Men Who Wear the Star: The Story of the Texas Rangers

Men Who Wear the Star: The Story of the Texas Rangers

by Charles M. Robinson
     
 

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Here is the first full telling of the most colorful and famous law enforcers of our time. For years, the Texas Rangers have been historical figures shrouded in myth. Charles M. Robinson III has sifted through the tall tales to reach the heart of this storied organization. The Men Who Wear the Star details the history of the Rangers, from their beginnings,

Overview

Here is the first full telling of the most colorful and famous law enforcers of our time. For years, the Texas Rangers have been historical figures shrouded in myth. Charles M. Robinson III has sifted through the tall tales to reach the heart of this storied organization. The Men Who Wear the Star details the history of the Rangers, from their beginnings, spurred by Stephen Austin, and their formal organization in 1835, to the gangster era with Bonnie and Clyde, and on through to modern times. Filled with memorable characters, it is energetic and fast-paced, making this the definitive record of the exploits and accomplishments of the Texas Rangers.

Editorial Reviews

Dallas Morning News
Praise for A Good Year to DieCharles M. Robinson has aimed at fairness and hit it dead center...[A] fascinating character-centered ranger saga.
New York Times
[Told] with scrupulous fairness to both sides...Histories of the Indian wars formerly described events from the government's point of view only, and Mr. Robinson's use of Indian accounts to portray life inside the Sioux government's camp is part of a welcome trend to write a more complete and balanced history.
Washington Post
Well done and richly documented, with an impressive bibliography.
New York Times Book Review
Charles M. Robinson... deftly balances the Rangers' more admirable exploits with darker tales of revenge, looting, and lynching... There is much to admire...
Los Angeles Times Book Review
A record of mutual intolerance, rage, fear, deceit, good intentions and perfectly human blundering. Charles Robinson has done his homework as well as the field work....A book of permanent value to Western history fanatics.
Library Journal
Whatever you may think of Chuck Norris's current TV show, Walker: Texas Ranger, it demonstrates the popularity of the Western and the strong mystique still possessed by the Texas Rangers. A small, elite Texas law enforcement agency, the Rangers have a long history whose blemishes--for example, racism--have often been ignored. Robinson, a history professor at a community college in Texas and the author of several books on the Old West (e.g., Bad Hand), has done a good job of covering the history of the Rangers from their inception in 1823 through the 1930s. He evenhandedly shows both their virtues and flaws and helps one to understand the foundations underlying the modern image. Still, if you already have a book on the Rangers, like Walter Prescott Webb's classic The Texas Rangers (1965) or John Davis's The Texas Rangers: Images and Incidents (Univ. of Texas, 1993), this title is not essential except for collections with a marked focus on regional or criminal-justice history. (Index and photos not seen.)--Charles V. Cowling, Drake Memorial Lib., Brockport, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375505355
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/25/2000
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
348,168
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1

Life and Death in a Harsh Land


"Texas Ranger" is a blanket term that has meant different things at different times. Since 1874, it generally has described a full-time, professional state peace officer, originally charged with protecting the citizens from Indians and desperadoes, and later with investigating crime in the modern sense. Prior to 1874, however, the term was, in the words of one nineteenth-century writer, "somewhat vague when sought to be historically applied to the various volunteer and irregular organizations that have figured in the frontier service of Texas."'

The earliest ranger-style forces in Texas often were minutemen--much like those of colonial America-who agreed to hold themselves ready and come together under the authority of the Texas government when necessary, after which they would return home and resume their normal lives until needed again. Other times they might be volunteers who served for a specific length of time, electing their own officers, much the same as the ninety-day volunteers of the Union Army. Occasionally, they were ad hoc companies formed with the sanction of the local community to handle a specific emergency-and on the frontier at that time, the sanction of the local community was all the authority they needed.

