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Captain John H. Rogers, Texas Ranger

Paul N. Spellman

Publication Year: 2003

John Harris Rogers (1863-1930) served in Texas law enforcement for more than four decades, as a Texas Ranger, Deputy and U.S. Marshal, city police chief, and in the private sector as a security agent. He is recognized in history as one of the legendary “Four Captains” of the Ranger force that helped make the transition from the Frontier Battalion days into the twentieth century, yet no one has fully researched and written about his life. Paul N. Spellman now presents the first full-length biography of this enigmatic man. During his years as a Ranger, Rogers observed and participated in the civilizing of West Texas. As the railroads moved out in the 1880s, towns grew up too quickly, lawlessness was the rule, and the Rangers were soon called in to establish order. Rogers was nearly always there. Likewise he participated in some of the most dramatic and significant events during the closing years of the Frontier Battalion: the Brown County fence cutting wars; the East Texas Conner Fight; the El Paso/Langtry Prizefight; the riots during the Laredo Quarantine; and the hunts for Hill Loftis and Gregorio Cortez. Rogers was the lawman who captured Cortez to close out one of the most infamous chases in Texas history. Unlike the more gregarious Bill McDonald, Captain Rogers had a quiet manner that kept him from the public limelight; nevertheless, he, John Brooks, and John Hughes shared the same experiences as McDonald during the almost two decades they led the Ranger companies. Unique to Rogers’ career was his devout Christian faith that was on display on almost all occasions. Rogers was wont to use the Bible as often as his six-gun, both with dramatic effect. That and his constant devotion to his family set him apart from the usual lawmen of that era. He was a man of the law and a man of God, a rare combination at the turn of the century.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Frances B. Vick Series

Captain John H. Rogers, Texas Ranger

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Table of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-viii

Because the bulk of the materials for this biography of John Harris Rogers came from the official records and files of the Texas Rangers, most of my work was done at the Texas State Library Archives in Austin. My sincere thanks to Donaly Brice and his staff for the hours of work they put in to assist me. This also includes the staff in the Genealogical Room and in...

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pp. ix-xvii

John Harris Rogers stood motionless at the window of his new office, his hands clasped behind his back, his head bowed. He opened his eyes when a twinge of pain in his right shoulder interrupted his silent prayer. He turned and walked around to the large chair that sat behind his desk. A blank piece of paper still lay on the desktop, a pen resting beside it. Rogers finally sat down, picked up the pen and began...

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CHAPTER 1: The Guadalupe Homestead

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pp. 1-15

ISAAC SAMUEL ROGERS STOOD STRAIGHT and tall at the center of the small Bolivar Courthouse assembly room. He pulled at his tight starched collar, the twenty-one-year-old Tennessee farmer uncomfortable in suit and tie on this cold March evening. But the occasion of his wedding kept him resolute, somber, uncomplaining. To his left...

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CHAPTER 2: Colorado City Ranger

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pp. 16-31

JOHN ROGERS STARED DOWN INTO the dark Guadalupe County soil, holding his hand where the rattler had just sunk its fangs. Working the field clearing rocks, he never saw the coiled snake until it struck. Now as it slunk away the teenager kicked a chunk of dirt in its general direction, turned and strode calmly but briskly back to the...

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CHAPTER 3: The Fence Cutter Wars

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pp. 32-44

ON A COLD DECEMBER MORNING in 1885, Private John Harris Rogers stood in the middle of Doan’s Store; not a building, but a town, of sorts, situated only several thousand yards west of where the Red River turned suddenly south on its wayward journey down from the high plains. Doan’s Springs were just to the north, as was Doan’s...

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CHAPTER 4: The Conner Fight

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pp. 45-58

CAPTAIN SCOTT AND COMPANY F arrived at the camp near Hemphill where they had been the previous autumn. It was the last week of March and a meeting with the local authorities convinced the Rangers that the Conners were on a rampage, intimidating the locals then recoiling back into the safety of the dense forest and bayou...

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CHAPTER 5: Captain of the Rangers

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pp. 59-73

ON MARCH 3, 1888, WORD CAME to the Ranger camp near San Angelo that horses had been stolen up the river and the thieves identified as Bill Neil and Bill Davis. Private Rogers took half the company and headed northwest, picking up the thieves’ trail between the Concho and Colorado valleys until they crossed into Mitchell County...

