On May 2, 1874, Texas Governor Richard Coke, who was originally from Virginia, gave a man named John B. Jones command of the recently created Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers.
John B. Jones is one of those interesting characters that fill the pages of Texas history. He’d been born in South Carolina in 1834 and came to Texas with his family in 1838, while Texas was still in its early phase of being an independent republic. He lived in Travis County at first and over the years moved to land that became part of Matagorda County and then to a site in modern Navarro County.
Being from South Carolina, it should be no surprise that Jones was one of many Texans that opposed Sam Houston’s desire to remain in the United States when the Civil War started. During the war, he established a reputation that led nineteenth century Texas Rangers’ historian Wilburn Hill King writing that Jones had established “an excellent record as a man of superior business tact and judgment, and on the battle-field his coolness, quickness of judgment, breadth of comprehension, soldierly skill, and management had marked him as one to trust in time of difficulty."
Unhappy with the war’s results, this unreconstructed rebel decided to go to Mexico to create a Confederate colony for likeminded folks. This didn’t last long and he returned to Texas.
In 1868 he ran and won a spot in the Texas state legislature as a representative for Ellis, Hill, Kaufman and Navarro counties. He never served, however, because the Republicans in power denied him his seat.
The legislature authorized the formation of a battalion of Texas Rangers in January 1874 to enforce Governor Coke’s demand an end to raids on settlements by Native Americans and the enforcement of law in the already settled interior. This became known as the Frontier Battalion, with six companies containing 75 men in each.
This lead to Governor Coke naming John B. Jones as commander of the Frontier Battalion with the rank of major.
Jones reported that during the battalions first six months of service the Frontier Battalion had engaged with fourteen of the forty known raiding parties. During the second six months they only engaged in four fights with the Native American raiders. After the first year, the Frontier Battalion Jones reported only six raids and one small battle.
During this time, Jones reported an estimated thirty-seven Indians killed with the battalion only having six men wounded and losing only two to death.
It’s important to remember that this time coincided with the United States Army’s Red River war against the Southern Plains Tribes that resulted in the majority of the Comanches and Kiowas moving to the reservation at Fort Sill, near modern day Lawton, Oklahoma.
Jones commanded the Frontier Battalion for seven years. One of the highlights of his command was the pursuit of outlaw gang led by Sam Bass, which led to Bass’s death near Round Rock in 1878.
Jones died at 46 years old in Austin on July 19, 1881 while serving as the state’s adjutant general and still commanding the Frontier Battalion. A court order ended the battalion in 1900.
The Texas History Lessons Theme song, Walking Through History, was written and recorded by Derrick McClendon. Listen to his new album, Interstate Daydreamer! Available everywhere you find good music. Thank you Derrick! Twitter: @dmclendonmusic
The song at the end of the episode is by Texas History Lessons new spotlight artist, Payton Matous. The song, The Boy With Blood on His Hands is on the Campfire Sessions EP.
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