Since their beginnings in the south of Annandale in the West March of what is now Dumfriesshire, our family has played a role in many spheres of life and in many countries. We are represented in all strata of society, from generals, to politicians, to athletes, investors and artists.
However, very occasionally, a story unfolds that really shows the metal and reiver spirit of the Carruthers family in a relative modern day situation. One such story, which reads like a ‘Dime Western Novel’ and is that of George Cupples Carruthers, businessman, entrepreneur, intelligence officer, diplomat and negotiator. This is a man who played an integral part in another Border war, that of the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900’s.
His role at the time was as the ‘American Consular Agent’, which allowed him to accompany one of Mexico’s most well known sons, Pancho Villa in his career as a revolutionary general as well as his involvement with not only Zapata, but the American government at the highest levels. As is the case of many of our clan and family through the years, the story of George C Carothers is a fascinating one, and one that we as a society hope you will enjoy.
The family of George C. Carothers, came to Mexico in 1868, and settled in north-eastern town of Saltillo in the date of Coahuila. Dr. D. Andrew Carothers, George’s father, captured the sympathy of the residents of the town, distinguishing himself not only as an excellent medical doctor, but through his good works, as a philanthropist as well.
George himself, was born in San Antonio Texas in 1878, and was still a child when the family crossed the border into Mexico. Then in 1895 at the age of 17, George moved to Torreon, Coahuila, to work as a cashier for the Mexican International Railroad. Always ambitious, George left that job to set up his own business as a grocer. This business was so successful that two years later, just to keep up with the supply and demand of his customers, he organised the Mercantile Company of Torreon SA and was the manager of this business for some time.
Being extremely well respected in the region being called ‘the most popular foreigner in the city’, it came as no surprise when in 1900, George C. Carothers was appointed Consular Agent of the United States in Torreon. However, he continued working his businesses, mixing his office responsibilities with his private affairs.
By 1905 George had established The Laguna Brokerage and Commission Co., the American Liquor Co. and the Cinco de Mayo Mining Company that worked the mines near Mapimi. At the same time he held the position of Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce of Torreon and was also a well known theatre entrepreneur.
During his residency in Torreon, he met and married a young woman by the name of Clara Mueller to whom they had a son. The son went by the name of Wentworth Conduit Patrick Carothers. Carothers was a well liked man in the community, and was often described as a husky man who liked food.
The Mexican Revolution
During the Madero Revolution of 1910-1912, George conveyed intellegence reports to the US Department of State on the situation prevailing in the region. George was witness to the massacre of the Chinese by the revolutionaries. This took place in Torreón itself on May 1911, when over 300 Chinese residents were killed and their homes and businesses destroyed and looted. This was carried out by supporters of Francisco Madero. Madero was eventually to become the 33rd President of Mexico.
At the age of 38, on December 16, 1913 and by command of the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, Carothers was commissioned as his representative before General Francisco Villa, accompanying him for two years.
About this time Paco Ignacio Taibo II wrote in his book, regarding ‘Pancho Villa’ mentioned the following: ‘Carothers traveled in the company of Villa, ate at his table, enjoyed splendid concessions, had influence with the caudillo and even served as a counsellor on many occasions’.
This situation won Carothers the enmity of the Mexican government of General Victoriano Huerta, who believed that he (Carothers) ‘Shows obvious sympathy of the Mexican revolutionaries and provide inaccurate reports, favourable to these.’ This led to the withdrawal of Carothers’ exequatur (the Grant given to foreign agents to exercise functions in the national territory) on April 18, 1914, that had been previously issued on February 11, 1912. The ‘exequator’s’ right, allowed him to act as the Honorary Consular Agent of the United States, in Torreon.
During his time as a consular agent, Carothers through his close friendship of the leader of the powerful Northern Division (Pancho Villa) became the link between the two most popular leaders of the time; Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata Salazar, commonly know as Zapata in the South.
Born in the rural village of Anenecuilco in Morelos State, Mexico on August 8, 1879 Emiliano Zapata was a Mexican revolutionary and advocate of agrarianism (a social or political movement designed to bring about land reforms or to improve the economic status of the farmer) who fought in guerrilla actions during the Mexican Revolution. He formed and commanded the Liberation Army of the South, an important revolutionary brigade, and his followers were known as Zapatistas. Zapata’s forces contributed to the fall of Díaz, defeating the Federal Army (Federalis) in the Battle of Cuautla, but when the revolutionary leader Francisco I Madero became President, he disavowed the role of the Zapatistas, denouncing them as simple bandits. Zapata died in an ambush on April 10, 1919.
The fictionalised story of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who led a rebellion against the corrupt, oppressive dictatorship of president Porfirio Diaz in the early 20th century, is portrayed in the 1952 movie ‘Viva Zapata’, starring Marlon Brando, Jean Peters and Anthony Quin.
