Issue 32, 2011 - Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

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Issue 32, 2011 - Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
The
Issue 32, 2011
Texas Ranger Dispatch
™
Magazine of the official Museum, Hall of Fame, and Repository of the Texas Rangers Law Enforcement Agency
17
39
42
4
9
28
43
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
1
This issue of the Texas Ranger Dispatch is funded in part by a
grant from the Texas Ranger Association Foundation. Their
generosity makes this publication possible.
http://www.thetexasrangers.org/
Founded in 1964, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is
a nonprofit historical center owned by the people of Texas. It is
hosted and professionally operated by the city of Waco, Texas. It
is sanctioned by the Texas Rangers, the Texas Department of
Public Safety, and the legislature of the State of Texas.
http://www.texasranger.org/index.htm
Texas Ranger
Dispatch
Production
Team
Byron A. Johnson - Managing Editor; Director, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
Pam S. Baird – Technical Editor, Layout, and Design
Sharon P. Johnson, Volunteer Web Designer, Baylor University
Christina Stopka, Archivist, Armstrong Texas Ranger Research Center
Shelly Crittendon, Collections Manager, Texas Rannger Hall of Fame
Christina Smith, Research Librarian, Armstrong Texas Ranger Research Center
In Memoriam - Robert Nieman, Volunteer Managing Editor, 2000-2009
Texas Ranger
Dispatch
Table of Contents
Issue 32, 2011
.
4
The Battle of Plum Creek
Christina Smith
9
Frank M. McMahan: A Faithful and Reliable Officer
Doug Dukes
17 Jesus Sandoval: McNelly’s Enforcer
Chuck Parsons
28 Book Excerpt from:
Yours to Command: Life and Legend of Bill McDonald
Harold J. Weiss Jr.
39 Routine Collections Maintenance
Carla Shelton
42 The Saddle of Texas Ranger James Newton Geer
43 The Texas Department of Public Safety:75-Year Timeline
Battle of Plum Creek
The Battle of
Plum Creek
Christina Smith
Research Librarian, Armstrong Texas Ranger Research Center
Title: Delaying Action: The Battle of Plum Creek
Artist: Lee Herring
Medium: Oil on panel
Date: 1978
Dimensions: 4’x8' (panel); 4’10"x 8’10" (framed)
Description: (Historical Scene) View of a band of Penateka Comanche
mounted on horses and dressed in full battle regalia; the warriors are
encircling the foreground; in the distance is a tree line with the
distinct view of soldiers and settlers emerging.
Credit Line: Loaned by William Adams/Cat. No. L2010.028
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4
Battle of Plum Creek
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas, has recently received on loan a
stunning painting meticulously detailing the 1840 Battle of Plum Creek, which occurred on August
12 near present Lockhart, Texas. This altercation, fought between a large number of various bands
of Comanche warriors and hurriedly assembled volunteers, produced a decisive victory for the
Texans. The battle was significant in that it drastically reduced the southern Comanche threat to the
settlements. They never again made such a massive, organized advance into the south central
region of the frontier. Rather, they participated in smaller hit-and-run raids which allowed them to
quickly retreat into the relative safety of Comancheria, which was the home of the Comanche from
the early 1700s until 1875. With the Comanche presence diminished, the frontier regressed and
settlements expanded further east. The causes of the battle, however, and the ramifications after
the event negatively affected Indian relations in Texas and ignited conflict and warfare for decades.
The Battle of Plum Creek is a direct result of the exterminationist policies of President Mirabeau
Lamar. Unlike his predecessor Sam Houston, Lamar pursued a policy of aggression toward the
Texas tribes. While addressing the topic of Texas Indians in his 1838 inaugural address, he bluntly
stated that it was time an “exterminating war” was opened against them that would admit to “no
compromise.”1
Such was the political atmosphere in 1840 in the months before the fight at Plum Creek. This
antagonistic attitude was evident when a band of Penateka Comanches petitioned Texas
representatives for a peace conference. This proved politically and socially disastrous for the
Comanches and triggered the historic raid that concluded with the clash at Plum Creek.
In March 1840, approximately sixty-five Penateka Comanches and their families, including twelve
political leaders, arrived in San Antonio for the scheduled peace conference. The meeting was
organized at the request of the Comanche leaders, who were attempting to contrive a way to
harmoniously co-exist with the Texans. The southern bands were far closer to the settlements than
their northern counterparts were and experienced the brunt of both Texan attacks and disease. The
Penateka made an initial bid for peace in January 1840 but were instructed to return later with all of
their white captives. While the Comanche emissaries returned to their villages to discuss peace
terms with their chiefs, the secretary of war sent Colonel William S. Fisher, for whom the original Fort
Fisher was named, with several companies to San Antonio in anticipation of a confrontation with the
Comanches in the event no white captives were returned. Evidently, non-white captives were not
considered important negotiating tools.
Comanche representatives returned on March 19, bringing one white captive, a teenage girl
named Matilda Lockhart. She had suffered horrible abuse at the hands of her captors, and her face
and body were a testament to her suffering. No other white captives accompanied the Comanche
delegates, and the intended peace conference immediately disintegrated. The Comanche leaders
explained that they had brought in the only captive their tribe held; they could not force or speak for
other bands regarding their captives. Col. Fisher ordered the Comanche chiefs held as hostages,
whereupon violence erupted inside the council house. All twelve chiefs were killed within minutes of
the start of the “peace” discussions. The fight did not end inside the council house, however, as
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
5
Battle of Plum Creek
soldiers and the Comanches who were outside, including many children, clashed in the ensuing
confusion and pandemonium. Thirty-five Comanche men, women, and children were killed, and the
rest were taken as hostages. Their horses and supplies were taken as well. As for the Texans,
seven officials and onlookers were killed.2
The deaths of the twelve Penateka Comanche leaders and their startled family members were
a severe loss to the Comanches. It threw the tribal leadership into disarray and caused an atmosphere
of acrimony and suspicion toward Texan officials. The Comanches felt that they had made a sincere
conciliatory overture and were not only rebuffed, but also ambushed by the officials. Lamar’s
uncompromising political stance toward the tribes ignited a strong desire for revenge on the part of
all the Comanche bands.
After what came to be called the Council House Fight, the settlers endured several tense
months as they waited in anticipation for the Comanches to retaliate for the loss of their leaders. As
summer progressed and nothing happened, the uneasiness began to wane and precautionary
measures were eased. This complacency was a mistake. The expected payback from the Comanches
did not occur in the months immediately following the Council House Fight because not only did the
bands need time to mourn, but they also needed time to regroup and choose leaders to replace
those lost in San Antonio. There are, however, arguments opining that in the months following the
altercation, the Mexican government was attempting to entice the Comanches into an alliance with
them. The purported goal of the association was the overthrow of the Republic of Texas and the
reversion of the land back to Mexico. Regardless of any supplementary motives, by the beginning of
August 1840, a large conglomeration of approximately six hundred Comanches, warriors, and their
families had organized and begun their procession from the Hill Country to the coastal settlements,
and they were ready to extract their revenge for the killings in San Antonio.3
With no citizen patrols in the fields, the Comanches traveled unnoticed through the sparsely
populated countryside in spite of the obvious trail that a large number of Comanches, their horses,
and gear would create. They initiated minor skirmishes shortly before reaching the unprepared and
unsuspecting settlement of Victoria on August 6. The attack on that town greatly increased the war
party’s load as traders were in town with five hundred horses to sell. The Comanches acquired the
herd in addition to the horses already captured from citizens.4 After assailing the town and capturing
or killing both citizens and livestock, the Comanches leisurely withdrew a short distance to camp for
the night, displaying no intentions of returning to Comancheria. About fifty citizens, thinking the
Comanches had followed their customary practice of quickly departing after a battle, left Victoria in
search of reinforcements. In fact, however, the raid was nowhere close to its completion. After a
second strike on Victoria, they moved toward the coastal settlement of Linnville, clashing with settlers
along the way before reaching the port town on August 8.
Linnville was a seaport situated along Lavaca Bay and comprised of warehouses full of
merchandise waiting to be transported to assorted towns and settlements. Its inhabitants were as
stunned by the arrival of the Comanches as Victoria had been two days earlier. Linnville was the site
of much of the physical destruction of the raid. The town was essentially demolished as the warriors
burned the stores and appropriated the warehouse items. The astonished citizens fled to the bay,
finding boats in which to make their escape and rowing out far enough to escape but close enough
to witness the destruction.5
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
6
Battle of Plum Creek
After Linnville, the heavily laden war party began their removal back to the Hill Country. The
return, however, did not go as smoothly as the initial march. The already immense procession was
made even larger by the addition of so many horses. The broad trail to the coast was noticed by
several people passing through the countryside, and alerts were given of the potential threat. Volunteer
companies quickly began forming in nearby settlements. At the time of the Battle of Plum Creek, the
men who answered the notices were not Texas Rangers, but many of them had served or would
later serve as Rangers. The nature of the mobilization, for the purpose of frontier defense, is indicative
of the duties of the early Ranger.
Adam Zumwalt of Lavaca and Ben McCulloch of Gonzales organized separate companies,
joined forces, and picked up the trail by August 7. They soon met up with volunteers from Victoria
under John Tumlinson and learned of the attack on that settlement. The combined Texan volunteers
sent messengers to other settlements requesting assistance before continuing toward Victoria.
Unknown to them, the town had suffered a second assault.
The men arrived on August 8, the day the Comanches had attacked the nearby town of Linnville.
The Texans under Zumwalt, Tumlinson and McCulloch engaged the departing war party but did not
have the means to launch a full charge. The Comanches in the rear of the departing party surrounded
the Texans and engaged in a slight skirmish, allowing the rest of the warriors and their families to
escape. Texan messengers were dispatched for more men. On August 9, Ben McCulloch, frustrated
over a lack of action, left the volunteer force in pursuit of reinforcements in the hope of making a
more calculated and intense move against the party. The rest of Tumlinson and Zumwalt’s men
continued to slowly pursue and harass the retreating Comanches.
Traveling in and around Gonzales, McCulloch assisted in organizing additional volunteer
companies and sent messengers out in search of Mathew Caldwell and Edward Burleson, who
were both well respected and experienced in Indian warfare. McCulloch requested Plum Creek to
be the designated meeting point.6 By August 10, Burleson and his volunteers, including Tonakwa
warriors under Chief Placido, were on their way to Plum Creek. Chief Placido and his men, horseless,
jogged beside the Burleson volunteers while the Texans rode horses.7 Caldwell and his men also
departed for Plum Creek after notification reached them while they were out on patrol.
By August 11, volunteers began arriving at the appointed rendezvous spot. Among the arrivals
was Felix Huston of the Texas Militia. Despite his relative inexperience, he was chosen as the
overall commander of the volunteer forces. The men lay ready as the large Comanche party began
their ride through the area. No charge was ordered, however, as Huston learned that Burleson and
his men would be reaching the scene soon. Once Burleson and his men arrived at Plum Creek from
Bastrop on August 12, Huston was ready.
Approximately two hundred volunteers dismounted and advanced on the rear of the slow- moving
Comanche party. The warriors immediately formed into a line of defense, protecting their families
and others in front and allowing their livestock time to pass through. Huston did not immediately
charge the warriors who stayed behind. The volunteers and warriors engaged in a firefight across a
wide expanse while displaying feats of showmanship with their horses and weapons. The Texans
were eager to charge as they recognized that the Comanche stall tactic was allowing the Victoria
and Linnville captives and horse herd to escape. When several of the prominent leaders were killed
in the exchange of fire and the Comanche’s resolve seemed to falter, Huston, at the urging of more
experienced frontiersman, finally ordered the volunteers to mount and charge the line. The war
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
7
Battle of Plum Creek
party, encumbered with a large pack train and horse herd, could not mount an adequate defense or
retreat. The battle evolved into a running fight that lasted several miles. In the end, approximately
eighty Comanches were killed to the Texans’ one.8
The loss of the battle at Plum Creek was a severe setback for the Comanches. In just a few
months their tribal leadership and social structure had been violently thrust into disarray. The physical
size of the war party was an indication how angry the Comanches were over the treachery in San
Antonio. Although they had killed twenty settlers during the revenge raid, they lost eighty or more
during the Plum Creek Battle. Not only did they lose lives, they lost their enormous horse herds,
captives, and goods they had taken from Linnville. The raid turned into a catastrophic loss.
Though the Comanches lost the battle, the conflicts were far from over. The lesson learned
from Plum Creek was that small war parties that could move in and depart quickly should be the
method used when fighting settlers. The Comanches never forgot how their peaceful overture was
met with deceit. Lamar’s belligerent policies during his tenure as president were felt in the decades
to come as settlers, Rangers, and the military struggled against Comanche raiding parties who were
tenaciously trying to hold on to their homeland. Some of the same men who were volunteers at Plum
Creek participated in many more skirmishes with the Comanches while serving as Texas Rangers
as remnants of Lamar’s harsh policies reverberated through the next several decades.