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CHAPTER 6: The El Paso Prizefight

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pp. 74-89

CAPTAIN ROGERS SURVEYED THE RANGER camp with a jaundiced eye at the pitiful supplies that lay in front of him. He made several notes that he would later record in his first monthly file as a Ranger commander. “Thirteen men,” he wrote in the upper right hand corner of the oversized page, “twelve horses, four mules, and...

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CHAPTER 7: The Streets of Laredo

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pp. 90-105

AS CAPTAIN ROGERS STARED DOWN at the infant boy, he marveled at the wonder of new birth and beamed as a proud father. It was January 5, the beginning of the new year 1898, a wonderful beginning at that. His and Hattie’s second son was healthy, even though born on this cold wintry day in the Rangers camp home outside of...

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CHAPTER 8: Getting Gregorio

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pp. 106-119

NEARING HIS SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY, ALEXANDER Gilmer stood with his hands on his hips, fists clenching, as he watched the fire consume his sawmill. The Irish born shipbuilder turned Texas lumber magnate stared in anger and disbelief at this, the fourth time his Orange County-based mill had gone up in flames. The other three...

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CHAPTER 9: Hill Loftis and the Sand Dunes Shootout

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pp. 120-132

JOHN ROGERS SAT IN A stiff-backed wooden chair next to the hospital bed, his head buried in his hands as he prayed. Santa Rosa Hospital, where John had recovered from his Laredo wounds, was sweltering in the desert heat of this July day, and no breeze stirred outside. Hattie stood nearby leaning against the bare wall, wiping tears quietly from...

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CHAPTER 10: “The Lord Giveth; the Lord Taketh Away”

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pp. 133-146

ON AN OCTOBER AFTERNOON IN 1905 a young cowboy sat alone in the main house of the Carr Ranch out near Fort Stockton. His boss was away in El Paso on business and the trustworthy young man had been left nominally in charge while he was away. A telephone sat on the desk nearby and the young man picked up to listen casually, not...

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CHAPTER 11: End of This Trail

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pp. 147-159

But it had not been easy. Company C found that it could hardly get out of east Texas for the trouble that continued to start up there, more and more of it racially motivated. Just a few weeks after the incident in Nacogdoches, Rogers reported that he and members of his company had tracked three men “who were hunting Negroes”...

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CHAPTER 12: Deputy U. S. Marshal

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pp. 160-173

This February 21, 1911, directive from the U. S. attorney general’s office instructed the marshals along the Texas-Mexican border to be proactive in their watch over the escalating border troubles. It granted them broader powers than they had before, but still the protection of the 2,000-mile line was nearly impossible. Even with the addition of...

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CHAPTER 13: U. S. Marshal, Western District

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pp. 174-187

In 1913 the Western District of Texas encompassed a massive amount of land—over 115,000 square miles in a narrow rectangle—and was divided into six subdistricts: Waco as the headquarters, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Del Rio, and the new Pecos office added on February 5. As one of his first duties in office Marshal John H. Rogers...

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CHAPTER 14: The Canales Investigation

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pp. 188-200

In 1917 Frank Cushman Pierce published a book entitled A History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In its closing chapter he catalogued fifty-two incidents of violence in the Valley in a forty-six week period in 1916. There were nearly the same number recorded again in 1917 and once more the following year. These incidents were far and above...

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CHAPTER 15: Chief of Police

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pp. 201-214

Anxious to activate the Constitutional amendment before its scheduled January, 1920 date, Congress passed the Volstead, or National Prohibition, Act on October 28, 1919, prohibiting the sale of intoxicating beverages over the 0.5 percent of alcohol level, and “regulat[ing] the manufacture, production, use and sale of high-proof...

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CHAPTER 16: End of the Trail

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pp. 215-224

AS HE APPROACHED THE HOUSE walking along Twelfth Street, Captain Rogers bundled his heavy coat around him a bit tighter, his tall white hat pulled down over his brow. The north wind was blustery that day, whistling down the hill as he reached the intersection and crossed to the front steps of his house. But that was not entirely the...

The Ranger’s Prayer

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pp. 225


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pp. 227-243


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pp. 245-251


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pp. 253-270

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414257
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411591

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 18 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Frances B. Vick Series