Frank Jones — Texas Ranger

No man in the wrong can stand up to a man in the right who just keeps on a-coming.

—The Texas Ranger Creed

Introduction

The Texas Rangers began with ten men, appointed by Stephen F. Austin in 1823.  He enlisted these men as a punitive expedition against a band of Indians who threatened the Austin Colony.  In 1835, the organization was formally created with the enlistment of fifty-three men assigned to three companies.  Each company had a captain and two lieutenants.  The three captains answered to a major, whose responsibilities included recruitment, enforcing regulations, and imposing discipline.  Texas Ranger privates received a salary of $1.25 a day, but they were responsible for supplying and maintaining their own mounts, equipment, firearms, and rations.

There was no formal Texas Ranger uniform in those early days.  The men wore clothing suitable to themselves for life in the field.  Adopting the clothing style of Mexican vaqueros, a Texas Ranger likely wore a sombrero, loose-fitting trousers, worn boots, a heavy-duty shirt, a vest, and a bandana around his neck.  Some of the boys — well, maybe most of them — were scruffy.  They were unshaven, long-haired, and a bit smelly.

Also, there were no saints in the Texas Rangers.  Killing men who needed killing transformed impressionable boys into calloused men.  In all likelihood, they drank too much, chawed tobacco, and cussed like uncouth sailors.  They probably cheated at cards, paid women for intimate services, and occasionally broke the law.  On the positive side, they were hellacious fighters and reliable, and their courage and determination saving the lives of settlers was beyond reproach.

Texas Rangers have always been heroes to Texans, of course — but they also belong to America because Americans value such attributes regularly displayed by the Rangers: hardy manhood, stoicism, pluck, valor, and resolve.  When the going gets tough … the tough get going.

Meet Mr. Jones

Most of what we know of Frank Jones we learned from his father-in-law, Colonel George Wythe Baylor — and various snippets picked up from the Texas Historical Society and archive of the Texas Rangers.

Frank Jones was born in Austin, Texas, in 1856.  He was the son of Judge William Eastman Jones, formerly of the great state of Georgia, and his wife, Elizabeth Rector Jones of Tennessee.  Whatever Frank’s sterling attributes, he no doubt inherited them from his father.  Judge Jones and his wife raised five sons — three of whom served as Texas Rangers.

Frank enlisted in the Texas Rangers with Company A in 1873.  He was 17 years old.  A year later, he transferred to Company F and served under Lieutenant Pat Dolan.  Nine months later, he joined Company D, serving under Captain D. W. Roberts.  Roberts appointed Jones as company corporal.

After assuming command of the company, Captain Lamartine. P. Sieker promoted Jones to sergeant, later recommending him for promotion to second lieutenant and first lieutenant.[1]  When Sieker departed the company to serve in Austin, First Lieutenant Jones assumed command of the company.  Within a year, the Rangers commissioned Jones as a Captain, and he retained command of Company D. 

Throughout his service, Captain Frank Jones was recognized as one of the Texas Ranger’s foremost lawmen.  He was cool under pressure, fearless, and determined to see his duty through to completion.  He was well thought of by his superiors, contemporaries, and subordinates.  He treated his men with respect — part of that being the expectation that they would always do their duty.  In the Ranger’s entire history, few were as brave, as efficient, or as untiring as he in the performance of his duty.

Frank married Miss Grace O’Grady, the daughter of Irish immigrants John and Kate O’Grady.  Frank and Grace settled down in Kenner County and raised two daughters (Grace, named after her mother, b.1887, and Frances, b.1889).  Grace died in 1889, possibly in childbirth.  Her daughter Frances followed her in death in 1890.  In 1892, Frank remarried Miss Helen Baylor, the daughter of CSA Colonel George W. Baylor, a former major of Texas Rangers.  Frank and Helen had a son whom they named Frank Baylor Jones, who was born in 1893 — the year Frank Jones lost his life. 

What Happened

Outside El Paso, within the Rio Grande water system, lay a large island consisting of around 15,000 acres nearest the present-day town of Fabens.  The island formed due to a shift in the river’s course.  By the Treaty of Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, half of this island belongs to the United States, and the other half belongs to Mexico.  Its location presented some difficulty in policing criminal activity, which was precisely why outlaw elements from both countries utilized it.  Whether Mexican or American, it was a simple matter to flee across the dry riverbed into one country or the other, which made Mexico a sanctuary for murderers, thugs, rapists, arsonists, and thieves.

Pirate Island was the location of a gallery forest.[2]  One band of outlaws living on Pirate Island called themselves the Bosque Gang.  The gang’s leader was a fellow named Jesus Maria Olguin, who, along with his three sons, developed a particularly nasty reputation for their conduct toward Texans after Texas Rangers killed one of his relatives during the San Elizario Salt War.[3] 

By 1893, the Bosque Gang was doing whatever it wanted and to whoever got in its way.  The main focus of their attention was stealing American cattle and horses and moving them across the border into Mexico.[4]  Influential ranchers and county lawmen in south Texas began to demand help from the state capital, prompting the governor to send Texas Rangers to El Paso under the command of Captain Frank Jones.  After assessing the situation, and owing to the size of the Bosque Gang, Jones telegraphed the governor, requesting additional men.  Texas was always a miserly state, and owing to the cost of additional lawmen, the governor refused Captain Jones’ request and ordered him to move against Olguin with the men at his disposal.  Captain Jones had six men in his detachment beside himself.  According to Texas Ranger Sergeant John R. Hughes, “ … the Bosque Gang grew stronger and stronger — they laughed at the Gringos threatening to arrest them.[5]

In June 1893, El Paso County officials issued a warrant for the arrest of Jesus Maria and his son Severino for stealing horses and cattle, additionally charging them with assault with the intent of committing murder.  To serve these warrants, Captain Jones formed a detachment consisting of himself, El Paso Deputies Robert Edwards and Ed Bryant, and four other Texas Rangers: Corporal Carl Kirchner, Privates T. F. Tucker, J. W. “Wood” Saunders, and Edwin Dunlap Aten (Texas Ranger Ira Aten’s younger brother).  A young Mexican rancher named Lujan accompanied Jones to help search for some of his stolen livestock.

