Paper Money of Chihuahua

.. by Simon Prendergast

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Home The History El Banco Minero During the revolution

During the revolution

Madero's revolution

In July 1911 El Pais reported that some federal offices in Chihuahua were refusing to accept Banco Minero notes. Enrique Creel, in Mexico City, spoke with the Secretario de Hacienda and it was agreed that the latter would instruct the Jefatura de Hacienda and the Administración del Timbre to accept them and the Secretario de Comunicaciones would give similar instructions to the Oficina de Correos. He suggested Juan Creel pay a personal visit to the heads of these three offices to let them know that the bank enjoyed support at the highest level. He advised against any public announcement in order not to make the Banco Nacional jealous or to upset Ernesto (Madero?)ST papers, Part II, box 1, letter Enrique Creel to Juan Creel, 31 July 1911.

In 1911 the bank began to suffer from confiscations and reprisals during the Maderista uprising, and from its branch in Ciudad Juárez shipped coins, notes, bonds and financial instruments into El PasoEl Paso Herald, 15 September 1911.

Orozco

The bank's dealing with Pascual Orozco are detailed in Orozco's rebellion.

Luis Terrazas hijo and the bank’s reserves

During 1913 the Banco Minero, as a matter of protection, decided to ship all of its available money, which consisted at the time of about $3,000,000 in Mexican gold and silver coin, to Mexico City. The shipments were made by Wells Fargo and Co. as long as it was safe to do so: but the last shipment of $30,000 in gold was captured by one of the revolutionary parties at Las Tablas, San Luis Potisí on 10 February 1913 and after this incident it was not thought prudent to make any more shipments.

On 29 July Juan A. Creel, accompanied by his sons, Jesús and Juan, left for El Paso in an armoured train to collect the correspondence and funds that had been amassed there and was able to bring $350,000. The train was attacked by Villa and Ortega’s forces at Estación Renchería, but the rebels were driven back by government troops. The money helped to alleviate conditions in the state capitalST papers, Part II, box 6, letter Juan A. Creel, Chihuahua, to Enrique C. Creel, Mexico City, 9 September 1913.

The bank obviously began running out of notes as in September it asked the Secretaría de Hacienda for special  authorization to issue $300,000 in notes. However, the Secretaría refused because the bank in Chihuahua lacked the necessary Secretaría and revenue sealsibid..

By November 1913, $500,000 in Mexican gold still remained in the vaults in Chihuahua. The money deposited in Mexico City was kept as a guaranty for the banknotes in circulation and so beyond the control of the bank.CONDUMEX, Fondo Creel, 78, 19984, letter of Creel to Fruhling & Goschen, London, 8 June 1915).

The Banco Minero continued transacting business in Chihuahua until mid-November 1913 when its directors were escorted to safety in the United States by federal forces under the command of General Mercado. However Luis Terrazas’ eldest son, Luis, took refuge in the British Vice-Consulate in ChihuahuaHe stayed, according to an anonymous report sent to Silvestre Terrazas, because ‘he wanted to have the pleasure of buying off the state government and General Villa himself’ (ST papers, ‘Lista de enemigos’). He was, according to Silvestre Terrazas ‘a good man, who, in contrast to the other members of his family, enjoyed a certain degree of popularity in Chihuahua City’. but was forcibly removed by Villa, who held him for a 500,000 pesos ransom.

In February 1912 during Orozco’s revolt the bank’s staff and interventor, Juan D. McKensie, had hidden $640,000 in $10 coins inside an iron column supporting the upper floor of the bank and just under a million pesos elsewhere in the building. In August 1912 after Orozco’s defeat the new interventor, Alberto Casehonda, had asked to see the bank’s metallic deposits so the column was emptied. In mid-1913 Jesús José Falomir, Juan Creel and Luis Pérez again used the column to hide $590,000 in gold coins. In November Falomir visited Luis Terrazas’ offices and meeting Luis Terrazas hijo there told him about the hiding-placeAGN, Antiguos Bancos de Emisión, caja 91, testimony of Luis Pérez, 27 April 1926; Informe of Jesús José Falomir, 20 February 1926.

