Sunday, February 28, 2010


Image below of some old school Texas Rangers from

The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, Museum and the Repository of the Texas Ranger Law Enforcement Agency up in Waco has a magazine, and the current Winter 2010 is online here

There are several interesting articles in this issue. Although I greatly enjoyed Christina Smith's article on Indians and Rangers in 19th Century Texas, I was disappointed in the topical treatment given this important subject in terms of her listed sources and suggested readings. Perhaps the books she cited cites and references some of the books on the subject I've listed below.

To be sure, it's a heady subject that could easily be (and has been) the subject of numerous books and scholarly endeavors. The problem, albeit minor compared to her otherwise excellent article covering a roughly a half a century of history in just a few pages, is that in her sources and suggested readings list at the end of the article, she omits the best known and most interesting books on the subject, a few of which I will list here:

Indian Depredations in Texas by J.W. Wilbarger

Here's a blurb from The Texas State Library on Indian Depredations, and as indicated by the blurb reprinted below, the brother of the author was scalped AND lived to tell about it. YIKES. It wasn't always the white man who knew how to inflict pain on another culture. Also, this link is to a set of pages entitled "Indian Relations", on which more than a few books have been written

Scalping of Josiah Wilbarger, 1833
Josiah Wilbarger, brother of the author of Indian Depredations in Texas, was one of the earliest American settlers in Texas. Wilbarger and a party of five others were riding near present-day Austin when they came under heavy attack. Wilbarger was scalped while still conscious and left for dead. He survived and lived for eleven years with his skull exposed. The attack on Wilbarger's party was the beginning of a bloody era in Central Texas that lasted until around 1846, when Texas was annexed to the United States.

Texas Indian Fighters: Early settlers and Indian fighters of southwest Texas
by Andrew Jackson Sowell, a chronicle of many of the early fights in Austin's colony and thereafter by Author Sowell and his father.

Indian Tribes of Texas by the late noted Texas historian Dornan Winfrey et al AND Indian Papers Of Texas and the Southwest edited by Day and Winfrey. (scroll down for review on Indian Tribes of Texas)

If you are interested in this subject, and it's a part of Texas history that is overlooked by many, then these books I've mentioned about early Texas life and strife between indians, settlers and Texas Rangers are great sources and recommended reading. There are numerous other books, all of which are readily available for online purchase or via reading at the Texas State Library.

Indeed, all one really need do is access the excellent online version of the Texas State Historical Association handbook which has information on all the above, plus other stellar books on the relations between indians and the early settlers of Texas. These are mostly first hand accounts, by the settlers themselves or their descendants.

Not included on her list of recommended reading or mine above are many other books about this subject, which one can easily find by looking at the biblios of the above books that I've listed. It's a subject about which much has been written, particularly by those who lived the history themselves, and it's disappointing that these books were omitted from the sources and reading list for her article. Some of those books, specifically Sowell's and Wilbarger's books, HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE FOR SALE (at least in the recent past) at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco or if out of stock, at the nearby Barnes and Noble store.

It's a great magazine, and I don't mean to slag the almost great effort that it takes to produce such a nice magazine, this one on a quarterly basis. Her article is well written, but I was shocked to see the omission of such prominent sources. Nonetheless, her article gets an A+ from this amateur Texas historian.

Another book I didn't see in the article recommended readings or include on my list was The Texas Rangers, by the Late Professor Walter Prescott Webb. Walter had a bad case of hero worship for the Rangers, and his writing reflects that. Still, it was the first comprehensive "story form" history of that august group of men who played an important part of Texas history. Also missing were books on early life in Texas in Austin's colonies, by Mssrs. Jenkins, Barton and Smithwick. Noteable omissions.

You can find some links to more current works about the Rangers on the wiki page, but I recommend looking back further than books written in this or the last century for a true taste of who and what the Rangers were, and how their relations with the various indian tribes across the State.

In closing, there are some other excellent articles in The Dispatch. There's a stellar article on how the Walker Colt changed the shape of law enforcement in Texas (and elsewhere but Texas was first), particularly as it applied to The Texas Rangers and settlers fighting indian tribes back in early Texas. There is an article on the close relation between the banking industry and the Rangers. It is 76 pages of great writing about the Rangers and about Texas history itself.

So to apologize once again to author Smith for being critical of her reference list, I'd once again say that this magazine and it's articles are great. Not enough people care about history nowadays, let along Texas history, specifically, the early days of Texas history. I salute their efforts and maybe I'll take a stab one day at contributing an article to their fine magazine, and I'll hope it doesn't get rejected.

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