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.        

Charles GoodnightCharles Goodnight: Father of the Texas Panhandle, William T. Hagan, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 325‑3200, $19.95, Paperback. Illustrations, 168 pages, Maps, Bibliography.

Pioneer rancher and cattle baron of the Southwest, Charles Goodnight is known for his exploits as a Texas Ranger, scout, Indian fighter, and businessman.  This book only touches upon Goodnight’s early life, and is really aimed at the last 30 years of his life.  Complete biographies about Goodnight are written by J. Evetts Haley titled Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, and The No‑Gun Man of Texas, by Laura V. Hamner.

Born in Illinois in 1836, Goodnight’s childhood included hard work, poverty, and long hours of drudgery on a farm.  His education included only two years of school.  However, he grew into a man of sharp business ability combined with his dedication to hard work.  He blazed cattle trails in Texas, Colorado and Kansas but is best known for his exploits during the early days of Texas.  When Goodnight was 28 years old, he was a member of the Ranger unit who found the white Indian captive Cynthia Ann Parker.  Years later, Goodnight would become friendly with her son, Quanah who became a Comanche spokesman.

One incident in the life of Charles Goodnight is told about in the memorable Larry McMurtry Western movie “Lonesome Dove.”  During a cattle drive through Colorado, Goodnight’s business partner Oliver Loving was fatally wounded by Indians, and the dying man requested that his body be returned to Texas.  Goodnight made good on his promise, having Loving’s body packed in charcoal to make the long wagon journey back home.

This book covers the years spent building his ranches in the Texas Panhandle, with the financial banking of wealthy investors from as far away as Ireland.  Foreign speculators had the money, and Goodnight had the experience and guts.  Standing over 6 feet tall, weighing 200 pounds, a six‑gun on his hip and with grizzled beard and no‑nonsense steely eyes, Charles Goodnight seemed to fear no one.

Goodnight married a Texas school teacher named Mary Dyer, whose portrait shows her to be a thin‑lipped, cold‑eyed woman whose no‑nonsense demeanor seemed to match her husband’s.  The couple had no children.  After many years of hard ranch life, Goodnight described his wife as being a truly strong woman who even though living with no female companionship, and 75 miles from town, made married life cheery and pleasant.

Fights with partners, the railroad, encroaching neighbors, and politics are covered in this book. Goodnight remained sympathetic to the Indians’ plight, even though having been an Indian fighter in the 1870s with the Texas Rangers, he understood how these people had been forcibly removed from their land.

During the last year’s of Goodnight’s life, he sold most of his ranch holdings.  Mary died several years before Goodnight did, and he was about to spend the last few years of his life in lonely isolation when a 26‑year‑old lady named Corrine Goodnight showed up wondering if they were related.  The 91‑year‑old Goodnight enjoyed her company, hired her to be his secretary, and soon thereafter married her.

The couple traveled to Arizona, taking up residence first in Phoenix and then moving to Tucson where Goodnight died Dec. 12, 1929.  Corrine had him laid to rest beside his first wife Mary, in Goodnight, Texas.

Charles Goodnight out‑lived most of his friends, and all of his enemies.  He and Mary built a ranching empire in Palo Duro Canyon in the 1870s, and they are remembered for their contributions to the cattle industry, as well as being an inspiration to those dedicated to hard work, determination, and honest dealings. 

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.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 Ph. (845) 726‑3434 www.silklabelbooks,com

Lawrie Tatum – Quaker Indian Agent

Lawrie Tatum Quaker Indian AgentIn 1869 the Kiowa and the Comanche were being relocated to a reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. President Grant felt if Quakers were hired as Indian Agents, they would be able to teach the Indians to be pacifists.  So, Lawrie Tatum, a man known for his Quaker work, was appointed to the unenviable job as the Kiowa-Comanche agent.
Although the 47 year old knew little or nothing about wild Indians, he felt that he could tame them with honesty, industry, patience and kindness. The Comanche weren’t a major problem. But the Kiowa were impossible.  
 