Notes
1. Brice, Donaly E., The Great Comanche Raid: Boldest Indian Attack of the Texas Republic
(Austin: Eakin Press, 1987) 2.
2. Ibid, 25.
3. Utley, Robert M., Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2002) 27.
4. Linn, John J., Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: D&J Sadlier & Co., 1883) 339.
5. Ibid, 341
6. Moore, Stephen L., Savage Frontier, Volume III: 1840-1841 (Denton: University of North Texas
Press, 2007) 95.
7. Ibid, 98.
8. Brice, Great Comanche Raid, 48.
Sources
Brice, Donaly E. The Great Comanche Raid: Boldest Indian Attack of the Texas Republic.
Austin Eakin Press, 1987.
Linn, John J. Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas. New York: D&J Sadlier & Co., 1883.
Moore, Stephen L. Savage Frontier, Volume III: 1840-1841. Denton: University of North Texas
Press, 2007.
Utley, Robert M. Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2002.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
8
Frank M. McMahan
Frank M.
McMahan
“A Faithful and Reliable Officer”
Doug Dukes
Francis Marion McMahan was a Texas Ranger for
only a short period of time (September 1, 1893, until
May 31, 1894),1 yet some of the most important incidents
in the El Paso area involving the Rangers and/or law
enforcement in general include this lawman. Like so
many other young men of that time, his commitment to
law enforcement, and his feeling for duty and sacrifice
lasted his entire lifetime and not just for his time as a
Texas Ranger.
Frank McMahan was born in Saline County,
Missouri, on July 9, 1870.2 In 1880, he was nine years
Frank M. McMahan
old and living with his family in Jones County, Texas, Photo courtesy R.G. McCubbin Collection
where his father Francis W. McMahan worked as a
stock raiser. The remainder of the family at that time
included Frank’s mother Mary A. and his fourteen-year-old sister Mariah E. (also called Mollie and
Mary in her later years).3
Frank moved further west when he was only twenty-three years old and relocated to be closer
to his sister Mollie and work with her husband George A. Scarborough. George was a well-respected
lawman in the area and later killed the man who shot John Wesley Hardin––John Selman. In
September 1893, Frank enlisted in the Texas Rangers, Company D, under Captain John R. Hughes
in El Paso, Texas.4 Like his more famous brother-in-law, Frank was also named a deputy U.S.
marshal under U.S. Marshal Richard “Dick” Ware. Frank was allowed to retain his Ranger commission5
and was posted to Ysleta, Texas.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
9
Frank M. McMahan
On October 14, 1893, Captain Hughes, along with Rangers Frank McMahan, Edwin Dunlap
“Eddie” Aten, J.V. Latham, J.W. “Wood” Saunders, William Schmidt, Joe Sitter, and Deputy Sheriff
Ben Williams of Las Cruces, New Mexico, left on a scout. Marching four days and 120 miles, they
traveled by way of Hueco Tanks and Sierra Alta to Alamo Ranch in search of a band of robbers
reported to be located there. However, the robbers proved to be a group of Pueblo Indians hunting
antelope, and no arrests were made. On October 19, Rangers Joe McKidrict and Frank McMahan
made a scout to Rio Grande station in search of smuggled cattle. They were out three days and
marched 90 miles, but no cattle were located.6 On November 25, Privates McMahan and R.E. “Ed”
Bryant made a scout down the Rio Grande in search of horse thieves. They were out five days
and marched 170 miles, but they also made no arrests.7
Life got a lot more exciting for Frank on November 30, 1893. He and Ranger Eddie Aten were
off duty, playing billiards in a local Ysleta billiards parlor. At approximately 2:00 p.m., they had their
game interrupted by the screams of “Murder!” coming from a female on the dusty street. Running
outside, the Rangers saw two women, one trying to crawl out the back of a buggy screaming, “He
is murdering us!” The other woman, covered with blood and apparently dead, was lying in the
bottom of the buggy as her husband Jose Apodaca beat her with the gun (rifle) he held in his hand.
Believing the woman on the floorboard was deceased, the Rangers called for Jose to give up his
weapon. When called on to surrender, however, Jose made what could have been the last mistake
of his life––he turned on the two Rangers and pointed the rifle at McMahan.
Both Rangers fired their six-guns, striking Jose with one shot just above the heart and thus
stopping his attack on the Rangers as well as the women. As was the custom of the time with any
“officer involved shooting,” Aten and McMahan were put under bond to await the ruling of a grand
jury. Finding citizens to put up bond was no trouble, as most witnesses believed the Rangers
acted with a sense of duty and in self-defense.
However, as is normally the case even now, the son of Jose Apodaca filed a complaint against
the two Rangers and wanted them removed from Ysleta. This was not going to happen. Aten and
McMahan were not indicted by the grand jury on December 11, but Jose Apodaca was indicted for
beating his wife and arrested shortly after he recovered from the gunshot wound.
On the other hand, Adjutant General W.H. Mabry evidently did not approve of Texas Rangers
spending time in billiards parlors and made his point clear to Captain John R. Hughes. Hughes
answered by telling Mabry that there were few places in Ysleta for recreation, and both of the
Rangers in question were from good families. He also stated that Aten and McMahan did not make
a habit of going to billiards parlors, although he added that it was “the best place to learn the
news.” In any case, Captain Hughes said he “would be more careful in the future.”8
Ranger activities continued on January 25, 1894, when Privates Frank McMahan and Ed
Bryant delivered prisoners to the El Paso jail. They were only out one day and marched 24 miles.9
This was apparently a non-eventful assignment.
Texas Ranger Bazzel (“Bass” or “Baz”) Lamar Outlaw was a man short in stature but tall in
actions. He joined the Rangers in 1885 and was transferred to Company D in 1887.10 Baz was a
good officer but a “terror when drunk,” which was often, and was finally fired by Captain Frank
Jones in September 1892 for being intoxicated on duty. Baz turned to U.S. Marshal Richard “Dick”
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
10
Frank M. McMahan
The most famous picture of Frank McMahan with Company D Texas Rangers in
1894. Frank is top left behind prisoner. Photo Courtesy University of Oklahoma.
Ware for a job, and ironically, back to Captain Jones for a Special Ranger Commission in 1893,
which was unbelievably granted.
On April 5, 1894, Baz and Marshal Ware were in El Paso serving papers for the federal court,
and as was his habit when off duty, Baz was drunk. He ran into Constable John Selman and one
Frank Collinson, and the three men went down to a “house” belonging to Tillie Howard, El Paso’s
most famous madam. While Selman and Collinson sat in the parlor, Baz went out on the back porch.
In less than a minute, a shot rang out and Selmen commented, “Bass has dropped his gun.” As
Selman reached the back porch, Tillie Howard ran out blowing her police whistle to call for help.
Texas Ranger Joe McKidrict was in El Paso under a summons to appear before the U.S. Grand
Jury on a smuggling case and heard the shot and the police whistle. He ran to the back fence of
Tillie’s and climbed over it to see what had happened. Baz had his gun in his hand, and McKidrict
asked him why he had shot. Bass simply looked at him and asked, “Do you want some too?” He
then shot McKidrict in the head at pointblank range and fired another shot into the body after it fell.
McKidrict had not fired shot. Selman jumped down off the porch and was drawing his gun when Baz
shot at him. The first bullet missed, but the black powder smoke blinded Selman and caused deep
powder burns. In what today might be called instinctive shooting, Selman fired at Baz and hit him just
above the heart. Baz fired twice more, striking Selman both times in the right leg. These injuries
caused Selman to use a cane for the remainder of his life.
Baz stumbled back and fell over the same fence Joe McKidrict had vaulted moments before. He
stumbled down El Paso’s Utah Street (now South Mesa) and was located by Texas Ranger Frank
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
11
Frank M. McMahan
McMahan, who was also running toward the gunfire. McMahan demanded that Baz surrender, and
with the help of another man, helped the dying lawman into the Barnum Show Saloon. Baz begged
McMahan to protect him from the mob that he was afraid would be after him.11 After being examined
by Dr. T.S. Turner and seeing that nothing could be done, Baz was moved to a bed in a back room,
where he died about four hours later. With his last breath he asked, “Where are my friends?” He
died alone.12
Baz Outlaw was listed as being under arrest by Frank McMahan when he died, so Frank was
credited with the arrest.13 Ranger McKidrict was sent to Austin for burial in Oakwood Cemetery, and
the cost of burial was paid by the state of Texas, Joe McKidrict, and the men of Company D.14
Frank McMahan requested a discharge from the Rangers in April 1894,15 but it did not become
effective until May 31, and he gave his all during
that final month. McMahan arrested Harry Harrard
on May 9 for illicit liquor dealing, and he
apprehended a string of smugglers: “China” Frank
on May 11, Juan Del Roal two days later, George
Griffin on May 18, and Chung Hoon on May 25.
Finally, on May 27, McMahan made a “scout by
rail” to Alpine Texas to get Charlie Compton, who
was wanted for illicit liquor dealing. Frank was out
for two days and traveled 446 miles. Charlie was
turned over to the U.S. Deputy Marshals,16 as were
all prisoners arrested during May by Ranger
McMahan,
Frank McMahan left the Rangers, but he did
not leave law enforcement. He remained a deputy
United States marshal and was very much involved
in West Texas incidents. In June 1895, he
US Marshal’s badge of Frank McMahan.
participated in the surrender of Martin M’Rose (also
Badge Courtesy Don Yena Collection.
spelled M’Roz, Mrose, or Morose), who was a
fugitive from New Mexico and was staying in Juarez
to avoid the New Mexico charges and extradition. Representing M’Rose was attorney and gunfighter
John Wesley Hardin.17
M’Rose had heard rumors concerning his wife Beulah and his attorney Hardin, and he did not
like what he was hearing. He had several meetings with Scarborough about returning to El Paso
from Juarez. Scarborough had been able to gain the trust of this wanted fugitive and had even
passed several messages back and forth between M’Rose and Beulah.18 Finally, M’Rose agreed to
meet Scarborough at approximately 11:00 p.m. on June 29 in the middle of the Mexican Central
Railroad Bridge that crossed the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso. He intended to come
back into El Paso with Scarborough.19 However, Scarborough had arranged for his brother-in-law
Frank McMahan and Special Texas Ranger Jefferson Davis Milton to be waiting on the El Paso side
of the bridge, hidden in the weeds, and they intended to take M’Rose alive if possible.20 After meeting
in the middle of the bridge, M’Rose spoke with Scarborough for a while before deciding to cross
over to the El Paso side.21 After climbing down to dry land in El Paso, Scarborough gave the signal
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
12
Frank M. McMahan
and both Milton and McMahan came out of the weeds and ordered Martin’s surrender. M’Rose did
not want anything to do with that. As he was pulling his gun against the three officers, Scarborough
said, “Don’t make no play; we don’t want to hurt you.”22 M’Rose continued to pull his gun and aimed
it at Scarborough, cocking the hammer.23 When the shooting stopped, Martin M’Rose was dead.
Due to local citizens’ condemnation of the killing, it took two years before a jury cleared the three
lawmen .24
Frank McMahon was also involved in a situation that filled many southwestern newspapers for
several months in 1894. Victor Ochoa was a U.S. citizen who was in political opposition to Mexican
President Porfirio Diaz and had planned a violent overthrow of El Presidente. After being arrested at
the request of the U.S. State Department and then released due to lack of evidence, Ochoa attacked
a Mexican Army outpost and barely escaped. He then hooked up with a desperado wanted in San
Angelo for murder and jailbreak. When Ochoa’s companion killed Jeff Webb, an Alpine cowboy, both
were then wanted by Texas Rangers and the U.S. Marshal.25 Ochoa was finally arrested by Texas
Rangers and jailed in Pecos County. Sheriff A.J. Royal kept Ochoa in his jail and away from federal
custody until Ochoa gave a speech to the Hispanic community supporting Royal’s reelection. The
speech he gave was in Spanish and was not understood by Royal. It also did not include any
mention of support for the sheriff, so Ochoa was immediately put back in county lockup to await
federal officers, only to be released by a group of masked men later that night. This entire incident
caused quite a dustup there, as it resulted in Texas Rangers arresting Sheriff Royal, his deputy
Barney Riggs, and two other men for complicity in the escape of a prisoner (Ochoa) because they
were accused of being part of the masked mob. Texas Rangers Fulghum and Schmidt located and
arrested Ochoa again, placing him in the jail in Toyah in Reeves County. Ochoa’s escape caused
Royal to lose the next election, and some believed it resulted in Royal’s murder in November 1895.
