Old West Book Review: The Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame

The Ranger Ideal; Texas RangersThe Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, Volume 1, Darren L. Ivey, University of North Texas press $39.95, Cloth. 672 p.p., Photos, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

For anyone interested in the history of the Texas Rangers, this book is a must read.  It is the first of a three-book series telling about the lives of the most important men involved with the founding of the Texas Rangers.  The time period it covers is from 1823 – 1861, and includes Stephen F. Austin, John C. Hays, William A. A. “Big Foot” Wallace, Samuel H. Walker, John S. Ford, and Lawrence S. Ross.  All of these men have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and Museum at Waco, Texas.

The author points out in his Preface that several of these men are well-known, but the others have been mostly overlooked and do not have biographies or even extensive coverage in history books.  All of these men are honored in the Texas Ranger Museum at Fort Fisher located near the Texas city of Waco. Visitors to the museum find Ranger displays including guns, clothing, saddles, equipment and artwork.  The museum opened to the public in 1968, and continues its work educating the public about the important contributions Rangers made to Texas.

Readers find a timeline of Ranger history to help us better understand the enormous upheavals Texas went through beginning in 1821 when Americans established a colony on land that originally belonged to Mexico.  Political changes are explained as Texas went from Mexican control to annexation to the United States in 1845.

Each of the seven men featured here were vastly patriotic, and did not hesitate to join in any and all of the fights, shoot-outs, military campaigns, long marches, sometimes capture and imprisonment in Mexico, and including every hardship imaginable.  By the 1860s, two Rangers featured here joined the Confederate Army when civil war was declared and Texas went with the South.  The battle records of these men are shown here, their adventures and derring-do included a multitude of battles and skirmishes reminiscent of Bruce Catton’s Civil War books where readers follow the amazing courage these soldiers displayed under the most difficult circumstances.

In 1860 Ranger John Ford was involved in the recovery of the highly publicized white woman Cynthia Ann Parker who, when still a child, was taken captive by Comanches.  By the time she was rescued years later, she had mostly forgotten her white way of live, and even how to speak English.

Of the seven Rangers featured in the book, only three ever married while the others seem to have dedicated their lives to Texas.  Two of these men died fighting.

The author has done an impressive job of researching for truths related to this material. Anyone looking for information about the Texas Rangers will find this tome invaluable.

Darren L. Ivey is to be commended for his good writing and careful research into an important topic about the American West.  In addition to The Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame his writing includes a previously published book on this subject titled The Texas Rangers; A Registry and History.

Thus far, thirty-one individuals have been honored in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. If you are a Texas Ranger fan, you will want this one for your Old West library, and will look forward to reading the next two books in the series.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many books including Death For Dinner; The Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988-0700. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Texas Ranger Frank Jones

Texas Ranger Frank JonesBorn in Austin, Texas in 1856, Frank Jones joined the Texas Rangers at the age of 17. He saw his first action when he and two other Rangers were sent after some Mexican horse thieves. In the process, the horse thieves ambushed the Rangers. Frank’s two companions were immediately taken out, but Frank was able to kill two of the bandits and capture a third.
Frank was promoted to corporal and later to sergeant. Once again while chasing a large gang of cattle rustlers, Frank and his six Ranger companions were ambushed. Three of the Rangers were immediately killed, and Frank and the other two Rangers were captured.
Now, it would have been much better for the rustlers if they had also killed Frank, for while the rustlers were congratulating themselves on their victory, Frank grabbed one of their rifles, and proceeded to kill all of them.
A few years later, now a captain, while traveling alone, Frank was again ambushed. This time by three desperadoes who shot him, and left him for dead. With a bad chest wound, Frank tracked the three men down on foot until he found their camp. He waited until dark; took one of their rifles; shot one and brought the other two back to stand trial.
Over the next few years Frank continued his confrontations and victories over outlaws. But on June 29, 1893 Frank went on his last mission. He and four other Rangers went after some cattle thieves on the Mexico border. This time they did the ambushing. But it didn’t turn out well for Frank. In the ensuing gunfight he was finally killed.
Now, I’m sure you agree that Captain Frank Jones definitely does typify the grit of the Texas Rangers.

Benjamin Rush Milam – Texas, Mexico and the Anglos

Benjamin Rush Milam Texas, Mexico and the AnglosBenjamin Rush Milam was born in 1788 in Frankfort, Kentucky. He served in the War of 1812, and in 1818, along with other Anglos, he went to Texas, and as was necessary for land ownership there, became a Mexican citizen. During this time, Texas, Mexico and the Anglos had a difficult relationship. Mexico both welcomed and feared the Anglos coming to Texas. Eventually, Mexico started imposing unfair regulations on the Anglos. And, in 1835, when Santa Ana established himself as dictator, Milam renounced his Mexican citizenship and joined the rag-tag army of Anglos fighting for the independence of Texas.
Following the Texas army’s capture of Goliad in which he participated, Milam was sent on a scouting trip to the southwest. When he returned, the Texas army was on the outskirts of San Antonio. But, to Milam’s disappointment, the Texas generals had decided to postpone the attack on San Antonio until spring. Milam was aware that Santa Ana’s forces were heading toward Texas with enough troops to suppress the rebellion, and he worried that to hesitate meant defeat. So, he went before the troops and made an impassioned plea asking: “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?”
Three hundred men volunteered. And on December 5, they started their attack on San Antonio. The fighting took place house-to-house and hand-to-hand. Four days later, on December 9, with 200 Mexican soldiers dead and as many injured, the commanding general surrendered the city to the Texans.
Unfortunately, Benjamin Milam wasn’t there to celebrate. He had been shot by a sniper two days into the battle. Incidentally, had he survived, he would have probably been one of the Texans defending the Alamo from Santa Ana the following March.

