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Petra’s Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire of Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy

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The matriarch of one of the most important families in Texas history, Petra Vela Kenedy has remained a shadowy presence in the annals of South Texas. In this biography of Petra Vela Kenedy, the authors not only tell her story but also relate the history of South Texas through a woman’s perspective. Utilizing previously unpublished letters, journals, photographs, and other The matriarch of one of the most important families in Texas history, Petra Vela Kenedy has remained a shadowy presence in the annals of South Texas. In this biography of Petra Vela Kenedy, the authors not only tell her story but also relate the history of South Texas through a woman’s perspective. Utilizing previously unpublished letters, journals, photographs, and other primary materials, the authors reveal the intimate stories of the families who for years dominated governments, land acquisition, commerce, and border politics along the Rio Grande and across the Wild Horse Desert. From Petra’s early life in the landed ranchero society of northern Mexico, through her alliance with Luis Vidal—an officer in the Mexican army to whom she bore eight children—until her move to Brownsville after Vidal’s death, Petra lived in Mexico. When she moved to Texas, having taken Vidal’s name, she represented a link to the landed families of the region. Mifflin Kenedy, a steamboat captain who had first come to Texas during the Mexican War, married into her world, acquiring local respectability and stature when he took Petra as his wife. The story of their life together encompasses war, the taming of a frontier, the blending of cultures, the origin of a ranching empire, and the establishment of a foundation and trust that still endure today, giving millions to Texas through charitable gifts. An attractive woman of business acumen, strong religious convictions, and intense family loyalty, Petra Vela Kenedy’s influence through her husband and her children left a legacy whose exploration is long overdue.


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The matriarch of one of the most important families in Texas history, Petra Vela Kenedy has remained a shadowy presence in the annals of South Texas. In this biography of Petra Vela Kenedy, the authors not only tell her story but also relate the history of South Texas through a woman’s perspective. Utilizing previously unpublished letters, journals, photographs, and other The matriarch of one of the most important families in Texas history, Petra Vela Kenedy has remained a shadowy presence in the annals of South Texas. In this biography of Petra Vela Kenedy, the authors not only tell her story but also relate the history of South Texas through a woman’s perspective. Utilizing previously unpublished letters, journals, photographs, and other primary materials, the authors reveal the intimate stories of the families who for years dominated governments, land acquisition, commerce, and border politics along the Rio Grande and across the Wild Horse Desert. From Petra’s early life in the landed ranchero society of northern Mexico, through her alliance with Luis Vidal—an officer in the Mexican army to whom she bore eight children—until her move to Brownsville after Vidal’s death, Petra lived in Mexico. When she moved to Texas, having taken Vidal’s name, she represented a link to the landed families of the region. Mifflin Kenedy, a steamboat captain who had first come to Texas during the Mexican War, married into her world, acquiring local respectability and stature when he took Petra as his wife. The story of their life together encompasses war, the taming of a frontier, the blending of cultures, the origin of a ranching empire, and the establishment of a foundation and trust that still endure today, giving millions to Texas through charitable gifts. An attractive woman of business acumen, strong religious convictions, and intense family loyalty, Petra Vela Kenedy’s influence through her husband and her children left a legacy whose exploration is long overdue.

31 review for Petra’s Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire of Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    4 1/2 Stars Impressive Stuff: 1. Maps of Spanish Land Grants in the Nueces Strip. 2. Mostly paintings of Petra and Her Family. 3. Map of Train tracks 4. Other Maps and Images of people, towns, and churches. By law, everyone living in areas controlled by Mexico were Catholics. What I absolutely Loved: 1. The writers' love and admiration of Petra and Mifflin Kennedy. They more than once said that the marrange of elite Mexican bride and American businessman (European ancestory) was not expected and played 4 1/2 Stars Impressive Stuff: 1. Maps of Spanish Land Grants in the Nueces Strip. 2. Mostly paintings of Petra and Her Family. 3. Map of Train tracks 4. Other Maps and Images of people, towns, and churches. By law, everyone living in areas controlled by Mexico were Catholics. What I absolutely Loved: 1. The writers' love and admiration of Petra and Mifflin Kennedy. They more than once said that the marrange of elite Mexican bride and American businessman (European ancestory) was not expected and played a large part in early (very early?) Texas History. Big Missing Piece: A Timeline. Petra and her family were VIPs in an interesting time in Mexico-Texas history. The marriage of Petra Vela--from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande--and Mifflin Kennedy--from the other/this side of the river--melded 2 major cultures in Texas. This couple played a large in the period of Mexican-American War and the Civil War and into the late 19th centuries. I would have so appreciated a timeline showing the interweaving of Mexico-Texas-US history. Overall very informative, telling the story in way that sees Petra and Mifflin with respect but no idolatry.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Myra McIlvain

    This detailed account of the life of Petra and Mifflin Kenedy incorporates all the mystery, intrigue, war, accumulation of vast wealth, and genuine love of family that is the story of the Rio Grande Valley. The narrative moves through the roiling history of the region and keeps the reader turning the many pages. A must read for those looking for a good story set in solid history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla

    A few years ago I learned that my family is related to Petra Vela, and my parents told me about this book. I finally got around to reading it, and I wish I had read it sooner. It's a moving narrative about the history of Petra Vela and about the development of South Texas in the 19th century. Anyone interested in Texas history and/or Mexican-American history will enjoy this book. It's well-researched and organized. On a personal note, it filled me with pride at the role the Kenedys played in his A few years ago I learned that my family is related to Petra Vela, and my parents told me about this book. I finally got around to reading it, and I wish I had read it sooner. It's a moving narrative about the history of Petra Vela and about the development of South Texas in the 19th century. Anyone interested in Texas history and/or Mexican-American history will enjoy this book. It's well-researched and organized. On a personal note, it filled me with pride at the role the Kenedys played in history, and filled me with a little sadness over the death of the Kenedy family, as their lineage stopped after Petra and Mifflin's grandchildren passed away. There are several museums in south Texas with information and artifacts pertaining to the Kenedys; now I want to go back and see them all again. The authors did a tremendous job.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Hilburn

    This was an excellent book, but you have to understand that it is not a biography. It is a compilation of known facts about Petra Vela Kenedy and the events that occurred before, during, and after her life. The authors did an amazing amount of research to reconstruct her life and the time period of the book. I'm glad I bought this book as it will be an excellent reference book. This was an excellent book, but you have to understand that it is not a biography. It is a compilation of known facts about Petra Vela Kenedy and the events that occurred before, during, and after her life. The authors did an amazing amount of research to reconstruct her life and the time period of the book. I'm glad I bought this book as it will be an excellent reference book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Severino

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rubia A. Salazar

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

  9. 4 out of 5

    祝贺

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

  11. 4 out of 5

    William J. Krielow

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ann Major

  13. 4 out of 5

    Annette

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tropical Trail Region

  15. 5 out of 5

    Allison Snyder

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  17. 5 out of 5

    Trudy Darman

  18. 5 out of 5

    Javier Salinas castillo

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ameliedanjou

  20. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Eaton

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Rich

  22. 4 out of 5

    Natalia

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zack Holder

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mamadun

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chema Torre

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Melencio

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia N.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Barnhouse

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