In August 1895, Frank McMahan and U.S. Marshal Richard Ware escorted Ochoa and a Chinese
alien on the long train ride to Kings County Penitentiary in Brooklyn, New York.26
On Sunday, September 1, 1895, Frank McMahon was married to Alice Cary Hunter of Fort
Mason, Texas, at the home of his brother-in-law George Scarborough in El Paso, Texas. As the El
Paso Herald noted, “The groom has a excellent reputation in this county where he is well known as
faithful and reliable officer.”27 Frank and Alice set up housekeeping in Valentine, Texas. The bride
was the sister of noted Texas historian and publisher J. Marvin Hunter.28
After going to work for the El Paso Police department in 1899, Frank followed Scarborough to
New Mexico. In April 1900, George Scarborough was killed by outlaws, and Frank was named head
of New Mexico’s Cattle Raisers Association’s Rangers.29 The 1900 census shows Frank and Alice
living in Deming, Grant County, New Mexico. They are renting their home and Frank is shown as a
“Peace Officer.” Living with them now is their first daughter Mary, born earlier that year, as well as
Alice’s sister Lillian Hunter, who is 21 years old.
On August 27, 1900, legendary lawman Deputy Sheriff William D. “Keechi” Johnson was killed
at McKinnie Park, about 40 miles from the town of Mogollon, New Mexico. An outlaw by the name of
Ralph Jenks, supposedly in Johnson’s custody, was the only witness. Jenks stated that at least two
unknown men had shot Johnson from ambush. Not finding much credibility in Jenks’s statement,
Sheriff Jim Blair decided that Jenks, his brother Roy, and Henry Reinhart, a man named who was in
the area at the time of the ambush, were guilty of Johnson’s death. Getting assistance from the
Cattle Raisers Association, Rangers McMahan, Ed Scarborough (son of George Scarborough), and
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
13
Frank M. McMahan
J. Marvin Hunter (McMahan’s brother-in-law), Sheriff Blair went to Mogollon to take possession of
Jenks and Reinhart, who had been arrested, and escort them to Silver City, the county seat.
The group was riding along Duck Creek at 9:00 a.m. when Jenks reportedly reached over and
grabbed Ed Scarborough’s pump shotgun from the scabbard on Ed’s horse. When Jenks jumped
from his horse and tried to work
the action of the shotgun,
Scarborough told him several
times to drop the weapon. When
he did not, Scarborough shot him
twice in the chest and once in
the head, killing him instantly.
Frank McMahan arrested Ed
Scarborough and took him to
Silver City, where he was placed
in jail until he was later no-billed
by the grand jury. It was said that
Scarborough, McMahan, and
Hunter all believed that Ralph
and his brother Roy were indeed
the killers of Keechi Johnson.30
Frank did leave law
Grave marker for Frank McMahan
enforcement for a time. In the
Photo Courtesy Ron Hyatt.
1910 census, he and family are
shown living in Terrell County,
Texas. Frank was 39 years old, and his wife Allice [sic] was 37 and listed as being born in Tennessee,
as were her parents. Frank’s occupation is shown as ”frameman-Brakeman RR,” and he was working
for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Sanderson. There are now two children enumerated: Mary, born
in New Mexico, is age 9; Lillian, born in Texas, is age 5.31
In the 1920 census, Frank is again listed as a U.S. deputy marshal, and the family is renting a
home in Tempe, Maricopa County, Arizona. In addition to his wife Alice and daughters Mary and
Lillian, Alice’s 70-year-old mother Mary Hunter (Calhoun) is living in the home.32
The 1930 census shows Frank working as an inspector for the United States Immigration and
Naturalization Service. He lives in the City of Ventura, Ventura County, California, and owns a home
valued at $6,400. His mother-in-law Mary still lives with Alice and him, but both girls are married and
moved away. Daughter Mary is now Mrs. Henry Long, and daughter Lillian is married to Mr. Joseph
B. Jennings. Both are living in San Diego, California, with their families.33
Later, Frank and his family moved to San Diego, where he continued to work for the United
States Immigration and Naturalization Service. On March 6, 1940, he died of a heart attack in Yuma,
Arizona; he was sixty-nine years old.34 Yuma was considered part of the INS San Diego Area, and
Frank was there on business when he died. He would have been eligible for retirement in July of
that year. The following obituary is representative of the respect people held for Frank:
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14
Frank M. McMahan
FRANK M. McMAHAN
Services for Frank M. McMahan, 69, who died unexpectedly in Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday, will be
held at 3 this afternoon at Bonham Brothers’ Mortuary under auspices of John D. Spreckels
Masonic Lodge, of which he was a member. He also was a member of San Diego Sciots. The
Rev. Thomas L. Coyle will join the Masons in conducting the service. A veteran member of the
U.S. immigration service, Mr. McMahan would have been eligible for retirement in July. He
was born in Saline County, Missouri, July 9, 1870. In 1895 he married Alice Cary Hunter, of an
old prominent Texas family, who survives him together with two daughters, Mrs. Mary Long
and Mrs. Joseph B. Jennings, and three grandchildren, Mary Lou Jennings, Henry A. Long and
Alice Long, all residents for many years in San Diego. McMahan resided at 1244 Cypress St.
He also is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Mary F. Scarborough and Mrs. Elizabeth Worrell.35
Alice Cary McMahan died on January 5, 1958. She is buried beside her husband in Glenn
Abbey Memorial Park, San Diego, California, 36 in lot 5, section 77, block 5. Frank rests in lot 6,
section 77, block 5. Although the cemetery has Frank’s middle name listed as “Marlon” rather than
the correct “Marion,” his grave marker appears to be accurate. Alice Cary McMahan’s marker shows
her birth date as 1892 rather than the accurate 1872. For those that have joined the 21st century,
the GPS coordinates for the grave of Frank McMahan are as follows: 32.65188 / -117.04733.
Notes
1. Texas Ranger Muster Rolls and Monthly Returns, Texas State Library and Archives, Austin,
Texas.
2. Death Certificate, Arizona State Board of Health, State File #520, Frank Marion McMahan.
3. 1880 Census, Jones County, Texas, enumerated June 9-11: 400.
4. Texas Ranger Muster Rolls and Monthly Returns.
5. Robert K. DeArment and George Scarborough, The Life and Death of a Lawman on the
Closing Frontier (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), 44.
6. Monthly Return, Frontier Battalion, October 31, 1893, Texas State Library.
7. Ibid, November 30, 1893.
8. Capt. Hughes to Adj. Gen. W.H. Mabry, December 1, 9, and 31, 1893, Texas State Library.
9. Monthly Return, Frontier Battalion, January 31, 1894.
10. Texas Ranger Service Records, B.L. Outlaw, Texas State Library.
11. Capt. Hughes to Adj. Gen. W.H. Mabry, April 6, 1894, AG General Correspondence, Texas
State Library.
12. DeArment and Scarborough, Life and Death of a Lawman: 72-74; Metz, Leon, John Selmon,
Gunfighter (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press: 1980), 148-150; El Paso Times,
June 6,1894, and November 4, 1973.
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15
Frank M. McMahan
13. Monthly Return, Frontier Battalion, April 30, 1894.
14. Hughes to Adj. Gen. Wheatley, May 12, 1895, Adj. Gen. Correspondence, Texas State Library.
15. Hughes to Adj. Gen. W.H. Mabry, April 30, 1894, Adj. Gen. Correspondence, Texas State
Library.
16. Monthly Return, Frontier Battalion, May 31, 1894.
17. Richard C. Marohn, The Last Gunfighter: John Wesley Hardin (College Station, Texas:
Creative Publishing, 1995), 224.
18. El Paso Times, June 30, 1895.
19. Deposition of George A. Scarborough before Justice of the Peace W.D. Howe, June 30.1895.
20. Ibid.
21. El Paso Times, June 30, 1895.
22. Scarborough Deposition.
23. El Paso Times, June 30, 1895.
24. Marohn, The Last Gunfighter: 226. There have been several articles written about this fight
that do not include Frank McMahan, only George Scarborough and Jeff Milton. As an example,
see Bart Skelton, “A Lawman to Remember,” in Guns and Ammo, November 2008: 96.
25. DeArment and Scarborough, Life and Death of a Lawman: 53-56.
26. El Paso Times, August 18, 1895.
27. El Paso Herald, September 3, 1895.
28. DeArment and Scarborough, Life and Death of a Lawman: 210.
29. Ibid., 232.
30. Ibid., 257-249; Bob Alexander, Lawmen, Outlaws, and SOBs (Silver City, New Mexico: High
Lonesome Books), 202-216.
31. 1910 Federal Census, Terrell County, Texas, Enumerator Dist. 122, sheet 3, enumerated April
19, 1910.
32. 1920 Federal Census, Maricopa County, Arizona, Supervisors District 1, Enumeration District
31, Sheet 16A, January 20, 1920. Mary Ann Hunter (Calhoun) is shown to be 70 years old, born in
Tennessee. Her father was also born in Tennessee, but her mother was born in Georgia.
33. 1930 Federal Census, Ventura County, California, Supervisors District 13, Enumerator District
5-6-27 Sheet 12A, San Diego County, California, Supervisor District 21, Enumerator District 37229, sheet 21, April 4, 1930, and Supervisors District 21, Enumerator District 37-103, Sheet 4A,
April 5, 1930.
34. Death Certificate, Frank Marion McMahan.
35. San Diego Union, March 9, 1940.
36. Death Certificate, Mary Alice McMahan, San Diego County Recorders Office.
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
16
Jesus Sandoval
Jesus Sandoval
McNelly’s Enforcer
Chuck Parsons
Following the Civil War, conflict over territory
and resources in the West was a daily fact of life.
Texas soil was awash with the blood of men of many
heritages: Anglo, Indian, and Hispanic. In the 1860s,
Texans sent their men to fight on eastern battlefields
and repelled Comanches emboldened by war. In
the ’70s they defended their settlements from border
marauders raiding ranches and towns. Ranchers
such as Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy had to
protect their holdings from warlords like Juan
Cortina, who carved out empires and claimed that
southern Texas was rightfully part of Mexico. Before
the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee had fought
the raiders of Cortina, who reigned for decades as
a virtual monarch among his followers. By 1875,
the situation was out of control, and a diminutive,
tough Texas Ranger named Leander H. McNelly
was sent into the Nueces Strip to fend off raids from
Mexico. Although there were numerous rustler
gangs, any raider was considered a Cortinista, a
Cortina ally. Little quarter was given on either side.
In the history of the Mexico-United States border
conflicts,
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina’s name stands
Ranger Leander McNelly
bold as a freedom fighter to some, a brutal outlaw
to others. A veteran of the Mexican War, he fought
U.S. soldiers at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma battles. Cortina then became a noted rustler
along the border, increasing his standing by extracting Mexican prisoners from Texas jails.
Raiding upon the people of Texas by bands of armed Mexicans commenced in the year 1859,
when Juan N. Cortina entered Brownsville at the head of an armed party of Mexicans and
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17
Jesus Sandoval
committed murders and other outrages. This occurred on the morning of September 28. Since
that date raids of a similar character have been made upon the people of Texas by armed
Mexicans on various occasions, and they have been continued up to date.
During the American Civil War, Cortina sometimes favored the Confederate cause, sometimes
the Union side. A powerful force along the border, he was the governor of the state of Tamaulipas
and seemingly able to raid American ranches at will, including that of Richard King. After the conclusion
of the war, Jesus Sandoval, who later became one of McNelly’s Rangers, related:
Bands of raiders were organized in Mexico to invade the territory of the United States. They
murdered many citizens of Texas, robbed the people of that State at will, and carried the stolen
property into Mexico and sold it.1
The Texas Ranger who fought Cortina most effectively was a thin, weak-voiced native of Virginia
who suffered from tuberculosis and would eventually die from it––Leander Harvey McNelly. Born in
1844, by the late 1850s he was ranching in Washington County, east of Austin. In 1861, he joined
the Confederate Army, learning many of the hardships of military life during the failed western campaign
of General Sibley. He served throughout the war, and in 1865 resumed operating his plantation.
Then in 1870, Governor E.J. Davis called on him to be one of the first four captains of his Texas
State Police. Following the demise of this force, Richard Coke filled the governor’s chair, and McNelly
was selected to captain the Washington County Volunteer Militia. This unit was unofficially another
company of the Frontier Battalion, but it was later renamed the Special Force, although in essence it
was a Texas Ranger company. McNelly’s first assignment was to end the feud between the Sutton
and Taylor forces, who were fighting in DeWitt County and surrounding areas.
In 1875, he was sent to the Nueces Strip following a raid by Cortina raiders almost in the heart
of Corpus Christi. In 1875 and early 1876, McNelly continually challenged the “Rustler King,” Juan
Cortina. He had his thirty Rangers to fight the Cortinistas, and he also had his Mexico-born spy
Jesus “Old Casuse” Sandoval (This was how some Rangers pronounced his name).
Jesus Sandoval certainly lived a full life filled with danger and excitement, and part of it was
served in the McNelly Rangers. The exact year of his birth is unknown, but he claimed to be a native
Texan living in Cameron County on the Rio Grande his entire life. He also claimed to be in the
employ of the Quartermaster Department of the United States “when the battle of Palo Alto was
fought, and served until the end of that war; and since the conclusion of peace I have lived in
Cameron County, and nowhere else.”2 As that battle was fought on May 8, 1846, this would suggest
a birth year somewhere between 1825 and 1830, possibly earlier. Efforts to find him on the federal
census have not proved definitive.
