There was yet another attraction beckoning visitors to the Waco area…
The reputation of the Texas Rangers is larger than life…and this is the state designated museum and hall of fame in Waco that is operated in their honor. The facility includes the Homer Garrison, Jr. museum gallery, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, the Texas Ranger Research Center and the Headquarters of Texas Rangers Company "F". The City of Waco serves as the appointed trustee on behalf of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Legislature.
This is the entrance to the museum and hall of fame. The statue is of George Erath, Texas Ranger and Surveyor. Erath served in both the Texas House of Representatives and the Senate. He was born in Austria, fought in the Texas Revolution against Mexico and as a surveyor he drew up the original street grids for Waco.
In 1964 the Texas Department of Public Safety chartered the City of Waco Texas to construct and operate this official museum. The City of Waco agreed to commit 32 acres for the building site, provide an ongoing annual operating subsidy, and build and sustain a headquarters for Texas Rangers Company "F".
The museum complex was originally named Fort Fisher after an 1837 Ranger camp from which the City of Waco traces its origin. It was designed in the style of Texas hill country architecture which is reminiscent of a 19th-century Texas Ranger headquarters.
More than three million persons have visited the historical center since it opened in 1968.
The museum has many displays that focus on famous former Texas Rangers. This particular display is related to Homer Garrison Jr. for whom the museum gallery is named.
Garrison, (1901 – 1968) was the chief of the Texas Rangers and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. At 19 he was appointed as a deputy sheriff in Angelina County. In 1929 he became a state license and weight inspector for the Texas Highway Department. He joined the Texas Highway Patrol when it was organized in 1930. When the Department of Public Safety was founded in August 1935 Garrison became the first assistant director.
Colonel Garrison became director of the Department of Public Safety and chief of the Texas Rangers in 1938. Later in life, Texas Governor John Connally appointed Garrison as Director of Civil Defense and Disaster Relief for the state as well as the Chairman of the State Defense Council. He was also named Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Commission…quite a career!
The museum is a firearms devotee’s/gun collectors dream! Pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles and automatic weapons either used by the Texas Rangers or the criminals they chased down are prominently displayed throughout the various sections of the facility.
This display shows the progression/development of the Winchester Rifle, and it includes weapons dating from about 1860 through the Model 1894. Oliver Winchester was an investor who persevered in the development of an improved rifle…beginning in 1855 with his backing of the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, then the New Haven Arms Company, the Henry Repeating Rifle Company and then in 1866, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
The walls of the museum contain many photos of early rangers. This one is of Rangers George Black and J.M. Britton of Company B ca. 1890.
Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption, acted in riot control and as detectives, protected the Governor of Texas, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force in the service of both the Republic of Texas (1836–45) and the state of Texas.
The Texas Rangers were unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in a call-to-arms written in 1823. In 1835 a resolution was introduced to the Permanent Council creating a body of rangers to protect the border. The unit was dissolved by the federal authorities during the post–Civil War Reconstruction Era, but was quickly reformed upon the reinstitution of home government.
This is one of the numerous paintings on display throughout the gallery. This work by Lee Herring depicts the end of the road for the infamous pair, Bonnie and Clyde on May 23, 1934. Their gang reputedly killed at least 9 law officers and a number of civilians.
Interestingly, Bonnie and Clyde met their maker in Louisiana when they were ambushed by a posse consisting of 4 Texas lawmen and 2 from Louisiana. The head of this posse was retired Texas Ranger, Frank A. Hamer. He’d been brought out of retirement just to run the pair of killers down. Hamer had a formidable reputation as the result of several spectacular captures and the killing of 53 Texas criminals. He’d suffered 17 wounds himself in the process…
To learn more about Bonnie and Clyde and their reign of terror, just go https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnie_and_Clyde.
To the museum and the Ranger’s credit, neither the exhibits nor a film that visitors get to see gloss over some of the Ranger’s negative history. Over the 180 + years history of the Texas Rangers, it wasn’t all upbeat. Between dealing with strikes and protecting railroad property and replacement workers, to a series of extralegal killings, their history has its share of warts.
A massive and haphazard expansion of the Texas Rangers coincided with the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s. Little attention was paid to screening or training and this led to a decade-long flurry of killings by these unprofessional Rangers, (many of whom were criminals themselves), local law enforcement personnel and civilian vigilantes. Massacres were even reported in a couple of border towns. Most of the affected civilians were of Mexican descent with many fleeing across the border into Mexico.
This display is all about the ambush and killing of Bonnie and Clyde. The weapons at the right were used by the posse in the ambush and the items at left relate to the killer couple themselves…
Of course, by far the greatest portion of the Ranger’s history has been positive…and even legendary. During the Mexican-American War their effectiveness as guerrilla fighters and guides to the federal army greatly aided the pace of the American offensive. Rangers played an important role in the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. When the US Army landed at Veracruz in March 1847 the Rangers provided valuable support at the ensuing Siege of Veracruz and the battles of Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec.
They were also responsible for the defeat of the fierce Mexican guerrilleros that hindered the advance of the federal troops. By then the Rangers had earned themselves a considerable reputation that approached the legendary among Mexicans. When Ranger companies entered and occupied Mexico City with the U.S. Army in September 1847, los Diablos Tejanos (the "Texas Devils") were received with reverence and fear.
