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Riding Lucifer's Line

Ranger Deaths along the Texas-Mexico Border

Bob Alexander

Publication Year: 2013

The Texas-Mexico border is trouble. Haphazardly splashing across the meandering Rio Grande into Mexico is—or at least can be—risky business, hazardous to one’s health and well-being. Kirby W. Dendy, the Chief of Texas Rangers, corroborates the sobering reality: “As their predecessors for over one hundred forty years before them did, today’s Texas Rangers continue to battle violence and transnational criminals along the Texas-Mexico border.” In Riding Lucifer’s Line, Bob Alexander, in his characteristic storytelling style, surveys the personal tragedies of twenty-five Texas Rangers who made the ultimate sacrifice as they scouted and enforced laws throughout borderland counties adjacent to the Rio Grande. The timeframe commences in 1874 with formation of the Frontier Battalion, which is when the Texas Rangers were actually institutionalized as a law enforcing entity, and concludes with the last known Texas Ranger death along the border in 1921. Alexander also discusses the transition of the Rangers in two introductory sections: “The Frontier Battalion Era, 1874-1901” and “The Ranger Force Era, 1901-1935,” wherein he follows Texas Rangers moving from an epochal narrative of the Old West to more modern, technological times. Written absent a preprogrammed agenda, Riding Lucifer’s Line is legitimate history. Adhering to facts, the author is not hesitant to challenge and shatter stale Texas Ranger mythology. Likewise, Alexander confronts head-on many of those critical Texas Ranger histories relying on innuendo and gossip and anecdotal accounts, at the expense of sustainable evidence—writings often plagued with a deficiency of rational thinking and common sense. Riding Lucifer’s Line is illustrated with sixty remarkable old-time photographs. Relying heavily on archived Texas Ranger documents, the lively text is authenticated with more than one thousand comprehensive endnotes.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Frances B. Vick Series


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

Across three centuries now the history of Texas Rangers has been interwoven with the history of the U.S.-Mexican Border. The Border is a convention, a state of mind, not an unalterable physical reality, but a line on the map that affects people’s lives at many levels and in many ways. ...

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Preface & Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xxvi

The Texas-Mexico border is trouble. Like a Black Widow seductress the borderland is at the same time alluring, deceitful—and heartless. Haphazardly splashing across the meandering Rio Grande into Mexico is—or at least can be—risky business, hazardous to one’s health and well-being. ...

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Introduction to Part I - The Frontier Battalion Era, 1874–1901

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pp. 1-14

Setting the chronological and geographical stage seems but obligatory before tackling the challenge of recounting true-life Texas Ranger stories within an anthology. By and large it is acknowledged that birth of the Texas Rangers—as a legit law enforcement agency—can be traced to 1874 ...

Part I - Photo Gallery Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum

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pp. 15-37

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Chapter 1. Sonny Smith, 1875

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pp. 38-51

Sonny Smith’s death earned him distinction. It was not a highly sought-for spot in the Lone Star State’s overall history, but nevertheless a unique spot. The seventeen-year-old Ranger was the youngest Texas peace officer to forfeit his life in the line of duty—by gunfire.1 ...

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Chapter 2. John E. McBride and Conrad E. Mortimer,1877

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pp. 52-68

The earthly life of Texas Ranger Sonny Smith had been snuffed out near one end of Lucifer’s Line. For this narrative the geographical setting moves upstream to an arena just as wild and woolly, but much farther removed from the Texas seat of government. ...

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Chapter 3. Samuel “Sam” Frazier, 1878

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pp. 69-80

Twenty-four-year-old Sam Frazier, a North Carolinian from Randolph County by birth, was one of those privates in John B. Tays’ detachment of Texas Rangers, having enlisted on November 21, 1877. Swearing his oath at San Elizario, Frazier tendered his horse for the required neutral appraisal. ...

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Chapter 4. George R. “Red” Bingham, 1880

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pp. 81-90

Bad news would break from the border country. Reverberations scorched across Texas in a heartbeat, well, in the pulsations of a telegrapher’s fast-tapping finger. Outlaws were on the loose in far West Texas. And, they were a nasty set indeed. ...

