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Captain J.A. Brooks, Texas Ranger

Description: James Abijah Brooks (1855-1944) was one of the four Great Captains in Texas Ranger history, others including Bill McDonald, John Hughes, and John Rogers. Over the years historians have referred to the captain as “John” Brooks, because he tended to sign with his initials, but also because W. W. Sterling’s classic Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger mistakenly named him as Captain John Brooks. Born and raised in Civil War-torn Kentucky, a reckless adventurer on the American and Texas frontier, and a quick-draw Texas Ranger captain who later turned in his six-shooter to serve as a county judge, Brooks’s life reflects the raucous era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American West. As a Texas Ranger, Brooks participated in the high profile events of his day, from the fence-cutting wars to the El Paso prizefight, from the Conner Fight–where he lost three fingers from his left hand–to the Temple rail strike, all with a resolute demeanor and a fast gun. A shoot-out in Indian Territory nearly cost him his life and then jeopardized his career, and a lifelong bout with old Kentucky bourbon did the same. With three other distinguished Ranger captains, Brooks witnessed and helped promote the transformation of the elite Frontier Battalion into the Ranger Force. As a state legislator, he brokered the creation of a South Texas county that bears his name today, and where he served for twenty-eight years as county judge. He was the quintessential enforcer of frontier justice, scars and all.
Date: March 15, 2007
Creator: Spellman, Paul N.

Captain John H. Rogers, Texas Ranger

Description: John Harris Rogers (1863-1930) served in Texas law enforcement for more than four decades, as a Texas Ranger, Deputy and U.S. Marshal, city police chief, and in the private sector as a security agent. He is recognized in history as one of the legendary “Four Captains” of the Ranger force that helped make the transition from the Frontier Battalion days into the twentieth century, yet no one has fully researched and written about his life. Paul N. Spellman now presents the first full-length biography of this enigmatic man. During his years as a Ranger, Rogers observed and participated in the civilizing of West Texas. As the railroads moved out in the 1880s, towns grew up too quickly, lawlessness was the rule, and the Rangers were soon called in to establish order. Rogers was nearly always there. Likewise he participated in some of the most dramatic and significant events during the closing years of the Frontier Battalion: the Brown County fence cutting wars; the East Texas Conner Fight; the El Paso/Langtry Prizefight; the riots during the Laredo Quarantine; and the hunts for Hill Loftis and Gregorio Cortez. Rogers was the lawman who captured Cortez to close out one of the most infamous chases in Texas history. Unlike the more gregarious Bill McDonald, Captain Rogers had a quiet manner that kept him from the public limelight; nevertheless, he, John Brooks, and John Hughes shared the same experiences as McDonald during the almost two decades they led the Ranger companies. Unique to Rogers’ career was his devout Christian faith that was on display on almost all occasions. Rogers was wont to use the Bible as often as his six-gun, both with dramatic effect. That and his constant devotion to his family set him apart from the usual lawmen of that era. He was ...
Date: March 15, 2003
Creator: Spellman, Paul N.

Captain John R. Hughes: Lone Star Ranger

Description: Captain John R. Hughes, Lone Star Ranger is the first full and complete modern biography of a man who served as a Texas Ranger from 1887 until early 1915. He came to the attention of the Rangers after doggedly trailing horse thieves for nearly a year and recovering his stolen stock. After helping Ranger Ira Aten track down another fugitive from justice, Hughes then joined Company D of the Texas Rangers on Aten’s recommendation, intending to stay for only a few months; he remained in the service for nearly thirty years. When Sgt. Charles Fusselman was killed by bandits, Hughes took his place. When Captain Frank Jones was killed by bandits in 1893, Hughes was named captain of Company D. As captain, Hughes and his men searched the border and identified every bandit involved in the killing of Jones. They all received justice. Toward the end of his career Hughes became a senior captain based in Austin, and in 1915, having served as a captain and ranger longer than any other man, he retired from the force. His later years were happy ones, with traveling and visiting friends and relatives. He became a Texas icon and national celebrity, receiving more awards and honors than any other Texas Ranger, before or since. Due to Chuck Parsons’s extensive research, we now know more about Hughes than ever before. This biography of one of the “Four Great Captains” sheds light on his life prior to becoming a Texas Ranger and on his love interest, though he never married. From joining Company D in 1887 until retirement, Hughes served the state honestly and proudly, earning the respect of all he met. Zane Grey dedicated his most popular novel, The Lone Star Ranger, to Hughes and his Rangers.
Date: February 15, 2011
Creator: Parsons, Chuck

