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[Illustration: _W.J. McDonald_]


_A Story of Frontier Reform_


Author of "Th: Nast - His Period and
His Pictures," etc., etc.

With Introductory Letter by Theodore Roosevelt

"No man in the wrong can stand up
against a fellow that's in the right
and keeps on a-comin'."

Bill McDonald's Creed.

Made by J.J. Little & Ives Co.
New York, 1909

Copyright, 1909, by






Foreword: A letter from Theodore Roosevelt 11

I. - Introducing "Captain Bill" 13

II. - An Old-Time Mississippi Childhood

The kind of education for a young Ranger. Presence of
mind early manifested 16

III. - Emigration and Adventure

A boy at the head of a household. Meeting the "Devil
and his wife." An early reform 21

IV. - The Making of a Texan

Reconstruction and "treason." "Dave" Culberson to the
rescue. Education, marriage and politics 26

V. - The Beginning of Reform

Subduing a bad man. First official appointment. A
deputy who did things. "Bill" McDonald and "Jim" Hogg 33

VI. - Into the Wilderness

A New Business in a New Land. A "Sand-lapper" shows
his "sand" 43

VII. - Commercial Ventures and Adventures

Bill McDonald's method of collecting a bill; and his method
of handling bad men 48

VIII. - Reforming the Wilderness

The kind of men to be reformed. Early reforms in Quanah.
Bad men meet their match 55

IX. - Getting Even with the Brooken Gang

The Brooken Gang don't wait for callers. One hundred
and twenty-seven years' sentence for an outlaw 65

X. - New Tactics in No-Man's Land

A man with a buck-board. Holding up a bad gang single-handed 69

XI. - Redeeming No-Man's Land

Bill McDonald and Lon Burson gather in the bad men.
"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's
in the right and keeps on a-comin'" 78

XII. - Some of the Difficulties of Reform

"Frontier" law and practice. Caught in a Norther in
No-Man's Land 87

XIII. - Captain Bill as a Tree-Man

The lost drove of Lazarus. A pilgrim on a "paint-hoss."
A new way of getting information in the "Strip" 95

XIV. - The Day for "Deliveries"

The tree-man turns officer, and single-handed wipes out a
bad gang 106

XV. - Cleaning Up the Strip

Deputy Bill gets "stood off," but makes good. Bill Cook
and "Skeeter," "A hell of a court to plead guilty in!" 115

XVI. - Texas Ranger Service and Its Origin

The massacre of Fort Parker; Cynthia Ann Parker's capture.
Rangers and what they are for. Their characteristics
and their requirements 126

XVII. - Captain of Company B, Ranger Force

Capture of Dan and Bob Campbell. Recommendations for
a Ranger Captain. Governor "Jim" Hogg appoints his old
friend on the strength of them 136

XVIII. - An Exciting Indian Campaign

First service as Ranger Captain. Biggest Indian scare on
record 145

XIX. - A Bit of Farming and Politics

Captain Bill and his goats. The "car-shed" convention 149

XX. - Taming the Pan-handle

The difference between cowboys and "bad men." How
Captain Bill made cow-stealing unpopular 154

XXI. - The Battle with Matthews

What happened to a man who had decided to kill Bill
McDonald 165

XXII. - What Happened to Beckham

An outlaw raid and a Ranger battle. Joe Beckham ends
his career 176

XXIII. - A Medal for Speed

Captain Bill outruns a criminal and wins a gold medal 179

XXIV. - Captain Bill in Mexico

Mexican thieves try to hold up Captain Bill and get a surprise.
Mexican police make the same attempt with the
same result. President Diaz tries to enlist him 182

XXV. - A New Style in the Pan-handle

Charles A. Culberson pays a tribute to Ranger marksmanship.
Captain Bill in a "plug" hat 189

XXVI. - Preventing a Prize-Fight

The Fitzsimmons-Maher fight that didn't come off at El
Paso, and why. Captain Bill "takes up" for a Chinaman 194

