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Bad Company and Burnt Powder

Justice and Injustice in the Old Southwest

Bob Alexander

Bad Company and Burnt Powder is a collection of twelve stories of when things turned "Western" in the nineteenth-century Southwest. Each chapter deals with a different character or episode in the Wild West involving various lawmen, Texas Rangers, outlaws, feudists, vigilantes, lawyers, and judges. Covered herein are the stories of Cal Aten, John Hittson, the Millican boys, Gid Taylor and Jim and Tom Murphy, Alf Rushing, Bob Meldrum and Noah Wilkerson, P. C. Baird, Gus Chenowth, Jim Dunaway, John Kinney, Elbert Hanks and Boyd White, and Eddie Aten. Within these pages the reader will meet a nineteen-year-old Texas Ranger figuratively dying to shoot his gun. He does get to shoot at people, but soon realizes what he thought was a bargain exacted a steep price. Another tale is of an old-school cowman who shut down illicit traffic in stolen livestock that had existed for years on the Llano Estacado. He was tough, salty, and had no quarter for cow-thieves or sympathy for any mealy-mouthed politicians. He cleaned house, maybe not too nicely, but unarguably successful he was. Then there is the tale of an accomplished and unbeaten fugitive, well known and identified for murder of a Texas peace officer. But the Texas Rangers couldn't find him. County sheriffs wouldn't hold him. Slipping away from bounty hunters, he hit Owlhoot Trail.

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Captain J. A. Brooks, Texas Ranger

Paul N. Spellman

James Abijah Brooks (1855-1944) was one of the four Great Captains in Texas Ranger history, others including Bill McDonald, John Hughes, and John Rogers. Over the years historians have referred to the captain as “John” Brooks, because he tended to sign with his initials, but also because W. W. Sterling’s classic Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger mistakenly named him as Captain John Brooks. Born and raised in Civil War-torn Kentucky, a reckless adventurer on the American and Texas frontier, and a quick-draw Texas Ranger captain who later turned in his six-shooter to serve as a county judge, Brooks’s life reflects the raucous era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American West. As a Texas Ranger, Brooks participated in the high profile events of his day, from the fence-cutting wars to the El Paso prizefight, from the Conner Fight–where he lost three fingers from his left hand–to the Temple rail strike, all with a resolute demeanor and a fast gun. A shoot-out in Indian Territory nearly cost him his life and then jeopardized his career, and a lifelong bout with old Kentucky bourbon did the same. With three other distinguished Ranger captains, Brooks witnessed and helped promote the transformation of the elite Frontier Battalion into the Ranger Force. As a state legislator, he brokered the creation of a South Texas county that bears his name today, and where he served for twenty-eight years as county judge. He was the quintessential enforcer of frontier justice, scars and all.

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Captain John H. Rogers, Texas Ranger

Paul N. Spellman

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.

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Captain John R. Hughes

Lone Star Ranger

Chuck Parsons

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.

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Prairie Gothic

The Story of a West Texas Family

John R. Erickson

Prairie Gothic is rich in Texas history. It is the story of Erickson s family, ordinary people who, through strength of character, found dignity in the challenges presented by nature and human nature. It is also the story of the place instrumental in shaping their lives the flatland prairie of northwestern Texas that has gone by various names (High Plains, South Plains, Staked Plains, and Llano Estacado), as well as the rugged country on its eastern boundary, often referred to as the caprock canyonlands. One branch of Erickson’s family arrived in Texas in 1858, settling in Parker County, west of Weatherford. Another helped establish the first community on the South Plains, the Quaker colony of Estacado. They crossed paths with numerous prominent people in Texas history: Sam Houston, Sul Ross, Charles Goodnight, Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker, Jim Loving, and a famous outlaw, Tom Ross. Erickson’s research took him into the homes of well-known Texas authors, such as J. Evetts Haley and John Graves. Graves had written about the death of Erickson s great-great grandmother, Martha Sherman. The theme that runs throughout the book is that of family, of four generations’ efforts to nurture the values of civilized people: reverence of the written word, honesty, godliness, thrift, and personal relationship. It is the story of pioneer women and their struggles to keep their families together; it is the story of cowboys, outlaws, and Indian raids, told against the background of a harsh environment of droughts, blizzards, and rattlesnakes; and it is universal. Erickson has created a fascinating blend of family and regional history.

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Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten

Enforcing Law on the Texas Frontier

Bob Alexander

Ira Aten (1862-1953) was the epitome of a frontier lawman. At age twenty he enrolled in Company D during the transition of the Rangers from Indian fighters to topnotch peace officers. This unit—and Aten—would have a lively time making their mark in nineteenth-century Texas. The preponderance of Texas Ranger treatments center on the outfit as an institution or spotlight the narratives of specific captains. Bob Alexander aptly demonstrated in Winchester Warriors: Texas Rangers of Company D, 1874-1901 that there is merit in probing the lives of everyday working Rangers. Aten is an ideal example. The years Ira spent as a Ranger are jam-packed with adventure, border troubles, shoot-outs, solving major crimes—a quadruple homicide—and manhunts. Aten’s role in these and epochal Texas events such as the racially insensitive Jaybird/Woodpecker Feud and the bloody Fence Cutting Wars earned Ira’s spot in the Ranger Hall of Fame. His law enforcing deeds transcend days with the Rangers. Ira served two counties as sheriff, terms spiked with excitement. Afterward, for ten years on the XIT, he was tasked with clearing the ranch’s Escarbada Division of cattle thieves. Aten’s story spins on an axis of spine-tingling Texas history. Moving to California, Ira was active in transforming the Imperial Valley from raw desert into an agricultural oasis. Unmistakably he was public spirited and committed to community betterment. Relying on primary source documents to build a platform for this meticulously researched and comprehensive biography with 1000 endnotes and 100 remarkable old-time photographs, Alexander gives us Ira Aten in the round—evenhandedly—the true story of a Ranger tough as rawhide.

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Riding Lucifer's Line

Ranger Deaths along the Texas-Mexico Border

Bob Alexander

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.

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Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands

The Wild West Life of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Jones

Bob Alexander

Many well-read students, historians, and loyal aficionados of Texas Ranger lore know the name of Texas Ranger Captain Frank Jones (1856-1893), who died on the Texas-Mexico border in a shootout with Mexican rustlers. In Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands, Bob Alexander has now penned the first full-length biography of this important nineteenth-century Texas Ranger. At an early age Frank Jones, a native Texan, would become a Frontier Battalion era Ranger. His enlistment with the Rangers coincided with their transition from Indian fighters to lawmen. While serving in the Frontier Battalion officers' corps of Company D, Frank Jones supervised three of the four "great" captains of that era: J.A. Brooks, John H. Rogers, and John R. Hughes. Besides Austin Ira Aten and his younger brothers Calvin Grant Aten and Edwin Dunlap Aten, Captain Jones also managed law enforcement activities of numerous other noteworthy Rangers, such as Philip Cuney "P.C." Baird, Benjamin Dennis Lindsey, Bazzell Lamar "Baz" Outlaw, J. Walter Durbin, Jim King, Frank Schmid, and Charley Fusselman, to name just a few. Frank Jones' law enforcing life was anything but boring. Not only would he find himself dodging bullets and returning fire, but those Rangers under his supervision would also experience gunplay. Of all the Texas Ranger companies, Company D contributed the highest number of on-duty deaths within Texas Ranger ranks.

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Texas Ranger John B. Jones and the Frontier Battalion, 1874-1881

Rick Miller

In 1874, the Texas legislature created the Frontier Battalion, the first formal, budgeted organization as an arm of state government of what historically had been periodic groups loosely referred to as Texas Rangers. Initially created to combat the menace of repeated raids of Indians from the north and from Mexico into frontier counties, the Battalion was led by an unusual choice: a frail, humorless Confederate veteran from Navarro County, John B. Jones. Under Jones’s leadership, the Battalion grew in sophistication, moving from Indian fighting to capturing Texas’s bad men, such as John Wesley Hardin and Sam Bass. Established during the unsettled time of Reconstruction, the Rangers effectively filled a local law enforcement void until competency was returned to local sheriffs’ and marshals’ offices. Numerous books cover individual Texas Rangers of note, but only a few have dealt with the overall history of the Rangers, and, strangely, none about Jones specifically. For the first time, author Rick Miller presents the story of the Frontier Battalion as seen through the eyes of its commander, John B. Jones, during his administration from 1874 to 1881, relating its history—both good and bad—chronologically, in depth, and in context. Highlighted are repeated budget and funding problems, developing standards of conduct, personalities and their interaction, mission focus and strategies against Indian war parties and outlaws, and coping with politics and bureaucracy. Miller covers all the major activities of the Battalion in the field that created and ultimately enhanced the legend of the Texas Rangers. Jones’s personal life is revealed, as well as his role in shaping the policies and activities of the Frontier Battalion. Based largely on primary documents, especially the actual correspondence generated by the various actors in the Battalion’s drama that best tell the tale, this book is a major contribution to understanding the early development and growth of what became the institution celebrated in legend today. And John B. Jones at last has a definitive biography that recognizes him as one of the most important men who actually laid the groundwork for that legend.

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Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds, the Intrepid

Chuck Parsons and Donaly E. Brice

In this second edition, historians Chuck Parsons and Donaly E. Brice present a complete picture of N. O. Reynolds (1846-1922), a Texas Ranger who brought a greater respect for the law in Central Texas. Reynolds began as a sergeant in famed Company D, Frontier Battalion in 1874. He served honorably during the Mason County "Hoo Doo" War and was chosen to be part of Major John B. Jones's escort, riding the frontier line. In 1877 he arrested the Horrells, who were feuding with their neighbors, the Higgins party, thus ending their Lampasas County feud. Shortly thereafter he was given command of the newly formed Company E of Texas Rangers. Also in 1877 the notorious John Wesley Hardin was captured; N.O. Reynolds was given the responsibility to deliver Hardin to trial in Comanche, return him to a safe jail during his appeal, and then escort him safely to the Huntsville penitentiary. Reynolds served as a Texas Ranger until he retired in 1879 at the rank of lieutenant, later serving as City Marshal of Lampasas and then County Sheriff of Lampasas County.

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