I wrote this for the first Luna family reunion four years ago. A relative volunteers at the Austin History Center and collected all the public records he could on the Luna family. He shared the information with me and I wrote this narrative from it, which was presented at the first reunion in 2012.
I’ve been told our family probably came into Austin in 1872. We might possibly be the oldest Mexican family in Austin. I don’t know exact details, because we’re relying on the only public records that could be found. Facebook wasn’t around back then, so Pilar Nava couldn’t tell us when she “checked in” to Austin, but I do know that her relationship status would have changed to “married to Joe Eulogio de Luna” on September 11, 1847.
Pilar came down from China (Chee-na), Mexico where she was born. The town was an important center for guerrilla resistance to the U.S. Occupation of northern Mexican during the U.S.-Mexican war. However, it was also a small village that almost didn’t have agriculture because of the poor conditions. The people had to travel to seek water and pasture for their animals.
There’s no exact date when Pilar, Eulogio and their small son came to San Antonio, but Lucielle Castro Camacho, a great granddaughter, wrote that they came to Austin to hide from the Indians that were rebelling from the Mexican Government. Indians back then were treating like slaves. In San Antonio, they had seven children: Gertrudes, Antonio, Carlota, Elojio, Refugia. Manuela, and Edwardo. One of the granddaughter said that Pilar would talk about how Austin was filled with huddle of huts and people lived in fear of roving bands of Indians. At the time, the Mexicans population reached 300 and and the men were mostly teamsters and farm laborers.
The Capitol was made of logs. She was actually around when they laid the cornerstone to our state’s capitol. One source states she would frequently encounter chain gangs of convicts who were led to work at the construction site by armed guards. She would fall to her knees and make the sign of the cross and pray for forgiveness of their souls.
One interesting thing is that it seems the family moved a lot. According to the Austin City Directories, the address always changed. What makes that interesting is that the family never moved. They lived in the same house in the area known as “Mexico” near the mouth of Shoal Creek, but for some reason, the address was the only thing that changed.
Pilar did laundry and ironing to bring in income. Elojio passed away in Austin and is buried in the oldest cemetery in Austin, which is located in downtown Austin across the street from Brackenbridge Hospital. Pilar passed away in 1918 when she was 105 years old. However, it should be noted that one article states she was 105, another that she was 106, so keep in mind that ages are not exact. The Statesman, which we all know as the Austin American-Statesman, wrote a small article about her death. That was a huge deal during those days as most Mexicans didn’t have lengthy write-ups about their death in the paper unless it was an unusual circumstance. According to the article, she died bearing 24 children and one relative reported that there were at least 300 direct descendants just from her. An interesting note about that article is that it states that she survived all her children except one, who was 54 at the time.
Lucielle also wrote that she remembered Pilar’s casket because it was light brown pine which she and her brother Paul placed wild poppies in. The wake was held at home with the casket in the living room.
Eulogio, Pilar’s first son, attended Austin First Ward School. There’s a school record that showed he was enrolled when he was an older teen even if it also showed he was absent a lot. But it shows that even though he was older, he took advantage of the first time they had free public schools with the other siblings. The father had passed away at the time so Pilar became the parent and guardian.
There isn’t much information on the children besides the basic public information: death records, school enrollments with the exception of Valentino Luna, our famous boxer. Did you know he was born a twin? It looks from the records that the other son didn’t make it at the birth. However, this generation includes your parents, your grandparents. So please join us in sharing your memories so we can add to our family history.