XXVII. - The Wichita Falls Bank Robbery and Murder

Kid Lewis and his gang take advantage of the absence of
the Rangers. They make a bad calculation and come
to grief. Good examples of Bill McDonald's single-handed
work, and nerve 199

XXVIII. - Captain Bill as a Peace-maker

He attends certain strikes and riots alone with satisfactory
results. Goes to Thurber and disperses a mob 214

XXIX. - The Buzzard's Water-Hole Gang

The Murder Society of San Saba and what happened to it
after the Rangers arrived 221

XXX. - Quieting a Texas Feud

The Reece-Townsend trouble, and how the factions were
once dismissed by Captain Bill McDonald 243

XXXI. - The Trans-Cedar Mystery

The lynching of the Humphreys and what happened to the
lynchers 250

XXXII. - Other Mobs and Riots

Rangers at Orange and at Port Arthur. Five against four
hundred 260

XXXIII. - Other Work in East Texas

Districts which even a Ranger finds hopeless. The Touchstone
murder. The confession of Ab Angle 265

XXXIV. - A Wolf-Hunt with the President

Captain Bill sees the President through Texas and accompanies
him on the "best time of his life." Quanah Parker
tells stories to the hunters 273

XXXV. - The Conditt Murder Mystery

A terrible crime at Edna, Texas. Monk Gibson's arrest
and escape. The greatest man-hunt in history. 290

XXXVI. - The Death of Rhoda McDonald

The end of a noble woman's life. Her letter of good-by 304

XXXVII. - The Conditt Mystery Solved

Captain Bill as a "sleuth." The tell-tale handprint. A
Ranger captain's theories established 308

XXXVIII. - The Brownsville Episode: An Event of National

The Twenty-fifth Infantry's midnight raid 315

XXXIX. - Captain Bill on the Scene

The situation at Brownsville. Rangers McDonald and
McCauley defy the U.S. army. Captain Bill holds a
court of inquiry 323

XL. - What Finally Happened at Brownsville

How State officials failed to support the men who quieted
disorder and located crime 341

XLI. - The Battle on the Rio Grande

Assassination of Judge Stanley Welch. A Rio Grande
election. Captain Bill ordered to the scene. An ambush;
a surprise, and an inquest. Captain Bill's last battle. 357

XLII. - The End of Rangering and a New Appointment

State Revenue Agent of Texas. The "Full Rendition"
Bill enforced. A great battle for Tax Reform, and a bloodless
triumph 373

XLIII. - Conclusion

Captain Bill McDonald of Texas - what he has been and
what he is to-day 388



Portrait of Capt. Bill McDonald _Frontispiece_

Facsimile of Letter from Theodore Roosevelt 11

Introducing Reform in the Wilderness 46

Beginning a Campaign in No-man's Land 75

The Capture of Dan and Bob Campbell 138

The Battle with Matthews at Quanah 173

Quelling a Lynching Mob at Wichita Falls 211

In Camp with Theodore Roosevelt 283

Captain Bill's Last Battle 367



December 19, 1908.

My dear Captain:

I am glad you are to publish your memorials. I shall always look back
with pleasure to our wolf hunt in Oklahoma. Yours has been a most
interesting life. You are one of the few men now living who served
in that warfare against crime and on behalf of order, which has well
nigh passed away with the old frontier conditions which called it
into being. For a number of years you were deputy sheriff, or deputy
marshal, or representative of the cattle men's association employed by
them to put a stop to cattle stealing and robbery under arms, and you
served for twenty years in that unique body, the Texas Rangers. It is a
career which henceforth it will be difficult to parallel.

With all good wishes, believe me,

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Captain W.J. McDonald,
New Amsterdam Hotel,
New York, N.Y.]


_A Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Captain McDonald_

The White House,

December 19, 1908.