Showing his trust, Lawrie had the military withdrawn from guarding the provisions. The Kiowa saw this as weakness, and not only stole the provisions, but they started making raids to nearby Texas.
 
Learning this approach wasn’t going to work, Lawrie tempered it with toughness. He had the three chiefs responsible for the Texas raids arrested. He put the provisions under guard, and refused to give any provisions to marauding Indians.
 
It had become normal for the government to ransom any white captives taken on raids. But continuing his hard line, Lawrie, feeling ransom only encouraged the taking of captives, refused to pay any.
 
Increasingly Lawrie felt that force was necessary to control the Kiowa. Eventually his actions conflicted with his Quaker superiors. And losing confidence in Grant’s Peace Policy, in 1873 Lawrie resigned.
 
Lawrie Tatum continued his Quaker belief, writing several books in support of it. He also wrote a classic about his experience with the Kiowa and Grant’s policy. On January 22, 1900, at the age of 78, he died.
 
Incidentally, late in life Lawrie was appointed the guardian of an infant by the name of Herbert Hoover, the man who became our country’s 31st President.  

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.

Old West Book Review: Riding For The Brand

RidingRiding For The Brand. Author, rancher, researcher and historian, Michael Pettit is a Cowden family descendant who chronicles his sentimental journey about trailing his family history in this book.  His ancestors began migrating toward Texas in the 1850s, seeking land and opportunities in a country where few white settlers had gone before them.  From place to place, the Cowdens found fertile valleys and water thinking this was their final stop.  However, drought and vagaries of Comanche wars plus uncertain boundary lines caused them to move yet again.  Over the years they migrating all the way across Texas and eventually into New Mexico where some family members remain today on their 50,000 acre ranch near Santa Rosa, in the western part of the state.

Pettit follows his family trail using personal letters, oral accounts, plus newspaper stories and legal documents found in libraries and courthouses.  He visited lonely graveyards, always seeking the names of relatives who passed this way. They were born, lived, fought the elements, while standing up to every conceivable difficulty that made ranching pioneers tough.  Cowdens lost family members from old age, childhood plagues and ranch accidents, but still they persevered.

Life for the Cowden women going back to the old days was never easy. Early graves are scattered across Texas, showing how many of these women died young.  We can only imagine the hard work and drudgery on these ranches combined with moving to new locations and setting up households yet again inside hardscrabble shacks and raising large families many miles from friends and neighbors, town and supplies, or doctors and medical attention.  These ranch women put in long, hard days and learned self-sufficiency.

While discovering facts about his family, Pettit finds a wealth of information about the land, weather conditions, Indian culture, economic woes, the oil business, cattle raising and cowboy life.  He delves into old time cattle drives, and the stories of cowboys who worked for the ranchers.  The book explains how early ranchers eventually organized Cattle Raisers Associations to protect themselves from rustlers and other woes.  Brand inspectors were hired, while new brands and symbols were registered.  Ranchers shared information regarding disease, vaccinations, predators, and opportunities in the cattle market.

Meanwhile, Pettit spends time on his relative’s ranch in New Mexico, telling the history of the outfit while helping with modern day ranch work.  The horses, the branding, the care of livestock and life inside the bunkhouse telling tall tales for entertainment makes reading a combination of Old West history entwined with present-day life on a large working cattle ranch.

Pettit’s storytelling is straightforward, honest, and always with an eye for accuracy.  He keeps a diary which in itself is filled with important data as he makes the rounds each day.  He knows his family, understands the people and tries to explain how life on these ranches is never easy.  As the book evolves, it becomes apparent that modern-day Cowdens have continued their ancestral way of life.  Perhaps they now have telephones, pickup trucks and other modern conveniences, but this rugged existence is never easy and certainly not for the frivolous or faint of heart.  However, the Cowdens wouldn’t have it any other way.

Riding for the Brand is warmly written and gives readers a wonderful insight into modern day ranching as well as an appreciation for the old Texas cattle ranching days. Saddle up and get this book HERE.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Silk and Sagebrush, Women of the Old West, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 www.silklabelbooks.com

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

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