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 Rangers Surrender

Texas Rangers SurrenderThe stories of the bravery of the Texas Rangers are legendary. However, there was one incident when a group of them were cowards.  It was when events made the Texas Rangers surrender.
 
About ninety miles east of El Paso, Texas, are salt beds where people went to gather this essential mineral, not only for food, but also for silver mining. In 1876, Charles Howard tried to get control of the salt beds by filing a land claim on them. The salt gathers living in the area didn’t like this. In a confrontation, Howard killed one of their leaders. This caused an uproar. Texas Ranger major John B. Jones was sent to investigate. Seeing the need for more help, he organized Company C of the Texas Rangers.  
 
To be fair, the men he recruited were toughs from Silver City, New Mexico, and the man he put in charge, John Tays, was no leader. Under normal circumstances, none of these men would have met the Texas Ranger standards. But, these weren’t normal circumstances. 
 
On December 12, Tays and the other Rangers entered San Elizario. As soon as they got there, the salt gathers knifed to death the local storeowner. The Rangers did nothing. The next morning a sniper shot their sergeant. With the Rangers under siege, they surrendered to the mob. 
 
The Rangers were locked up in a building and then the salt gathers killed anyone they thought was against them. After the killing was done the Rangers were released to return home the best way they could.
 
Within days military troops showed up, but by then all of the killers had fled south of the border.
 
Never before, nor since have the Texas Rangers stood by and watched crimes take place, or surrendered without a fight.    
 
 

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.        

51dRYUl3KSL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Texas Devils: Rangers and Regulars on the Lower Rio Grande, 1846-1861, by Michael L. Collins, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325-3200, $19.95, Paper. Photographs, Notes to the Chapters, Bibliography, Index.

This book is a carefully researched account of the turbulent times along the Lower Rio Grande in Texas from 1846-1861.  The author delves into these fifteen years filled with conflict between Anglo ranchers, homesteaders and businessmen at odds with the Hispanic people after the Mexican War.  New International boundaries pointed to trouble when people lost their old homelands and the Republic of Texas established a new government as well as new political rules.

The author creates a page-turner that reads in places like an exciting novel.  With measured cadence and vivid word descriptions, the warring factions are brought to life.  He explains how the Rangers were hired to defend the homeland, protect the new border and keep the peace.  Understandably, the Mexican people were mostly filled with resentment toward these armed posses riding across their old homeland.  Known by the Mexicans as Ids diablos Tejanos, or Texas Devils, these men patrolled the countryside often clashing with Mexican bandits and roving Comanches.  Here are details regarding the various battles, what happened, who lived and who died.  Often young Rangers were brutally murdered, their hacked remains left rolling in the sun.

In retaliation, the Rangers were known to exact their own brand of vengeance, and sometimes committed atrocities with equal savagery upon those they fought against.  The book aims to tell the Ranger story with fairness, dispelling some of the romanticized myths surrounding the early Ranger companies.

Important leaders of the Ranger units are given biographical coverage as to their places in history.  Some had political ambitions; some were mercenaries interested in land and plunder.  Still others, like Major Samuel Heintzelman and Col. Robert E. Lee were military gentlemen performing their duties in Texas with dignity, and who were destined to fight in terrible battlefields back east.

A clear and sentimental portrait is drawn here regarding Robert E. Lee who left his beloved Virginia plantation (now Arlington National Cemetery) in service to his country.  He knew the winds of war would call him home to face heart wrenching decisions that would linger to the end of his days.

Too, this Ranger story includes the well known Juan Cortina known on the border as the “Red Robber.”  The son of wealthy Mexicans who owned vast ranch lands, he became a champion for the Mexican cause after his mother lost most of their land to gringo lawyers and speculators after the Mexican War.  Filled with bitterness and revenge, he led his Mexican followers against the Texas Rangers.  Somewhat of a Robin Hood, he became an illusive adversary much loved by the Mexican people.

The author points out that injustice on both sides of the border conflict were experienced by many people.  In 1860 Civil War broke out in the United States, and Texas went with the Confederacy.  So much turmoil ensued due to that cause, the fighting on the Texas border settled down since there was a much larger conflict to deal with.  Meanwhile, old myths and fables die hard because we all need our heroes.  However, still to this day Anglos and Hispanics on the Lower Rio Grande have their reasons to mistrust one another.  Even after 150 years, there is still much work to be done.  Western history readers will reflect on what is written here long after turning the last page. You can grab Michael’s book HERE.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many books about the Old West including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, Silk Label Books, P.0. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 Ph. (845) 726-3434 www.silklabelbooks.com

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

The Cornett-Whitley Gang; Violence Unleashed in Texas

Cornett Whitley gangThe Cornett-Whitley Gang; Violence Unleashed in Texas, David Johnson, University of North Texas Press, $29.95, Cloth. Non-fiction, 320 pages, Illustrations, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

The time period for this book is the late 1880s, the location is Texas, and the topic is about a gang of train robbers.  The names of these men are mostly unfamiliar to readers of today.  None of them stood out above the rest in romantic familiarity.  Don’t look for Butch and Sundance, or the James brothers.  These men came together in a secret hide-away, made their plans, and then held up the trains.  Afterwards they parted, at least for a while, and did a good job of fooling law enforcement.  Some were married with children, most were solitary drifters who kept low profiles.

There were three important train robberies that made headlines.  One at McNeal Station, another at Flatonia, and finally a third robbery at a place called the Verdigris Bridge.  All three robberies were daring, well-planned, done ruthlessly and with precision.  Some people got hurt, a few were killed, one lady passenger was pistol whipped for being too slow in turning over her valuables.  Money and personal items were grabbed before the gang mounted up and disappeared into the darkness.

The book tells how law enforcement was blamed and even chided in newspaper accounts, embarrassed by the Media for their inability to catch the bad guys right away.  The Texas train robberies made headlines all across the United States and even some foreign countries.  Newspaper editors were certain all the bad publicity would be detrimental to the financial growth of Texas.

Law enforcement entities such as the Texas Rangers, federal marshals, railroad detectives and Wells Fargo eventually worked together sharing information until most of the robbers were caught.  Some of this work remains in place even to this day.  However, in the old days before computers and telephones, news about the robberies moved laboriously via telegraph, word of mouth or riders on horseback.

Letters at the back of the book contain personal accounts from various individuals who were involved in all this.  Some romantic stories told were clarified.  It seems a lot of people had a lot to say as the robbing of trains made big news.  Eventually arrested, one robber, “Bud” Powell, alias John Thompson wrote a lengthy autobiographical account filled with original detail as he explains about some of his adventures after he left the gang.  He traveled for several years evading the law and claimed he tried to “go straight.” Words coming directly from the outlaw give readers much to think about.

The author of the book, David Johnson has penned other important nonfiction books including John Ringo, King of the Cowboys; The Mason County “Hoo Doo” War, and The Horrell Wars.  All of David Johnson’s books are well-researched, easy to read, and packed with plenty of information.  If you are particularly interested in Texas train robbers, this book is for you.

Publisher’s Notes: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including Death For Dinner, the Bender of (Old) Kansas.  Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York, 10988. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

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