The Journal of Father Anselmo Sastre.   Posted by Marshal.Group: 0
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Mon 22 Jul 2019
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The Journal of Father Anselmo Sastre
Anselmo Sastre, the priest that served at the church in Angus, La Iglesia de San Sabiniano, observed many of the events that led to the town’s eventual abandonment. Father Sastre appears to have sought to dissuade his parishioners and other residents of Angus from listening to the individuals that sought to undermine the strong community they had built, but in the end, it appears that he only succeeded in convincing a handful of people to listen to him. By the time he did, all he could encourage them to do is flee.

Sastre entered the priesthood at a young age and served congregations in and around Mexico City. However, as he learned of the events in the north, the wars and the settling of the frontier, he felt called to serve in the fractured lands of North America, first in Texas, then in New Mexico. Even prior to the building of the church in Angus, Father Sastre held a simple mass and prayer service in the center of the little town, the area that would eventually become the town square. Feeling a strong kinship with Francis of Assisi, Father Sastre focused many of his efforts on finding help for those that had fallen on hard times in Angus.

Sastre records that he felt suspicious of Lawrence Murphy when the man first visited Angus, speaking of his plans for a wagon train to California. Although Murphy claimed to want to win fortunes for himself and all who accompanied him to the “land of opportunity” in the west, Sastre perceived that Murphy was already a very wealthy man, a fact he confirmed when he wrote to an acquaintance in Santa Fe. Sastre wrote that Murphy was reported to have amassed a fortune during the War Between the States, though how he accumulated so much money was unclear. It was rumored that he and his troops had raided the homes of wealthy civilians during the hostilities. Regardless, he was not in need of the kind of quick riches that many of the desperate souls who went in search of gold or ghost rock were.

Sastre notes that at the time Murphy first made his pitch, few were inclined to join him. The farming and livestock were thriving in Angus and there had been talk of eventually constructing a lumber mill in the vicinity of the town. Shortly after Murphy’s visit, those circumstances changed. Insects began preying on fields, many of which became choked with black weeds that were studded with thorns. Cattle, horses, and other animals fell ill. When Murphy returned, many were much more inclined to listen. Sastre sought to warn those that planned to join the wagon train, sharing his suspicions about Murphy’s motives and what he had learned of the man’s wealth, but most of his pleas fell on deaf ears.

In the end, more than half the town followed Murphy. When Sastre learned of them being lost in the Capitan Mountains, he was devastated. The tone of his writing shifts considerably following the event, assuming a tone that is often despondent, and the priest admits that he struggled in finding the motivation to perform his duties.

It was in the wake of the loss of the wagon train that a man named Jim McDaniels came to Angus. When he did, Angus was at its lowest point since Sastre had arrived, its fields largely vacant, its livestock mostly dead. McDaniels claimed to have lived among the Sioux in the Dakotas, to have learned the secrets of their medicine men. McDaniels told the townspeople that, for the right price, he could bring health to their crops and their animals. That he knew how to drive away the darkness that had settled over the little valley. By way of proof, he drove away the weeds that had choked two farmers’ fields and restored health to a small herd of sheep that were close to death.

Sastre felt certain McDaniels was a trickster; that a man with such gifts, were they real, would help others regardless of payment. The priest preached against him from the pulpit, encouraging those that would listen to have faith and endure, not to take the easy way out, which was certain to lead to destruction. One of the priest’s parishioners, a teenager named Ethan Pace, took it upon himself to sneak into McDaniel’s room at the boarding home where he stayed. Pace reported that the bed was dusty, as though it had never been used, and that there were no clothes in the wardrobe. All he had found was a single back with some pistol ammunition, some books, and a few letters. One, Pace said, was from Lawrence Murphy, inquiring about McDaniels’ work in Angus.

Sastre confronted McDaniels the night before he was to have the town sign a contract for his services. The priest’s details of the encounter are sketchy, but he came away with the conclusion that McDaniels was in league with the devil. He set to work, blessing the church and praying for God’s protection over it. The following day, he encouraged those that would hear him to leave Angus. Those that could not he urged to join him at the church. Only a handful heeded him. They remained inside the iglesia from morning to night.

When they emerged, Angus was a ghost town. There was no sign of any of their friends or neighbors. Sastre gave the parishioners that had remained with him instructions on how to reach the road to San Patricio and watched to ensure that they were able to leave the empty settlement without incident.

Sastre then noted that he intended to walk the streets, to see if anyone else remained in Angus that was in need of his help. It was the final entry in his journal.