Prairie Gothic: the Story of a West Texas Family

Description: Prairie Gothic is rich in Texas history. It is the story of Erickson s family, ordinary people who, through strength of character, found dignity in the challenges presented by nature and human nature. It is also the story of the place instrumental in shaping their lives the flatland prairie of northwestern Texas that has gone by various names (High Plains, South Plains, Staked Plains, and Llano Estacado), as well as the rugged country on its eastern boundary, often referred to as the caprock canyonlands. One branch of Erickson’s family arrived in Texas in 1858, settling in Parker County, west of Weatherford. Another helped establish the first community on the South Plains, the Quaker colony of Estacado. They crossed paths with numerous prominent people in Texas history: Sam Houston, Sul Ross, Charles Goodnight, Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker, Jim Loving, and a famous outlaw, Tom Ross. Erickson’s research took him into the homes of well-known Texas authors, such as J. Evetts Haley and John Graves. Graves had written about the death of Erickson s great-great grandmother, Martha Sherman. The theme that runs throughout the book is that of family, of four generations’ efforts to nurture the values of civilized people: reverence of the written word, honesty, godliness, thrift, and personal relationship. It is the story of pioneer women and their struggles to keep their families together; it is the story of cowboys, outlaws, and Indian raids, told against the background of a harsh environment of droughts, blizzards, and rattlesnakes; and it is universal. Erickson has created a fascinating blend of family and regional history.
Date: September 15, 2005
Creator: Erickson, John R.

Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten: Enforcing Law on the Texas Frontier

Description: Ira Aten (1862-1953) was the epitome of a frontier lawman. At age twenty he enrolled in Company D during the transition of the Rangers from Indian fighters to topnotch peace officers. This unit—and Aten—would have a lively time making their mark in nineteenth-century Texas. The preponderance of Texas Ranger treatments center on the outfit as an institution or spotlight the narratives of specific captains. Bob Alexander aptly demonstrated in Winchester Warriors: Texas Rangers of Company D, 1874-1901 that there is merit in probing the lives of everyday working Rangers. Aten is an ideal example. The years Ira spent as a Ranger are jam-packed with adventure, border troubles, shoot-outs, solving major crimes—a quadruple homicide—and manhunts. Aten’s role in these and epochal Texas events such as the racially insensitive Jaybird/Woodpecker Feud and the bloody Fence Cutting Wars earned Ira’s spot in the Ranger Hall of Fame. His law enforcing deeds transcend days with the Rangers. Ira served two counties as sheriff, terms spiked with excitement. Afterward, for ten years on the XIT, he was tasked with clearing the ranch’s Escarbada Division of cattle thieves. Aten’s story spins on an axis of spine-tingling Texas history. Moving to California, Ira was active in transforming the Imperial Valley from raw desert into an agricultural oasis. Unmistakably he was public spirited and committed to community betterment. Relying on primary source documents to build a platform for this meticulously researched and comprehensive biography with 1000 endnotes and 100 remarkable old-time photographs, Alexander gives us Ira Aten in the round—evenhandedly—the true story of a Ranger tough as rawhide.
Date: July 15, 2011
Creator: Alexander, Bob