MY DEAR CAPTAIN: I am glad you are to publish your memorials. I shall
always look back with pleasure to our wolf-hunt in Oklahoma. Yours has
been a most interesting life. You are one of the few men now living who
served in that warfare against crime and on behalf of order, which has
well-nigh passed away with the old frontier conditions which called it
into being. For a number of years you were deputy sheriff, or deputy
marshal, or representative of the cattlemen's associations, employed by
them to put a stop to cattle stealing and robbery under arms, and you
served for twenty years in that unique body, the Texas Rangers. It is a
career which henceforth it will be difficult to parallel.

With all good wishes, believe me,

Sincerely yours,




Introducing "Captain Bill"

Captain Bill McDonald is a name that in Texas and the districts lying
adjacent thereto makes the pulse of a good citizen, and the feet of an
outlaw, move quicker. Its owner is a man of fifty-six, drawn out long
and lean like a buckskin thong, with the endurance and constitution of
the same.

In repose, Captain Bill is mild of manner; his speech is a gentle
vernacular, his eyes are like the summer sky. I have never seen him in
action, but I am told that then his voice becomes sharp and imperative,
that his eyes turn into points of gray which pierce the offender

Two other features bespeak this man's character and career: his ears
and his nose - the former, alert and extended - the ears of the wild
creature, the hunter; the latter of that stately Roman architecture
which goes with conquest, because it signifies courage, resolution and
the peerless gift of command.

His nerves are of that quiet and steady sort which belong to a
tombstone and he does not disturb them with tobacco or stimulants of
any kind - not even with tea and coffee. In explanation, he once said:

"Well, you see, sometimes I have to be about two-fifths of a second
quicker than the other fellow, and a little quiver, then, might be

Incidentally, it may be added that Captain Bill - they love to call him
that in Texas - is ranked as the best all-round rapid-fire marksman in
the State, and for the "other fellow" to begin shooting is believed to
be equivalent to suicide. Add to these various attributes a heart in
which tenderness, strict honesty and an overwhelming regard for duty
prevail, and you have in full, Captain William Jesse McDonald, formerly
Deputy Sheriff, Deputy U.S. Marshal and Ranger Captain, now State
Revenue Agent of Texas.

It is the story of this man that we shall undertake to tell. During
his twenty-five years or more of service in the field, he reduced
those once lawless districts known as the Pan-handle, No-man's Land,
and, incidentally, Texas at large to a condition of such proper
behavior that nowhere in this country is life and property safer than
in the very localities where only a few years ago the cow-thief and
the train-robber reigned supreme. Their species have become scarce
and "hard to catch" there now, and the skittish officials who used
to shield them have been trained to "stand hitched." The story of a
reform like that is worth the telling, for it is the unwritten history
of a territory so vast that if moved to the Atlantic seaboard it
would extend from New York to Chicago, from Lake Erie to the Gulf of
Mexico - its area equal to that of France and England combined, with
Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland thrown in, for good
measure. Furthermore, it is the story of a man who, in making that
history, faced death almost daily, often under those supreme conditions
when the slightest hesitancy - the twitch of a muscle or the bat of an
eyelid - a "little quiver," as he put it - would have been fatal; it is
the story of a man who time and again charged into the last retreat
of armed and desperate murderers and brought them out hand-cuffed,
the living ones, of course; it is the story of a man who, according
to Major Blocksom, in his report of the Brownsville troubles in 1906,
would "Charge hell with a bucket of water." In a word, it is the story
of a man who has done things, who is still doing them, and whose kind
is passing away forever.