Villa knew the bank’s reserves were hidden somewhere in Chihuahua. When Luis Terrazas hijo refused to divulge the hiding-place, Villa and a squad of soldiers took him out of his house one night, rode him on a mule out into the desert, and strung him up to a tree by his neck. He was cut down just in time to save his life. In exchange for a promise of liberty Terrazas told about the columnAGN, Antiguos Bancos de Emisión, caja 91, memorandum written by Luis Terrazas hijo, 9 February 1916. A later document, dated 18 May 1927, included a list of trustworthy people attesting to the $590,000. These were Juan A Creel, the manager;  Jesús J Falomir, sub-manager and at the time manager of the branch of the Banco de México in Chihuahua; Luis Peréz, Cajero de Valores; Ramón Cuellar; Calos Peréz, comisario of the bank; Andres. L Farias, a confident of Villa; Luis Aguirre Benavides; Federico Moye, Director-General of the Banco del Estado de Chihuahua; and Jose L Garcia, from Zacatecas, who was in in prison with Terrazas (AGN, Comisión Monetaria/Antiguos Bancos de Emisión, caja 302) For Juan A. Creel's deposition, see  CONDUMEX, Fondo Creel, 11, 134141; for Falomir’s of 20 February 1926 see CONDUMEX, Fondo Creel, 11, 134134; for Pérez’ deposition of 27 April 1926 see CONDUMEX, Fondo Creel, 11, 134138; for Farias’ testimony of 5 March 1926 see CONDUMEX, Fondo Creel,  11, 134152; and for Benavides’ letter to Enrique C. Creel, 1 March 1926, see CONDUMEX,  Fondo Creel,  11, 134151. In his memoirs, Luis Aguirre Benavides recalled that Rodolfo Fierro, nicknamed ‘the butcher’, 'spoke' to Terrazas, who told him that the money was hidden in one of the columns in the Banco Minero. The searchers found a little of the money and Raul Madero went off to tell Villa the news. Then someone decide to give the column another whack and the rest came cascading outLuis Aguirre Benavides, El oro del Banco de Chihuahua, in Siempre, 27 May 1959.

Villa did admit to US agent George Carothers that Terrazas had been ‘slightly tortured’, but that the perpetrators had been reprimanded and he was, for the most part, treating his prisoner well. Villa, pragmatic as ever, understood the real value of his captive, and commented ‘when the calf is tied, the cow doesn’t wander very far’, meaning that by holding his son, he could manipulate the elder Terrazas to further his purposes, including (a) keeping the elder Terrazas from giving financial assistance to the Huerta government; (b) using the threat of physical harm or execution to extort ransom money, and (c) persuading Terrazas to sign over the legal right to control the vast Terrazas cattle empire, especially in regards to the disposition of the great herds. Luis Terrazas hijo was only able to escape his imprisonment in November 1915, when Villa’s control of Chihuahua was collapsing, and died soon after.

Villa put most of the money away in a safe. Some of it, though, he personally distributed to his generals. Villa told Aguirre Benavides to take 10,000 pesos for himself. "If we have to go to hell in this enterprise, in which you too are taking risks," he told his secretary, "it would not be right that you should leave your family without anything". Villa then took the gold in his special train to El Paso and sold it to three American banking house at the rate of 49 centsSilverberg Bros $390,000; Rio Valley Bank and Trust Co $110,000, and First National Bank of El Paso $90,000. (AGN, Antiguos Bancos de Emisión, caja 94 letter of Guillermo Porras, International Exchange and Commission Co, El Paso to Enrique E Creel, Los Angeles, 8 July 1915).

The loss caused friction within the Terrazas-Creel clan. In October 1919 Enrique Creel told his brother that  Luis Terrazas hijo had arranged to pay the $590,000 as a payment for the safety of his mother and family. Supposedly Luis Terrazas hijo had told Carlos Pérez that his father would pay, but the family called Pérez a liarCONDUMEX, Fondo Creel,  246, 63228, letter, Enrique C. Creel, Los Angeles to Juan A. Creel, El Paso, 28 October 1919.

Luis Terrazas' circulating cheques

According to newspaper reports Luis Terrazas hijo was forced to sign cheques on the Banco Minero, for amounts ranging from 20c to $5, up to a total of $250,000, as as part of his ransom. These cheques were placed in circulation throughout the city as moneyEl Paso Herald, 15 December 1913. A couple of weeks later some of these 'certificates' had made their appearance in El Paso in denominations of $5, $50 and $100. They were "payable to Pancho Villa and signed by Luis Terrazas. A statement on the certificate says they are guaranteed by the state of Chihuahua, backed up by the estates of Terrazas"El Paso Herald, 2 January 1914.

None are known.

 

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