Rose Marie Segale was born on January 23, 1850 in the small village of Cicagna in Italy. When she was four she and her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, part of the initial wave of immigration from Italy to America. From her earliest childhood she was determined to be a sister and frequently told her father that she wanted to join the Sisters of Charity as soon as she was old enough. She began her novitiate at the age of 16. When she professed her vows she took the name of Blandina Segale. She taught at Steubenville and Dayton, and in 1872 she was ordered to Trinidad for missionary work. Initially she thought that she was being sent to the island and was thrilled. Instead, she was sent to Trinidad, Colorado in the western part of that state.
What she found when she got there, was a town that was frequently visited by outlaws and where lynchings were common. A fairly rugged environment for a 22-year-old sister!
Nothing daunted, she began to teach. Soon after she got there she stopped a lynching by convincing a dying man to forgive his assailant, the father of one of her pupils. Sister Blandina and the sheriff brought the accused killer from the jail where he was being held to the bed of the dying man, through the midst of an angry lynch mob. The dying man, very generously I think, forgave the man, the lynch mob dispersed, and the man’s fate was determined by the court and not the mob.
One of the many outlaws who terrorized the area was Arthur Pond aka William LeRoy, sometimes known as Billy the Kid, and who was celebrated as the King of American Highwaymen by the “penny dreadful” novelist Richard K. Fox who released a heavily fictionalized biography of him immediately after his death, conflating his exploits with those of the more famous Billy the Kid. (Sister Blandina in later life confused LeRoy with William H. Bonney, the more famous Billy the Kid, who operated in New Mexico a few years later. Sister Blandina had known the outlaw only by his nickname and didn’t realize that there were two Billy the Kids, who died within months of each other in 1881.) A member of his gang had been accidentally shot by another member of his gang and left to die in an adobe hut in Trinidad. Learning this from one of her students, Sister Blandina went to the outlaw and nursed him back to health, answering his questions about God and religion. When Billy the Kid showed up in Trinidad one day, intent on scalping the four doctors who refused to treat the man Sister Blandina had been caring for, he thanked Sister Blandina and at her request reluctantly spared the physicians. Continue reading