Carothers, continued to play an important role in Mexican politics and was very active in 1914, when the American occupation of Veracruz created a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Mexico. Carothers being both well placed and well versed in the current affairs of the day, and with his friendly disposition towards both parties, was asked to act as the main negotiator between the revolutionary leader, Venustiano Carranza and President Woodrow Wilson. This intervention achieved the withdrawal of the US Marines, in exchange for Carranza not taking over the oil fields of the Gold Belt of Tampico area. Carothers remained a companion of Villa and stayed with him until his defeat at the battle of Agua Prieta in Sonora on March 9, 1915.
Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arango in Río Grande, Mexico (1878-1923), was a famed Mexican revolutionary and guerrilla leader. He joined Francisco Madero’s uprising against Mexican President Porfirio Díaz in 1909. Villa joined forces with two other famous revolutionaries Venustiano Carranza and Emiliano Zapata to overthrow Victoriano Huerta. The different forces were not wholly successful at working together, and Villa and Carranza became rivals. The alliance between Zapata and Villa lasted for only a little while longer, with both parties going their separate ways. Villa later became leader of the División del Norte (Division of the North) cavalry and governor of Chihuahua. After clashing with former revolutionary ally Venustiano Carranza, Villa killed more than 30 Americans in a pair of attacks in 1916. That drew the deployment of a U.S. military expedition into Mexico, but Villa eluded capture during the 11-month manhunt. Carranza became President in 1917 until 1920 when he was allegedly assassinated, although suicide is now deemed to be the true cause of death.
Pancho Villa was pardoned by Mexican President Adolfo de la Huerta in 1920 in his role as Provisional President in 1920. He was replaced by Alvaro Obregon that same year, Villa retired to a quiet life at his ranch until his assassination. It is alleged that during his Presidency, Obregon, ordered or at least sanctioned, the assassination of Pancho Villa in 1923. Villa was killed, during one of his regular visits to Parral, Chihuahua, when more than 40 rounds of ammunition were fired into his car.
Vila has been fictionally portrayed in the movies to include: ‘Villa Rides’ (1968), ‘Pancho Villa’ (1972) and ‘And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself ‘ (2003)
Carothers, after leaving Villa, eventually moved back to the US, to El Paso, Texas to be exact. It is reported that although he continued to roam the border, it is not clear when he ceased to be an active intelligence gatherer for the US Army and especially for John J. Pershing (Black Jack). Carothers knew Pershing, before he had commanded the Punitive Expedition, and during the time he had been the border patrol commander at Fort Bliss, El Paso.
It was at this time that he agreed to act as a guide for ‘Black Jack’ Pershing when he invaded Mexico in search of Francisco (Pancho) Villa. Villa had chosen to attack, through insurgency, the town of Columbus in Texas.
It seems that Carothers had a finger in many pies, as in addition to having a relationship with Villa, Carothers also brokered and served as a link between the Mexican General Alvaro Obregon who in 1920 became the Mexican President and Samuel P Bush.
In his role as Chief of the Ordinance, Small Arms and Ammunitions for the US Government, Bush was in charge of providing weapons to the Sonorans to defeat Villa. Samuel Bush is the father of US Senator Prescott Bush and the grand and great grandfather of two US Presidents; George H W Bush and George W Bush.
In 1916, General Pershing gained notice initially after leading a force of 5,000 American troops in pursuit of Pancho Villa and his Mexican rebels. Black Jack managed to rout Villa and his men, but failed to capture him. Pershing, having fought in the Indian Wars with the Sioux and Apache, the Spanish – American and others, also served on the Western Front in World War 1. He went on to have a distinguished career in the American army, being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star as well as being made a Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order if the Bath (UK) and the Légion d’ Honneur (France). Pershing was the first ever appointed: General of the Armies of the US (Chief of Staff).
After the revolution
After the revolution Carothers moved north and went to live in New York. He never returned to Mexico where he he had started several business. Some sources relate it to the English Oil Company “El Aguila” and the Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, where stated with American capital in 1921, with the Mexico-Tampico-Mexico rout. This route was opened in order to send the money to the workers’ payroll of “La Cia. El Aguila”
It was reported in the New York Times of the day that George Cupples Carothers died at his summer-house at Lake Hiewatha, New Jersey on August 4, 1939 of a heart attack aged 64. George Carothers remained great friends with Gen. John J. Pershing and they kept in touch until George’s death.
As we can see from our blogs, Carruthers have continued to influence life historically, both in our ancestral home in Scotland and internationally ,through the ages. We have played our role in every level of society from their beginnings in the West March of Dumfriesshire, to the furthest reaches of our world. As a Riding family, our achievements, based on facts and evidence are produced for your pleasure on this, the Society website.
We thank Dana Caruthers Norton for her extensive and excellent research on this subject. Dana has remained a stalwart in our path to have a chief confirmed by the Lord Lyon. She is one our Senior Clan Genealogist and Clan Commissioner for the United States of America.