Established in Waco in 1968, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum honors the iconic Texas Rangers, a service which has existed, in one form or another, since 1823. They have become legendary symbols of Texas and the American West. Thirty-one Rangers, with lives spanning more than two centuries, have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. In The Ranger Ideal Volume 1: Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, 1823–1861, Darren L. Ivey presents capsule biographies of the seven inductees who served Texas before the Civil War. He begins with Stephen F. Austin, “the Father of Texas,” who laid the foundations of the Ranger service, and then covers John C. Hays, Ben McCulloch, Samuel H. Walker, William A. A. “Bigfoot” Wallace, John S. Ford, and Lawrence Sul Ross. Using primary records and reliable secondary sources, and rejecting apocryphal tales, The Ranger Ideal presents the true stories of these intrepid men who fought to tame a land with gallantry, grit, and guns. This Volume 1 is the first of a planned three-volume series covering all of the Texas Rangers inducted in the Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas.
|Publisher:||University of North Texas Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
DARREN L. IVEY is an independent researcher who lives in Manhattan, Kansas. He is the author of The Texas Rangers: A Registry and History and has also written a history of Fort Aubrey, Kansas, for the Chapman Center for Rural Studies.
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Stephen F. Austin: "Introduced the Concept of Rangers into the Texas Lexicon"
Stephen Fuller Austin is rightfully considered the "Father of Texas." As Mike Cox observed, "The land clearly spoke to Austin. The grassy prairies and timbered river bottoms influenced him every bit as strongly as his father's dying wish that he continue with his colonization plans." He did indeed succeed his father in establishing an Anglo colony in the Mexican province of Tejas, and spent the next fifteen years guiding the region into becoming a sovereign nation. While the Republic of Texas, and the later American state, would owe its existence to Austin's labors, he also introduced the concept of rangers into the Texas lexicon. The results of his inspiration, the subsequent spies, mounted gunmen, mounted volunteers, and ranging companies of Texas, would form and disband countless times until they became in effect a permanent force in 1874. Similar to the state that it protects, the present Texas Ranger Division is beholden to Austin for founding the antecedents of that renowned law enforcement agency.
He was born in Austinville, Wythe County, Virginia, on November 3, 1793, the eldest son of Moses and Mary "Maria" (Brown) Austin. Stephen's father had been born a British subject in Durham, Connecticut, on October 4, 1761, while Maria was a native of Morris County, New Jersey. Their citizenship would change once the thirteen colonies declared and secured their independence as the United States of America. Entering the world of commerce, Moses was a partner in a mercantile business in Philadelphia and Richmond. In the former city, Moses met Maria, and they married on September 28, 1785. He first leased, and then purchased, Colonel John Chiswell's old lead mines in Wythe County, and engaged in the extraction and manufacturing of lead. Two of Stephen's sisters, Anna Maria Austin and Eliza Fuller Austin, did not survive infancy, but another sister, Emily Margaret Austin, born June 22, 1795, and one brother, James Elijah Brown Austin, born October 3, 1803, reached adulthood. Pursuing new opportunities, the extended Austin family traveled to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, then part of Spanish Upper Louisiana, in the summer of 1798, and became Spanish subjects. Moses engaged in lead mining at Mine á Breton while the ownership of Louisiana transferred to France and then to the United States. His operations turned a quick profit and Moses amassed an impressively large personal fortune of $200,000. In time, Moses constructed Durham Hall, a stately mansion on Breton Creek, for his family, and also opened a dry goods store.
In 1804, Stephen was sent to Bacon Academy in Colchester, Connecticut, where he studied for three years. He left the East in January 1808, and attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, later the same year. In April 1810, due to some losses in the lead market, and the subsequent cash shortage, Austin was forced to leave school before obtaining his degree. He returned home and managed his father's commercial affairs while Moses took a trip to New York City to obtain investors. Even after the elder Austin's return, Stephen continued to take on more responsibility for the family's mercantile and mining ventures.