During the period of the Republic through the Civil War, which is to say from 1836 to 1865, Rangers often served as auxiliaries for the military, and sometimes they were even incorporated into the army-at least theoretically. Yet the Texas Ranger always retained his separate identity and was never a soldier in the classic sense. He belonged to a unique group of men-neither military nor civil-banded together in an official or semiofficial capacity to defend the frontier. As Sgt. James B. Gillett, one of the outstanding Rangers of the nineteenth century, explained:

Scant attention is paid to military law and precedent. The state furnishes food for the men, forage for their horses, ammunition, and medical attendance. The ranger himself must furnish his horse, his accoutrements, and his arms. There is, then, no uniformity in the matter of dress, for each ranger is free to dress as he pleases and in the garb experience has taught him most convenient for utility and comfort. A ranger, as any other frontiersman or cowboy, usually wears heavy woolen clothes of any color that strikes his fancy... A felt hat of any make and color completes his outfit. While riding, a ranger always wears spurs and very high-heeled boots to prevent his foot from slipping through the stirrup, for both the ranger and the cowboy ride with the stirrup in the middle of the foot. 2

The Ranger was a unique frontiersman on a unique frontier, for in all the annals of the American West there was nothing quite like Texas. One single state held every hope and hardship that pioneers faced in the nation's westward expansion. Texas's natural barriers included rivers, mountains, deserts, and extremes of weather. Some of the most tenacious Indians on the North American continent contested white pretensions of ownership. Nevertheless, the Texans settled their vast frontier within a single lifetime. Beginning as outsiders in a neglected province of Mexico, they turned that province into a sovereign republic, and made the republic into a prosperous state.

In building Texas, people on the frontier depended on the citizen-ranger far more than on any soldier or sheriff, because he was one of them and he knew the dangers they faced. He also understood the people he had to fight and adjusted his thinking accordingly. He risked his life because he had family and friends to protect, and sometimes he lost his life. For death was a constant companion to the Rangers during the first hundred years of their existence in a state that assumed more or less its present boundaries in 1850.

At 268,601 square miles, twentieth-century Texas is almost 56,000 square miles larger than France. The original area was even greater, but as part of the Compromise of 1850, the northwestern portion of the state was ceded to the United States and partitioned, eventually to become sections of New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Despite its size, its 1992 population was estimated at only 17,655,650, which is roughly as many people as Texas can conveniently support.' Like everything else about the state, this small population in relation to its immensity is dictated by two great immutable facts-climate and geography. The eastern half of the state is arable, has a reasonably secure water supply, and can support moderate development; the area to the west is and cannot. Most population centers are in east and central Texas; as one proceeds westward, cities become smaller and more isolated.

Most of the state is a plain shelving into three distinct tiers rising one above the other almost like stairs. The lowest is a relatively fertile coastal prairie anywhere from fifty to two hundred miles wide, where American settlement began and where the Texas Rangers were created. The coastal region ends at an escarpment of rugged hills that lead up to a second tier consisting of rolling plains that gradually slope to the northwest. These plains abruptly halt at the caprock, a line of sheer cliffs hundreds of miles long and seamed with deep, rugged canyons. Above these cliffs is the final tier, the Staked Plains or Llano Estacado, to use their local names-flat and featureless tableland that reaches beyond the horizon to Canada, and gives credence to a local saying that there is nothing between Amarillo, Texas, and the North Pole but barbed wire. In the far western part of Texas, beyond the Pecos River, the terrain assumes yet another character totally different from the other three. Here one struggles among the highest mountains in the state, descending from the passes onto the flat, dry, sand-swept floor of true desert.

Even within one particular type of terrain, no two areas have the same environment. In the southernmost tip of Texas, the Rio Grande marks the transition from tropical jungle to temperate forest. Here the whitetail deer and bobcat of the north coexist with the coatimundi and ocelot of the south, and until it was hunted out midway through the twentieth century, the jaguar was considered a native.

The temperate forest hugs the river. A few miles above the mouth of the Rio Grande, the beaches of the coast give way to a region that is less a prairie than a desert. In modern times it is kept green and lush by irrigation from the Rio Grande and underground aquifers, but left to itself it soon would revert back to dust, scrub grass, and cactus. In the immediate coastal area, the easterly breezes from the Gulf of Mexico meet the southwest wind from the Chihuahuan desert, forming a pocket of hot, damp air and making the area around Brownsville a Turkish bath in summer. Farther north, the coast blends into true prairie with tall grass and groves of live oak until, in east Texas, one reaches the vast pine forests of the American South.

