Yours to Command
The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of North Texas Press
Series: Frances B. Vick Series
Illustration and Maps
The historiographical map of the operations of the Texas Rangers is covered with accounts that either chronicle dates and events or narrate the adventures of intrepid Rangers. A dominating theme in these works has been the image and reality of a Ranger as a citizen Ranger and military careers of John S. “Rip” Ford, John C. “Jack”...
Part 1. Emergence of a Ranger Captain
Chapter 1. Bill McDonald, the Historical Record, and the Popular Mind
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...
Romanticizing McDonald and the Rangers: A Pictorial Essay
Chapter 2. The Making of a Texas Lawman
To grasp the inner workings of the world of Texas Ranger Captain Bill McDonald, one must move in a westerly direction across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World and a place called Texas. Since ancient times humans have sailed westward and marched inland to ﬁnd fame and fortune and build an orderly society under God.2 This restless force in the cultures of Europe and America—that migrating ...
Chapter 3. Captain Bill and Company B in the Panhandle
Bill McDonald led an active personal as well as professional life. As a rancher and a victim of crime, he showed resiliency and a dogged determination. At one point a newspaper reported, “Captain W. J.McDonald, farmer, Capt. State Rangers, was touched by a pick-pocket, who obtained $50 cash and $300 diamond pin.”2 In addition, like many ranchers, he could do little about his cattle being ...
Chapter 4. A Gunfight Between Two Guardians of the Law
In his investigation of criminal activities in the ﬁrst half of the 1890s in the Texas Panhandle, Captain McDonald took part in a bloody gun battle. No outlaw ambushed him in cowardly fashion. No desperado had the nerve to face him in a fast-draw gunﬁght. Instead, McDonald found himself in the streets of Quanah in December1893 shooting it out with a county sheriff. When the gunﬁre ended, ...
Chapter 5. Proceed to El Paso: The Rangers and Prizefighting
Unlike the legendary “one-Ranger-one-riot” story, Captain McDonald did not come alone to El Paso to stop a prizeﬁght in February 1896. The Rangers came en masse. The chief executive o fthe state of Texas gave the order. In the midst of the dispute about holding the prizeﬁght, Governor Culberson summed up his feelings of opposition to such an event in a succinct message to Adjutant General Mabry: “I will see it through.” 2 ...
Chapter 6. A Bank Robbery in Wichita Falls
This self-analysis of his conduct shows that Captain Bill wrestled with his conscience in explaining his actions as a peace ofﬁcer. McDonald’s soul-searching experience occurred after a manhunt following a bank robbery in Wichita Falls at the start of 1896. This criminal act suited more the talents of the Ranger captain than his involvement in the controversial prizeﬁght in El Paso. Yet his ...
The Rangers, Company B, and Captain McDonald in the Field: A Pictorial Essay
Part Two. Waning Days of the Frontier Battalion
Chapter 7. San Saba Mob: A Murder Society
As the decade of the 1890s came to a close, McDonald and Company B became involved in more complex criminal cases than in previous years. His attention was directed to the age-old phenomenon of feuding in Texas. He also strove to solve heinous murders by secretive mobs and unsuspecting parties who preyed upon their fellow Texans. Increasingly Captain Bill and the Panhandle Rangers ...
Chapter 8. Reese–Townsend Feud at Columbus
This report by the adjutant general added to McDonald’s growing reputation as a two-gun crusading knight. Yet Captain Bill was only one of a number of Rangers who became involved in the affair over a period of time. Columbus is situated in the south central part of the state in Colorado County. Settled by pioneers from Stephen Austin’s colony in the 1820s, the town began as a ferry site, took part in the Texas ...
Chapter 9. Humphries Case: An East Texas Lynching
While the Reese-Townsend feud went through its violent stages, a tragedy occurred in May 1899 in East Texas. Here, in a timbered bottom between two bodies of water known as the Trans-Cedar country in Henderson County, a lynching took place. This murder case became noteworthy for three reasons: (l) the unprecedented gathering of a large number of local and state law ofﬁcers; (2) the involvement ...
Chapter 10. Finale of the Frontier Battalion
The troubles at Orange, Texas, where Fuller went down, led to the demise of the Frontier Battalion at the turn of the twentieth century. During the last half of the 1890s, the lifestyles of the members of the Frontier Battalion remained similar to the existence of those who served in the early Rangers. They still wore nondescript clothes, rode horses, carried revolvers, rifles, and shotguns, and ...
Map. East Texas
Map. Counties of the Panhandle
Map. Central Texas
Map. Southeast Texas
Map. Far East Texas
Map. Texas Border
Part Three. An Aging Lawman: Highs and Lows
Chapter 11. Forming a New Ranger Force
In many respects the new Ranger service that emerged in 1901 was similar to the organization, manpower, and duties of the Frontier Battalion. The “Four Great Captains” continued to lead the small companies in the ﬁeld. McDonald, in addition to his investigative work, still managed Company B, wrote reports, informed his superiors about company personnel, and was away from his wife and ...
Chapter 12. Conditt Murder Case: A Study in Detection
Near the end of his sixteen-year career as a Ranger captain, McDonald faced a multiple murder case that would test his investigative skills. A white man, Joseph Fagan Conditt, his wife, Lora, and their ﬁve children, rented a farm in a mixed neighborhood of whites and blacks near Edna in Jackson County. In the morning hours on September 28, 1905, while the father was working land a ...
Chapter 13. Brownsville Affair: A Muddled Incident
This newspaper headline summarized the trouble between Bill McDonald and the United States Army, during the aftermath of the raid on Brownsville, Texas, by “unknown parties” in the middle of the night on August 13, 1906.2 In the “Brownsville Affray,” so-called in ofﬁcial documents, the raiders within a few minutes riddled buildings with bullets, killed one individual, and wounded two others. Soon after the raid ...
Chapter 14. Rio Grande City: The Last Stand
Such sentiments, coming from people in southern Texas in the aftermath of the raid on Brownsville, revived McDonald’s spirits.“The mere presence of a Ranger in a vicinity,” one person noted in his message to the adjutant general, “causes quiet among the law breakers.” 2...
Chapter 15. The End Comes: State Revenue Agent and Other Roles
Age, ill-health, weariness, and grief induced Captain Bill to leave the Ranger service early in 1907 and accept another position in state government. He became an energetic and controversial state revenue agent. In time, his desire to be a lawman would again be fulfilled, when he served as a bodyguard to Woodrow Wilson in the presidential election of 1912 and as a federal marshal in the Southwest for a ...