on Dec. 5 – a month late – the plane was ready. I joined McRoberts and the 76 pilgrims at the airport in Brownsville.

The plane’s load was so heavy that nearly a dozen duffle bags filled with the pioneers’ clothing, and two German Shepherd dogs, had to be left behind.

THEN THE motors came to life. The passengers prayed and sag, “Launch Out Into the Deep.” The old plane shook as the motors were revved up. For most of the passengers this was the first time in an airplane.

“Sister Long’s eyes,” noted Houston preacher Jack Wood, “are as big as a dollar.”

After seven more hours the plane landed in Tocumen International Airport in Panama. Here there was a three-hour delay while further adjustments were made to the fuel pumps.

At 7 PM a tired band of men, women and children departed again on the next leg of the trip, 1,300 miles to Lima, Peru.

TWO HOURS later, with the fuel pumps giving trouble again, the plane turned back towards U. S. Air Force Base in the Canal Zone.
The travelers stayed overnight at the base while a civilian engineer worked on the fuel pumps.

The next day, with the plane still not ready, the pilgrims obtained special permission to entire the Republic of Panama.

They stopped briefly at the luxurious Panama-Hilton on their way to a Tocumen airport where the plane was to pick them up.

BUT AT THE airfield they learned the fuel pumps still were not working.

So there was nothing to do but to put the whole flock up at one of the finest hotels in Panama, the La Siesta, and pay the bill.

Joy wanted to fly down through Brazil, where LAPSA had bases and credit. Capt. Sharrer had little faith in the state of the plane and thought it
safer to fly down the coast of Peru and Chile, where a sea ditching would be less dangerous than a forced landing in the jungles of Brazil.

MEANWHILE hotel bills, repair costs, and landing fees, and the plane’s huge appetite for gasoline had to be paid in cash.

Joy, McRoberts and Capt. Sharrer pooled their available money to pay the engineer who repaired the plane and to buy gas. St. John went into town and bought 100 oranges at one penny each and as many bananas to feed the group on the flight.

Throughout the day the women of Camp Beulah, Inc., in their old-fashioned long dresses, walked around the hotel’s swimming pool while the less inhibited hostesses splashed in the water and played ping pong in brief swimsuits.

THE PATIENCE of the women and children amazed Joy. “Thank God I didn’t have a load of ordinary passengers,” he said. “I’d have shot myself by now, if I had.”

At each delay the tired travelers contented themselves that this was the will of the Lord.

At 11:05 AM on Saturday, Dec. 7, the plane was again ready for flight and we flew on for another seven or eight hours to Lima Peru

At Lima I made the biggest purchase of gasoline of my life.

We needed 3,000 gallons of fuel to fly on to Santiago Chili and McRoberts borrowed %500 from me to pay for it. This brought us to Santiago, a lovely city surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and a [sic] further forced delay because of fuel pump troubles.

At 8 AM on Tuesday – six days after leaving Brownsville – the Constellation was ready to take off from Santiago on the final 800-mile leg of the flight to Asuncion, capital of Paraguay.

Even Capt. Sharrer, our pilot, isn’t quite sure how the old plane made this last climb over the Andes.

THE FUEL pumps gave trouble again. One went out of action altogether. The radio went dead. But somehow Sharrer got that old plane with its great load over the towering mountains. The plane was not pressurized and therefore we had to fly over the lowest part of the mountains, known as “The Saddle,” where the tops of the hills are only 15,000 feet high.

The weather was rough and the old plane bucked like a bronco but at noon we were there and the nose went down for a safe landing in Asuncion.

Plane engine burned in January 1964
zoggavia.com/c_n_1964.html
Plane engine burned in January 1964

[“Aircraft was dismantled at Viracopos (near Sao Paulo) in 1964 after suffering an engine failure and of other problems on a ferry flight as ZP-CAS for Lloyd Aereo Paraguayo on 27 January 1964. http://www.zoggavia.com/c_n_1964.html ]

Dr. Angel De Aldecoa, a French-speaking Paraguayan who is vice president of Pan Western Enterprises, Inc., greeted us. Pan Western had prepared a free luncheon for the pioneers. They ate it after offering prayers for their safe arrival and singing hymns.

Passengers, luggage and the pen-weary dogs and puppies were transferred to two C-47 aircraft and a couple hours later we came down on the rough-and-ready landing strip of Estancia Del Sol, the palm, mesquite, and cactus wilderness which was to be a new homeland for the 76 settlers from Texas.

Pilgrims from Texas Get Into Trouble in Peurto Guarani South America

Pilgrims from Texas Get Into Trouble

1965, February 08

pilgrims get in trouble

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.

RANCH LAND

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.

“DONE NOTHING”

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.

**END**

“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.