Riding Lucifer's Line: Ranger Deaths Along the Texas-mexico Border

Description: The Texas-Mexico border is trouble. Haphazardly splashing across the meandering Rio Grande into Mexico is—or at least can be—risky business, hazardous to one’s health and well-being. Kirby W. Dendy, the Chief of Texas Rangers, corroborates the sobering reality: “As their predecessors for over one hundred forty years before them did, today’s Texas Rangers continue to battle violence and transnational criminals along the Texas-Mexico border.” In Riding Lucifer’s Line, Bob Alexander, in his characteristic storytelling style, surveys the personal tragedies of twenty-five Texas Rangers who made the ultimate sacrifice as they scouted and enforced laws throughout borderland counties adjacent to the Rio Grande. The timeframe commences in 1874 with formation of the Frontier Battalion, which is when the Texas Rangers were actually institutionalized as a law enforcing entity, and concludes with the last known Texas Ranger death along the border in 1921. Alexander also discusses the transition of the Rangers in two introductory sections: “The Frontier Battalion Era, 1874-1901” and “The Ranger Force Era, 1901-1935,” wherein he follows Texas Rangers moving from an epochal narrative of the Old West to more modern, technological times. Written absent a preprogrammed agenda, Riding Lucifer’s Line is legitimate history. Adhering to facts, the author is not hesitant to challenge and shatter stale Texas Ranger mythology. Likewise, Alexander confronts head-on many of those critical Texas Ranger histories relying on innuendo and gossip and anecdotal accounts, at the expense of sustainable evidence—writings often plagued with a deficiency of rational thinking and common sense. Riding Lucifer’s Line is illustrated with sixty remarkable old-time photographs. Relying heavily on archived Texas Ranger documents, the lively text is authenticated with more than one thousand comprehensive endnotes.
Date: May 15, 2013
Creator: Alexander, Bob

Texas Ranger John B. Jones and the Frontier Battalion, 1874-1881

Description: In 1874, the Texas legislature created the Frontier Battalion, the first formal, budgeted organization as an arm of state government of what historically had been periodic groups loosely referred to as Texas Rangers. Initially created to combat the menace of repeated raids of Indians from the north and from Mexico into frontier counties, the Battalion was led by an unusual choice: a frail, humorless Confederate veteran from Navarro County, John B. Jones. Under Jones’s leadership, the Battalion grew in sophistication, moving from Indian fighting to capturing Texas’s bad men, such as John Wesley Hardin and Sam Bass. Established during the unsettled time of Reconstruction, the Rangers effectively filled a local law enforcement void until competency was returned to local sheriffs’ and marshals’ offices. Numerous books cover individual Texas Rangers of note, but only a few have dealt with the overall history of the Rangers, and, strangely, none about Jones specifically. For the first time, author Rick Miller presents the story of the Frontier Battalion as seen through the eyes of its commander, John B. Jones, during his administration from 1874 to 1881, relating its history—both good and bad—chronologically, in depth, and in context. Highlighted are repeated budget and funding problems, developing standards of conduct, personalities and their interaction, mission focus and strategies against Indian war parties and outlaws, and coping with politics and bureaucracy. Miller covers all the major activities of the Battalion in the field that created and ultimately enhanced the legend of the Texas Rangers. Jones’s personal life is revealed, as well as his role in shaping the policies and activities of the Frontier Battalion. Based largely on primary documents, especially the actual correspondence generated by the various actors in the Battalion’s drama that best tell the tale, this book is a major contribution to understanding the early ...
Date: August 15, 2012
Creator: Miller, Rick

Tracking the Texas Rangers: the Nineteenth Century

Description: Tracking the Texas Rangers is an anthology of sixteen previously published articles, arranged in chronological history, covering key topics of the intrepid and sometimes controversial law officers named the Texas Rangers. Determining the role of the Rangers as the state evolved and what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the state is a difficult challenge—the actions of the Rangers fit no easy description. There is a dark side to the story of the Rangers; during the war with Mexico, for example, some murdered, pillaged, and raped. Yet these same Rangers eased the resultant United States victory. Even their beginning and the first use of the term “Texas Ranger” have mixed and complex origins. Tracking the Texas Rangers covers topics such as their early years, the great Comanche Raid of 1840, and the effective use of Colt revolvers. Article authors discuss Los Diablos Tejanos, Rip Ford, the Cortina War, the use of Hispanic Rangers and Rangers in labor disputes, and the recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker and the capture of John Wesley Hardin. The selections cover critical aspects of those experiences—organization, leadership, cultural implications, rural and urban life, and violence. In their introduction, editors Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss, Jr., discuss various themes and controversies surrounding the 19th-century Rangers and their treatment by historians over the years. They also have added annotations to the essays to explain where new research has shed additional light on an event to update or correct the original article text.
Date: September 15, 2012
Creator: Glasrud, Bruce A.

