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Letters From Addie

Preface and Table of Contents

Previous page: Chapter 10: Converting a School in Toluca
Next page: Chapter 12: Addie During the Revolution

Chapter 11: The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1917

Addie taught at the Madero Institute until the political conditions and impending Mexican Revolution made it unsafe for missionaries to remain in Mexico. The mission fields of northern Mexico would soon become the major battlefields of the Revolution.

Oddly enough, there is a connection between the Madero Institute, where Addie spent most of her life, and the Mexican Revolution. In Saltillo, the Institute occupied the former home and properties of the wealthy Madero family. The Baptists got their start in Saltillo when they purchased the Madero property in 1884.

Twenty-seven years later, Madero's son, Francisco I. Madero, in an attempt to establish democracy and install social and economic reforms in Mexico, led a series of strikes against the Mexican dictator, President Porfirio Diaz. Madero was successful in forcing Diaz into exile in France in 1911. Diaz died four years later while still in exile. Madero became President but was betrayed by Victoriano Huerta, who had been leader of the Mexican army under Diaz. Madero had made the fatal mistake of allowing Huerta to remain in control of the federal forces. In February 1913, Huerta overthrew Madero and took control of the government, thus launching the second phase of the Revolution. One of Huerta's first acts as President was to order the execution of Madero.

As President, Huerta immediately began having problems with the economy and the Constitutionalist opposition. He resigned in 1914 and went into exile in Europe. A year later, when Huerta attempted to return to Mexico, he was arrested and detained at Fort Bliss. While there, Huerta became ill and died. Meanwhile, upon Huerta's resignation in 1914, the Constitutionalist Party, headed by Venustiano Carranza, took control of the government. By 1917, Carranza was successful in creating a national Constitution that brought the much-needed reforms that Madero had set out to accomplish.1

During those seven years of political upheaval, however, the country broke into many different factions. Guerilla units, bandits, and undisciplined soldiers roamed unchecked throughout the country killing, robbing and looting, and destroying both private and public property. Thousands of poor working-class children and teenagers were swept into the fighting. Most had no idea why they were fighting. They only knew that they were hungry and fighting brought its rewards. These young, innocent warriors became the greatest casualties of the war.

The United States government responded to this bloody military and political action by ordering Americans who lived in Mexico to return to the States. The Foreign Mission Board quickly called its missionaries back to the safety of their homeland. Between 1910 and 1917, most of the missionaries assigned to Mexico had returned to the States, among them was Miss Addie Barton. Addie reached Salado on December 14, 1910.2 Even though she was at home, Addie was still considered a missionary to Mexico, her name appearing in subsequent Board reports. Missionaries who were sent home were placed on enforced furlough.

Most of the missionaries who evacuated had twenty-four hours' notice to pack up and leave their life's work. In many instances evacuation itself was a life threating ordeal. Individual missionaries tell story after story of how rebel bandits held up the trains carrying them to the safety of American soil. One child, Anita LeSueur speaking of her experience afterwards said, "One of the most vivid memories I have of the war was when we were held up two hours by the rebels. Everyone was asked to give something to the rebel army, and the passengers gave according to how scared they were. Papa gave a quarter." She continued by telling that for three weeks they roamed around Mexico with eleven troop cars. During those three weeks, they were given each day a half cup of water and food which they ate raw, including the eggs. Finally, they were put on a cattle boat bound for Galveston, Texas.

Others told of their trains being held up, robbed and burned. Passengers were forced to continue their journey on foot. Still others told of passengers being killed after being robbed. Some told of seeing passengers hung by the neck from telegraph poles that ran alongside the railroad tracks.3

The work of the missionaries suffered greatly by this raging Revolution. The effect of the war on the missions and the missionary work is best described by the few missionaries who were able to remain in touch with their posts. Reports from those missionaries are given below.

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1913
J. W. Newbrough of the Chihuahua Field Reporting

FEAR PREVAILS! PROPERTY DESTROYED! LIVES TAKEN!

Few outside of Mexico can appreciate how trying these times have been to those of us on the field. Cares are always enough on this field, but when war intrudes, and especially the type of war that has devastated and continues to devastate this country, then we have additions to the ordinary burdens that must be borne.