What formal education Sandoval may have received is unknown. He did learn to write his own
name at a minimum, as he signed his pay voucher clearly. He was aware of his surroundings and
what history was being made. Fortunately, he was asked to provide information about the troubles
on the Rio Grande Frontier, and that record is preserved in the important House of Representatives
document entitled Texas Frontier Troubles. Since his statement was probably given verbally rather
than his own written report, one must conclude his education was limited.
The name Jesus Sandoval is not uncommon, but presumably the name appearing on the 1850
Cameron County Federal Census is the man who became the avenger. He is listed as head of
household at dwelling number 888, showing him as thirty years of age, born in Mexico. Others in the
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
18
Jesus Sandoval
household include his wife Maria Antonia, twentyfive, also born in Mexico, and four sons: Romaldo,
Juan, Jesus, and Santiago, ages six, four, two, and
one respectively. The boys were all born in Texas.3
The family has not been located on later census
records, and the information on Jesus Sandoval is
disappointedly meager. Of the family, by the mid1870s they all could have been elsewhere; a
daughter born after the census could have grown
up and become the victim of the raiders, her name
forever lost.
One of McNelly’s men, Napoleon A. Jennings,
recorded his memoir of riding with McNelly’s
Rangers some years after the unforgettable
experience, and he included this portrayal of
Sandoval:
A tall, angular vaquero, aged past the half-century
mark, spurred his horse up to the burning ruins of
what was once his home. Before him was a scene
which every man living on the Rio Grande border
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina
consciously feared during the 1870s: the results
of a raid by Cortina’s bandidos, those expert
thieves and murderers who plundered Texas ranches seemingly at will. This time they had struck
his home––he, a former countryman, a native of Mexico,––and had stolen his horses and cattle,
had burned his house and barn. And they had left his wife and teenage daughter ravaged. Their
deaths alone would have made the destruction of the dreams and happiness of Jesus Sandoval
total and complete. As it was – in the minds of many––their fate had been “worse than death.”
Apparently Sandoval was a victim of such a raid, although today it is impossible to verify it by
contemporary records. Several who served with Sandoval later wrote their reminiscences and
mentioned him. Three of his fellow Rangers, George P. Durham, William Callicott, and N.A. Jennings
wrote of him. How they learned of his family tragedy can only be speculated upon, as it is doubtful if
he spoke of the loss with many. The raid transformed Sandoval from a peaceful rancher into a man
obsessed with the idea of revenge. Estimates vary as to the number of men he killed, whether by
gun or by a noose around the neck of a suspected raider, but accounts by contemporaries place the
figure at several dozen. For a period of time he exacted revenge against raiders or friends of raiders
alone, a solitary assassin being his own judge, jury and, enforcer.
In early 1875, Sandoval joined the command of Leander Harvey McNelly, captain of the
Washington County Volunteer Militia Company A. He carried the rank of private and acted essentially
as a scout or guide, and probably as translator as well. He participated in two significant actions in
1875 which brought statewide recognition to McNelly’s Rangers: the Palo Alto Prairie battle in June
and the invasion raid into Mexico in November. In addition to being scout and guide, he earned the
reputation of being McNelly’s enforcer.
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
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19
Jesus Sandoval
The official records dealing with this man are sparse. The Ranger records, themselves incomplete,
provide merely his terms of service. No descriptive list tells us of his physical characteristics such as
age, height, place of birth, previous occupation, and so on. His first duty was from May 1 to August
31, 1875. During this time he served as a private, acting as a guide. For this he earned $128, just a
trifle over one dollar a day. Another document dated February 1, 1877, shows that he served from
July 26, 1876, to January 20, 1877, with pay due from November 1876. Here he had earned $106.00
for his services. The carbine he carried was valued at $20.00; the
pistol, $13.00. These weapons were turned in at the time of his
honorable discharge. It is believed that he served continually from
the first date of enlistment, although there are no records to verify
this.
Several of McNelly’s Rangers recorded their memoirs in their
later years, thus providing history with excellent reports of the
activities on the border. These were Napoleon A. Jennings, William
Callicott, and George P. Durham. Jennings, who joined the company
in May 1876 and served until 1877, wrote of various events in
which he did not participate because they had occurred prior to his
enlistment. However, he had certainly learned of them from Rangers
who did. His work was published in 1899 under the title, A Texas
Ranger. Callicott wrote his memoirs in 1921, written out in longhand
for Dr. Walter Prescott Webb for his study of the Texas Rangers. In
conjunction with Clyde Wantland, Durham related his accounts in
Taming the Nueces Strip. All remembered Jesus Sandoval, a man
twice the age of most of the Rangers, but an impressive and
unforgettable figure.
Jennings knew Sandoval and perhaps learned of the man’s
background personally. According to him, Sandoval lost everything
to the raiders of Juan Cortina in 1874. The ravaged wife and
daughter were placed in a convent in Matamoras to be cared for
by the Sisters of Mercy. He then went on a one-man rampage
against anyone known or suspected of being a raider or who
sympathized with them. He killed men by ambush, burned their
homes, drove off their livestock, and poisoned their water holes.
His identity was unknown for months, but large rewards were offered
for his capture. According to Jennings, Sandoval’s private war lasted
William Callicott
for eight months in which scores of ranches were burned, forty or
fifty men were assassinated, and hundreds of horses and cattle
destroyed. Sandoval remained an elusive man, keeping in the wild, going to Brownsville only for
provisions and cartridges, and only occasionally visiting Matamoras. When somehow his identity
was learned, Sandoval the avenger joined McNelly’s troop. According to Jennings, Sandoval was
taller than the majority of Mexicans, remarkably thin and angular. His eyes were “black as jet and
singularly piercing.” He reminded Jennings of one vastly superior in tastes than his neighbors,
holding himself aloof, having a superior education, a haughty bearing, and an air of condescension
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20
Jesus Sandoval
towards others. Jennings compared him to an old-time Spanish caballero.4
In 1921, William Callicott wrote his recollections of the Ranger days for Dr. Webb to assist him
in this study of the Rangers. He recalled that Sandoval’s tragedy had happened several years
before joining the company, perhaps in 1870 or 1871, when he and another man had caught four
Mexican cattle thieves on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. The quartet was hanged to the same
limb of a convenient tree. After that, Callicott wrote, the raiders swore vengeance on Sandoval,
intending to kill him.
He hadn’t slept in his house in over 10 years on account of being afraid he would be killed by
the Mexican bandits. He came to Captain McNelly and wanted to join our company so as he would
have a chance to kill a few of the Mexican bandits. He knew the country well on this side of the River
and all the Mexicans that lived on this side for miles away so the Captain let him join us, paying him
the same he did us.
It was Sandoval and his friend who retaliated against their cattle being stolen. Then Cortina’s
raiders swore vengeance on Sandoval for his action against his men. Sandoval became a loner,
sleeping in the brush. When McNelly needed a guide, Sandoval was available and happy to be of
help. He was issued a needle gun and was paid the same as the other Rangers. He was proud to be
a McNelly.5
George Durham’s remembrance of Sandoval is basically the same. The first time he saw him,
the man proved to be unforgettable:
I barely got a look at the man’s face, but what I saw made me want to look again. He wore a
scraggly red beard flecked with white, and red hair dropping almost to his shoulders. His skin
was dry and parched, and his light-blue eyes seemed to throw off sparks. He was what you
would call spooky. . . . [He] became our jailor, and he never lost a single one that was turned over
to him for keeping.6
Of course Durham was speaking euphemistically, as the only “jail” for McNelly’s prisoners was
a tree limb from which to dangle at the end of a rope.
While Jennings, Callicott, and Durham related their accounts years after the events, one Ranger
wrote of Jesus Sandoval within days of whatever action they experienced. His name was T.C.
Robinson. He was a young man originally from Virginia who came to Texas to avoid continuing
difficulties with a neighbor. It was a matter of cherchez la femme, and Robinson left Virginia and
soon became a newspaper correspondent for Austin’s Daily Democratic Statesman, one of the
leading newspapers of Texas. Robinson, who contributed many letters and poems to the columns of
the Statesman, joined up with McNelly in mid-1874 and remained with him until early 1876. He had
ample opportunity to become acquainted with Sandoval. In fact, prior to the company being sent to
the Rio Grande frontier, he certainly read this item which appeared in the Statesman on December
31, 1874. It was written from Brownsville and signed only by a pen name, “Old Texan”:
A crisis will soon be inevitable. The Mexicans are killing and robbing us, and our people, irrespective
of nationality, are taking and hanging raiders. Yesterday [December 17, the bodies] of two raiders
were brought into town. They had been hung for cattle stealing; the animals were in their
possession. It created intense excitement among the Mexicans, one of them made oath as to the
parties who did the hanging. Last night, warrants were issued for Bill Burke, Deputy Sheriff,7 Lino
Saldana and Jesus Sandoval; the first two are in jail. I understand they belong to a large band of
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21
Jesus Sandoval
rancheros, organized to defend themselves and property. The friends of the thieves are using
their influence to have them punished for the hanging. It is doubtful where the matter may end.8
McNelly experienced two major actions against the cattle thieves, those raiders who robbed
from small ranchers on the Texas side of the river as well the stronghold of cattle baron Richard
King. McNelly had been successful in keeping the Sutton and Taylor feudists at bay while he was
stationed in DeWitt County in 1874, but in early 1875 he received orders to report to what was then
the Nueces Strip, that no-man’s land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. The two
events were the battle on the old Mexican War battlefield of Palo Alto, fought close to Brownsville,
and the three-day battle and invasion of Mexico in November, near Las Cuevas, Mexico, across the
river from Rio Grande City, Starr County. This has become known as the Las Cuevas fight.
In the Palo Alto battle, which was fought over many miles on June 12, 1875, McNelly lost only
one man, L.B. “Sonny” Smith, the youngest in the company. McNelly accounted for the deaths of
some sixteen raiders. In the Las Cuevas affair, conducted in Mexico on November 19-21, he lost no
one, killed a number of suspected raiders, and recovered cattle stolen from the ranch of Richard
King. Sandoval played an active role in both these memorable engagements.9
The Palo Alto Prairie battle was an action which is reminiscent of the days when knighthood
was in flower, with the forces of virtue attacking the forces of evil on the open plain. This is only
partly true, of course, but McNelly, thanks to the scouting abilities of Sandoval, was able to overtake
a band of cattle thieves and effectively destroy them. His methods may not have been legal, but
McNelly was above all a pragmatist, utilizing methods which brought results. He achieved a most
noteworthy victory that day on the battlefield.
A short time before that memorable day, a pair of suspicious characters was brought into McNelly’s
camp. How McNelly obtained information from them was later explained by Brigadier General E.O.C.
Ord of the U.S. Army before a Congressional Committee. He reported that Captain McNelly had, “by
the use of the only effectual means known in such cases, but not legitimate enough for regulars to
apply, were compelled to betray the position and strength of their band.”10
T.C. Robinson did not ignore Sandoval’s methodology of interrogating prisoners, but he wrote
of Sandoval with a macabre sense of humor:
Jesus Sandoval is a trump – a perfect Chesterfield in politeness; he puts us to shame in the
elegance of his manners; as to the number of robbers he has put “up a tree,” their name is legion:
scrupulously polite in every day intercourse, his urbanity on these extraordinary occasions is
boundless. Beau Brummel would have blushed with shame . . . could he have witnessed Sandoval
officiating at a “tucking up;” the comfort and convenience of his amigos, as he calls them, is his sole
thought; not a word which could jar their feelings, not the slightest reproach, not a single allusion as
to their method of raising the wind, is allowed when he is acting as master of ceremonies; their own
mothers could not be more tender; their own children no more respectful; his countenance is illustrated
with a heavenly peace as he “works them off,” and he is so kind and so considerate that it is almost
a pleasure to be hanged by such a nice gentleman. Cortina, before his arrest, would have given his
right arm to have caught Sandoval on the Mexican side of the Rio Brave [sic], and even now it is as
much as his life is worth if he should be seen in Matamoras; he is very popular on the American
side of the river..11
The question of prisoner interrigation did not begin with the twentieth century. Of interest is that
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22
Jesus Sandoval
both Callicott and Durham both witnessed Sandoval’s method of dealing with a prisoner after wanted
information had been forced from him. Their accounts are essentially the same in content: Sandoval
forced the prisoner to stand on the back of a horse, a noose around his neck with the other end of
the rope around a tree. When the horse was slapped away the neck was instantly broken. Callicott
added dryly, “Captain didn’t like this kind of killing, but Old Casuse did.”12
Early in the morning of June 12, McNelly sighted the band of eighteen raiders with over two
hundred head of stolen cattle headed for Mexico. McNelly pursued them with his band of twenty-two
volunteers. It was action which the young men under McNelly wanted above all. If Sandoval remained
in character, then he must have been ecstatic at the prospect of destroying such a group of Cortina
raiders. Unfortunately, no list was composed of the volunteers, but we know we know the names of
some from the various memoirs: Jesus Sandoval, L.B. “Sonny” Smith, Lieutenant T.C. Robinson,
William Callicott, Spencer J. Adams, Herman S. Rock, William L. Rudd, George P. Durham, brothers
Linton L. and Lawrence B. Wright, John B. Armstrong, Roe P. Orrell, George Boyd, H.G. Rector, and
Horace Mabin.