Along the escarpment, in the Hill Country, and beyond, spring rains carpet the land with wildflowers-blue, yellow, red, and white-wrapping around hills and buttes and extending as far as the eye can see. But with summer the flowers wither, the color fades to a dull beige, and dust coats everything.

ONLY SINCE THE 1950s, with construction of superhighways and expansion of commercial aviation, has travel been convenient in Texas. The Rangers gained their fame before the age of the automobile and airplane, traversing the country by horseback. In those days, the six-hundred-mile trip from San Antonio to El Paso took weeks through broken mountains and across searing desert. Here, Texans say, every form of plant or animal life bites, slashes, stabs, or stings. One shakes one's blanket for rattlesnakes and checks boots for scorpions and venomous spiders. The native cacti include a low-growing species that botanists know as Echinocactus texensis, but that locals call "horse crippler," with good reason.

Rangers scouting the country accepted temperatures in excess of a hundred degrees Fahrenheit as a normal condition of summer, when the sun beats down like a glowing ball. In the winter, they faced subzero temperatures in the north, and even in the southernmost sections of the state, sustained temperatures in the twenties and thirties are not uncommon. Often the cold arrives suddenly, with temperatures dropping as much as forty or fifty degrees within a few hours. Even in the driest months, rain is more of a curse than a blessing, for it is not the gentle showers of the East Coast or northern California, but sudden, torrential downpours bringing deadly flash floods.

And no matter where the Rangers went, they had to guard against attack by Comanches, Kiowas, Apaches, and various other Indian bands, for the Anglo-Saxon colonists who established the first Texas Rangers inherited a war of extermination between white and Indian that was already almost a century old when the first English-speaking settlers arrived in the country.

RANGERS DID NOT originate in Texas, but were a concept carried over from the British colonies in the East, where local militia forces called rangers protected the frontiers of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and the Old Northwest. In 1759, during the French and Indian War, a battalion commanded by Maj. Robert Rogers served with distinction on the northwest frontier as Rogers's Rangers. The English-speaking people who settled in Texas in the 1820s were predominantly Southern frontiersmen with a ranging tradition, and they brought with them a strong sense of community and of personal honor, together with a martial spirit that became infectious even among non-Southerners and pacifists. These traditions were the most basic foundations of what ultimately became the Texas Rangers. 4

The original Texas Rangers were organized under Mexican law, because the state belonged to Mexico at the time. One of the Mexican motives for permitting these English-speaking pioneers to settle the area was frontier defense against Indian raids, which had been chronic since Spanish colonial times.

Although Europeans ventured into Texas as early as the 1520s, permanent settlement-and by extension Indian conflict-did not begin until the second decade of the eighteenth century. In 1716, in response to French incursions from the Mississippi Valley, the Spanish government placed Texas under the jurisdiction of the adjacent province of Coahuila, a situation that would continue off and on for the next 120 years. Two years later, the Spaniards initiated a formal and permanent entry into Texas, establishing the settlement that ultimately became San Antonio. 5

The Spanish entry more or less coincided with the arrival in Texas of the vanguard of another group of invaders, the Kiowas and Comanches, nomadic wanderers who originated in what is now the northwestern United States. At some point in their history, they began separate migrations out onto the Plains to the southeast, and by the middle of the eighteenth century, the Spaniards were encountering them in Texas and New Mexico. Although the two tribes initially fought each other for domination of their new territory on the Southern Plains, by about 1790 they had confederated, forming an alliance that was to last until their defeat by the United States in the Red River War of 1874-75. 6

One of the most pronounced aspects of Kiowa and Comanche society was its unending warfare. They were a raiding people, and a man's prestige was determined by his ability as a warrior. Depredations against other peoples-Indian and white-became such a pronounced part of their culture that an annual raiding season was established, beginning in the spring when grass was high enough for their ponies to feed and warm, moonlit nights allowed them maximum mobility. Each year they burst out from their strongholds on the Plains of the American Midwest, rapidly covering thousands of miles and marauding with impunity to within five hundred miles of Mexico City. 7

