Don Antonio Zepeda: A Story of Four Generations

by Nellie Bustillos
email Ms. Bustillos

Margaret Louise Reyes
Margaret Louise Reyes
First Communion (ca 1917)

My mother, Margaret Louise Reyes, (shown above) is a descendant of the Zepeda family of Mexico. Until I moved to Tucson in 1973, I was not aware that much of my family's history took place here and in surrounding areas. The following is a short history covering four generations [37K] of our family along with some of my treasured family photographs.

My great, great grandfather Don Antonio Zepeda was married to Doña Josefa Montano and lived in Santa Maria Village, Magdelana, Sonora, Mexico. Upon his death in 1872, his sons went north to the new presidio called Tucson. My great grandfather Antonio [17K] and his three brothers, José, Jesús and Delores all settled there. Antonio joined the army and was stationed in nearby Fort Huachuca, south of Tucson.

My great grandmother, Kathleen Manning of Chicago, was planning her debut with a trip out west. On her agenda was a stop over at Fort Huachuca, where each year a great ball was held at the military base. She saw Antonio who she thought was very debonair, and they fell in love. He was a Mexican, she was Irish and they went against their families wishes and married after a short romance.

After the wedding, Antonio moved his family to Tombstone and they had three children. The first was a daughter, Francisca [21K] born in 1886, then my grandma Josie (Josefina) in 1892 and later Edward their brother was born but I don't know the date. Antonio was a bartender and I think was quite a ladies man. This caused friction in the marriage and so they moved to Tucson where he bought a corner lot on 5th and Stone and opened a grocery store that they called Zepeda's. The family lived in the house in the back of the store.

A. Zepeda, Grocer sign

My Grandma Josie and her sister Francisca used to tell stories about how they were made to pray a lot and she told my mom that when they were kids playing outside, her mother would make them come inside and pray at an altar in the back room. This was supposed to save them from sin. She also remembered the mirrors being covered during lightning storms so that evil couldn't get in through them.

In 1894, there was a bad epidemic of TB and Edward died. Francisca also later contracted TB and died leaving only Josefina. In 1898 Kathleen filed for divorce as her husband was involved with another woman. She then left Josie in Tucson with Antonio wh ile she went back to Chicago. The house that they had bought on McCormick Street and Gay Alley was awarded to Kathleen as part of the divorce settlement [18K] and Antonio was ordered to pay her $30 a month child support. At this point she also took back her maiden name, Kate Manning.

Antonio put Josie in a convent in the old Cathedral (St. Augustín) in Tucson but when she was 16 she was spotted by my future grandpa, William Sepulveda Reyes. He spotted this beautiful young girl with big black eyes and pursued her to no end. She would even sneak out of the convent to meet him. While she was still 16 and grandpa was 19, they eloped to San Diego, California. He was working as an engineer with the Southern Pacific railroad at the time, and was able to travel free all over the US. On their honeymoon they visited Chicago to see Josie's mother.

My mom, Margaret Louise Reyes, was born in Los Angeles in 1910 and then they all moved back to Tucson to help with the store. Four years later my uncle Edward was born. Some of my mother's earliest memories include the Ronstadt and Jacome families of Tucson and that she was in the first class at Roosevelt Elementary School. Every Sunday after mass the family would pack up the car and spend the day together. They would go first to the cemetary to put flowers on the graves, then to a picnic and then come home late at night. My mother remembers seeing strands of beef jerky hanging in the grocery store. I still have birthday party pictures taken with their family friends, the Sotelos. Mom's aunts lived in a duplex on 5th across from them and the Carrillo's, another local family, lived in the back.

My grandmother kept the routine of hiding my mom in the closet when La Llorona would come visit. Here is my mom's version of the La Llorona story that she used to tell my own children, Rudy, Suzette, Annette and Christy. They loved their Nana and loved listening to the stories she would tell them about how Tucson used to be in the old days.

When she was a little older, my mom used to go to the local country club and she and Johnny Molina, her cousin, would dance a mean rug. (I don't know what it means either!) At that time, when you went down Stone Avenue in Tucson you would be in downtown. She recalls that when it used to rain everything got flooded and you had to stay home. On the other side of a wall near downtown she remembered that there was the red light district but when she was young she was told never to go there.

Eventually, Antonio sold the store and went to live with grandpa and grandma in East Los Angeles where they built a home on Ezra Street. He died on November 3, 1927 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles.

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Created November 2000; revised April 2005
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Through Our Parents' Eyes