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Pancho Villa and Grandpa: Family photo part of history

Included in this famous 1914 photo of notorious Mexican Revolutionary Gen. Pancho Villa posing with an Indian motorcycle is Oxford resident Julia Chappel’s grandfather, Earl Warren Manley. He’s located to the left of Villa. He’s the tallest man wearing a derby hat and long coat. Photo provided by Julia Chappel. (click for larger version)
September 12, 2012 - Looking at old family photographs can be a fun trip down memory lane.

There's Uncle Frank at the Memorial Day barbecue. Grandma looks so young in her wedding photo.

Cousin Ernie was hilarious in that Halloween costume.

Wow, there's Grandpa with Francisco "Pancho" Villa and his new motorcycle. Wait a minute . . . what?

We'll let Oxford resident Julia Chappel, 70, explain that one.

Chappel, who's lived here for 51 years, has a unique piece of history in her family's photo album – a very famous 1914 photograph of the notorious Mexican Revolutionary general posing with the latest Indian Motorcycle model.

"Pancho Villa used to cross the border quite a few times back in those days," she said.

In the photo, which was taken by an unknown photographer, Chappel's grandfather, Earl Warren Manley, a Scotch-Irish "farm boy" from Pennsylvania, is to the left of Villa, who's regarded as a folk hero in Mexico and murderous bandit in the U.S.

"My grandfather's the tallest one in the photo," Chappel said. "He's wearing a derby (hat) and a long coat."

The photo was taken in El Paso, Texas where Chappel's grandfather worked as a machinist for the Allen Arms and Cycle Company, which sold Villa the Indian motorcycle.

"I figure my grandfather's probably in his late 30s in this photo cause he died when he was 54 (in 1931)," she said. Chappel never met her grandfather as she was born in 1942.

The motorcycle featured in the historic photo is a Hendee Special, an elite Indian model that featured the first electric starter used on a production motorcycle.

Villa, who's real name was Jose Doroteo Arango Arambula, was a leader during the Mexican Revolution from 1910-20. Villa felt betrayed by the American government when it recognized his rival's national government as the legitimate authority in Mexico.

In March 1916, Villa and his men raided Columbus, New Mexico, a sleepy little border town. Between 500 and 600 of his rebel soldiers attacked a detachment of the U.S. 13th Calvary Regiment and burned and pillaged the town's business district. Eighteen Americans (10 civilians and eight soldiers) and about 70 to 75 Mexican rebels were killed during the raid.

That attack led to U.S. General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing's unsuccessful 11-month pursuit of Villa through northern Mexico. Backed by a force of nearly 5,000 men, Pershing was unable to capture Villa and the expedition was ultimately called off when the U.S. entered World War I.

Chappel indicated the famous photograph has "been in our family for years."

"It's been passed down," she said.

But the photograph isn't the only connection Chappel's family has to the infamous Mexican general, who was assassinated at age 45 in 1923, three years after he officially retired.

"My grandmother (Aurora Manley) said she danced with Pancho Villa when she was young," said Chappel, who noted that probably happened at the family's ranch in Juarez, Mexico. That story was relayed to Chappel by her mother. She never heard any stories directly from her grandmother, who was of Spanish descent.

"My grandmother did not speak one word of English and I did not speak one word of Spanish," Chappel said.

Chappel's uncle, who's related by marriage, had less fond memories of Villa.

"He was a little boy and he remembers Pancho Villa riding into town with his troops and pillaging the village," she said.

Villa drove her uncle's family off their land.

"They had to cross into the United States to escape his wrath," Chappel said. "A lot of wealthy ranchers had to flee from Pancho Villa and his rebel forces because he was plundering."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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