Although the Kiowas viewed Texas less as a potential homeland than as raiding grounds, some Comanche bands were determined to make it their own. As they moved into Texas, they began displacing numerically weaker native tribes. The Tonkawas and the Lipan Apaches, to name only two, were driven from their traditional lands by the Comanche wedge from the north. It was only a matter of time before this wave of newcomers would clash with the Spaniards who then were entering the territory from the south. 8

The pivotal confrontation between these two alien races occurred at a mission on the San Saba River, near what is now Menard, some 150 miles northwest of San Antonio. In the early-morning hours of March 16, 1758, the Comanches and allied tribes attacked the mission and massacred its people. 9 This massacre opened a war between the whites and the Kiowa-Comanche confederation that would rage across Texas for more than a century. 10 The hostilities would be passed down among the Indians from generation to generation. When the Spaniards ultimately abandoned Texas, their Mexican successors inherited the war, and they would in turn pass it on to the Anglo-Saxons. The area between the Red River and the Rio Grande became a battleground with no quarter given and none expected.

After the San Saba massacre, Spain made no further effort to colonize or settle the frontier. The Spaniards acquired Louisiana from the French at the end of the Seven Years War, removing the military necessity for settlement. No private colonizer wanted to leave the relative safety of the interior provinces and risk destruction in a wild unknown. In what is now Texas, the Spaniards were content to huddle around the only settlements strong enough to provide some semblance of security: Laredo, San Fernando de Bexar (San Antonio), and La Bahia (Goliad). 11

OVER THE NEXT seventy years, little changed in Texas, and by 1820 the Spanish empire was in its death throes, exhausted by the Napoleonic Wars and with most of its American possessions in armed rebellion. This only accelerated the neglect of its northernmost province. There had been a brief flurry of interest in Texas at the beginning of the century when Madrid ceded Louisiana back to France, resurrecting old border disputes. Then, to Spain's outrage, the French sold the territory to the Americans, who soon convinced themselves that they had purchased Texas as well. In response, the Spaniards moved to strengthen their position in Texas. Anglo-Americans, who previously had been allowed to settle in the Spanish-controlled portions of the Mississippi Valley, were prohibited from obtaining land grants in Spanish territory, and the government planned accelerated colonization of Texas to serve as a barrier against the acquisitive, expansionist Americans. But like so many previous efforts, this one played out simply because Spain was overextended. The empire had become a liability. 12

The American threat was removed in 1819, when the Adams-Onis Treaty established the Sabine and Red rivers as the border between Spanish Texas and American Louisiana. Thus, after more than a century, most boundaries were finally established, but others remained vague. In the far south the Nueces River was generally considered the division between Texas and Nuevo Santander (now the Mexican state of Tamaulipas), and in the southwest the Rio Grande marked the line with Coahuila. In the west, however, no one was sure where Texas ended and New Mexico began, and no one really cared. Here the Comanches and Apaches reigned supreme, and there was little the government in San Antonio could do about it.

Yet as the Spanish empire drew to a close, an opportunity to settle Texas suddenly presented itself in the person of Moses Austin, a speculating chameleon who had been born a British subject in colonial Connecticut and at various times had held either Spanish or US. nationality, according to what best served his interests. His arrival in San Antonio on December 23, 1820, was opportune, because Spain was searching for a solution to the settlement problem, and Austin wanted land.

MOSES AUSTIN WAS fifty-nine when he came to Texas. He had followed the frontier until he arrived in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, then part of Spanish Louisiana, where he became a Spanish subject, and developed lead mines in the vicinity. Louisiana's transfer, first to France and then to the United States, did not affect Austin, who prospered until the War of 1812 paralyzed trade along the Mississippi. A postwar depression aggravated the situation, and when the Bank of St. Louis, in which Austin was a major stockholder, failed in 1818, he was ruined. His attention now turned to Texas. Once before, he had succeeded in Spanish territory, and he believed he could do it again. 13

Upon his arrival in San Antonio, Austin presented himself to Governor Antonio Martinez in the Spanish residency that still stands on the city's Military Plaza. The immediate timing was bad. Spain had only recently put down the latest in a procession of uprisings led by adventurers from the United States who had made trouble in Texas over the past seventeen years. Despite the overall relaxation of restrictions under the Adams-Onis Treaty, the civil and military officials responsible for security in Texas and the other northeastern provinces took a dim view of Americans. Austin was an American. Governor Martinez listened perfunctorily, and then ordered him to leave the country.