To emphasize the differences of the men McNelly commanded, one can contrast Sandoval––
fifty years-plus of age and old enough to be the father of almost any of the Rangers, killer of many by
gun and rope, and living for revenge––to George Durham, nineteen years old and going into his first
fight. And then there was L.B. “Sunny” Smith, younger than Durham!
Other Rangers were there for adventure and action; Sandoval was there for revenge. Because
McNelly’s men would follow him into Hell if he led them, Sandoval may have been second in the
lead. Sandoval’s individual action is unknown, but the battle was a complete annihilation of the
gang.
According to Herman S. Rock’s affidavit made on June 17, five days later, the following raiders
were killed: “Captain” George Kimenes, “Lieutenant” Pancho Lopes, Camilo Lenna, Manuel Garcia,
Juan El Guarachi, Guadalupe Espinosa, Jacinto Ximemas, Cecilio Benevides, Tibutio Fuentes,
Casimiro Garcia, Guadalupe Escuval, Dorates de la Garza, Jack Ellis (the sole American), Telesforo
Diaz, Rafael Salinas, Encarnacion Garcia, and Guillermo Cano Cortado. One raider escaped––
Jose Maria Olguin, alias El Aguja (the needle).13
On Sunday, June 13, Brownsville City Marshal Joseph P. O’Shaughnessy went out to the
prairie to gather up the dead. He brought the bodies into the main plaza of Brownsville and stacked
them up like cordwood. Sandoval must have been jubilant. A total of two hundred sixteen head of
beef cattle were recovered from the raiding party and turned over to the Deputy Inspector of Hides
and Animals, John Jay Smith. They were from a total of thirty-four different Texas ranches.14
McNelly, in his official report, said of the raiders:
I have never seen men fight with such desperation. Many of them, after being shot from their
horses and severely wounded three or four times, would rise on their elbows and empty their
pistols at us with their dying breath. After they broke cover it was a succession of fights, man to
men, for five or six miles across the prairie.
McNelly, having served four years in the Civil War, had seen plenty of men fight and die. One
Ranger in this battle would never fight again: L.B. Smith fell in this his first conflict against outlawry.
He was given full military honors and buried in the Brownsville City Cemetery.15
It was not until November 1875 that another action of any import took place. Raiding may have
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23
Jesus Sandoval
been reduced for a while with the stunning victory on the Palo Alto Prairie, but McNelly’s objective
was far from accomplished as raids continued. Word was brought to McNelly that raiders had been
sighted with a herd of seventy-five to a hundred head moving towards the Rio Grande near the Las
Cuevas crossing. McNelly was with the U.S. troops stationed near the spot when he heard the
news, but his men were sixty miles away in camp. Nevertheless, he sent for volunteers, and twentyfour Rangers besides Sandoval made the forced march in less than five hours. However, it was too
late, as the raiders had crossed the river with the stolen cattle.
This time, it was going to be a much larger operation involving more Rangers and U.S. troops.
It was a three-day action resulting in the invasion of Mexico and breaking international law. When
the news was spread that McNelly had crossed into Mexico intending to recover stolen cattle, many
feared the result would be another Alamo.
McNelly’s attempts to convince officials at Fort Brown to allow soldiers to volunteer to cross the
river with him were refused, as it was contrary to international law. But McNelly would not give up
this opportunity. If the U.S. soldiers would not cross with him, he would go ahead and cross without
them. Again, no list was preserved as to which Rangers did cross over, but from the memoirs of
those who did, the names of some are preserved: Sandoval, Tom Sullivan, William Callicott, Lt. T.C.
Robinson, John B. Armstrong, George A. Hall, Roe P. Orrell, William L. Rudd, R.H. “Ed” Pitts,
George Durham, H.G. Rector, S.M. Nichols, Matt Fleming, Thomas J. McGovern, W.O. Reidel,
George Boyd, Horace Mabin and James R. Wofford.
Characteristically, McNelly led his men into combat; he did not send them. He, interpreter
Sullivan, and Sandoval were the first to cross the river in an old dugout. Five Rangers were to cross
over on horseback, with the remainder following and then proceeding on foot. There would be
twenty-six Rangers invading Mexico to recover stolen cattle, which would number fewer than one
hundred head.
Because of the darkness or changes in the terrain due to the meanderings of the river, Sandoval
led the invading force to the wrong ranch. Instead of Las Cuevas, the presumed headquarters of the
cattle thieves, the invading group attacked another ranch. The error was discovered too late, as the
Rangers’ firing alerted the raiders at Las Cuevas less than a mile away, and McNelly’s advantage of
surprise was now gone. But McNelly pushed on.
Las Cuevas belonged to “General” Juan Flores Salinas, and he quickly gathered up a large
force of raiders to resist the invaders. The only advantage McNelly now had was that General
Salinas did not know the strength of the invading force. Because of this, McNelly and his men were
able to safely retreat to the riverbanks which provided a degree of protection, while Salinas hesitatingly
proceeded. If McNelly and his men tried to re-cross the river, that would be the opportunity for
Salinas to attack since the Rangers would be in the water with no cover. But now McNelly implemented
a ruse: instead of trying to cross the river, he had his men dig into the sand and make breastworks,
which would provide excellent protection if Salinas attacked.
The ruse worked, and the attackers discovered they were facing an effective force. General
Salinas was killed, as were numerous others, and McNelly and all his men emerged unscathed.
During the course of the next day and the following, McNelly was able to meet with the alcalde of
Las Cuevas and force terms: the stolen cattle had to be brought to the crossing on November 21
before he and his men would return to Texas. Callicott recalled that only seventy-five head were
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
24
Jesus Sandoval
finally brought. At first, the Mexican officials would not allow them to cross without being properly
inspected, which of course would take a great deal of time. McNelly had an easy resolution to this
problem: he ordered the cattle to be crossed immediately or else he would order his men to shoot
the inspectors. They were crossed over.
Of the cattle recovered, thirty-five head belonged to Richard King, and four of the Rangers
drove King’s cattle back to his ranch. Because of the risks McNelly had taken to recover them, King
ordered the right horn of each cow to be sawed off, and they were to be allowed to roam his range at
will. It was an appropriate gesture on King’s part, a special thank you, and at the same time a
symbolic warning to potential thieves that cattle with the Running W brand were not to be molested.
Little documentation as to Sandoval’s activities remains after the invasion of Mexico. The service
record shows he was honorably discharged on January 20, 1877. By this time, McNelly had
tuberculosis, and he died later that year. Did Sandoval retire from Ranger service because of the
new commander, Lieutenant Jesse Lee Hall? We do not know, just as we do not know how Sandoval
spent the remaining years of his adventurous life. Many of the Rangers felt that John B. Armstrong
should have been named to replace McNelly, but he was not. Some did resign at that point.
What did become of Jesus “Old Casuse” Sandoval? Death records in Texas were not officially
kept until 1903, so there is no official documentation. In his book published in 1899, Jennings
indicated that Sandoval had died, but he provided no particulars. After leaving Texas, Jennings had
returned east, and it is unknown how he knew this fact, if Sandoval’s death was indeed prior to
1899. Jennings may have merely guessed that the old man had passed away.
The only official document from Sandoval himself which has survived is a long affidavit which
was printed in the House of Representatives report, Texas Frontier Troubles. This was made in
1875 and described in some detail the difficulty of life on the Rio Grande frontier. Sandoval wrote of
his own experience:
I have many enemies in Mexico. They say I am Americanized and consequently criminal––a
traitor in Mexico. They have persecuted me, threatened my life, and attempted to assassinate
me. For seven months I have not slept in my house. I have slept in the chaparral, and have been
a solitary sentinel over my own person. On the 21st day of April of the present year, three armed
Mexicans, from beyond the Rio Grande, went to my house and asked for me. They told my wife
if she did not tell where I was they would kill her. I was luckily not at home. I am positive that
General Juan N. Cortina is implicated in the robberies upon the people of Texas.16
Sandoval did not mention a private war against the raiders or a ravaged wife and daughter.
Does that mean those Rangers who later recorded their memoirs were mistaken, or did they add
incidents in their narrative to provide additional excitement? Not necessarily. Sandoval may have
indeed lost a wife and daughter to the raiders and purposely did not mention this in his affidavit. No
doubt Sandoval intentionally left a great deal unsaid. Possibly, his personal tragedy was not to be
displayed to others. Unfortunately, we do not know when Jesus Sandoval did pass away. If there
was a death notice in an area newspaper, it may have mentioned that he had served with McNelly at
one time, but it is doubtful that his obituary would have stressed that he was McNelly’s enforcer.
And what of Sandoval’s friend, Lino Saldana? His name appears in the account of the two of
them, along with William Burke, being arrested for the lynching of the raiders, but it does not appear
on McNelly’s muster rolls. Ranger Durham, who spent the balance of his life on the King Ranch after
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
25
Jesus Sandoval
Lino Saldana (left), friend
of Jesus Sandoval. On
the right is Saldana’s
wife Jesusa and an unidentified child. Photos
courtesy of Yolanda
Gonzales.
leaving McNelly, referred to Sandoval as a deputy sheriff, which may very well have been accurate.17
We do have some information about Saldona. In 1880, he was counted in the Cameron County
census as a sixty-three-year-old farmer living with his wife Jesusa, age fifty-four, and their son
Manuel, age fifteen and listed simply as a laborer.18 He has not been found on other census records
or other documents. Fortunately, we do have his likeness, and one may suppose he did not differ
that much in appearance from Jesus Sandoval the avenger. They both had lived exciting lives in
dangerous times.
As for Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, freedom fighter/outlaw, he died in 1894 and was buried with
full military honors in Mexico City.
Notes
1. Much information concerning Sandoval’s life and his experiences under McNelly is from the affidavit
prepared on May 3, 1875, and printed in Texas Frontier Troubles, House of Representatives
Document Report No. 343, 44th Congress, 1st Session, 83.
2. Ibid., 83-84.
3. Cameron County, Texas, 1850 census, household # 888.
4. N.A. Jennings, A Texas Ranger. First published in 1899 by Charles Scribner’s Sons of New York; a
facsimile reproduction by Ed Bartholomew in 1960. Page references are to the Bartholomew
reprint. 148-49.
5. Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense. Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1965. Dr. Webb utilized portions of Callicott’s memoirs, but the entire handwritten
manuscripts are reprinted in the Texas Ranger Dispatch, issues 3-6, Spring 2001 through Spring
2002.
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
26
Jesus Sandoval
6. George Durham as told to Clyde Wantland, Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly’s
Rangers, 43-44. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962, 1975.
7. William Burke was a Pennsylvania native who, according to the 1870 census, worked as an iron
welder, age forty. In the same household was a twenty-three-year-old senorita named Louisa
Torres, keeping house, and Inspector of Customs H.S. Rock, a native of New Mexico, 85A. He also
rode with McNelly during this period, as did Sandoval. Cameron County census, enumerated
September 21, 1870 by Henry Haupt.
8. Austin Daily Democratic Statesman, December 31, 1874.
9. In addition to Callicott’s version of the Palo Alto Prairie fight, see this author’s biography, Captain
L.H. McNelly Texas Ranger: The Life and Times of a Fighting Man. Austin: State House Press,
2001, especially chapter 14, “A Challenge to Cortina.”
10. Texas Frontier Troubles, see note 2 supra, 42.
11. The complete writings of T.C. Robinson, using the pseudonym of “Pidge” are found in “Pidge,” A
Texas Ranger from Virginia, by this author.Wolfe City, Texas: Henington Publishing Company,
1985. This particular quotation is from the “Pidge” letter of September 20 and printed in14 John Jay
Smith affidavit sworn to June 17, 1875 at Brownsville and printed in Texas Frontier Troubles, see
note 2 supra, 85-86.
12. William Callicott manuscript.
13. The names of the raiders appear in Texas Frontier Troubles, 85. The correct spelling of the
names is problematic.
14. John Jay Smith affidavit sworn to June 17, 1875 at Brownsville and printed in Texas Frontier
Troubles, see note 2 supra, 85-86.
15. Chuck Parsons, Captain L.H. McNelly, see note 9, supra, 201-02.
16. Affidavit of Jesus Sandoval in Texas Frontier Troubles, see note 2, supra, 83-84.
17. George Durham, Taming the Nueces Strip, see note 6, supra, 63.
18. Lino Saldana is enumerated as a farmer, living with his wife Jesusa, age 54, and son
Manuel, age fifteen, working as a day laborer. This census shows them all natives of Mexico.
