A Story about Trinidad Colorado’s Fighting Nun
Sister Blandina Segale was born January 23, 1850 in Cicagna near Genoa, Italy. Her family moved to America where she entered the convent. After saying vows December 8, 1868, Sister Blandina’s secret longings were to be sent west. This dream was fulfilled in 1872. She boarded a train in Steubenville, Ohio for Kansas City. There she boarded a work train loaded with railroad ties with only one coach car on the end for passengers, brawny Irish railroaders to install new track westward, and few personal possessions. The Colorado Territorial train (Colorado became a State in 1876) was surprised and stopped by a herd of stampeding buffalo. Passengers were exclaiming there were no more herds of buffalo. Frontier trappers like Kit Carson and Dick Wootton had said you might see a small band now and then but the days of the buffalo were over.
Mrs. Mullen, was wife of the stagecoach agent for Otero and Sellar Stage Lines at Kit Carson, Colorado Territory ( the railroad end). She packed clean hay on the floor of the coach to keep Sister Blandina’s feet and ankles warm. Then Mrs. Mullen wrapped Sister in a large comforter. Every flap was tied down for winter travel. The stage flew over the rocks and ruts at 12 miles per hour. There were no springs in the coach so passengers are jerked up and down over the rough terrain.
It was December 10, 1872, when Sister put her feet down on the dirt Main Street of Trinidad, Colorado Territory. M. Wise and Company General Merchandise was the stage stop. This adobe general store was her first glimpse of this raw wild and wide open, free wheeling town. She was sent here to establish a school but she knew nothing of gunslingers, rustlers, gamblers, and bank robbers.
Her education was about to begin. Sisters’ warm personality won the trust and help of Trinidad. Soon she had built an adobe schoolhouse, debt free and with the love and respect of all she met. This 22 year old Nun had the charm of trust about her that was to change Trinidad from a lynch rule town to one of law and order.
Nighttime in Trinidad was drinking, gambling, and brawling until dawn. Every- other door was a saloon, dancehall, or gambling saloon. Hot lead bullets filled the air for no reason as tempers flared. Life was cheep. Mob rule could find rustlers dangling from a cottonwood tree.
A young men’s Vigilante committee had two members who trusted Sister. They whispered a plot to cheat a coalmine owner out of his coalmine. A couple of the miners who worked in the mine were jealous of the owner and decided to set a trap to kill the owner. They loosened supports and posts in the mine. The next person to enter would trip the trap and be killed. Sister went at once to an Indian friend who had experience in mining. She instructed the Indian to take a job with the owner at a low wage. He was hired. Early the next morning Sisters’ Indian friend arrived, inspected the mine and exposed the danger to the owner. Neither the owner nor the plotters knew Sister had saved the mine and the owner.
A second incident involved one of Sisters’ older students. The boy’s father was about to be lynched. When the victim of the boys’ fathers shooting dies a lynch mob will drag dad out of jail and hang him.
Sister was assured the victim was shot with tin shot and poison was setting in. She visited the victim and asked if he could forgive the shooter and father of her student. Yes Sister, “ I forgive him”. Sister came back with the sheriff and the shooter in tow. The mob, friends of the victim, followed close behind. The mob heard everything that was said in the room. The shooter in a trembling voice asked the victim to forgive him. The victim not only forgave him but hoped he would be forgiven. The rule of law must apply. Yes, the law took its course.
One of Billy the Kid’s gang members was wounded by another member of the gang in a quarrel over Dick Wooten’s toll gate. Bill Schneider, the wounded man, was tossed into an adobe hut to die. Sister Blandina heard the story and took food and bandages to the wounded man day after day. Schneider gratefully confided in Sister that Billy the Kid would be here the next day and he would scalp the four doctors of Trinidad for not helping him.
Sister Blandina could have called the sheriff, raised a vigilante mob or raised a violent blood letting scene. Trinidads’ fighting nun kept her wits about her. Her plan saved Drs. Michael Beshoar, Palmer and the Menger brothers.
Sister arrived the next day with her gifts of food and bandages shortly after Billy the Kid and his gang arrived. When she entered the adobe, Bill Schneider introduced Sister as his saving angle. Billy the Kid gratefully granted Sister any wish she would make of him. Sister, shaking Billy the Kid’s hand, said “There is only one wish I ask of you.” “Spare our Dr’s lives.” Which he did.
This article was written by local historican enthusist Jerry Chetelat in Trinidad Colorado
If you would like to contact Jerry you can do so by email , he would love to hear from you. His many interests include researching the old stage coach stops in Colorado, trains and coal mining towns, just to name a few of his interests.
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