Dejected, Austin was walking across the plaza from the residency to his lodgings when he encountered the Baron de Bastrop, an old acquaintance from Missouri days. Although he now lived in genteel poverty in San Antonio, Bastrop had influence with the governor and offered to intervene. 14

BASTROP WAS ONE of the most important people in the development of Texas, yet he seems almost deliberately elusive. Indeed, little was known about him until the latter part of the twentieth century, when records were located in the Netherlands, his country of origin. It is now reasonably certain that his name was Philip Hendrik Nering Boegel (Hispanicized as Felipe Enrique Neri), and he was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, in 1759. His will, prepared shortly before his death in 1827, stated that Bastrop was a hereditary title that came from his father. 15 To some pioneers, however, he claimed that he had entered the Prussian service as a youth and had been ennobled by Frederick the Great.

The truth, however, is more prosaic. "Baron de Bastrop" was a title he bestowed on himself, for Philip Hendrik Nering Boegel was hiding from the law. After growing up in the Netherlands, he was appointed collector general of taxes for the province of Frisia. Accused of embezzlement, he fled the country about 1793, arriving in Louisiana, where he became a Spanish subject. He was granted thirty square miles, but after several years abandoned his grant and moved to Texas. Some said he had lost his Louisiana holdings in title disputes once the United States took over the territory, and was bitter against the United States because of it. Others maintained that he crossed into Texas when Louisiana reverted briefly back to France, possibly finding that his adopted Spanish nationality was politically safer than coming under French jurisdiction with its Napoleonic ties to Holland. 16

Whatever Bastrop's past, his chance meeting with Moses Austin in the Military Plaza bound his future firmly to Texas. He intervened with the governor using several arguments. First, he said the Comanches were becoming increasingly brazen in harassing the settlements, and Americans had a proven record as Indian fighters. Second, Spanish subjects simply were not immigrating to Texas; after more than a century the province was still almost empty. Third, American colonization had been successful during the Spanish regime in Louisiana. Finally, and no doubt the clincher, Austin had been a Spanish subject in good standing once before; he would not do anything to undermine the status quo. 17

The next day, Austin was back at the residency, showing the Spanish passport he originally had used to obtain his Ste. Genevieve grant, declaring he was a Roman Catholic and a former Spanish subject, and requesting a grant on which to settle some three hundred families who would emigrate from the United States and become Spanish subjects. Governor Martinez convened his council and eventually agreed to forward Austin's application to the military headquarters for the northeastern provinces in Monterrey, where the authorities eventually approved it.

Austin, meanwhile, had returned to the United States, where he began preparations for a massive movement of people and equipment to the new country. By now, however, he was suffering from a severe cold, which, aggravated by his age and the exhaustion and exposure of the trip to Texas, developed into pneumonia. On June 10, 1821, he died, leaving instructions that his son, Stephen, take over the Texas project. 18

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN is a shadowy, one-dimensional figure, despite the fact that his entire life is thoroughly documented. Texans speak of him respectfully, generally calling him by his full name, including the middle initial, but he is more a symbol than a man. Upon his death at the age of forty-three, Sam Houston called him "the Father of Texas." The capital is named for him. And it is generally agreed that without Austin the development of Texas would have been substantially delayed, and neither Houston nor any other of the early leaders and heroes would have been important to the process. Yet he remains elusive, never completely studied or understood. Part of that was the character of the man himself. Blacksmith and sometime Ranger Noah Smithwick remembered, "Dark hair and eyes, sparely built, and unassuming in manner, there was little in Austin's outward appearance to indicate the tremendous energy of which he was possessed." 19

Austin was one of the most complex and sophisticated men ever to influence the course of Texas. When his fortunes were at their height, he was devious and cynical. He dispensed land titles as though they were the largesse of a feudal lord, which, in effect, they were. As the sole administrator of the colonization laws and the only person authorized to deal with the government, he was suspected by many settlers of manipulating the laws to his own benefit and at their expense. But when fortune left him and others usurped his leadership, he became magnificent, giving the colonies what Smithwick called "his protecting care," which, in the end, was Austin's greatest gift. 20