Cameron County census, enumerated by Joseph P. O’Shaughnessy, 453.
For Further Reading
Durham, George. Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly’s Rangers.
Jennings, N.A. A Texas Ranger.
Parsons, Chuck. “Pidge” A Texas Ranger from Virginia.
Parsons, Chuck. Captain L.H. McNelly Texas Ranger: The Life and Times of a Fighting Man.
Thompson, Jerry. Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas.
Utley, Robert M. Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers.
Webb, Walter Prescott. The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense.
Wilkins, Frederick. The Law Comes to Texas: The Texas Rangers 1870-1901.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
27
Yours to Command
An excerpt from
Yours to Command
The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger
Captain Bill McDonald
Harold J. Weiss Jr.
Univ.of North Texas Press: June 2009.
Bill McDonald, the Historical Record and the Popular Mind
A lone rider, sitting easily in the saddle of his dusty horse, travels across the plains toward a
small, new town with muddy streets and lively saloons. Hewers a tattered, wide-brimmed hat, a
loose-hanging vest [with a tin star], a bandanna around his neck, and one gun rests naturally at his
side in a smooth, well-worn holster. Behind him, the empty plains roll gently until they end abruptly in
the rocks and forests that punctuate the sudden rise of towering mountain peaks.
The life and times of Texas Ranger Captain William Jesse “Bill” McDonald, better known as
“Captain Bill,” can be viewed from several vantage points: first, the ins and outs of crime and
violence in the Trans-Mississippi West in the late 1800s; second, the operations of the Texas Rangers
in theory and practice inside and outside the Lone Star State; third, the ambiguous nature of McDonald
as a lawman in thought and deed; and fourth, the never-ending folk tales built around the exploits of
the fabled Captain Bill.
One difficulty with the historical literature about the life and times of Bill McDonald is the reliance
by writers on the information provided by Albert Bigelow Paine, McDonald’s official biographer.
Although Paine interviewed the Ranger captain, he failed to search for and use effectively official
records. He also erred in not verifying his data and in downplaying the activities of those who served
under McDonald in Company B. The result was a romantic story with flowery language that contained
factual inaccuracies and misleading statements.
Captain Bill (1852-1918) lived at a time when the United States was undergoing vast changes
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28
Yours to Command
during the Gilded Age. The settlement of western lands by people of all creeds and colors led to
warfare with Indian tribes, brought new states into the union, and made terms like “cowboy” and
“gunfighter” popular expressions. In addition, agricultural machinery and railroad lines transformed
the rural landscape and allowed for the production and transportation of crops and cattle to feed a
growing population. Equally important, industrial firms discovered the processes needed to make
steel and refine oil, which helped to create modern urban centers complete with skyscrapers, cars,
telephone lines, and big-city police departments. The populace also found new ways to enjoy leisure
time, from reading comic strips to enjoying spectator sports to watching silent films, like The Great
Train Robbery. As events would show, such changes in lifestyles created a more complex network of
police forces to combat a mobile underworld in Texas and the nation.
Badmen of the Old West
Violent criminal acts in the Trans-Mississippian West varied in number and kind in time and
space. Many settlers in the western lands, especially in farming family-oriented communities with
their church steeples and bells summoning the faithful, cared more about building a new life for
themselves in a hostile physical environment than about robbing or killing their neighbors or the
strangers who happened to pass their way. Peace officers in Texas and other western areas had to
spend much time and effort handling minor criminal offenses: rounding up drunks, stopping fistfights,
investigating petty thievery, and arresting those charged with disorderly conduct. These unromantic
violations of the rules of society made some westerners afraid; others, though, still believed that
they lived in law-abiding communities with the bad element under control. Westerners did try to
structure society to function in an orderly way.
One historian noted that “frontier violence has infinitely greater appeal to the reader than frontier
calm.” In the pecking order of western crime and violence, the bank-and-train robber and the gunfighter
gained the most notoriety. Many individuals have seen the actions of Old West bandits and gunmen
as something more than criminal in nature. Such misdeeds were just boyish pranks done to defend
one’s honor, carried out to attack the oppressors of the common folk, executed to help foment a
revolution. In western America, a violent frontier heritage has meant glorifying the holdups and gun
battles of such desperadoes as Sam Bass, the Texas Robin Hood, and John Wesley Hardin, a
feared gunman in the Lone Star State. Many times, lawmen carved an inappropriate epitaph on the
tombstones of these shootists: hold an inquest and bury the body.
Crime and violence in the trans-Mississippi West by the turn of the twentieth century, in the
view of some, was more than dramatic––it was pervasive. One expert examined lethal violence in
three counties located in three different areas: Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska. In these places,
977 homicides occurred in the four decades after 1880. Multiple factors, particularly transient males,
alcohol, guns, and ethnic and racial tensions, brought about high levels of violent actions. Other
writers have also tried to make sense out of the endless number of killings found here and there in
the western lands. One attempt, called the Western Civil War of Incorporation, tied together the
isolated incidents of mayhem into grand theory. The move by the monied interests to form a market
economy in the late 1800s was opposed by small farmers, ranchers, and unionized workers. Both
sides used gunmen. Forty-two violent showdowns took place between the opposing forces in the
seventy years after 1850. From this violent era came the popular images of the “conservative mythical
hero” (like Wyatt Earp) and the “dissident social bandit” (a la Jesse James). In the wake of the
desperado, came the western lawman. To some, the peace officer with a badge and a six-shooter
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29
Yours to Command
just “mopped up the outlaw.” In reality, his jurisdiction covered vast stretches of land, and he was a
law officer who handled outbreaks of disorder in the towns and countryside, arrested those who
committed crimes, and carried out judicial orders. While doing this, his badge of authority might read
marshal or ranger or sheriff or special agent or another apt designation. As one authority perceptively
noted,”Some modern nations have been police states; all, however, are policed societies.”
Old West policing jurisdictions appeared in many forms. Some of these lawmen and their posses
became effective members of governmental police agencies, from town constables to county sheriffs
to United States marshals. Others, with a bent for corralling bad, manned the field of private law
enforcers, as, for example, private detective agencies, the security forces of the railroads, and Wells
Fargo shotgun riders and special agents. In addition, military forces, state and federal, assisted civil
authorities in preserving law and order until otherwise instructed. The state police movement in the
early West, whether legendary Texas Rangers or their counterparts in Arizona, New Mexico, and
elsewhere, played a minor but vital role in this complex machinery of law enforcement. The spread
of western police agencies was a major achievement for a democratic citizenry.
Texas Rangers: Formed and Reformed
In the mechanism of western law enforcement, the Texas Ranger, singly or in groups, played a
memorable role. Through revolution, statehood, and the rise of an urban Texas, the operations of
the Rangers can be divided into three different periods: 1823-1874, 1874-1935, and 1935 onward.
In the first stage, ranging companies sporadically took the field to fight for family and community
against Indian tribes and Mexican nationals. These citizen-soldier Rangers were organized in the
closing months of 1835 in the midst of the Texas Revolution and had developed traditions and
procedures that were well entrenched by the time McDonald became a captain. Although the word
“ranger” was first used by Stephen Austin in his colony as early as 1823, the expression “Texas
Rangers” gained more credence in informal sayings than formal statutes in the nineteenth century.
After 1874, the state of Texas established a permanent Ranger organization and authorized the
officers and the rank and file to act as peace officers. Their existence as law officers under the
control of the governor and the adjutant general lasted until the Great Depression of the 1930s,
when they were combined with other crime fighting units and made a part of a Department of Public
Safety.
Established in 1874, the mounted Frontier Battalion, in which Bill McDonald would one day
serve, consisted of six companies of seventy-five men each under the control of the adjutant general
and the governor. Each Ranger officer, an important term in future legal disputes, had “all the
powers of a peace officer” and had the duty to “execute all criminal process directed to him and
make arrests under capias [writ] properly issued, of any and all parties charged with offense against
the laws of this State.” Men joining the Frontier Battalion supplied some of their own equipment like
horses and an “improved breech-loading cavalry gun” bought from the state by each Ranger at
cost. In turn, the state government furnished some supplies such as ammunition. Pay for officers
and privates in the various companies ranged from $125 per month for major to $100 each for
captains, $50 for sergeants, and $40 for privates.
As a Ranger officer (1891-1907), McDonald understood the law-and-order mandate to patrol
the frontier lands and the settled regions within the borders of Texas. Unlike county sheriffs and
town marshals, the Rangers quelled public disturbances and investigated those who committed
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
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30
Yours to Command
felonies and misdemeanors throughout the state. On some of McDonald’s stationery the heading
read ”Texas State Rangers.” The dividing line between such statewide authority and undesirable
interference in local affairs by the Rangers in McDonald’s era was difficult to ascertain. At one point,
Private Carl T. Ryan informed Captain Bill from Sanderson in southeastern Texas that, upon the
request of the local sheriff, he had closed the saloons on Sunday as the law required. Ryan did not
like this job(“some are kicking and some wants us to close them”) and thought this duty belonged to
local peace officers. McDonald responded by telling Ryan to “let the local authorities attend to such
matters, that our duties were to look after criminals and larger game.” In this reaction, the adjutant
general concurred. “Our force has no business interfering with anything local,” he noted. “Such
interference might cause us considerable annoyance.”
By McDonald’s day, the “mounted constables” of the Frontier Battalion had authority, weapons,
organizational know-how, and charismatic leaders to be effective in the field. Walter Prescott Webb
once wrote:
A Ranger leader must have courage equal to any, judgment better than most, and physical
strength to outlast his men on the longest march or the hardest ride.
Yet few captains in the Ranger service approached this ideal picture, as many officers sometimes
misjudged their adversaries, sometimes faltered in the face of the enemy, and sometimes pulled
back from the violent side of human nature even within themselves. More likely, as one historian
noted. a person in charge of a ranging company in the field made his own rules based on the
immediate situation, educated guesses, and simple instinct.” Some Ranger officers, however, did
have charisma and became famous through self-reliance and persistence in times of crises. By the
opening of the twentieth century, Captain McDonald’s fight for law and order resulted in public
acclaim for himself and the Rangers under his command. From the laws of Texas and court decisions,
state and national, came the authority of the Texas Rangers to make arrests, hold prisoners, and
use deadly force. As peace officers, the Rangers could legally arrest Texans with or without warrants
and, equally important, could use “all reasonable means” in taking lawbreakers into custody.
Furthermore, peace officers also had the right to commit justifiable homicides in preventing a series
of crimes from taking place on Texas soil: arson, burglary, castration, disfiguring, maiming, murder,
rape, robbery, or theft at night. In addition, in Texas and other states in the 1900s, judges forged a
new doctrine of self-defense. They changed the English common-law tradition, which required one
to retreat before defending oneself, to the American legal doctrine of self-defense, by which one
“could stand one’s ground and fight.” Thus, Texans and their police forces in McDonald’s day had
ample legal authority to use violent means.
By the late 1800s, another controversial part of the operations of the Frontier Battalion was its
use of weapons in chasing outlaws and controlling feudists and mobs. Through experimentation
with various small arms, the Rangers found the guns that fitted their needs. Of the different types of
Colt six-shooters, they preferred the “version known as the Classic Peacemaker in .45 caliber with a
seven and-a-half inch barrel.” In addition, although some members of the Frontier Battalion used the
Sharps long gun, Rangers ultimately switched to the popular 1873 Winchester rifle that used .44
caliber ammunition. McDonald himself carried a Colt revolver, a Winchester rifle, and a shotgun for
crowd control. The heavily armed peace officers of Texas had sufficient firepower to carry out a
running fight with outlaws.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
31
Yours to Command
Yet the Texas Rangers were not exceptional shootists in Old West gunfighting lore. Only one
Ranger of note, Captain John R. Hughes, appeared in the list of the premier gunmen of that violenceprone era. At the other end of the spectrum stood Captain Samuel A. McMurry. He had the
embarrassment to report to his superiors that his holstered pistol went off and the bullet struck him in
the leg. The Ranger officer thought that someone must have hit the hammer while a crowd of people
gathered around him. The individuality of a Texas Ranger cannot be separated from the organization
within which he operates. In the command structure, orders and the power to carry them out flowed
downward from the governor’s office to the adjutant general and his staff, including the battalion
quartermaster, to the field captains and those in charge of subcompanies located here and there. At
the top of this pyramid stood the governor, who had the final word in executing the laws of the state.
Captain Bill served as a company commander in four different gubernatorial administrations. No
governor since the early days of statehood approached the status of James S. Hogg in Texan
politics. Hogg, capable and heavy-set, served as governor for two terms in the early 1890s. He was
followed in the governor’s mansion by three state leaders known for conservatism: Charles A.
Culberson (1895-1899), Joseph D. Sayers (1899-1903), and Samuel W T Lanham (1903-1907).
