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Old Gringo

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  • November 2002
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the editor of the Journal mentioned above, Dr. Earl H. Elam, made a systematic search of records in the Presidio County courthouse and found no trace of anyone with a name resembling Bierce having died there during that period. Importantly, Elam also spent a lengthy period in the military records at the National Archives in Washington, D. C. during 1989. While there he located and recovered reams of documentation concerning military activities on both sides of the Big Bend of the Rio Grande border during the Mexican revolution, but he found no trace of Ambrose Bierce having died at Marfa, or anywhere else for that matter.

Nevertheless, Bierce probably did see Marfa, Texas, one time. It was from a train coach window as he passed through on his way to El Paso during November. Certainly, he never returned.

The most rational explanation for the disappearance of Bierce is that he came north with Villa, arrived near Ojinaga on January 9, and was either slain during the battle on January 10 or that he died of natural causes sometime during that entire time frame. There is even a small piece of information that tends to prove this proposition: after the revolution several groups of investigators went into Mexico looking for Bierce. One method they used in their research was to interview former villistas who were known to have been at Chihuahua and then at Ojinaga during the same time that Bierce was believed to have been there. One officer, a man reportedly named Ybarra, when shown a photograph of Bierce, said that he had indeed seen him at Ojinaga but that after the assault on the federal garrison (which assault we do not know) he never saw him again. So, it is most reasonable to conclude that Ambrose Bierce died at Ojinaga.

Many of the dead at Ojinaga were buried in trench graves. Many others however, were interlaced with dry wood, mostly vigas and wooden planks that had been taken from the wrecked structures in Ojinaga, then doused with kerosene and set...

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