Diamond Bessie & The Shepherds
Diamond Bessie & The Shepherds is now available as a free e-book
at the UNT Digital Library and The Portal to Texas History.
In the 1860s and 1870s, luxury river boats brought U. S. Presidents
Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes; financier Jay Gould; writers
Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman; and actor Maurice Barrymore, the father of
John, Ethel, and Lionel, to “Queen City of the Cypress”—Jefferson,
Texas. Among lesser known visitors was Abe Rothschild and his apparent
bride, Bessie, dressed in fashionable clothes and wearing many diamonds.
The couple went to an unusual midwinter picnic in the woods, and two
weeks later the body of Bessie was found in the woods shot through the
head. From the three trials that followed came a folk drama, “The
Diamond Bessie Murder Trial” presented annually in Jefferson as part of
a historical pilgrimage.
Los Pastores, (The Shepherds), is a shepherd’s play having to do with
the epiphany of the Christ child, arises from a tradition reaching back
to the Middle Ages. The Pastores tradition is oral, either created or
creatively adapted by the Franciscans in Mexico, and performed at
Mission San Jose in San Antonio and elsewhere in the Southwest between
Christmas and New Year’s.
In addition to the exploration of these two plays, this folklore
miscellany contains essays on the decoration of graves in Central Texas
with sea shells; camp meetings with vigorous preaching and religious
seizures; Black Easter—April 14, 1935—during the Dust Bowl, when the
people of the Texas Panhandle watched a rolling black cloudbank bearing
down on them; Semaña Santa (Holy Week) in Seville, Spain; marriage
customs in Thessaly and Macedonia; the Johannesburg mine dances, and
Hardcover–158 pages (October 1998) from Amazon.