We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

John B. Armstrong, Texas Ranger and Pioneer Ranchman

Lawman and Rancher

By Chuck Parsons; Foreword by Tobin Armstrong; Afterword by Elmer Kelton

Publication Year: 2007

“Texas, by God!” cried notorious killer John Wesley Hardin when he saw a Colt .45 pointed at him on a train in Florida. At the other end of the pistol stood Texas Ranger John B. Armstrong. Hardin’s arrest assured Armstrong a place in history, but his story is larger, fuller, and even more important—and until now it has never been told. Serving in the Rangers’ famed Frontier Battalion from 1875 to 1878, Armstrong rode with Captain L. H. McNelly in the capture of King Fisher, was called to Round Rock when Sam Bass was cornered, and helped patrol the region caught in the Taylor-Sutton Feud. His more lasting legacy, though, was as founder of the Armstrong Ranch, an operation that remains active and important to this day. From this family base he helped change ranching techniques and was an important sponsor for bringing the railroads to South Texas. In the 1890s he joined a special Ranger division that supplemented the force’s efforts, especially in pursuit and apprehension of gunmen and cattle rustlers in the region. As Elmer Kelton notes in his afterword to this book, “Chuck Parsons’ biography is a long-delayed and much-justified tribute to Armstrong’s service to Texas.” Parsons fills in the missing details of a Ranger and rancher’s life, correcting some common misconceptions and adding to the record of a legendary group of lawmen and pioneers.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Canseco-Keck History Series


pdf iconDownload PDF

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. iii-iv


pdf iconDownload PDF
p. vii


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xi-xii

The name Armstrong has a colorful history. Around the middle of the eleventh century a Scottish king had his horse killed from under him during a battle. His armor bearer, a powerful Dane, managed to lift the king onto another mount, thus saving his life. For such a heroic deed the warrior was granted a crest and the family appellation of “Strong Arm,” or “Armstrong.” Siward the Armstrong later became the Earl of Northumberland and, under the aegis of Edward the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xiii-xv

The subject of John Barkley Armstrong has been of deep interest to me for many years. In going through my correspondence I find that some letters are dated as early as 1969. At the start I doubt that I entertained seriously the thought of ever writing a full-length biography of the man, as in those early years my interest lay more in the collecting of information. But through the years ideas develop, or get dropped entirely, or maybe even forgotten. Perhaps it was a combination of...

read more

Chapter 1: Genesis of a Fighting Man

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-8

John B. Armstrong is best known as the Texas Ranger who captured and brought back to Texas justice the notorious man-killer John Wesley Hardin. The capture took place August 23, 1877, at the railroad station in Pensacola, Florida. At the time Armstrong needed a cane to walk, having accidentally shot himself, yet he handled his big Colt revolver well enough to kill one of Hardin’s associates and knock the man-killer unconscious long enough to assure his capture.

read more

Chapter 2: Blood on the Palo Alto Prairie

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 9-16

During the latter part of 1874 McNelly and his command had been stationed in strife-ridden DeWitt County, where his orders were to quell the fighting between two groups, the followers of William E. Sutton and the extensive Taylor family. Only one Sutton was directly involved, but he had many friends and followers who were enemies of the Taylor clan, a large family whose menfolk were accused of horse and cattle stealing and other acts of desperadoism. One...

read more

Chapter 3: Gunfire at Las Cuevas

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 17-24

McNelly and his men had little to be proud of following the resounding victory over the bandits on the Palo Alto Prairie; there were no more significant victories against the raiders. Cortina’s thieves were wary of these new diablos tejanos (Texan devils) from the north and rather than chance being run down and killed like the men on the Palo Alto Prairie they abandoned the stolen herds to escape with their lives.

read more

Chapter 4: Engagement at Espantosa Lake

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 25-36

Following the invasion of Mexico until late 1876, little is known of Armstrong’s activities. He did reenlist for another quarter, as his name appears on the muster and payroll dated February 29, 1876, prepared at Laguna de las Flores by Lt. T. C. Robinson. This shows service was from December 1, 1875, to February 29, 1876, with the rank of fifth sergeant. Other sergeants were George A. Hall, Roe P. Orrell, and brothers Lawrence B. and Linton L. Wright.

read more

Chapter 5: John King Fisher Again

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 37-46

On January 20, 1877, the Special State Troops were reorganized. McNelly had made them one of the top fighting units in Texas history but their continuation depended on the amount of funding the legislature provided. Furthermore, the end of the pay period gave Adj. Gen. William Steele the perfect opportunity to place a new man in command, as McNelly’s medical bills were too high to retain him. And with McNelly unable to be in the field regularly the...

read more

Chapter 6: Facing the Man Killer

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 47-62

Although Hall knew he had good men under his command, men capable of tracking and arresting dangerous fugitives as well as handling themselves capably in a gunfight, he also realized that an accidental gunshot might take them out of action at any time. This is what happened to not only one of his men but two—Sgt. Oliver S. Watson and John B. Armstrong. The details are scant. The first official report comes in the form of a telegram...

read more

Chapter 7: Action in Round Rock

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 63-72

There is considerable question over the matter of the reward for John Wesley Hardin and how it was distributed. The state offered $4,000 for the desperado’s delivery to the Travis County jail. Who actually received the reward or even whether the entire amount was paid is not known. Jack Duncan, in discussing his career with a Dallas newspaper reporter years later, listed some twenty-one fugitives he had captured, naming Hardin first. He stated that he had...

read more

Chapter 8: Pioneer Ranchman

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 73-82

Armstrong officially retired from the Texas Ranger service on December 30, 1878, receiving $133 for his final payment for his service with Hall’s Special State Troops. He had memories of his time as a Travis Rifleman with bayonets flashing on Congress Avenue while protecting newly elected governor Richard Coke, the gun battles with bandits, recovering stolen cattle and horses, the excitement of the chase, and the capture or killing of wanted fugitives. The...

read more

Chapter 9: Rancher Amid the Rails

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 83-99

On April 3 , 1888, John B. Armstrong mustered in as a private with the Brownsville Rifles and was promoted to the rank of major and division quartermaster on January 2, 1893. Eight days later he was promoted to the rank of major and assistant inspector general. From May 1, 1895, to July 13, 1900, Armstrong was lieutenant colonel and assistant chief of ordnance, but he always preferred to be called Major Armstrong. During the Spanish-American War...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 101-103

John Barkley Armstrong served the Texas Rangers from 1875 through 1878, during what many would consider the classic frontier period of that organization. This was a time when the Rangers were able finally to set aside what had been their primary concern, the Indian problem, and concentrate on the outlawry which was increasing with rapid growth of the state’s population. Though it would be fifty years before the name would become official, the...

Appendix A

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 105-108

Appendix B

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 109-110

Appendix C

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 111-112

Appendix D

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. 113

Appendix E

pdf iconDownload PDF
p. 114


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 115-134

Selected Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 135-139


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 141-150

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444965
E-ISBN-10: 1603444963
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445530
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445533

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 26 b&w photos. 1 map.
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Canseco-Keck History Series
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 649860788
MUSE Marc Record: Download for John B. Armstrong, Texas Ranger and Pioneer Ranchman

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Crime -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • Outlaws -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • Texas -- History -- 1846-1950.
  • Texas -- Biography.
  • Armstrong, John B., 1850-1913.
  • Pioneers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Ranchers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas.
  • Ranch life -- Texas -- History.
  • Texas Rangers -- Biography.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access