Texas Rangers: Why Are They Called Rangers?

Texas Rangers: Why Are They Called Rangers?In 1826 Stephen Austin authorized a force of men to fight Indians. This group was the inspiration that inspired the Texas Legislature to form the Texas Rangers on November 24, 1835. They were formed, not as a law enforcement group, but to protect the Texas frontier from Comanche Indians and Mexican banditos crossing over the border. Why are they called Rangers? They were called Rangers because their job was to “range” over wide areas.
           
A private in the Texas Rangers would receive $1.25 per day. With this he took care of his food, clothing, ammunition and horse.
               
When the Civil War broke out, Texas went on the side of the Confederacy. Although the Rangers, as a group didn’t join the Confederacy, some of the members did. They formed a group called “Terry’s Texas Rangers.” And incidentally, this group was credited with originating the rebel yell.
 
After the Civil War; the conquest of the Indians; and Texas becoming a state, the Texas Rangers became the law enforcement agency of Texas.
 
Probably the most unique individual job the Rangers engaged in involved Judge Roy Bean, the law west of the Pecos. The Texas Rangers liked Roy Bean because he always handed down swift judgments. His justice may have been convoluted, but it was immediate, leaving the Rangers free to bring in more lawbreakers.
 
In 1896 Judge Bean was putting on a heavyweight prizefight, which was highly illegal in Texas. Although the fighters and the fans came from the U. S., the actual fight took place on a river sandbar just inside Mexico.
 
Making sure that all Texas laws were observed, a group of Texas Rangers stood on the Texas border, and observed the fight that, unfortunately, only lasted 90 seconds.        

The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland MailThe Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail 1858-1861, Glen Sample Ely, University of Oklahoma Press, $34.95, Cloth, 440 pages, Illustrations, Maps, Photographs, Notes, Index.

Anyone interested in early Texas history will find this book a fascinating journey across that state during the years prior to the Civil War.  While the Butterfield Overland Mail extended 2,795 miles from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California this book targets the 740 miles, border to border, across the Texas frontier.

The book combines Texas politics and intrigues while at the same time explaining the history and workings of the Butterfield stagecoach line.  Throughout the book readers find both early photos taken by original Butterfield researchers Margaret and Roscoe Conkling, with modern-day pictures taken by author Ely as he meticulously followed their trail.  Comparisons are made between Conkling photos taken 80 years ago, and the new pictures and how the sites look today.  Changes due to weather erosion and human agricultural disruptions are noted.

All of the stagecoach sites are pictured; the crumbling walls, rock foundations, and long-forgotten artifacts help tell the story.  Belt buckles, bullets, bridle bits, forks and knives plus various tools have been unearthed and on display here, including some graves with the stories of their occupants.  At the end of the book readers will find notes containing all of the information available regarding dates, locations, employees, station masters, Indian raids, and everything you could ever possibly want to know about these stagecoach station sites.

As the author and friends traipsed from one location to the next across Texas, he brings to us the stories of those people who braved this frontier at a time when great changes were occurring in our country.  Prospectors, adventurers, cattle ranchers, military men, schemers as well as honest pioneers tried to build and tame this unforgiving land.  Always the threat of murderous Indian raids loomed as hardy people determined to make homes for themselves.

Meanwhile, scattered throughout the book are wonderful paintings done by Frederic Remington showing the dangerous journey traveled by these coaches.  Butterfield crews, passengers, and hostlers alike braved this rugged road.  Indians lurked along the way, and the accommodations at home stations usually offered little more than poor food and scant lodging.  The coaches are described as rough-riding, jostling contraptions rattling over hard-packed roads or wallowing in muddy streams.

Apart from the actual everyday management of the stagecoaches, there were business executives back east busily working to make the enterprise financially lucrative.  Some joined with Texas politicians and businessmen to make decisions about everything from toll bridges to the establishment of small communities.

Readers are taken on a journey through a rough and tumble time in antebellum Texas, covering everything good and bad about people striving to settle a wild frontier.

This book is a huge project by author Glen Sample Ely, a Texas historian and documentary producer. His love for Texas history is proudly displayed here, along with his talent for careful research and dogged determination to get it right.  Readers will learn from the narrative, while being mesmerized by the haunting photographs showing what happened here.  He also authored the book Where the West Begins: Debating Texas Identity.

The book is a must for your Old West library if you are interested in Texas history and the Butterfield Overland Mail.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Charissa of the Overland, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434.  www.silklabelbooks.com

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