An Old Time Mississippi Childhood


In those days when the Mississippi planter was only something less
than a feudal baron, with slaves and wide domain and vested rights;
with horses, hounds and the long chase after fox and good red deer;
with horn and flagon and high home wassail in the hall - in those days
was born William Jesse McDonald, September 28th, 1852. His father,
Enoch McDonald, was the planter of the feudal type - fearless, fond of
the chase, the owner of wide acres and half a hundred slaves - while
his grandfather, of the clan McDonald on its native heath, was a step
nearer in the backward line to some old laird who led his men in
roistering hunt or bloody fray amid the green hills and in dim glens of

That was good blood, and from his mother, who was a Durham - Eunice
Durham - the little chap that was one day to be a leader on his own
account, inherited as a clear a strain. The feudal hall in Mississippi,
however, was a big old plantation house, built of hewn logs and riven
boards, with woods and cotton-fields on every hand; with cabins for the
slaves and outbuildings of every sort. That was in Kemper County, over
near the Alabama line, with DeKalb, the county-seat, about twenty miles

It was a peculiar childhood that little "Bill Jess" McDonald had. It
was full of such things as the home-coming of the hunters with a deer
or a fox - sometimes (and these were grand occasions) even with a bear.
Then there were wonderful ball-games played by the Bogue Chita and
Mucklilutia Indians; exciting shooting-matches and horse races; long
fishing and swimming days with companions black and white, and the ever
recurring chase, with the blood-hounds, of some runaway slave. There
was not much book-schooling in a semi-barbaric childhood such as that.
There was a school-house, of course, which was used for a church and
gatherings of any sort, and sometimes the children had lessons there.
But the Kemper County teaching of that day was mainly to ride well,
to shoot at sight, and to act quickly in the face of danger. That was
the proper education for the boy who was one day to make the Texas
Pan-handle and No-man's land his hunting ground, with men for his

Presence of mind he had as a gift, and it was early manifested. There
was a lake not far away where fishing and swimming went on almost
continuously during the summer days, and sometimes the small swimmers
would muddy the water near the shore and then catch the fish in their
hands. They were doing this one day when Bill Jess was heard to
announce excitedly:

"I've got him, boys! I've got him! You can't beat mine!" at the same
instant swinging his catch high for them to see.

That was a correct statement. They couldn't beat his catch and
they didn't want to. What they wanted to do was to get out of his
neighborhood without any unnecessary delay, for the thing he held up
to view was an immense deadly moccasin, grasped with both hands by
the neck, the rest of it curling instantly around the lower arm. His
hold was so tight and so near its head that the snake could not bite
him, but the problem was to turn it loose. His friends were all ashore
and at a safe distance. He did not lose his head, however, but wading
ashore himself he invited them one after another to unwind that snake.
Nobody cared for the job and he told them in turn and collectively what
he thought of them. Then he offered the honor to a little slave boy on
attractive terms.

"Alec," he said, "ef you-all don't come an' unwind this heah snake,
I'll beat you-all to death an' cut off yo' ears an' skin you alive and
give yo' carcass to the buzzards."

Those were the days when a little slave-boy could not resist an earnest
entreaty of that sort from the son of the household, and Jim came
forward, his face gray with gratitude, and taking hold gingerly he
unwound a yard or so of water-moccasin from Bill Jess, who, with the
last coil, flung his prize to the ground, where it was quickly killed,
it being well-nigh choked to death already.

But even the great gift of presence of mind will sometimes balk at
unfamiliar dangers. It was about this time that the Civil War broke
out, and Enoch McDonald enlisted a company to defend the Southern
cause. The little boy left behind was heart-broken. His father was his
hero, and when by and by the news came that the soldiers were encamped
at Meridian - a railway station about fifty miles distant - the lad made
up his mind to join them. He set out alone afoot and being used to
finding his way in unfamiliar places he made the journey with no great
difficulty, eating and sleeping where opportunity afforded. He arrived
at Meridian one morning, and began to look over the ground and to make
a few inquiries as to his father's headquarters. There was a busy
place, where a lot of supplies were being unloaded from what appeared
to be little houses on wheels. They were freight cars, but Bill Jess
didn't know it. He had never seen a railroad before, and he followed
along the track with increasing interest till he reached the engine,
which he thought must be the most wonderful and beautiful thing ever
created. Then suddenly it let off steam, the bell rang and the air
was split by a screaming whistle. It was too sudden and too strange
for his gift to work. The son of all the McDonald's and of a gallant
soldier set out for the horizon, never pausing until halted by the
sentry of his father's camp.

