John Reynolds Hughes Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
John Reynolds Hughes was born on February 11, 1855 in Illinois. The family later moved to Kansas. At the age of fourteen, Hughes left home and eventually made his way Oklahoma where he lived among the Choctaw, Osage, and Comanche Indians. Hughes later moved to Texas, buying a farm near Liberty Hill where he raised horses. In 1886, several horses were stolen from his and neighboring ranches. Hughes trailed the men for several months, killing some of them and capturing the rest. He returned home with the stolen horses where his feat gained the attention of the Texas Rangers.
In July 1887, Hughes helped Texas Ranger Ira Aten track down and kill escaped murderer Judd Roberts. In August 1887, Hughes was persuaded to join the Texas Rangers. He had risen to the rank of sergeant in Company D Frontier Battalion by 1893. In June 1893, Hughes was promoted to captain of Company D. In 1901, when the Frontier Battalion was abolished and the State Rangers created, John Hughes was selected as one of the four Captains of the new companies. He served until his retirement in 1915. For most of his career, Hughes served along the border of southwest Texas. He was known as “the border boss.”
John Hughes never married. He spent his retirement years prospecting and traveling. He was also involved in the banking industry, becoming chairman of the board and largest stockholder of the Citizens Industrial Bank of Austin, but he continued to live in El Paso.
In 1940, John R. Hughes received the Certificate of Valor, an award commemorating the bravery of peace officers. He moved to Austin to live with a niece, and on June 3, 1947, committed suicide at the age of 92. He is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. Some believe that he was the inspiration for Zane Grey's Lone Ranger character.
The John Hughes Papers are comprised of materials related to John Reynolds Hughes' experiences as a Texas Ranger and his personal life dating from 1890 to 1947. Materials related to his career as a Texas Ranger include correspondence and telegrams dated from 1904 through 1913 sent and received by Hughes in his capacity as Captain of Company D., the majority of which are to/from Texas Governor O. B. Colquitt and Adjutant General Henry Hutchings. Of particular interest is the correspondence between Governor Colquitt and Hughes dated from 1911 to 1913 that concerns Mexican revolutionaries along the Texas-Mexico border. Colquitt asked Hughes to be on the "lookout" for Francisco I. Madero after he fled Mexico in 1910, as well as others involved in the Mexican Revolution such as Pascual Orozco and Lázaro Alanis. There is also correspondence regarding the Battle of Ciudad Juárez (or "mutiny at Juárez" as Colquitt calls it) and accusations that the "Rangers are in sympathy with the Revolutionists in Mexico," as well as a request from the Japanese Embassy to report on the conditions of Japanese refugees in El Paso that had fled the unrest in Juarez. Also of interest are arrest records, subpoenas, warrants, and court documents dated 1890 to 1923 including a 1906 account of the political battles that took place in Starr county during the late 1800s and early 1900s signed by several people including Manuel Guerra, a Democratic political boss in Starr County at the time and records regarding the arrest and escape of Beverly Wood and the whereabouts of his wife Inez Wood and their children. Additional Texas Ranger related materials include a ledger labeled "County Detachment of Co. D. F. B. in Jeff Davis Co., Sept. 1st, 1889, Ft. Davis, Texas" that includes incidental expenses, report of state property, rations on hand, appraisement of Rangers horses, and vouchers signed by J. R. Hughes dated through 1908; a Rations Return form of Company D dated March 31, 1894; business cards and certificates; a 1912 list of the "first original Colquitt men in the City of El Paso"; and newspaper clippings and pamphlets about Hughes, the Texas Rangers and the Ex-Texas Rangers Association.
In addition to materials documenting Hughes' Texas Ranger career the collection contains personal materials dating from 1904 to 1947. About half of the personal papers consist of correspondence received by Hughes from family, friends, and admirers between 1906 and 1947, the majority of which are dated 1933 through 1947. Letters of interest includes letter written by Zane Grey where Grey discusses future writing projects including his intention "to give the world a true and real picture of the Texas Rangers"; a request for Hughes to lead the Texas Rangers in the opening parade of the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936; and a request from Texas Governor James Allred to return to active service to assist with "a state of insurrection and revolt" in El Paso in connection with the Southwestern Sun Carnival in 1936. Other personal materials include newspaper clippings, articles and photographs about Hughes' brother, William, and his longtime friend, Tex Cooper; memorabilia such as greeting cards, booklets, business cards, and invitations; and personal documents such as commissions, a driver's license and land deed. In addition there are twelve black-and-white photographs included in the collection. The photos are of John Reynolds Hughes, Hughes' family, Tex Cooper and the Texas Rangers.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
The niece of Captain John Reynolds Hughes donated the collection.
John Reynolds Hughes Papers (AR.A.006). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1960/017
Donation Date: 1960
Inventory of collection created sometime after donation. Collection arranged with finding aid created and encoded by Karen Twer in 2019.
Detailed Description of the Collection