Tracking the Texas Rangers: The Twentieth Century

Description: Tracking the Texas Rangers: The Twentieth Century is an anthology of fifteen previously published articles and chapter excerpts covering key topics of the Texas Rangers during the twentieth century. The task of determining the role of the Rangers as the state evolved and what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the state is a difficult challenge. The actions of the Rangers fit no easy description. There is a dark side to the story of the Rangers; during the Mexican Revolution, for example, some murdered with impunity. Others sought to restore order in the border communities as well as in the remainder of Texas. It is not lack of interest that complicates the unveiling of the mythical force. With the possible exception of the Alamo, probably more has been written about the Texas Rangers than any other aspect of Texas history. Tracking the Texas Rangers covers leaders such as Captains Bill McDonald, “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas, and Barry Caver, accomplished Rangers like Joaquin Jackson and Arthur Hill, and the use of Rangers in the Mexican Revolution. Chapters discuss their role in the oil fields, in riots, and in capturing outlaws. Most important, the Rangers of the twentieth century experienced changes in investigative techniques, strategy, and intelligence gathering. Tracking looks at the use of Rangers in labor disputes, in race issues, and in the Tejano civil rights movement. The selections cover critical aspects of those experiences—organization, leadership, cultural implications, rural and urban life, and violence. In their introduction, editors Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss, Jr., discuss various themes and controversies surrounding the twentieth-century Rangers and their treatment by historians over the years. They also have added annotations to the essays to explain where new research has shed additional light on an event to update or correct the original article text.
Date: September 15, 2013
Creator: Glasrud, Bruce A. & Weiss, Harold J. Jr.

Winchester Warriors: Texas Rangers of Company D, 1874-1901

Description: The Texas Rangers were institutionally birthed in 1874 with the formation of the Frontier Battalion. They were tasked with interdicting Indian incursions into the frontier settlements and dealing with the lawlessness running rampant throughout Texas. In an effort to put a human face on the Rangers, Bob Alexander tells the story of one of the six companies of the Frontier Battalion, Company D. Readers follow the Rangers of Company D as—over time—it transforms from a unit of adventurous boys into a reasonably well-oiled law enforcement machine staffed by career-oriented lawmen. Beginning with their start as Indian fighters against the Comanches and Kiowas, Alexander explores the history of Company D as they rounded up numerous Texas outlaws and cattle thieves, engaged in border skirmishes along the Rio Grande, and participated in notable episodes such as the fence cutter wars. Winchester Warriors is an evenhanded and impartial assessment of Company D and its colorful cadre of Texas Rangers. Their laudable deeds are explored in detail, but by the same token their shameful misadventures are not whitewashed. These Texas Rangers were simply people, good and bad—and sometimes indifferent. This new study, extensively researched in both primary and secondary sources, will appeal to scholars and aficionados of the Texas Rangers and western history.
Date: August 15, 2009
Creator: Alexander, Bob

Yours to Command: the Life and Legend of Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald

Description: Captain Bill McDonald (1852-1918) is the most prominent of the “Four Great Captains” of Texas Ranger history. His career straddled the changing scene from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. In 1891 McDonald became captain of Company B of the Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers. “Captain Bill” and the Rangers under his command took part in a number of incidents from the Panhandle region to South Texas: the Fitzsimmons-Maher prizefight in El Paso, the Wichita Falls bank robbery, the murders by the San Saba Mob, the Reese-Townsend feud at Columbus, the lynching of the Humphries clan, the Conditt family murders near Edna, the Brownsville Raid of 1906, and the shootout with Mexican Americans near Rio Grande City. In all these endeavors, only one Ranger lost his life under McDonald’s command. McDonald’s reputation as a gunman rested upon his easily demonstrated markmanship, a flair for using his weapons to intimidate opponents, and the publicity given his numerous exploits. His ability to handle mobs resulted in a classic tale told around campfires: one riot, one Ranger. His admirers rank him as one of the great captains of Texas Ranger history. His detractors see him as an irresponsible lawman who accepted questionable information, precipitated violence, hungered for publicity, and related tall tales that cast himself in the hero’s role. Harold J. Weiss, Jr., seeks to find the true Bill McDonald and sort fact from myth. McDonald’s motto says it all: “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’.”
Date: June 15, 2009
Creator: Weiss, Harold J., Jr.