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Chapter 5. Frank Sieker, 1885

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pp. 91-100

For genealogical lineage few families come near matching the contributions to Texas Ranger history as do the Siekers. Four of Dr. Edward Armon Sieker’s sons would—at one time or another—enlist in the Frontier Battalion’s memorable Company D, a frontline unit with more than its fair share of ultimate sacrifices. ...

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Chapter 6. Charles H. V. Fusselman, 1890

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pp. 101-110

John Wayne and Jeff Bridges playing the part of Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn undeniably owned a plateful of true grit—on the Silver Screen. For a catchy stage moniker the subject of this six-shooter vignette may have very well been outnamed, but not outgunned. ...

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Chapter 7. John F. Gravis, 1890

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pp. 111-118

Downstream from its flow through gigantic Presidio County the Rio Grande makes its most prominent dip—the big bend—in the extreme southern section of Brewster County. Both counties mutually share geographical designation: The Big Bend Country. The seat of government for Presidio County is Marfa, sixty miles due north from the river.1 ...

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Chapter 8. Robert E. Doaty, 1892

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pp. 119-126

Coincidence is astonishing on the one hand, perplexing on the other. At this late date with names already hand-carved into marble markers memorializing fallen peace officers, this rundown will accept written tradition and use the name Doaty as it appears in certain Texas Ranger records, though his real birth name was Robert E. Doughty.1 ...

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Chapter 9. Frank Jones, 1893

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pp. 127-138

The maelstrom of calls to establish a Texas Ranger presence in El Paso County was mounting as the third year of the 1890s opened. Sitting members of the El Paso County grand jury had submitted their petition to the governor on the last day of January requesting protection from “the depredations of criminal characters who flit across the frontier.”1 ...

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Chapter 10. Joseph McKidrict, 1894

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pp. 139-145

New Year’s Day of 1894 opened with an ear-splitting bang for some Company D Rangers stationed in West Texas. Handling firearms, an everyday task for career lawmen, is best carried out with due caution. Private Alonzo “Lon” Van Oden carelessly mishandled his Colt’s six-shooter that first day of January. ...

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Chapter 11. Ernest St. Leon, 1898

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pp. 146-154

Looks can be deceiving. In police work it is smart not to be fooled by appearance; the wolf may be wearing a sheep’s clothing. Harmlessness or dangerousness cannot be accurately registered with a glance. Baby-faced Ernest St. Leon is paradigm. ...

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Introduction to Part II - The Ranger Force Era, 1901–1935

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pp. 155-165

From time to time citing random facts can prove thought-provoking. Markedly, such is the case within the framework of Riding Lucifer’s Line. As noted in closing the preceding chapter, Ernest “Diamond Dick” St. Leon was the last nineteenth-century Texas Ranger killed in action. ...

Part II - Photo Gallery Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum

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pp. 166-198

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Chapter 12. W. Emmett Robuck, 1902

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pp. 199-209

Emmett Robuck’s family tree was fashioned from sturdy oak. Service in the Confederacy had claimed the life of his paternal grandfather. Emmett’s father Elias A. “Berry” Robuck was a first-rate stockman, having early on gathered and trailed cattle into the faraway Rocky Mountain country while but a lad of sixteen years. ...

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Chapter 13. Thomas Jefferson Goff, 1905

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pp. 210-218

Although he would become a genuine Lone Star State cowboy, Thomas Jefferson “Tom” Goff could not lay claim to Texas as his birthplace. Tom Goff came into the world at Keetsville, Barry County, Missouri. Keetsville no longer registers on the roadmap. ...

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Chapter 14. Quirl Bailey Carnes, 1910

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pp. 219-227

Texas history of the family Carnes can be written in blood. Their epic story of Lone Star adventures is punctuated with bullets. The oldest of three law-enforcing brothers, Alfred Burton Carnes, held twenty-year tenure as the elected sheriff in Wilson County, southeastern neighbor of the Alamo City in Bexar County.1 ...

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Chapter 15. Grover Scott Russell, 1913

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pp. 228-236

Seesawing back to the other end of the Texas/Mexican border is where another sad story will in due course play out. Stephenville, Erath County, Texas, was the birthplace of Grover Scott Russell, popularly known as Scott, but he would earn Ranger pay in faraway West Texas, primarily scouting along Lucifer’s Line in El Paso County. ...