I took this photo because it’s such an unusual relic and it dates back to a bit of bloody Texas history… This surplus army helmet with steel plate welded over it was one of the results of negotiations stemming from the Huntsville Texas Prison Siege back in 1974.
The Huntsville Prison siege was an 11 day prison uprising. The standoff was one of the longest hostage-taking sieges in United States history. A powerful heroin kingpin in South Texas was serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of a police officer. He was also suspected in the murder of dozens of people in Mexico and Texas. Having smuggled pistols and ammunition into the prison, he and 2 other convicts took 11 prison workers and 4 inmates hostage.
Over the next several days the convicts made a number of demands, including tailored suits, dress shoes, toothpaste, cologne, walkie-talkies and these bulletproof helmets.
The Texas Governor agreed to provide an armored getaway car. When the convicts moved out of the building toward the waiting vehicle, they used in a makeshift shield consisting of legal books taped to mobile blackboards. Inside the shield were the 3 convicts and 4 hostages, while 8 other hostages ringed the exterior. Acting on a prearranged plan, prison guards and Texas Rangers blasted the group with fire hoses. Unfortunately a rupture in the hose gave the convicts time to kill the 2 women hostages who had volunteered to join the convicts in the armored car. The ringleader killed himself and another convict died when authorities returned fire. The third convict was later executed for his crimes…
Tributes to individual Texas Rangers line the walls of the museum. Mart Jones served 30 years as a Texas Ranger and retired in 1969. He began his career as a peace officer as a deputy sheriff in Polk County, and later served as a Texas Highway Patrolman before his appointment to the Texas Rangers.
This is another of the many paintings on the walls of the Texas Rangers Museum and Hall of Fame. This one shows a Ranger and his horse on the ‘hunt’ for a wanted man and it’s entitled “Closing In”. Like the painting of Bonnie and Clyde being ambushed, this one was also painted by Lee Herring.
FYI, Lee Herring describes himself as a "Traditional realist". He creates oil paintings depicting historical and contemporary Western scenes. He was born in rural Raines County Texas in 1940 and he’s living in Dallas Texas.
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame features a theater where visitors can view a film on the history of the Rangers. These photos line the exterior walls of the theater. I randomly took a photo of Ranger Company D. This Company of Rangers covers the southwestern part of the Texas/US border with Mexico.
There are 6 Companies of Rangers…A through F. Their headquarters is in the State Capital of Austin. In total statewide there are only about 162 commissioned members on the force. Today the Texas Rangers really serve as the Texas State Bureau of Investigation.
This photo is of Texas Ranger Stanley Keith Guffey. Ranger Guffey was posthumously awarded a Medal of Valor for his effort to rescue a 2 year old child from a kidnapper. He was killed when the kidnapper tried to exit the ransom drop area with both the money and the child. The kidnapper had killed before so it was determined that they couldn’t let him leave with the victim. An exchange of gunfire ensued with the kidnapper being killed and Ranger Guffey mortally wounded.
The walls of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame are lined with photos and paintings of those Rangers who stood out above the others.
This example pictures Ranger John B. Jones. He was elected to the State Legislature in 1868 but he was denied his seat by the “Radical Republicans”. When the Texas Rangers’ Frontier Battalion was organized in 1874, Major Jones led the group. In July of 1874, his group of 40 Rangers engaged in a battle with a combined raiding party of more than 125 Indians which was comprised of Comanche, Kiowa and Apache warriors. The Rangers held out for more than a day before the US Cavalry showed up.
Under Jones’ leadership, the Frontier Battalion helped put an end to Indian raids and they also quelled many incidents of civil unrest. Following his service with the Rangers, Jones was appointed as Adjutant General of Texas.
· “Radical Republicans” were a faction of American politicians within the Republican Party of the United States from around 1854 until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. They called themselves "Radicals" and were opposed during the War by the Moderate Republicans (led by President Abraham Lincoln), by the conservative Republicans, the largely pro-slavery and later anti-Reconstruction Democratic Party, as well as by conservatives in the South and liberals in the North during Reconstruction. Radicals strongly opposed slavery during the war and after the war distrusted ex-Confederates, demanding harsh policies for punishing the former rebels.
One last historical photo… This is Cynthia Ann Parker. Her story is a sad one. She was an Anglo-American who was kidnapped in 1836, at the age of about ten by a Comanche war band, who had massacred her family's settlement. Her Comanche name, Naduah/Comanche Narua), means "someone found." She was adopted by the Comanche and lived with them for 24 years, completely forgetting the ways of Anglo life. She married a Comanche chieftain, Peta Nocona, and had three children with him, one of whom was the last free Comanche chief, Quanah Parker.
At approximately age 34, she was relocated by the Texas Rangers, but spent the remaining 10 years of her life refusing to adjust to life in white society. At least once she escaped and tried to return to her Comanche family and children, but was again brought back to Texas. She found it difficult to understand her iconic status to the nation, which saw her as having been “redeemed” from her life with the Comanche. Heartbroken over the loss of her family, she stopped eating and died of influenza in 1871.
All in all, the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum was interesting and engaging…well worth the time spent. To learn more about this facility in Waco, just go to http://www.texasranger.org/.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a tour of this educational and historical attraction!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave