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Captain John R. Hughes

Lone Star Ranger

Chuck Parsons

Publication Year: 2011

Captain John R. Hughes, Lone Star Ranger is the first full and complete modern biography of a man who served as a Texas Ranger from 1887 until early 1915. He came to the attention of the Rangers after doggedly trailing horse thieves for nearly a year and recovering his stolen stock. After helping Ranger Ira Aten track down another fugitive from justice, Hughes then joined Company D of the Texas Rangers on Aten’s recommendation, intending to stay for only a few months; he remained in the service for nearly thirty years. When Sgt. Charles Fusselman was killed by bandits, Hughes took his place. When Captain Frank Jones was killed by bandits in 1893, Hughes was named captain of Company D. As captain, Hughes and his men searched the border and identified every bandit involved in the killing of Jones. They all received justice. Toward the end of his career Hughes became a senior captain based in Austin, and in 1915, having served as a captain and ranger longer than any other man, he retired from the force. His later years were happy ones, with traveling and visiting friends and relatives. He became a Texas icon and national celebrity, receiving more awards and honors than any other Texas Ranger, before or since. Due to Chuck Parsons’s extensive research, we now know more about Hughes than ever before. This biography of one of the “Four Great Captains” sheds light on his life prior to becoming a Texas Ranger and on his love interest, though he never married. From joining Company D in 1887 until retirement, Hughes served the state honestly and proudly, earning the respect of all he met. Zane Grey dedicated his most popular novel, The Lone Star Ranger, to Hughes and his Rangers.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Frances B. Vick Series


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pp. vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The author of this fine biography, Chuck Parsons, is a friend of more than thirty years' standing. I first came to know him back in the '70s through our mutual interest in the fascinating characters populating the history of the Wild West. He came by this interest naturally, having been raised in Minnesota near Northfield, where in 1876 the James-Younger gang met disaster in an attempted bank robbery, ...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xxii

The light of the moon shone as brothers Will and Alvin Odle worked their herd of stolen horses towards the eastern side of Bullhead Mountain. They were eager to meet the rancher who would buy good horseflesh, no questions asked. The Odles had to be cautious, naturally, as experience had taught them never to relax their guard completely. At any moment, someone might challenge them, demanding to know why they were driving horses so close to midnight...

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1. A Terror to all the Bad Men

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pp. 1-23

If Texas Ranger John R. Hughes had been a boastful man, he could have prided himself on his ancestral background. His grandfather, Ezekiel Hughes, a native of Montgomeryshire, Wales, came to America to avoid religious persecution. Ezekiel settled in the Miami River area in Hamilton County, Ohio, on land that was known at the time as the Northwest Territory. Looking westward Ezekiel Hughes could see Indiana; southward Kentucky. He purchased the first land...

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2. ''Hold up, Wesley!''

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pp. 24-46

By 1884 the future looked bright indeed for John W. Braeutigam, a popular and respected businessman residing near Fredericksburg, Texas. He had, years before, chosen to leave his native Saxony and had brought his wife Christine to the ''new world,'' where he became a successful businessman. After more than three decades he could look with pride on his family - a wife and eight children - besides his successful business. It was on the former United States army post...

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3. Challenging the Odles

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pp. 47-61

Ranging during the early months of 1889 was relatively quiet, as no significant action took place on the part of Hughes according to the monthly returns until April. While scouting in the Edwards County area he made several arrests, probably considered inconsequential, although of course one never knew when an arrest could turn deadly. On February 16 he and Pvt. Charles B. Barton1 arrested Dave Sweeten, charged with theft of cattle. On the next day Sergeant Aten...

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4. Another Ranger Killed

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pp. 62-75

For the Rangers of Company D, or any other company of the Frontier Battalion, boredom sat in on occasion; at times matters of seemingly little consequence had to be dealt with. One such incident had originated with Fusselman, and now that he was dead the matter fell into Hughes's hands: what to do with a ''locoed'' mule? Back in late February, Sergeant Fusselman had informed Quartermaster Sieker that one of the mules, property of the State of Texas, was ''locoed''...

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5. Battling the Olguins

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pp. 76-89

During late 1892 and the early months of 1893, Hughes daily scouted after fugitives and frequently arrested wanted men. Charges against these men included simple theft of miscellaneous goods; obtaining money under false pretensions; theft of a horse; aggravated assault; assault and battery; and theft of a saddle or theft of a horse and saddle. He probably considered much of the work routine. His scouts were of course not always successful. ...

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6. Scouting on Pirate Island

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pp. 90-123

Adjutant General Mabry as well as Governor Hogg now faced the decision of who would be the best man to replace the dead captain. State Senator John M. Dean telegraphed the governor recommending Hughes, ''next in line of promotion please appoint him Captain.''1 El Paso's mayor, W. H. Austin, even though out of town on a visit to McMinnville, Tennessee, quickly learned of the sad news. He telegraphed the governor that he ''earnestly'' endorsed Hughes.2 Acting Mayor James P. Badger agreed, stating simply that Hughes ''is...

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7. Spectators on the Rio Grande

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pp. 124-149

In the nineteenth century, bare-knuckle fighting was among the most popular ''sports'' in the country, although in most states it was illegal. To those who favored the contests, boxing was the prime example of American manliness; to those who opposed boxing, it was no different from Emperor Nero throwing early Christians to the lions, a simple act of barbarity. The bare-knuckle contests ended with the implementation of the Marquis of Queensberry rules, requiring fighters to wear gloves and giving them to the count of ten to recover if knocked down. Sporting man...

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8. The Hardest Man to Catch

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pp. 150-166

Hughes entered his tenth year as a Ranger in 1897, rising from private to captain in ten dangerous but exciting years. His work had dealt with such various activities as following the tracks of sheep thieves, enforcing a quarantine line, trailing fence cutters, and challenging desperadoes to surrender, only to be met with gunfire. Although occasionally under fire, as yet he had not been wounded. Hughes as well as any of his men faced the possibility of sudden...

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9. From Ysleta to Alice

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pp. 167-194

Historically, the days of the horseback Ranger ended during the early years of the twentieth century. The men of Company D continued to pursue lawbreakers on horseback, but now with the use of the railroad the time spent getting from one point to another was greatly reduced. Nevertheless, intrigues along the Rio Grande became an even greater reality than the changes in how to get from one place to another. Revolutions and talk of revolutions as well as the threat of...

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10. From East Texas to the Texas Panhandle

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pp. 195-215

An urgent call for help from Wood County began the new year of 1906. Sheriff William J. Ray1 had brought an accused murderer to the jail at county seat Quitman, a small community located in far east Texas. He had been held in the Dallas County jail while preparations were made for his trial. The sheriff feared a lynch mob would storm the jail; he understood completely what the mob would do once his prisoner was in its hands. Captain Hughes with three...

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11. A Ranger in the Panhandle

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pp. 216-235

...Thus, he assured the Panhandle reporter, ''there will be no reputation plays, either by myself or my men. . . . Amarillo, so far as I am able to determine from the limited acquaintance with the city, is quiet and peaceable, with a promise for unbroken record of the same character.'' Hughes continued with his praise of the region as well as informing the reading public of his background. He pointed out that this was the first time he had been stationed away from the Rio Grande region, with the exception of the relatively brief stay in Austin. He noted...

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12. Capt. John R. Hughes - Lone Star Ranger

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pp. 236-274

With such frequent visits to Brownsville, some 800 miles down the river from El Paso, at times Hughes must have considered other opportunities to earn his livelihood. He had been in the dangerous work of being a Ranger since 1887, and was now nearing the age of sixty in 1914. The position of county sheriff attracted him. In June Cameron County voters were excited about the possibility of who would become sheriff if former Ranger Carl T. Ryan, the incumbent, chose not to run. Ryan had served five years under Capt. W. J. ''Bill'' McDonald...

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13. Texas State Cemetery

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pp. 275-289

Among the first, if not the first, to review Martin's Border Boss was noted Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie. He provided a lengthy review for the Houston Post, certainly one of the highest circulating newspapers of the state in 1942. Dobie's review linked the Rangers with the men fighting in World War II: ''Texas Rangers Operated on Lines Now Used by Commandos'' the headline read. Hughes, in smaller type, is described as ''One of the Best.'' Dobie's review actually summarizes Hughes's life as told in Border Boss, again pointing out how the...

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14. The Great Captains

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pp. 290-297

In the history of the Texas Rangers there were many captains; the names of Jack Hays, Samuel Walker, Ben McCulloch, Rip Ford, Sul Ross, John B. Jones, and L. H. McNelly deserve the title of great as much perhaps as Brooks, Hughes, McDonald, and Rogers.1 Of those featured in chapters in the 1996 Rangers of Texas, all were deceased prior to the ''great captains'' beginning their careers. They were Rangers during the heyday of the horseback Ranger while the careers of the four ''great captains'' transitioned from the horseback...


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pp. 299-369

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 371-380


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pp. 381-400

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413540
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574413045

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 50 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Frances B. Vick Series

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Subject Headings

  • Hughes, John R. (John Reynolds), 1855-1947.
  • Texas Rangers -- Biography.
  • Texas -- History -- 1846-1950.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas.
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