He was permitted to enter, and was directed to the drill ground, where
his father, who had been promoted for bravery to the rank of Major,
was superintending certain maneuvers. The little boy in his eagerness
ran directly into the midst of things, and Major McDonald, suddenly
seeing him, was startled into the conclusion that some dire calamity
had befallen his family and only Bill Jess had escaped to tell the
tale. Half sliding, half falling he dropped from his horse to learn the
truth. Then gratefully he lifted the lad up behind him and continued
the drill. Eunice McDonald was only a day or two behind Bill Jess, for
her instinct told her where the boy had gone. They remained a few days
in camp and then bade their soldier good-bye. They never saw him again,
for he was killed at the battle of Corinth, October 3d, 1862, charging
a breastworks at the head of his regiment, his face to the enemy, as a
soldier should die.[1] The boy, Bill Jess, ten years old, went after
his father's effects, which included two horses, both wounded. These
he brought home, but his soldier father had been buried on the field,
where he fell.


[Footnote 1: Col. Rogers of Texas was killed in the same charge; Major
McDonald and Col. Rogers fell side by side, within a few feet of the


Emigration and Adventure


The boy of ten was now the head of the household. He had his mother and
sister, and most of the negroes still remained; but he was the "man
of the house" and was mature before his time. Except in the matter of
strength, he was a man's equal - he could do whatever a man could do.
Already he was a crack shot, and at the age of twelve he hunted deer,
and killed them, alone. Long before, even during his father's first
absence, he had followed runaway slaves with the blood-hounds and
without other assistance had captured them and marched them back to the
plantation. It was not a child's work, and we may not approve of it
to-day, but we must confess that it constituted a special training for
the part he was to play in after years.

The war ended at last, and with it the McDonald fortune. Slaves and
cotton were gone. Only a remnant of land, then worthless, remained.
Eunice McDonald, widowed, with two children - her home left desolate by
the ravages of war - knew not which way to turn. A bachelor brother with
his face set Texasward offered to make a home for her in the new land.
She accepted the offer, and in 1866 they reached east Texas and settled
in Rusk County, near Henderson, the county-seat. Here the brother and
sister made an effort to retrieve their broken fortunes, with moderate
success. All the family worked hard, and young McDonald, now in his
fifteenth year and really a man in achievements, did a man's part on
the farm, attending school a portion of the year. His uncle permitted
him to earn some money for himself by cutting wood and hauling it to
the village, and a part of this money he laid away. Such leisure as
he had, he spent in following the hounds, and presently, even as a
boy, became famous for his marksmanship. Coon hunting was perhaps his
favorite diversion, and frequently with his dogs he threaded the dark
woods all night, alone.

But he had not as yet achieved that perfect fearlessness which
distinguished him in later years, and there is still another instance
recorded where his presence of mind failed to work. This latter is a
curious circumstance, indeed, and should be investigated, perhaps, by
the Society of Psychical Research.

He had been out on one of his long night tramps and was very tired next
evening when his work was done. Coming in, he threw himself down on a
lounge in the hallway and was soon sound asleep. By and by his mother
came along and wakened him.

"It's bed-time, Bill Jess," she said.

He got up, walked out toward the gate, and she supposed he was awake.
When he really awoke, he was a mile from there, leaning on the gate of
one Jasper Smith, the father of two young ladies whom Bill Jess was in
the habit of visiting. Realizing where he was, and what might happen to
him if discovered just there, he set out for home down the wide public
road, when suddenly a little way ahead he saw two objects perched on
the top of the rail fence. At first he thought they were two men, and
was not disturbed; then all at once they had left the top of that fence
and in the wink of an eye, lit in the road directly in front of him.

"It was the devil and his wife," McDonald declared. "They had horns and

Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineCaptain Bill McDonald, Texas ranger; a story of frontier reform → online text (page 1 of 26)