Historical Legend: Johanna July Horse Trainer
SHE HAD A UNIQUE WAY OF TRAINING WILD HORSES
Johanna July, Lived between Eagle Pass and Piedras Negra 1850-1930
Johanna July was a descendent of Black Seminoles who lived in northern Mexico near a small military colony at Nacimiento de Los Negros. The Mexican government offered land to black Seminoles to increase settlements and slow raiding comanches and bandits.
July a tall, barefoot girl wore bright homemade dresses, gold earrings and necklaces. An old pioneer, Adam Wilson, taught a young Johanna how to ride. She preferred to ride bareback with only a rope around the horses neck.
The U.S. Army, desperate for translators and scouts familiar with the border country, began to employ black Seminoles who got land in exchange for service. The July family settled near Eagle Pass where Johanna herded goats and cattle, in addition to working the horses with her father and brother.
A typical frontier town, there were no sidewalks, but Eagle Pass to Piedras Negres (Black Rock) was a favorite Southern route during the California Gold Rush. Adventurers crossed the Rio Grande because Fort Duncan was nearby.
A military town, the War of Northern aggression was good for Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras commercial interests. Vast quantities of products where shipped out daily. Piedras Negras was the port of entry for all goods coming into Mexico. There was no other place in Mexico where there were so many American residents.
At 18, she married Lesley, a Seminole scout, and went to live at Fort Clark. Not use to household chores, she had a difficult time adjusting. Her husband responded with violence, so she soon left, riding her pony to Fort Duncan and returning to her mother’s house.
July developed her own method of taming horses. Leading them into the Rio Grande, she grabbed their mane and eased astride. She would keep them in the water until they settled down. The horses nervous in the water and tired from swimming, soon lost the strength to buck and were happy to be back on dry land.
When her father died and her brother left home, she continued to work stock and tame wild horses for the U.S. Army and area ranchers.
She soon became well-known as an expert horsewoman, it was one of the few ways she could earn a living. After the death of her first husband she married two more times and continued working with horses.
Around 1910 she moved to a small house in Brackettville, Texas. She died in 1930 and is buried at the Brackettville Seminole Cemetery.