A native of Virginia, where his father had business interests, Stephen Fuller Austin was five years old when the family immigrated to Missouri, and the cosmopolitan mixture of French-speaking Canadians, Spaniards, and newly arriving Americans grounded him early in the social and diplomatic niceties that would serve him in good stead as an adult. He was twenty-seven when his father's death gave him responsibility for the Texas colonies. Arriving in San Antonio on August 12, Austin met with Governor Martinez, who pointed out that the region that Austin planned to colonize was a wilderness, and that the government was not yet in a position to extend civil administration that far beyond San Antonio and the other principal settlements. Once Austin brought the colonists, Martinez said, "You will cause them all to understand that until the government organizes the authority which is to govern them and administer justice, they must be governed by and subordinate to you." 21

Perhaps the most important asset Austin inherited from his father was the friendship with Bastrop. The worldly old schemer took the younger man under wing and soon made himself indispensable by securing an appointment from the governor to serve as Austin's land commissioner. As such, he ordered surveys, handed out titles, and, as the situation required, bullied or bluffed both the settlers on their tracts and officials in San Antonio.

Austin, meanwhile, had inspected the area of the Brazos and Colorado rivers and determined the boundaries of his grant, which he dispatched back to Governor Martinez. By late fall, the first of some three hundred families carefully screened by Austin-known in Texas history as the "Old Three Hundred"----were beginning to move in.

Now a new complication arose. After eleven years of sporadic rebellion and civil war, the three-hundred-year-old Spanish regime collapsed, and Mexico became independent. This raised the question of whether Austin's Spanish grant was even valid. Of more immediate concern to the colonists, however, were Indian depredations that commenced almost from the outset of their arrival.

IN THE EARLY days of Austin's grant, the trouble came not so much from Kiowas or Comanches, who ranged to the west of the colonies, but from native tribes. Austin's cousin Mary Austin Holley wrote:

The Carancuhua [i.e., Karankawa] Indians were very hostile on the coast. The Wacos and Tawakanies were equally so in the interior, and committed constant depredations. Parties of Tankaways [Tonkawas], Lepans [Lipans], and other tribes, were intermingled with the settlers. These Indians were beggarly and insolent, and were restrained from violence the first two years, only by presents, forbearance, and policy. There was not force enough in the colony to awe them. One imprudent step with these Indians, would have destroyed the settlement .... 22

The Lipans and Tonkawas were more of a nuisance than a threat, but the Karankawas did not hesitate to attack small groups of settlers when the opportunity presented itself. A coastal people, they lived among the estuaries and barrier islands running south from Galveston to Corpus Christi, traveling in canoes and waylaying colonists who went downriver to get supplies from ships anchored in the bays. The warriors averaged six feet tall. They painted their faces half red and half white, and smeared themselves with alligator grease as protection against mosquitoes. Each carried a bow equal to his height, and could shoot a three-foot arrow one to two hundred yards with accuracy. 23

Most colonists insisted, and many authorities agree, that they practiced at least a ritual form of cannibalism, as did many of the Texas tribes. 24 Nevertheless, of all the Indians of that period, the Karankawas appear to have been the most hated. Pioneer settler and historian J. W Wilbarger called them "the Ishmaelites of Texas, for their hands were against every man, and every man's hand was against them." 25

Although the scrapes between Indians and settlers did not have the character of the later systemized Kiowa and Comanche raids, encounters were frequent enough to demonstrate the need for some sort of organized frontier defense force.