On the morning of 30 June, Jones and his detachment departed from El Paso and headed southwest along the Rio Grande toward Pirate Island.  The Rangers had searched several houses in the area and were returning to El Paso when they spotted two Mexican men on horseback coming down the road toward them.  As soon as the Mexicans became aware of the posse, they turned their horses around and began galloping back toward the small village of Tres Jacales.

The Jones posse gave chase.  Upon arriving at the outskirts of the village, Corporal Kirchner called out, demanding their surrender.  The Mexicans answered with a volley of fire that came from within a small canal along the road and from several positions in the surrounding brush.  On the first volley, a bullet ripped into Captain Jones’ thigh, knocking him off his horse.  Another bullet struck the magazine in Kirchner’s Winchester.  The Texans immediately dismounted and returned fire, forcing the Mexicans to seek better protection inside the village.  According to the later testimony of the Rangers, there were at least five Mexican attackers; some were gang members, and others were residents of the town.

Mexicans and Texas Rangers exchanged shots for the better part of an hour.  During this time, Private Tucker made several attempts to rescue Captain Jones, but Jones told him to save himself.  Just then, another Mexican bullet struck Jones in the chest, killing him.  Señor Lujan made his way to Kirchner’s position and informed him that the Rangers had unknowingly crossed into Mexican territory.  Lujan opined that it would be better to leave before locals reported their presence to the local Mexican army commander.

Kirchner, however, was unwilling to leave his dead captain and continued the fight for another hour.  It was then that Kirchner realized that the Mexicans were working to flank the Americans; if that happened, it was likely that they would all be killed.  Kirchner ordered a fighting withdrawal back across the Rio Grande to the town of Clint.  From Clint, Kirchner sent a message outlining his situation to El Paso Sheriff Frank B. Simmons.

In this fight, Captain Jones was the only American casualty.  Jesus Maria and Severino were both wounded in the fight.  Initially, Mexican authorities refused to return Captain Jones’ body to American authorities, but after some delay, Jones’ remains were handed over to El Paso law officers.  Then, in a rare cooperative move, Mexican Army officials joined with Sheriff Simmons in capturing a few of the outlaws at Pirate Island.

At first, Mexican authorities held the Olguins in the jail at Ciudad Juarez, but in a move designed to spite American lawmen, Mexican President Porfirio Diaz ordered the Olguins released.  There was very likely much celebration at Tres Jacales.

In the aftermath of the gunfight at Tres Jacales, some folks living in south Texas observed that Texas Ranger Sergeant John R. Hughes was ‘spitting mad about how President Diaz protected the Olguins.

There was never any evidence that John Hughes or any other ranger embarked on a vengeance campaign into Mexico — but over the next several weeks, every one of the Olguins died under mysterious circumstances.  The generally held belief was that the despicable bandits perished due to an acute case of rangeritis.  Note: The photograph at right was taken in 1894 of the members of Company D, Texas Ranger Frontier Battalion, Captain John R. Hughes, Commanding.  Kirchner and Hughes are seated on the far right.

Sources:

  1. Alexander, R.  Winchester Warriors: Texas Rangers of Company D.  1874 – 1901.  University of North Texas Press, 2009.
  2. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, 2017.

Endnotes:

[1] Sieker was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1848.  He attended primary school in North Carolina and later attended the Washington Military Academy.  At the age of 15, he joined the Confederate Army in 1863, serving as an artillerist in Longstreet’s Corps.  Following the war, he migrated to Texas and joined the Texas Rangers.  He served as a private, corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant before being commissioned a captain.  In 1885, Sieker was appointed to serve as Quartermaster General of the State of Texas.

[2] A forest forms a corridor along a river or wetland area and projects into landscapes that are otherwise only sparse trees, such as savannahs, grasslands, or deserts.

[3] In Spanish, Jesus is pronounced ‘hay-soos’.

[4] This sort of behavior wasn’t a one-way street.  American cowboys routinely made off with Mexican cattle and horses, as well. 

[5] Spanish and Portuguese speakers use the word Gringo to denote a stranger or foreigner.  In Mexico, the term generally applies to Americans as a form of derision or mockery.  Click on the link for a summary of the life and times of John R. Hughes.


About Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.
This entry was posted in American Frontier, American Southwest, Feuds & Rivalries, History, Justice, Mexican Border War, Outlaws, Texas Rangers, Vengeance. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Frank Jones — Texas Ranger

  1. Phil Strawn says:

    Good post Mustang. Yes, the Texas Rangers are legendary hero’s to us Texans. As a child, when our neighborhood gang divided up for Cowboys and Indians, a few of us were always Texas Rangers. My grandfather knew two Rangers from his teen years in the early 1900’s. He said they were tough hombre’s. Lonesome Dove pays tribute to them with Gus and Call being ex Rangers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy says:

    Texas rangers still roam the Lone Star State and their reputations are every bit as glorious as those who went before them a hundred and fifty years ago.

    Frank Jones was a Texan through and through. Thanks, Mustang, for keeping his story alive.

    S/F

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.