At the apex of the pyramid structure, the adjutant general’s office kept track of budgetary expenses,
investigations of criminal cases, and the movement of the Rangers throughout the state. In two
decades of service, McDonald and the rank and file of Company B served under four adjutant
generals: Woodford H. Mabry (1891-1898), Alfred P. Wozencraft (1898-1899), Thomas Scurry (18991903), and John A. Hulen (1903-1907). During his captaincy McDonald followed directives from
central headquarters and acknowledged his instructions by ending some of his letters with the
phrase, “Yours to command.” Too often Texan writers have underplayed an important point about
captains in the Frontier Battalion: they took orders from their superiors.
Within this organizational structure the individuality of a Texas Ranger was highly valued.
Centralized police work had to be meshed with the Ranger tradition of duty, initiative, and the ability
to outlast opponents. Therefore, field officers in the Frontier Battalion in their police operations had
much freedom of action within the bounds of the laws of the state and the traditions of the service.
This process covered the whole scope of Ranger life, from the selection of recruits to carrying out
scouting missions to investigating acts of crime and violence. McDonald’s recognition of this method
of operation came when he ended a letter to the adjutant general early in his captaincy with the
words, “Write occasionally.” Captain Bill knew that a loose hierarchical structure, fostering
decentralization of authority, characterized the Ranger organization.
Although the individuality of a Texas Ranger was highly prized in organizational channels, the
conduct of men in charge of subcompanies sometimes created problems. In one case, McDonald’s
sergeant, W. L. Sullivan, was in charge of a detachment of Rangers from two different companies at
San Saba. At one point, Sullivan informed Captain John H. Rogers that all orders to the men at the
encampment must be sent through him. Captain Bill disagreed and wrote that Sullivan was becoming
too “dictatorial.” The Ranger sergeant then apologized to the adjutant general and Rogers and
noted in a more humble letter that he was worried about his “authority” over his “little sub-company.”
For companies and subcompanies, the collection and use of information became a powerful
tool in their law enforcement operations. To aid in the capture of desperate characters, the adjutant
general’s office compiled A List of Fugitives from Justice, sometimes called “Bible Number Two,”
from information received from local sheriffs. In turn, Rangers used this “Black Book” in the pursuit
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Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
32
Yours to Command
of lawbreakers. Captain Bill and his fellow Rangers then filed lengthy reports with their superiors
about their daily activities against crime and disorder.
Pathways to Understanding: “McDonaldology”
Too often, the life of Bill McDonald has been seen as an either-or equation. On the one hand,
his admirers have described him as a hell-bent, two-gun Sir Galahad, whose heroic deeds in
eliminating crime and disorder make him stand as tall as the brave Texans of revolutionary fame.
These hero worshipers have viewed Captain Bill as an extraordinary manhunter and a hard-nosed
detective in the mold of Sam Spade. On the other hand, McDonald’s detractors have portrayed him
as a pompous peace officer who accepted questionable information, precipitated violence, hungered
for publicity, and related tall tales that cast himself as the central figure in the stories. One Texan
noted that McDonald’s fertile imagination “ran riot.” “To be accurate,” this person concluded, “the
old-timers of Southwest Texas did not consider Bill McDonald a Ranger Captain at all.” Each of
these depictions contains some element of the fact; neither, however, presents a truthful portrait of
McDonald.
Another complicating aspect in the study of the life and times of Bill McDonald has been the
historical view that he was a one-dimensional man. One historian concluded that the Ranger captain
was “an uncomplicated man, unwilling-or unable-to view life in complex form. To him no shades of
gray existed. People were either good or evil, right or wrong, scoundrels or honest individuals.” Yet
McDonald, like his fellow captains, to use an analogy, was both a hedgehog and a fox. Like the
single-mindedness of the hedgehog, Captain Bill strove to enforce law and order. Like the multifaceted
fox, he used varying techniques of police work, from tracking criminals to collecting evidence to
collaring lawbreakers and putting them behind bars. In the chapters to follow, McDonald and the
men under his command become many-sided figures.
One of the first steps in knowing McDonald as a person and as a Ranger captain is to gain a
bird’s-eye view of his thoughts and actions.
Four Great Captains
Bill McDonald and the other three members of the “Four Great Captains”—J. A. Brooks, John
R. Hughes, and John H. Rogers––became faithful public servants. Of the four, McDonald was the
flamboyant Ranger and Hughes was the best gunman. Brooks and Rogers, in the words of the dean
of Ranger historians, were “dependable, intelligent, and wise in the ways of criminals.” As a prominent
Christian Ranger, Rogers even carried his Bible with his guns.
Company Commander
At the bottom of the chain of commanding the Frontier Battalion, the captains and other officers
shouldered the administrative tasks. Such assignments ranged from setting up and maintaining
company headquarters and subcompany stations to hiring and firing personnel, purchasing equipment
and supplies within budgetary allocations, and assigning Rangers to details to scout and investigate
crimes. Once, Captain Bill showed his annoyance with the paperwork involved with such duties. He
wrote the battalion quartermaster that when a mistake appeared in a bill submitted to the Ranger
command post, he would “take it as a favor” if the quartermaster would correct the error rather than
sending the form back to him to be redone. McDonald served under several quartermasters, including
W. H. Owen, G. A. Wheatley, and especially Lamartine P. “Lam” Sieker, who twice served in this
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Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
33
Yours to Command
post after 1885.
Motto
“No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’.”
From this succinct creed in the psychology of law enforcement, Bill McDonald can be seen as either
a picturesque anachronism or a primitive prototype of the modern Texas Ranger. To be sure, his skill
in subduing a troublemaker—what one writer called his “suddenness”—stood McDonald in good
stead against bullies, gunmen, or a riotous assemblage of persons. “If you wilt or falter he will kill
you,” Captain Bill insisted, “but if you go straight at him and never give him time to get to cover, or to
think, he will weaken ninety-nine times in a hundred.” McDonald had courage. But this exercise of
applied psychology against an adversary surely put too much emphasis on his indomitable will. And
Captain Bill never entertained the notion that he was bulletproof.
Peace of the Community
During his years as a law officer, Bill McDonald was a firm believer in upholding law and order.
He proved to have a remarkable ability to stand up to and facedown a disorderly crowd. Carl T.
Ryan, a member of Company B, once said:
I used to tell him, “Cap, you’re going to get all of us killed, the way you cuss out strikers and
mobs.” “Don’t worry, Ryan,” he would reply, “Just remember my motto.”
In this peacekeeping role, Captain Bill and other Rangers gained a reputation as gun-wielding riot
busters.
Feuding Parties
In the search for order, those engaged in the ranging service tried to work with local authorities
in handling bloody feuds before and after the American Civil War. The members of the Frontier
Battalion, especially, used different intervention techniques, which ranged from keeping factions
apart, confiscating weapons, and protecting witnesses to moving about to try to deter violent
showdowns and make feudists believe they should be someplace else. Sometimes Captain Bill and
other Rangers did quiet things temporarily. Most of the time, though, they could do little about the
root causes––family disputes, personal grudges, political and economic clashes, mob outbursts––
that lay behind the ongoing feuds scattered around the Texas landscape.
Manhunter
Whether on horseback, on foot, in a buckboard, or on a train, McDonald was relentless in the
pursuit of lawbreakers. This dogged pursuit, coupled with his knack of disarming and guarding
those taken into custody, became the hallmarks of his operations as a Ranger captain. In doing so,
McDonald attempted to avoid the use of large possees and running gun battles. Yet he knew enough
to call upon the men under his command for assistance when the odds against the Rangers were
too great. McDonald’s courage was usually tempered by a degree of common sense.
Shootist
Bill McDonald was an expert with firearms, but the historical record belies his public image as a
deadly gunfighter. He brought in prisoners alive rather than dead. His makeup did not include being
trigger-happy. “I never was a killer,” Captain Bill confided to his official biographer:
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Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
34
Yours to Command
Some fellows seem to want to kill, every chance they get, and in a business like mine there’s
plenty of chances. But I never did want to kill a man; and I never did it when there was any other
way to take care of his case.
McDonald did participate in a few gunfights, but his reputation as a gunman rested upon his
easily demonstrated marksmanship, his flair for using his weapons to overawe his opponents, the
publicity given his several violent encounters with Texan badmen, and the fanciful stories woven
around his exploits for the gullible public.
Criminal Investigator
Captain Bill knew that criminal cases could not be solved without the patient collection and
analysis of evidence and the interrogation of those taken into custody. He talked with people as
soon as he arrived at the scene of a crime. He also searched for evidence when he saw some
questions that needed to be answered and interrogated witnesses and suspects in an effort to
obtain what he required. McDonald even offered protection to those who gave him information in
order to quiet their fears of reprisals. Yet he perfected the art of the manhunt more than the techniques
of criminal investigation.
Detective
In the nineteenth century, the practices employed by detectives gained a foothold in England,
France, and the New World. Before and during McDonald’s captaincy, the word ”detective” began
to appear in Ranger records. The Rangers viewed detective work in two ways. For one thing, state
authorities saw detectives as undercover agents who used disguises and other covert activities to
gain access to the criminal underworld. For another thing, state officials defined the word “detective”
to mean a person skilled in the handling of evidential facts furnished by witnesses or derived from
objects found at the scene of a crime. Both detection methods would be used by Captain Bill and the
Rangers under his command. Especially praiseworthy was McDonald’s ability to use physical
evidence like handprints found at the scene of a crime to help him solve a mystery. Yet there were
limitations to McDonald’s investigative skills, which resulted from his own personality and the culture
of his times. He had a tendency to accept hearsay evidence, and his perception of the criminal
personality prevented him at times from carrying out investigations of illegal acts with an open mind.
Moreover, McDonald was not always able to overcome the racial and cultural prejudice against
blacks and Hispanics that permeated societal relations at the turn of the century. His official biographer
wrote:
Captain Bill, it may be remembered, does not mince his words. A white man who has committed
a crime is, to him, always a “scoundrel . . . A black offender, to him, is not a negro, or a colored
man, but a ‘n-----,’ usually with pictorial adjectives.
Bill McDonald had little time or interest in learning more about the science of detection. He did
not look into or write about the use of physical measurements for identification championed by
Alphonse Bertillon. Nor did he witness the initial developments in fingerprinting in Europe and America.
By the end of his life, McDonald did own a car, use a typewriter, send telegrams, and make telephone
calls. But other Old West lawmen, not Captain Bill, were more involved with the newer aspects of
the fact-finding process. McDonald was a first-rate tracker of fleeing fugitives, but he was not a
detective of the first rank.
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
35
Yours to Command
Minority Groups
To some historical writers, Bill McDonald was a “committed lawman as well as an arrant racist.”
Surely he baited lawbreakers by calling them degrading names. Even more to the point, McDonald
would be called, by modern standards, a bigot in his beliefs about minority groups. Throughout
history, racism has involved notions about superiority and persecution. McDonald did not want to
tyrannize minority citizens, but he did want them to follow orders and obey the law. Ever since
childhood in the Old South, Captain Bill had ambivalent feelings about blacks, which carried over to
his career as a peace officer. On the one hand, he could castigate black offenders. On the other
hand, he could protect black prisoners from third-degree beatings and mob vengeance. To some,
McDonald was not a lawman worthy of emulation. To others, his bigotry was counterbalanced by his
strong belief in law and order and by his lack of a killer instinct.
Company B in the Wider World
As a captain of an organized body of Rangers, McDonald spent much time in working with
officials on the three levels of government, as did the prominent sergeants of Company B James M.
“Grude” Britton, William McCauley, and W. J. L. Sullivan. These public servants included army
officers, county sheriffs, district attorneys, federal marshals, judges, mayors, and town police forces,
In this complex network, Rangers had to deal with Texas as a separate identity and as part of the
federal system of government. Such interactions tested McDonald’s decision-making ability and
resulted in both cooperation and conflict among all parties concerned. Captain Bill, who opposed
having his men do “low down ungentlemanly things,” discharged Rangers for drunkenness,
insubordination, and lack of judgment in the use of firearms. With some new enlistments, McDonald
once admitted that he could ”boast of having a sober company & one that is not gambling & drinking
all the time.” The Ranger captain also agreed with his superiors that the members of Company B
should not cross the Rio Grande or the boundaries of another state or territory except to carry out
the extradition of fleeing fugitives. Unofficially, the rank and file of the company moved into Oklahoma
to pursue outlaws with or without the assistance of peace officers in that territory and to take a short
cut to Greer County while that place was still part of Texas. At one point, McDonald did acknowledge
in a monthly report that a Ranger detachment chased horse thieves through Greer County into
Oklahoma. But they did not make any arrests since they crossed the “line” and were “out of the
state.” In carrying out his duties, Captain Bill learned when to come on—and when to back off.
Campfire Tales
For a myth to be popular, it must reflect society; it must illuminate shared beliefs of the common
folk. In the late 1800s in Texas, the tradition of the fabled Ranger had passed to a new generation–
–that of Captain Bill. Seen as Canadian Mounties without uniforms or Russian Cossacks on
horseback, McDonald and his fellow Rangers captivated the American public through daring exploits
in song and story.