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Chapter 16. Eugene B. Hulen, 1915

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pp. 237-245

The native Texan warranting a spot in this coverage of bloodshed along the Rio Grande was product of a border county—just not a Mexican border county. Eugene B. Hulen had been born in Cooke County (Gainesville) adjacent to the Red River, the dividing line separating Texas and Oklahoma. ...

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Chapter 17. Robert Lee Burdett, 1915

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pp. 246-253

Hardly had two weeks passed since the murders of Ranger Hulen and Inspector Sitter when more appalling news would break along the river. And it, too, would bear sad tidings for the Texas Rangers of Company B, the unit captained by James Monroe Fox headquartered at Marfa. ...

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Chapter 18. William P. Stillwell, 1918

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pp. 254-266

More so than any other, 1918 would prove to be the deadliest year for Rangers scouting the Texas-Mexico border. Adhering to the earlier pledge that this volume would focus on Rangers dying with their boots on, there will not be chapter-length digressions focusing on three who passed plagued with coughs, fever, wheezing, ...

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Chapter 19. Joe Robert Shaw, 1918

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pp. 267-275

The day after Independence Day 1918 twenty-eight-year-old Joe Robert Shaw laid aside his leggings and catch-rope, intent on shifting career gears from cowboy to cop: A Texas Ranger. What his wife thought about the switch would be but guesswork, but there’s little doubt she, as the mother of two, vacillated between pride and apprehension. ...

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Chapter 20. Lenn T. Sadler, 1918

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pp. 276-283

Another Company G Ranger serving in the Lower Rio Grande Valley commanded by Captain Charles F. Stevens was Lenard Tillman “Lenn” Sadler, geographical product of Pearsall, Frio County, Texas and genealogical issue of James Kaine Sadler and his wife Mary.1 ...

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Chapter 21. Delbert “Tim” Timberlake, 1918

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pp. 284-291

Wilson County, as has been noted, produced more than her fair share of Texas Rangers. Edgar Timberlake was one. Delbert “Tim” Timberlake, Edgar’s younger brother, was another. Born on the twelfth day of September 1884 Tim Timberlake aspired to the life of a South Texas cowboy. ...

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Chapter 22. T. E. Paul Perkins, 1918

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pp. 292-298

Jessie and Nannie Perkins were the proud parents of two sons: James Clark, the youngest, and T. E. Paul, more affectionately known as Ellzey. The boys could claim status as native Texans, born not along the international border but in Milam County, not too terribly far south of Waco in Central Texas. ...

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Chapter 23. William M. Alsobrook, 1919

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pp. 299-307

Historically tracking outlaws commonly opens wide the doorways to unanswered questions. Poking around in Ranger files pertaining to William M. Alsobrook likewise conjures up more room for query than it does backstopping clear-cut resolution. ...

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Chapter 24. Joseph B. Buchanan, 1921

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pp. 308-313

Joseph Benjamin Buchanan was a Bosque County boy of sorts, tracing his earliest roots to the tiny community of Iredell, northwest of the county seat at Meridian, Texas.1 His parents and several older siblings had made the migration from Virginia to Central Texas traveling first by train, then with two wagons and a buggy. ...

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pp. 314-315

Fortunately, in a bizarre fashion, the killing of Joe Ben Buchanan was—at least to date—the last Texas Ranger death on the line. Regrettably, murdering lawmen up and down the Texas-Mexico border continues to this day. Why is such a statistic so heavily weighted against the Texas Rangers for years, and then radically tapers off? ...


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pp. 316-378


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pp. 379-393


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pp. 394-404

E-ISBN-13: 9781574415131
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574414998

Page Count: 464
Illustrations: 60 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Frances B. Vick Series

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Texas Rangers -- History -- 19th century.
  • Texas Rangers -- History -- 20th century.
  • Texas Rangers -- Biography.
  • Peace officers -- Mortality -- Mexican-American Border Region.
  • Law enforcement -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 19th century.
  • Law enforcement -- Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 20th century.
  • Texas -- History -- 1846-1950.
  • Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 19th century.
  • Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 20th century.
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