Of the hardships incident to the revolution, I mention first the fact that the people are constantly in fear. When one danger passes, quickly another appears. Property has been destroyed into the many millions here on my field, many lives of non-combatants have been taken, many others have been forced to flee for their lives, and such a general unrest has resulted that all work, of whatever kind, is carried on with great difficulty.

Toward the end of the year, we had to endure the forced closing of the girls' school at Chihuahua. All train service, except to El Paso, had been cut making it impossible for most the girls to return to their homes, so I took them to El Paso with me. It was eight months before we were able to return to Mexico.4

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1914
Frank Marrs of the Pacific Coast Field Reporting

WAR RAVAGES ON

War, cruel war, continues to devastate this nation from center to circumference. All that has been said or written of what war means to a country might perhaps be applied to Mexico after a practically continuous revolution of more than three years duration.5

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1915
J. S. Cheavens of the Saltillo Field Reporting

TROOPS OCCUPY MADERO INSTITUTE

On January 14, I visited Saltillo for a day. Miss Hayes was at Madero Institute with a few girls that she had been unable to send to their homes. She was brave but not very hopeful. Soon after that the railroads were cut, and then came the occupation of Vera Cruz by American troops, the consul was imprisoned in Saltillo, the American residents found refuge in the British vice-consulate, the Madero Institute was taken by the Huerta soldiers and converted into a hospital. After the triumph of the Constitutionalists the building was used for a few days as a barracks for soldiers, but at Miss Hayes' earnest solicitude it was given back under a guarantee given by the military commander.

In August the Institute was taken by the chief surgeon of the army of the northeast for a hospice de pobres (poor house), but by November the Institute had once again been returned to the mission.6

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1915
W. F. Hatchell of the Juarez Field Reporting

CHURCH MEMBERS KILLED !!!

In many places our congregations have been scattered and our work demoralized. Eight members of one of the churches on my field were killed in battle. It has been a year of suffering and trouble for the Mexican people - and yet we cannot see the end of the strife.

The revolution has had its evil effect on the people, but there is one hopeful sign. There is a desire on the part of most all the people for information, whether about politics or religion. There is a demand for Bibles and other religious literature that we have not seen before. What shall we say of the needs of Mexico - poor, bleeding, revolution-ridden Mexico?7

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1916
J. S. Cheavens of the Saltillo Field Reporting

MADERO INSTITUTE CLOSED

This is our oldest institution for girls in all Mexico. For two years now its doors have had to be closed on account of extraordinarily bad conditions in that part of the country.8

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1919
J. S. Cheavens of North Mexico Missions Reporting

IMPROVEMENTS ON THE WAY

The year 1918 is the best we have had since before the revolution... There has been a large increase in the number of baptisms over those of last year and as notable an increase in contributions. It is true that in both items we are far below what we ought to have, but an improvement is an encouragement.9

MEXICO MISSIONS - 1919
G. H. Lacy of the Saltillo Field Reporting

VICTORY IN JESUS

There were days when the outlook was dark owning to political shadows on the sky; but at the same time, it was a year in many respects of great blessing. Through all things the Lord gloriously carried us to victory.10

By Charlene Ochsner Carson
Page last updated: December 18, 2018

Footnotes:

  1Mexico Connect, accessed on April 10, 2005.
  2Letter from Addie Barton, Salado, Texas, April 25, 1911 to Dr. Willingham, Corresponding Secretary, Foreign Mission Board, Richmond, Virginia. From the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives collection, Nashville, Tennessee.
  3Chastain, James Garvin. Thirty Years in Mexico. El Paso: Baptist Publishing House, 1927, pp. 146, 147.
  4Sixty-Eighth Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2688, May 14, 1913, St. Louis, Missouri.
  5Sixty-Ninth Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2690, May 13, 1914, Nashville, Tennessee.
  6Seventieth Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2691, May 12, 1915, Houston, Texas.
  7Seventieth Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2691, May 12, 1915, Houston, Texas.
  8Seventy-First Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2692, May 17, 1916, Asheville, North Carolina.
  9Seventy-Fourth Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2700, May 14, 1919, Atlanta, Georgia.
  10Seventy-Fourth Annual Report of the Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Accession Number 2700, May 14, 1919, Atlanta, Georgia.

Previous page: Chapter 10: Converting a School in Toluca
Next page: Chapter 12: Addie During the Revolution
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