This photograph was published by Bain News Service between 1910 and 1915. These Mormons were probably refugees from Mexico. In addition to numerous Mexican refugees, nearly 3,000 Mormons sought refuge in El Paso in 1912, going there from Mexico to escape dangers in the border areas during the Mexican revolution that started in 1911. The refugees received a warm welcome from the hospitable people of El Paso—so warm that many of them decided to stay.
When Salazar, a leading revolutionary general, demanded that the Mormons surrender all their guns to his army, they hurriedly made preparations to move their families out of Mexico.
At 7:30 a.m. on July 29, 1912, the Colonia Diaz colonists were informed that they would need to leave in three hours. By 10:30 a.m., 800 colonists were ready to board trains bound for El Paso. The trains contained mostly women and children. Many of the men rode north hoping to avoid militia in an effort to drive their remaining livestock across the border. Many were robbed, some were beaten, and a few were killed. As many as 1,500 colonists found themselves homeless in El Paso during the summer of 1912
Once villages were abandoned, Mexican troops ransacked and burned homes and property. Livestock was slaughtered and left to rot in the street. Furniture was set ablaze within comfortable, clean homes. Machinery was smashed to bits. For a revolution ignited by poverty, such wanton acts of destruction revealed an alarming rage. The Sonora colonies were utterly destroyed never to be resettled.
After 25 years of careful cultivation, the crops and orchards were particularly bountiful that season and the colonists were forced to leave just before harvest. George Sevey wrote in his memoirs of the day the women and children left:
Our gaze is now turned toward the north, there like field after field of corn, oats, and potatoes, clothed in that deep rich verdure which promises abundant harvest of mature products.
Source: The 1912 Exodus of Mormon Colonists from Mexico
Photo Credit: Library of Congress. Here is a high resolution 5784 x 4218 pixels version, in Tagged Image File (TIF) format, that you can download.