History

Texas Ghost Story: Chipita’s Last Words Were, ‘I Am Not Guilty’

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Josefa “Chipita” Rodriguez (1799-1863) was one of only three women ever executed by hanging in Texas history. After she died on a fateful Friday the 13th, her ghost now supposedly haunts where she perished. Learn the story of Chipita, her final words, and how history has reflected on the events of her life.

Born on December 30, 1799, she lived in San Patricio and provided meals and a sleeping cot to travelers at her home on the Nueces River. She was rashly accused of robbing trader John Savage of $600 worth of gold, then axe murdering him. The body of Savage was discovered in a burlap bag downriver, however, the $600 of gold remained with the body and was not stolen after all. Despite this, Chipita and a man named Juan Silvera were prosecuted on circumstantial evidence, then tried before Judge Benjamin F. Neal. Rodriguez upheld her innocence but refused to testify in her own defense and through the course of the trail, remained mute.

Despite the jury’s recommendation of lenience, Judge Neal ordered her to be executed. At the age of 63, Chipita Rodriguez was hanged on Friday, November 13, 1863. Her last words were “No soy culpable” (I am not guilty). Upon her burial in an unmarked grave, one witness claimed to have heard a moan come from the coffin.

Texas Ghost Story: Chipita's Last Words Were, 'I Am Not Guilty'

Photo: envato elements

Flash forward to June 13, 1985, over 100 years later: the Texas Legislature passed a resolution which was signed by the Governor to resolve Josefa “Chipita” Rodriguez, noting she was not granted a fair trial. Today, those who are familiar with San Patricio believe Chipita haunts the area as a ghost with a noose around her neck, floating through mesquite trees and howling from the creek beds. Her story has been the subject of two operas, as well as numerous books and articles, including Rachel Bluntzer Hebert’s epic “Shadows on the Nueces” and Teresa Palomo Acosta’s poem “Chipita.” The other two women executed by hanging were slaves, and per typical reporting, information is minimal: Jane Elkins died in 1854 for murder in Dallas County, and a Galveston woman named Lucy perished for murder on March 5, 1858.