The Zepedas

No one is quite sure where the Zepedas came from, but they have always said that they were related to St. Teresa of Avila(1515-1582) since her name was Cepeda. St. Teresa of Avila founded the reformed order of Carmelites and was canonized in 1622. We do know, however, that the Zepedas had a large mercantile store in Altar, Sonora, and had extensive land holdings. 

Fernando Zepeda (1837-1916), the son of Pedro and Teresa Zepeda, married María Guadalupe Suástegui on December 12, 1858 in Altar, Sonora. They were married by María's cousin, the Reverend Bartolomé Suástegui. Fernando and María had thirteen children. All but two lived. All of the men, except one, had large families. The women never married. In Altar, Fernando was a tribal judge for the Indians in the area. He had been given permission by the U.S. and Mexican officials to cross the border in search of stolen horses. 

Pedro and Teresa Zepeda
Pedro and Teresa Zepeda

The Zepeda Family entertain in Altar
The Zepeda Family entertain in Altar

The unrest caused by the Mexican Revolution of 1910 began to make life very unsure for Fernando and María. One revolutionary group would come and demand saddles, horses, and food, and the next week it would be another group. One day the family heard that an army was approaching Altar and taking young boys as recruits. Their young son Gabriel was unable to leave and so his sisters powdered his face with flour and painted little poxes on him so that the soldiers would think he had the dreaded smallpox.

Fernando and María Zepeda (seated)
Fernando and María Zepeda (seated)

Antonio Zepeda (1866-1962) and María Martínez (1870-1945) were my grandmother's parents. Antonio and María were both born on the El Plomo Ranch in Altar. Antonio always denied any stories that they had an arranged marriage and declared that they had married for love. They were married in Altar in 1897. 

Antonio Zepeda and Maria Martinez
Antonio Zepeda and Maria Martinez

Antonio and Maria's eldest daughter, Beatriz, was my grandmother. She was born in Altar, Sonora in 1900. 

Beatriz Zepeda
Beatriz Zepeda

Like Antonio's parents, Antonio and María left Altar due to the Mexican Revolution (1910). One story goes that Antonio and María had a Japanese cook. When the revolutionaries approached the ranch, the Japanese cook climbed a windmill for safety. The revolutionaries spotted him and asked "Quien vive?", meaning "who rules." Not knowing which side these revolutionaries were on, the Japanese cook answered "you say it first." This was not the answer they wanted so they shot him. To the Zepeda's, incidents such as these were a sign that it was time to leave. My grandmother told of how her parents told her and her sisters that they were going on a picnic. Little did they know when they left that evening that they were going to travel all night until they reached La Ossa Ranch across the border from Sasabe. 

The Zepeda Sisters shortly after they left Altar
The Zepeda Sisters shortly after they left Altar.
Top from left: Lucrecia and Beatriz.
Bottom from left: Rebecca, Laura, and Julietta.

The Zepedas also wanted to move to the Arizona Territory so that their 12 children could attend schools in the area and learn English. Although Antonio thought it was important for his children to learn English, he never learned the language because his teachers told him he was too old. 

Eventually, Antonio bought a ranch at Arivaca and called it El Saucito. Antonio worked at a variety of jobs, but considered himself a "vaquero." He was familiar with the Arizona landscape because of cattle drives and trips he had taken with his father to recover stolen horses from the Indians. On one cattle drive, he stopped to water the herd at the watering hole at the foot of "A" Mountain. He is quoted as saying "in my day, cowboys were cowboys. They got 12 pesos a month and a sack of flour, and before you knew it they'd started buying land until they got a ranch." 

Life was pleasant for a while because they were surrounded by relatives: Antonio's parents and family came from Altar, and the Wilbur family lived in Arivaca. The Wilbur's were also descendants of the Suásteguis. After a while, however, problems began to occur. Antonio had conflicts with other ranchers, "tejanos", who were tearing down or putting up fences on his property. The Zepedas decided that it would be best to move to Tucson where the family had been in the 18th century. 

Here Antonio is photographed, holding the photograph that had been taken in 1897
Here Antonio is photographed, holding the photograph that had been taken in 1897,
for an article by Dale Parris appearing in the Arizona Daily Star on October 29th, 1961. 

When the Zepedas moved their family to Tucson, they sent Beatriz to St. Joseph's Academy. 

Continue with the Morales Family

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