On Dec. 25 I917, the Brite was raided by about 45 Mexican bandits – outlaws -believed to be supporters of Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Villa needed funds and supplies to carry on his revolution in Mexico. As a result of this and other Mexican revolutions, there continued to be a stream of bandits from the south surging along the Rio Grande. Scant means of livelihood in the rough mountainous country south of the border made thieving, raiding, banditry, and murder an attractive avenue to “ easy money.” Thus the Brite Store, its goods and the ranch horses became a target for the bandits.
Pancho Villa was not at this raid. The leader of the bandits who some said was the brother-in-law of Pancho Villa, was shot from his horse. At any rate the body was taken to Marfa that afternoon and later claimed by friends and shipped to Mexico.
The ranch’s telephone lines had been cut to prevent any call for help in what proved to be a well-planned raid.
Most of the Brite ranch people, including the Brite family were away for Christmas except for the ranch foreman, T.T. Van Neill, his family, a few household employees and a couple of cowboys.
The raiders rode in from the south riding up the old Mail Hack trail. They dismounted their horses in the yard and scattered for cover and a gunfight broke out. The two men who were doing their chores in the barn, were captured. One of the men was sent to the house with a demand to surrender. Neill returned the reply, ”We will never surrender! We will die here first!”
Outnumbered, Neill gave the raiders the key to the Brite Store. The bandits gathered up clothes, canned goods and cash from inside the store while other raiders rounded up the best horses and stole all the saddles.
It was during the store looting when Mickey Welch, a postman, arrived at the ranch in his mail stage with two Mexican passengers. The raiders shot the passengers and hanged Welch in the store. One passenger is buried here a short distance from the Headquarters.
When Rev. H.M. Bandy and his family arrived at the ranch for Christmas dinner, the raiders were still at the headquarters.
They allowed the Bandy’s to reach the Neill home. After a prayer, Brother Bandy took a rifle in hand to help defend the ranch.
Neighbor James L. Cobb heard all the shooting and came to investigate. He then drove 12 miles to telephone Luke Brite in Marfa who called Col. George Langhorne of the Eighth Calvary for help.
The families at the Brite Ranch were finally rescued when Cobb returned with armed neighbors and soldiers.
By the time the posse arrived in automobiles, the raiders mounted on fresh Brite horses fled west toward the Rough Rimrock country. They led the pack horses loaded heavily with goods from the Brite store; escaping down the narrow pass on the Rim Rock. Colonel Langhorne from Camp Marfa and fellow soldiers borrowed horses from neighboring ranchers and joined troops meeting at the Brite Headquarters. There were no horses left at the ranch and no trails that cars could take. So the pursuers lit out on foot hoping to get within range of the fleeing bandits with their high powered rifles.
Smoke of battle cleared. It was Christmas afternoon. The idea of peace on earth among men of good will never seemed quite so important. A terrible memory lingered in the minds of all.
In 1918, Luke Brite built a small block-house fort at the ranch, equipping it with a searchlight, machine guns, and long-range rifles, One young Brite cowboy named Lee Trimble joined the Texas Rangers – and was soon stationed in a camp high on the Rim overlooking the old Knight Trail. His job was to watch the trail for bandits, telegraph the fort at the Brite headquarters and thus protect the ranch and its familys from any future attacks.