Texas tough guys: was one of them the Lone Ranger?

September 28, 1893

On this day legendary Texas Ranger John R. Hughes ended the careers of a pair of cattle thieves, Art and Jubel Friar and burnished his reputation as the “border boss.”   Maybe even his image as the prototype for the masked man himself. 

The Friars were just two of a long list of rustlers, robbers and murderers he dispatched over the years.  A Texas transplant, Hughes, (left) was born in Illinois in 1855 and went west at 14 to work on a ranch.  He didn’t join the Rangers until he was 30, recruited by another Texas legend, Ira Aten, (below) when he rescued a neighbor’s stolen horses and shot the thieves.    

Hughes spent most of his career in what was known as the “Frontier Battalion” on the Mexican-American border.  His  relentless pursuit of outlaws earned him the label of “border boss” by both friend and foe alike.    In perhaps his best known assignment, he and his Company D successfully ended a virtual crime wave perpetrated by members of the Olguin family.

Photograph said to be members of the Olguin gang.

The Olguins had been responsible for the ambush murder of a fellow Ranger, Captain Frank Jones. (Below)  Jones and company had unwittingly crossed or were lured into Mexico in pursuit.  As a result, no one was prosecuted for his death.  But the Olguins were wanted for various crimes on both sides of the border.  Hughes, with the help of an early Ranger undercover agent, French refugee Ernest “Diamond Dick” St. Leon, developed a list of suspects in the Jones murder.   Some 18 members of the Olguin gang were systematically killed in shootouts or hung.

Perhaps no other Texas Ranger inspired as much literary attention as Hughes.  After the lawman retired from the service in 1915, Western writer Zane Grey, (right) dedicated his best known book, “The Lone Star Ranger” to Hughes. Grey’s book is  widely believed to be the inspiration for the most famous cowboy lawman of them all, the Lone Ranger.

In addition, Hughes’ close friend Jack Martin authored “The Border Boss,” which detailed many of Hughes’ adventures.   W. W. Sterling wrote “Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger,” also about Hughes’ exploits.  He’s included in Bill O’Neal’s  Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters and in Frederick Wilkins, “The Law Comes to Texas,” as well. 

By the 1940s, Hughes was in declining health and moved to Austin where he lived with a niece.  He committed suicide in 1947 at age 92 and is buried in Austin’s State Cemetery.

He received the national Certificate of Valor for law enforcement officers in 1940 and is a member of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.  

St. Leon didn’t live to retire with honors.  He was fatally shot in a stand-off with a trio of horse thieves on August 31, 1898, at the age of 38 or 39.  He is buried at El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery.

The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, 100 Texas Ranger Trail, Waco, Texas, tells the story of the state’s most historic lawmen and honors the best who have served from 1823 to 2004.  A second honor roll commemorates those who died in the line of duty.  The Homer Carrison Gallery, dedicated in 1968, houses more tha 14,000 artifacts dating  from the founding of the service and one gallery pays tribute to the fictional character, The Lone Ranger. 

Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and military with ID, $4 for children 6 to 12 and children under 6 free.  The museum is open from 9 to 5 daily and the last guest is admitted at 4:30.  Gift shop hours are 9 to 4:30.  Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  For more information go to texasrangers.org, e-mail info@texasranger.org between 9 and 5, call (254) 750-8631 or write Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, 100 Texas Ranger Trail, Waco, TX 76706.

© Text Only – 2018 – Headin’ West LLC  – All photos – public domain or fair use.

*Head On West strives for historic accuracy and uses a number of sources considered reliable.  When research differs on significant facts, the various points of view will be cited.