LIKE MANY TEXAS institutions, the militia force that developed into the Rangers was a hybrid of Anglo-Saxon and Hispano-Mexican traditions. The ranger concept itself came to Texas with Austin, who, given the responsibility of protecting a colony beyond the pale of white civilization, recognized the need for a ranger-style defense force. Yet it was not Austin but the new Mexican governor, Col. Jose Fe1ix Trespalacios, who ordered the American colonists to establish a frontier police using a Spanish militia system that had been carried over into Mexico. This called on citizens to organize armed companies to preserve local order. The structure was such that there was no need for a large force, just one that could come together as needed. It was ideal for the colonists. 26

Austin himself was in Mexico City when the first ranger-style militia company was created. He spent most of 1822 and the early part of 1823 in the capital in an effort to resolve legal disputes concerning the validity of his Spanish colonial land grant under an independent Mexican government. In Texas, meanwhile, Indian depredations and cloudy land titles had so discouraged the settlers along the Colorado that by the fall of 1822 many were preparing to repatriate to the United States. The problem of titles could not be immediately resolved, but Governor Trespalacios could take measures toward defense and at least give the colonists some feeling of permanence. Accordingly, he directed Bastrop to convene the Americans in the two main settlements to elect an alcalde, or political chief, and ranger commanders. On November 20, Bastrop called a convention in the Colorado settlement, which elected John Turn linson alcalde, Robert Kuykendall captain, a man named Jackson as first lieutenant, and Moses Morrisson as second lieutenant. 27 At his direction a convention of the Brazos settlement elected Josiah H. Bell alcalde Samuel Gates captain, and Gibson Kuykendall, Robert Kuykendall's nephew, lieutenant. Despite these efforts, the colonists were slow to organize. They were still new to the country, and in the absence of Austin with clear instructions, they feared taking any action that might bring them into conflict with the Mexican government. 28

By January 1823, however, the Indian situation reached a point where the alcalde Tumlinson and Robert Kuykendall wrote Trespalacios asking permission to enlist expert riflemen from among the Colorado settlers. They would build blockhouses along the coast and boats for cruising the bays to protect vessels landing cargo for the settlements. Trespalacios ordered the enlistment of fourteen men, who mustered on May 5 and were posted near the mouth of the Colorado. 29

The record of this unit is sketchy, and it appears that only ten men were actually recruited and their length of service is not certain. The commanding officer, Lt. Moses Morrisson, was listed on an 1823 census of American settlers as thirty years old and a farmer who also raised horses and hogs. He had served in the United States Army on the upper Mississippi, where he gained experience in fortifications and boat construction. Another thirty-year-old farmer, John McCroskey, was named corporal. The other eight were privates. All were armed with rifles except Pvt. John Frazer, who carried a musket. Morrisson's pay was set at $40 a month, McCroskey's at $26, and the privates at $24 each. From this beginning came the Texas Rangers. 30

The new unit immediately encountered problems, the most critical of which seemed to be a shortage of ammunition. By July, after two months in the field, the company's total supply was reduced to only 111 charges of powder and a like number of ball. Explaining the shortage, Morrisson advised the governor that

as we are altogether Depending upon hunting for our Subsistence at present it will be but a short time in all probability that what we have will be Expended. I therefore Dispatch two men to St. Antonio 3l to endeavour to procure a supply from the Government Charging the Company with the amount to be deducted from their pay as there is ma[n]y of my men who is destitute of money at present [and] therefore would be unable to procure any [ammunition] from an individual at St. Antonio.

Likewise, he said, powder was completely unavailable in the vicinity, and the need to keep his men hunting for food had made it impossible to begin work on blockhouses. 32

The following day, the alcalde John Tumlinson and a companion, Joseph Newman, started for San Antonio with Morrisson's letter, hoping to obtain the ammunition. They had reached the Guadalupe River within forty miles of the city when they encountered three Indians. Newman was suspicious, but Tumlinson advised friendliness, and extended his hand to one of the Indians. The warrior jerked him off his horse and lanced him. Newman spurred his pony and escaped, although the Indians chased him six miles before giving up. 33

SHORTLY AFTER TUMLIKSON'S death, Luciano Garcia succeeded Trespalacios as governor. Far from adversely affecting the situation, the change strengthened Bastrop's hand, for on July 16, Garcia advised him that Austin's grant had been confirmed, as was the administrative apparatus that Bastrop had already set into motion under

Meet the Author

Charles M. Robinson III is a native of Texas and a graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin and the University of Texas Pan American. He is the author of several books on the Old West, including Bad Hand: A Biography of General Ranald S. Mackenzie, which won the Texas Historical Commission's T. R. Fehrenbach Book Award in 1993, and A Good Year to Die. He lives in San Benito, Texas.

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