Three years later, while American forces were fighting the British to the east, the Illinois and Missouri frontier was the scene of several Indian attacks. The governors of the two territories received authorization from Congress to raise militia troops to answer the threat. Governor Benjamin Howard of Missouri mustered in companies for the purpose of clearing hostile Indians from the country along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Desiring to join the campaign, Stephen enlisted as a private in the First Regiment of Mounted Militia under the command of Colonel Alexander McNair. He soon earned promotion to regimental quartermaster sergeant. Dividing his forces on September 10, 1813, Howard, in his new rank of brigadier-general, sent an element of regulars up the Illinois River on gunboats, and marched the Illinois regiment under Colonel Benjamin Stephenson along the east side of the Mississippi and the Missourians on the west. They then swept through the area for seven weeks, burning deserted villages and fighting small skirmishes, but failing to engage any Indians in decisive combat. The volunteers were disbanded at Fort Russell on October 21. Two years later, Stephen was promoted to the position of adjutant of the Sixth Militia Regiment. A few months after, he was elected to the lower house of the territorial legislature. On December 4, 1815, he took his seat and represented Washington County in the Second and Third Legislatures, and in a special session that convened from October 26 to December 23, 1818.
Beginning in 1817, Stephen made unspecified improvements to public lands along the Red River in Arkansas, particularly at a tract dubbed Long Prairie. Even without ever seeing the ground, he had established a foundation for a preemption claim when the government opened the area for settlement. He further amassed goods to sell to the immigrants he was positive would rush into the territory. With two partners, he located five New Madrid claims at two locations: the Ouachita River near the mouth of the Caddo River and the sandstone formation known as the Little Rock on the south bank of the Arkansas River. Austin arrived at Long Prairie in June 1819, and spent the summer and fall performing the preliminary work to establish Mount Prairie, his anticipated plantation. For reasons known only to himself, he sold his interest in the Little Rock claim to his brother-in-law, and acted as the latter's agent in promoting the new town of Fulton. He also lobbied to have the seat of the territorial government moved from Arkansas Post to the more advantageous Little Rock location. In May 1820, he decided to divest himself of his interest in Mount Prairie, but the real estate market was glutted with others also looking to sell. By the summer, Austin was forced to admit his Arkansas ventures had proven to be embarrassing failures.
Stephen was not alone in his commercial disappointments. The War of 1812 had disrupted trade along the Mississippi River and adversely affected Moses Austin's already overextended finances. Adding to his troubles, the Panic of 1819, which began in the East earlier in the year, spread to Missouri by the fall. The general contraction of the territory's economy was fueled by excessive land speculation and debt, waning migration, the depreciation of bank notes, and a steep decline in the value of land. Creditors, who were themselves ensnared in the financial crisis, began to sue Moses for outstanding debts, and win their civil judgements in court. When the Bank of St. Louis went bankrupt on July 12, Moses, a founder and major stockholder, was personally ruined. Stephen had assumed his father's place as a director on December 14, 1818, and this failure would have a profound effect on the younger man. In his private life, Moses was an arrogant and domineering man who goaded his eldest son to achieve "greatness in life." Conversely, Stephen was anxious to escape his father's stifling ambitions and pursue his own aspirations. Even while respecting and revering the elder Austin, Stephen would blame Moses for destroying the family's assets and reputation. These dynamics would drive Stephen to realize his own dreams while still creating a legacy to his father's memory.
On July 10, 1820, Stephen was appointed judge of the First Circuit Court at Little Rock, a town named for the stone outcropping where he had once held a land title. Hoping to use the position to mitigate his financial woes, he was frustrated in his plans when the legislature, on October 25, abolished the circuit courts in favor of another system. Desperate to start anew, and find steady employment, Austin traveled down the Red and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, arriving in November.
Meanwhile, seeking to recover his own personal fortunes, Moses looked to the opportunities accorded by Spanish Tejas. The state of affairs there looked promising as James Long's second filibustering expedition had purportedly failed, the Spanish government was supposedly in control of the province, and the constitution of 1812 had been reinstated. Spain and the United States had signed the Adams-Onís Treaty in February 1819, which, among other things, ceded the latter's claims to Tejas. The accord prompted Spanish administrators to relax immigration restrictions and issue land grants to colonists of all nationalities.
