Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


Agnes G. Grimm

DODSON, VIOLA RUTH (1876–1963). Viola Ruth Dodson, folklorist and historian, was born on the Perdido Ranch in Nueces County, Texas, on September 3, 1876, the daughter of Milton and Susan Dodson. According to some sources, her great grandfather Bradley brought his family to Texas with the Old Three Hundred. Her early schooling took place on the family ranch and, for one year, in the public schools of Corpus Christi. She attended Lagarto College in 1883–84. Ruth learned to speak fluent Spanish from Mexican ranchhands, through whom she developed a lasting interest in Mexican culture. In 1935, at the insistence of J. Frank Dobie, to whose work she contributed stories and information, she wrote a volume of Southwest Texas folklore in Spanish, Don Pedrito Jaramillo (1934). Pedro Jaramillo was a faith healer and doctor, and the book contains many of his healing remedies. The library of the College of Physicians in Philadelphia acquired it as a reference book in the history of medicine, and it became a folklore classic. It was later published in 1951 as The Healer of Los Olmos and Other Mexican Lore, by the Texas Folklore Society, with a preface by Dobie. Dodson's other writings include an unpublished novel about migrant workers entitled Cock Crows, which won a prize at the Southwest Writers Conference in Corpus Christi. She also wrote pieces for the Texas Folklore Society, for which she was a counselor, that were published in the Southwest Review and Frontier Times.qqv Her aim was to present a true picture of the area between the Nueces and Rio Grande. Dodson lived at Alice, Texas, and on Catalina Island in California before moving to Mathis, Texas, when she was fifty. She died at Corpus Christi on July 19, 1963, and was buried in the Old Mathis Cemetery.

Florence Elberta Barns, Texas Writers of Today (Dallas: Tardy, 1935). Agnes G. Grimm, Llanos Mesteñas: Mustang Plains (Waco: Texian Press, 1968). Lael Moore, "Ruth Dodson, South Texas Folklorist," Texas Historian, May 1971. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Agnes G. Grimm, "DODSON, VIOLA RUTH," accessed July 22, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox