Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds: The Intrepid by Chuck Parsons, Donaly E. Brice
This is an impressive book, rich in detail, about a nineteenth-century lawman unknown to the vast majority of Texans. In this first biography on N. O. Reynolds, the authors cover his law enforcement career as a Texas Ranger in the Frontier Battalion from 1874 to 1879, when he advanced to sergeant and then lieutenant in command of Company E, and the elective offices he later held as city marshal of Lampasas and then sheriff of Lampasas County. The last chapter is devoted to his success as a businessman after he ended his law enforcement career.
The authors reveal that Reynolds kept some things close to his vest. The name given to him at birth was Orcelus Nelson Reynolds. Apparently displeased with his first name, he made it his middle name and went by his initials. After he came to Texas, he usually hid his Pennsylvania birthplace, claiming to be from Missouri, and he carefully left the impression he had served in the Confederacy, although he had fought for the Union. Without these deceptions, he may not have been a Ranger, or a city marshal, or a sheriff in Texas.
Despite thorough sleuthing by the authors, little information is available on Reynolds’s activities during his first year in the Frontier Battalion. Most of chapters three and four focus on actions by the battalion with occasional mention of Reynolds. But the chapters do cover some fascinating criminal activity, including the Mason County “Hoo Doo” War. Reynolds first gained fame in 1877 when he brought an end to the Horrell-Higgens feud by arresting sixteen men, some while they were asleep in their cabin.
Also in 1877, Reynolds and Company E were charged with bringing John Wesley Hardin from the Travis County jail to Comanche, where he stood trial. This five-day journey had two goals: keep Hardin safe from his enemies and to keep his friends from freeing him. Large crowds watched as the entourage left Austin, passed through Lampasas, and arrived in Comanche, with Hardin still a prisoner and alive. The same journey took place again when the guilty verdict was appealed. In 1878, Reynolds’s men captured another famous outlaw, Sam Bass, as he lay dying under a live oak tree after being shot while fleeing from Round Rock, where his planned bank robbery was foiled.
The authors do not skip any aspect of Reynolds’s life, including the years after his law enforcement career when he became a successful businessman as he moved around Texas. He owned a saloon in Lampasas, a shoe business in Angleton, and a saloon in Lockhart. Research on this book was exhaustive, as indicated by the sixty-three pages of end notes, and impressive, considering the lack of any previous biography to help [End Page 88] guide the authors. It is a welcome contribution to nineteenth-century Texas history, and an entertaining read.