Moses Austin arrived in San Antonio de Béxar on December 23, 1820, and secured an audience with Governor Antonio María Martínez. In the meeting, Austin requested permission to settle Anglo settlers in the province. Unfortunately, the speculator had made his appeal at an inopportune time as the Spanish-Crown was preparing to suppress James Long's renewed filibustering expedition into Tejas. Pointing to Austin's U.S. citizenship, Martínez ordered him to quit the province immediately. After leaving the governor's palace, the disappointed Austin encountered Felipe Enrique Neri, the self-styled Baron de Bastrop, in the Military Plaza. The baron, an old associate from New Orleans, was living in San Antonio and possessed some influence with the provincial authorities. Austin and Bastrop returned to the palace where the baron appealed to Martínez, employing several arguments. The settlements were increasingly coming under Comanche attack, rancheros and farmers were being ruthlessly plundered of livestock, and traders refused to travel because of the danger. Even after a century of occupation, emigration to Tejas continued to be minimal and the land remained virtually empty. As historian Pekka Hämäläinen later noted, "The province, for all practical purposes, had ceased to function as a Spanish colony." Bastrop promised Americans, with an established record of fighting Indians, would prove to be a benefit. He also pointed to the successful influx of Americans into Spanish Louisiana, which included one Moses Austin. Seeing the advantages in colonists loyal to Spain developing the untamed frontera, providing a market for Spanish goods and a source of tax revenue, offering a channel for trade with the United States, and creating a buffer zone to counter Comanche incursions, the superior government of the Eastern Interior Provinces approved the petition on January 17, 1821. However, the Spanish viceroyalty in Mexico City was soon overthrown and a new Mexican regime emerged.
Even as three hundred years of colonial rule came to an end, Moses Austin had returned to the United States to settle his affairs and begin to organize the colony project. However, he developed a severe cold that, due to age and exhaustion, deteriorated into pneumonia. Moses died on June 10, 1821, in Herculaneum, Missouri, but his deathbed wish was for Stephen to continue in his father's stead:
I now can go forward with confidence and I hope and pray you will discharge your doubts as to the enterprise and, if any means can be commanded, use your utmost to have every thing brought into motion ... raise your Spirits, times are changing. A new chance presents itself. Nothing is wanting but Concert and firmness.
By this time, the younger Austin was reading law in the office of the highly regarded New Orleans attorney, Joseph H. Hawkins, and working for the Louisiana Advertiser. However, to Stephen's thinking, Tejas represented a better opportunity to recoup the family's lost fortunes, settle his own debts, achieve personal success, and fulfill his obligations to his late father.
He left New Orleans on June 18, and met with Juan José María Erasmo de Jesús Seguín in Natchitoches, Louisiana. There Austin received formal confirmation of his grant. Departing Natchitoches on July 13, he crossed the Sabine and entered Tejas on the sixteenth. Upon seeing the rich country on which he would stake his future, and that of potential colonists, Austin's dutiful filial obligations quickly grew into excitement. Meeting with Governor Martínez in Béxar, the new empresario submitted his plan for allocating the lands to new settlers: each family would receive 320 acres of farm land along a river and another 640 acres for grazing. The head of each household would likewise be granted two hundred acres for his wife, one hundred for each child, and fifty for each slave. The governor gave his provisional approval, and the first of three hundred carefully chosen families readied themselves to immigrate to the new colony site between the Colorado and Brazos Rivers.
To finance the project, Austin, still struggling to manage his massive debts in Missouri and Arkansas, entered into a partnership with Hawkins and other Louisiana investors. As empresario, he planned to "exact from each settler a sufficient per cent on the land grant to compensate him for his trouble and expense in attending to the business." He decided twelve and one-half cents per acre would be a fair recompense. To convey immigrants to their new homes, he acquired the Lively, a thirty-ton schooner, and hired a crew. The first settlers set out for Texas by both land and sea. One group departed New Orleans aboard the Lively on November 27 for the mouth of the Colorado, while the other had left Pecan Point, Arkansas, in July en route to the La Bahia crossing of the same river. The Lively failed to arrive on schedule when her captain mistook the mouth of the Brazos for the Colorado and landed his passengers there. Even while Austin waited impatiently for the missing colonists and the much-needed supplies, other settlers were trickling into the colony by January and February of 1822.