The uplifting nature of the story of the legendary Ranger in the late nineteenth century results
from its simplicity: a white hat takes on a black hat. In this morality play, Bill McDonald played a key
role. His easily remembered macho deeds would be turned into memorable tales about the law
enforcement operations of the Texas Rangers.
In the Ranger Valhalla, McDonald holds an honored place. Some authors see him as a super
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36
Yours to Command
peace officer Ranger. “Perhaps the best known Ranger of all,” one person concluded, “was Captain
Bill McDonald.” “The mention of his name, as one writer stated it, “made the pulses of good Texans
beat quicker and the feet of outlaws move faster.” Other chroniclers stress that McDonald carried
out his duties wherever needed:
Is it a riot in a lumber camp?—McDonald and his men are hurried thence. Is it a chase for horse
thieves or lynchers?—McDonald and his men are on the scene. Is it a patrol of range fences?—
McDonald is in it.
One day, this omnipresence got embedded in the Texan psyche. Possibly the only tale that the
public can recall about the Texas Rangers is the singular action by McDonald, which resulted in the
“one-Ranger-one-riot” story. Years ago, Walter Prescott Webb aptly summarized it:
He was responsible for the story, now a worn-out chestnut, about the call for a company of
Rangers to quell a mob... When a lone Ranger got off the train—Bill McDonald, of course—there
was a vigorous protest from the citizen committee at his inadequacy to control the situation.
“Well, you ain’t got but one mob, have you?” he inquired sweetly. Though there is some basis for
the story, there is no basis for anyone’s ever telling it to a Texas Ranger because each one has
had to laugh at it a thousand times.
Historical writers have differed about the setting for this particular anecdote. They usually have
applied this yarn to the happenings in either the Reese-Townsend feud at Columbus, a violent act in
a Texan town like Abilene, or a prizefight in Dallas. The only extant historical source for these
accounts is the information that McDonald gave to his official biographer.
Most suited to the purpose of my “one-Ranger-one-riot” story would be Paine’s statement
about McDonald, mobs, strikers, and prizefights:
At other points McDonald or his Rangers quieted [wild]strikers and prevented trouble of various
kinds. Usually Captain Bill went alone. It was his favorite way of handling mob disorders, as we
have seen. It is told of him in Dallas how once he came to that city in response to a dispatch for
a company of Rangers, this time to putdown an impending prize-fight.
“Where are the others?” asked the disappointed Mayor, who met him at the depot.” Hell! Ain’t I
enough?” was the response, “there’s only one prize-fight!”
This unforgettable anecdote cannot be found in the records of my Ranger service (although
McDonald did intervene in prizefights in EI Paso and Galveston). To numerous individuals, however,
this memorable tale that reflects the inner spirit of being a Texan should be repeated and not
questioned. In Texas lore the indomitable Captain Bill became the embodiment of the positive traits
of the Rangers. These attributes included standing your ground and doing your lawful duty to the
best of your abilities against feudists, lynchers, and rioters.
Besides the “one-Ranger-one-riot” story, two other factors helped to create McDonald’s legendary
image. First, a future chapter about preventing a prizefight in El Paso in 1896 describes a tall tale
that McDonald forced William Barclay “Bat” Masterson to swallow his pride and back off from a
violent showdown. Second, and more important, in the aftermath of the raid on Brownsville in 1906,
a US Army investigator on the scene reflected on the mythical beliefs of the common Texans in
McDonald’s ability to stand and fight when he wrote, “It is said here he [McDonald] is so brave he
would not hesitate to ‘charge hell with one bucket of water.’” Yet in real life, Captain Bill did not
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37
Yours to Command
harbor a death wish, and he did not want to take part in an Armageddon. One can even contemplate
that, in the final battle between good and evil, the implacable McDonald would only charge hell at
the head of a large force of Rangers––armed with buckets.
The mythical aspects of the lives of Captain McDonald and his fellow Rangers left an imprint on
those who created Wild West Rangers in the pop culture of the early 1900s. One of these hell-bent
Rangers was Jim “Lone Wolf’ Hatfield who served under Captain “Roaring Bill” McDowell. In a short
story in a pulp magazine, Hatfield had cat-like moves and could charge through a hail of lead by
dodging the bullets. He was known as the Ranger who “would charge hell with a bucket of water.”
Yet Hatfield also had the ability to use markings on a shell and a damaged firing pin in a weapon to
solve a crime. When he stopped a revolt from happening on the border, the novella ended with
these words, “It shore beats hell,” said the sheriff, “one Ranger bustin’ up a rev’lution single-handed,
all by hisself.” “Well,” chuckled the Lone Wolf, “you just had one revolution!”
The legendary McDonald still chases outlaws and desperados in Wild West fiction. For some,
crossing the line between history and fiction captures the essence of society at a given time and
place. For others, however, such literary strokes entangle the historical record and regional folklore.
The Unfolding Story
Although capable and flamboyant, the flesh-and-blood McDonald could not live up to the public’s
adulation of the fabled Captain Bill. In reality. McDonald was not only an action detective but also
carried out the humdrum work of running encampments and writing reports. While carrying out these
duties, the Ranger captain, although pulling his weapons and firing, did not kill anyone. Contrary to
public opinion and the beliefs of some historical writers, no notches appeared on his guns. Just as
important, during McDonald’s tenure as officer in charge of Company B, only one Ranger was killed
in the line of duty, and that did not mean the rank and file of this company shot first.
In the pages to follow, the complexities of McDonald’s lifestyle will be examined. This
comprehensive study is the first biography of Bill McDonald published in a hundred years. It differs
from previous writings about my Ranger captain in several ways. For one thing, records have been
looked at in order to shed new light upon his financial dealings and bankruptcy as a grocer in Mineola.
Next, the major events in his career as a Texas lawman have been studied through archival holdings.
This research has produced a more balanced narrative, filled with McDonald’s own words. In carrying
out his duties as a crime fighter in hectic day-to-day operations, Captain Bill foreshadowed the modern
era of policing. His ability as a detective has been underplayed by historians ever since. And lastly,
McDonald’s role as state revenue agent at the end of his life, particularly his interaction with circuses
and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, needs amplification as a memorable event and spectacle.
By McDonald’s day, Texas had become known as a place where killings happen. The interaction
among the native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, and Anglo pioneers was chronicled by early Texan
historians. They tried to collect information by studying documentary sources, yet they viewed events
in a subjective way through the enduring beliefs of the “Promised Land,” the “Agrarian Ideal,” and
the “Great-Man Thesis.” A philosopher once noted that the hero in history can be seen either as an
“event-making man” or as an “eventful man” (who happened to be in the right place at the right time
to become famous). To some, Bill McDonald, either through careful thought or sheer luck, had a foot
in each philosophical camp.
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
38
Routine Collections Maintenance
Carla Shelton, Collection Assistant
The Texas Ranger Hall of
Fame and Museum is committed
to caring for each artifact we
receive because each individual
item tells the larger story of the
Texas Rangers. The Museum’s
two primary missions:
Disseminate knowledge
and inspire appreciation of the
Texas Rangers.
To serve as the principal
repository for artifacts and archives
relating to the Texas Rangers.
Both goals are achieved when
we provide professional museum
quality care for the objects and
what they embody––the enduring
legacy of the Texas Rangers.
An artifact, no matter what the
composition, is subject to
deterioration, mostly due to
environmental conditions. For
example, an object that is in a
moist, humid climate will inevitably
begin to mold or rust. By the same
token, if it does not receive routine
maintenance, it will quickly
Œ
Œ
Maintenance
Routine Collections
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
39
Routine Collections Maintenance
deteriorate. When a museum accepts an artifact, whether it is loaned or a permanent piece in the
museum’s collection, the museum personnel have the responsibility to care for it to the best of our
ability and maintain both the physical object and the history of the object.
One of the most recent projects
in collections maintenance has been
to provide customary preservation to
the Museum’s small leather goods
collection, including leather gun
belts, holsters, bandoliers, bullet
holders, pouches, ID wallets, gun
cases, and the like. These primarily
represent an important piece of the
personal armament each Texas
Ranger carried.
The first step in preservation
was making an inventory, ensuring
all items were accounted for, and
then organizing for a more efficient
use of collection storage space and
materials. Each object was rehoused in modern archive safe
boxes and stabilized. The archive boxes are acid-free and lignin-free and will protect the object from
moisture, soil, and abrasions. This project is one example of the tasks the Museum undergoes daily
in order to prevent the deterioration of precious
one-of-a-kind objects such as Robert “Red”
M. Arnold’s and William “Bill” Walk Jr.’s gun
belts and holsters.
Robert “Red” M. Arnold was a Ranger
from 1954 to 1978. He was an expert
fingerprint analyst and was involved in
several high-profile cases. Arnold served in
Company B, which consists of six counties
in Northeast Texas. Some of his wellknown cases include: apprehending
three bank robbers in a small community
called Blanket, Texas, in 1955; keeping
the peace between union labor and
company management in 1957 and
1968 at the Lone Star Steel Company
plant; mediating a contested May
1964 Democratic primary election for
county commissioner in Bowie County; and
heading a statewide manhunt for an ex-convict who had
been accused of murdering another ex-con near Texarkana. Arnold retired
from the Rangers in 1978 and passed away in 1979.
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to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
40
Routine Collections Maintenance
William “Bill” A. Walk Jr. worked in law enforcement for many years and was a Texas Ranger for
twenty-three years. He served with Company D starting in 1973 at Floresville, was transferred to
Houston to work with Company A in 1977, and then was transferred to Nacogdoches in 1981. Walk
worked on cases that took him out of the state several times. Colleagues noted that he was well
connected in law enforcement circles and was the epitome of a Texas Ranger. One precinct constable,
in fact, described him as the “classic Texas Ranger.” Walk retired from the Rangers in 1996 and
passed away in 1999.
Properly caring for both Arnold’s and Walk’s artifacts for future generations, along with the
various other objects in the Museum’s collection, is an important part of preserving the history and
heritage of the Texas Rangers. The Collections Department strives to follow the highest museum
standards and utilizes modern preservation and research practices.
By preserving and providing routine maintenance for each artifact, the Museum can guarantee
that each time visitors walk through our gallery spaces or utilize the Texas Ranger Research Center,
they will find historic objects in the best possible condition. It is also crucial to preserve our vast
collection in order for researchers to come and conduct historical and scientific analysis on items
within our collection.
Caring for and preserving each artifact in the collection is something the Texas Ranger Hall of
Fame and Museum staff works toward daily. We not only recognize the value of each object but also
are proud to serve as the stewards of the oldest state law enforcement agency in the nation and an
enduring symbol of Texas and the American West––the Texas Rangers.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
41
Saddle of James Newton Geer
addle of Texas Ranger James Newton Geer
(1894-1955)
Gift of Bucky Geer
Carla Shelton, Collection Assistant
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and
Museum is honored to receive the saddle of
Texas Ranger James Newton Geer as a gift from
Bucky Geer.
James “Jim” Newton Geer was born in
Manchester, Texas, in 1894. He entered the U.S.
Army in 1918 and served with the Military Police
for the 323 Aerial Squadron stationed at Kelly
Field in San Antonio. He was honorably
discharged in 1919.
Geer began his career as a civilian lawman
in 1922. He was a deputy sheriff in Red River
County and then was elected sheriff from 1935
to 1945, at which time he joined the Texas
Department of Public Safety as a Texas Ranger.
Geer was appointed to Headquarters Company,
later transferring to Company A and then to
Company B. He worked many interesting cases,
including the Texarkana Phantom murders, and
is remembered as a diligent and skilled
investigator.
This saddle was made by the S.C. Gallup
Saddlery Company of Pueblo, Colorado. Samuel
C. Gallup (1870-1904) is regarded as one of the
premier saddle makers of the 19th century
American West and is credited as the inventor of
the “Pueblo Saddle,” which became the standard
for the working cowboy. The high swell and deep
cantle made riding safer when working with herds
in difficult terrain. The saddles were often doublecinched, which increased the stability for the rider.
Following Gallup’s death, his business was
operated by others until it closed in 1930.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
42
TDPS 75th Anniversary Timeline
TDPS
75th
Anniversary
Timeline
In 2010, the Texas
Department of Public
Safety celebrated its milestone 75th Anniversary.
The board and staff of the Texas Ranger Hall of
Fame congratulate the Department and the Texas
Public Safety Commission on their outstanding
public service to the people of Texas. Since 1935,
the men and women of Texas DPS, both sworn
officers and staff, have adapted and maintained
a standard of service respected worldwide. The
following timeline was issued by the department
in commemoration of its distinguished history.
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
43
TDPS 75th Anniversary Timeline
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
44
TDPS 75th Anniversary Timeline
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch ™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
45
TDPS 75th Anniversary Timeline
Contents and design of the Texas Ranger Dispatch™ are copyrighted by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and other named copyright holders. Permission is granted
to print copies or excerpts for personal use and educational coursework. Commercial use or redistribution requires written permission from the Office of the Director, Texas
Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702.
46