Austin was not the image of the hardy soldier or ranger found elsewhere in the pages of this book. Moses Austin Bryan, his sister's son, would describe him as "slender, sinewy, of graceful figure and easy, elastic movements, with small hands and feet, dark hair inclined to curl when damp, with large, hazel eyes, fair skin when not sun-burned, about five feet eight or nine inches in height." Historian and author H. W. Brands remarked: "Where the Texas project came naturally to Moses, Stephen, left to himself, would never have dreamed of anything so bold. If not for his father's deathbed request, he likely would have become a lawyer, perhaps a state judge, and spent his life pondering the perplexities of human nature, his own included." Stephen's tale is not notable for his skills on the battlefield or in tracking dangerous desperadoes, but rather for an indomitable will that would surmount any obstacle in order to realize his newfound vision. Never physically robust, and suffering from reoccurring bouts of malaria, Austin would ultimately work himself to death, driven onward by often-conflicting motivations: personal ambition, and a sense of duty and obligation to his fellow colonists.
Because final permission for colonization had not been given by the new government, Austin had to travel to Mexico City to press for recognition of his empresario contract. He was to spend most of 1822 and the early part of 1823 resolving the validity of his Spanish grant in light of Mexico's independence. En route to the capital, he traveled by way of Laredo and Monterey. He and his two companions were near the Nueces when they were taken by Comanches, who appropriated all their possessions. This particular tribe had not yet treated with Anglo Texians, but they remained intermittently hostile to Mexicans and tejanos, depending on the ability of the latter two groups to bestow gifts (i.e. tribute payments). Although their attitude toward all white men would change in the years to come, the Comanches were initially friendly. The Indians released Austin and his companions and returned their property, except for four blankets, a bridle, and a Spanish grammar book.
Austin and his party reached Mexico City on April 29 and found the capital's state of affairs in turmoil. The empresario met with the colonization committee of the Mexican Congress and cultivated relationships with key officials. Due in part to his innate skill at diplomacy, and having the time to learn Spanish and the customs of Mexico, he was allowed to assist in drafting the first colonization act. Austin was on hand to witness Agustín de Iturbide crowned as Emperor Agustín I on May 19. On the verge of success, his efforts were temporarily stymied when the Emperor dissolved the Congress sine die. After a brief interlude in limbo, the Imperial Colonization Law was finished by the Emperor's junta nacional instituyente on January 4, 1823. Among the terms of the agreement was that each family would receive one sitio (league, or 4,428 acres) of land for stock raising, or one labor (177 acres) for farming. Further, all colonists were required to convert to Catholicism. For his services Austin would receive twenty-two leagues of land, a sixty-dollar fee from each colonist family, and one medio, or twelve and one-half cents, for each league granted to settlers. The monarch decreed on February 18 the law would only grant concessions to Austin's colony and no other.
Excerpted from "The Ranger Ideal Volume 1"
Copyright © 2017 Darren L. Ivey.
Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
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Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments vii
Timeline of Texas Ranger History (1821-1861) xvii
Chapter 1 "Introduced the Concept of Rangers into the Texas Lexicon" Stephen R Austin 1
Chapter 2 "Ideal Texas Ranger" John C. Hays 43
Chapter 3 "A Man Who Personified Courage and Daring" Ben McCulloch 115
Chapter 4 "True Texas Folk Hero" William A. A. Wallace 185
Chapter 5 "Fighting Man par Excellence" Samuel H. Walker 225
Chapter 6 "Combination of the Renaissance Man and the Frontier Warrior" John S. Ford 267
Chapter 7 "Public Duty was an Important Fixture in His Life" Lawrence S. Ross 339