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Texas Ranger Muster Roll – 1836

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530.     [TEXAS RANGERS]. MUSTER ROLL. Contemporary secretarial manuscript Texas Ranger muster roll, probably in the hand of George Aldrich, commencing: “The following Men compose my company which I am Ordered to report to you by the commander in chief,” followed by two columns giving the names of fifty-six Rangers in the Company, concluding: “The above is a True copy from my Roll Book. To the Actg. Acalda [sic] of Nacogdoches. Elisha Clapp. Capt. of Compy. of Rangers.” Addressed on verso: “To the Actg. Alcalda [sic] Nacogdoches, Texas” and docketed “Official Report Capt. Elisha Clapp Recd. Novr. 2. 1836.” Folio (35.6 x 24.7 cm) on wove paper. Creased where formerly folded, one small hole in blank area where red wax seal was broken, verso slightly stained, otherwise in fine condition. This muster roll was found with privately-held family papers, some of which relate to the Isaac Parker family, including a legal document on sealed paper signed by Isaac Parker in Nacogdoches in 1835 (see below).

     Very rare and early documentation on the Texas Rangers, apparently the only known contemporary copy of this roll. The story of Texas Republic-era ranger rolls, and indeed all such muster rolls, is a somewhat tragic one. The original rolls were deposited in the Adjutant General’s Office shortly after their creation. Other rolls were reconstructed from memory where no originals existed. In the late 1830s, all the existing rolls were copied out into an omnibus document that was given to the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to assist that agency with processing veterans’ land claims. That document was itself copied again and then made into a typescript in the 1920s. In the meantime, the Adjutant General’s Office burned to the ground in 1855, taking with it the entire corpus of original and reconstructed rolls. Thus, the primary source for almost all Republic-era muster rolls are the copies in the GLO. The GLO, the Texas State Library, and the University of Texas also hold a few original copies and other nearly contemporary copies of Republic-era rolls. The Texas Ranger Museum holds none of that vintage.

The members of this company have been preserved in one such transcribed roll in the General Land Office, a copy of which is printed in Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin: Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 1986, pp. 199-201). Although the content of that version is basically the same as that of the present roll, that document seems to be a mustering-out roll rather than an original enrollment form, as is the case here. It was prepared, apparently also by Aldrich (see below), after December 10, 1836, on which date the enlistments were up. In any case, by the time the later roll was accomplished, it is clear that the Company had been disbanded. See also Mike Cox, The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900 (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2008).

     The captain of the Company documented in the muster roll was Elisha Clapp (ca. 1803-1856), soldier and farmer, who immigrated to Texas in 1822 and settled at Nacogdoches. He served in Captain Henry W. Karnes’ Cavalry Company beginning April 7, 1836, participated in the Battle of San Jacinto, guarded Mexican prisoners during its aftermath, and held a variety of military appointments. Clapp was elected captain of a Company of Texas Rangers on September 10, 1836, and this muster roll is apparently an initial accounting of that first Company, which enlisted for three months. “Sam Houston, as commander in chief of the Republic of Texas Army, ordered his Company to ‘range from any point on the Brazos to Mr. Hall’s Trading House on the Trinity’ to intercept parties of raiding Indians” (Handbook of Texas Online: Elisha Clapp). Clapp could not read or write, according to Houston: “Captain Clapp cannot write his name and care will be required to prevent imposition on the government” (Writings, Vol. II, p. 242). In the Texas State Library Republic Claims files there is an 1841 document Clapp signed with an “x”, which is noted as “his mark.” These files also document the fact that Isaac Parker (see below), a member of the Ranger Company shown on this roll, assisted Elisha Clapp with his Ranger claims. But the handwriting of the present muster roll is apparently not Parker’s, but rather that of Lieutenant George Aldrich, first County Surveyor of Houston County (1839-1843) and the brother of San Jacinto veteran Collin Aldrich, first Chief Justice of Houston County. The brothers came to Red River County, Texas in 1828. For a short time, around 1834, George Aldrich lived in Nacogdoches and was associated with Robert Anderson Irion as a trader and surveyor. George Aldrich was granted 320 acres for the service documented here.

     Other members of this Company went on to serve Texas in various capacities. Of the fifty-six men listed, at least twenty-two, in addition to Clapp himself, are documented veterans of the Texas Revolution. Five of the men, including Clapp, were San Jacinto veterans. The other four were Samuel J. Lawrence (arrived in Texas in February of 1836, died in 1879; Dixon & Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 242), George Washington Browning (1806-1879, emigrated to Texas in 1835, enlisted in Hart’s Company in January of 1836; Dixon & Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 111 & Handbook of Texas Online); Lewis W. White (enlisted March 31, 1836, and discharged May 2 of the same year; Dixon & Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 422); and William H. Pate (arrived in Texas in January 1836 and enlisted in McFarland’s Company; Dixon & Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 419). As might be expected, the Company is populated chiefly by men from the Nacogdoches area.

     A number of other noteworthy names can be found on this muster roll, including five members of the Ariola family, Tejanos who supported the Texas cause. Francisco Ariola, listed here, was a dedicated soldier of the Republic of Texas Army and received a land grant from the Republic of Texas. Also represented on the roll is his brother, Edward Ariola, one of Stephen F. Austin’s colonists, who settled in Grimes County in 1836. Edward served as a spy in Captain Greer’s Montgomery County Minutemen in 1841. The town of Ariola, founded on the grants, is named in honor of the family, and the town of Iola is named for Edward.

     Also notable is Isaac Parker (1793-1883). Parker was something of a Paul Revere figure for the Texas Revolution. On October 5, 1835, he made a mad dash across the southern United States spreading word of the coming war and enrolling volunteers in the Texas Army (see Sam Houston’s rousing October 5, 1835, letter to Parker, Writings, Vol. I, pp. 302-305). Parker came to Texas in 1833 as part of the pioneer family that built Fort Parker in Limestone County. He fought in the Texas Revolution and served in the Republic of Texas Congress, representing part of East Texas. He participated in the 1845 Statehood Convention and later represented Tarrant and Ellis Counties in the State Legislature. In the 1850s, Parker introduced a bill that created Parker County, which was named in his honor. Parker’s accomplishments have perhaps been eclipsed by the fact that he was the uncle of captives Cynthia Ann and John Parker and the person who identified Cynthia when she was “rescued.”

     The document dates from the early days when “Texas Rangers” first became known by that name. “Nomenclature varied but function did not” (Cox, p. 67). Clapp’s Company seems to have pursued the classic mission of blunting Native American threats, since one of their sallies was against the Ionies (a branch of the Caddoes), who did not sign peace treaties until 1843 and again in 1844. At this point, the “Rangers” had been in official existence for only a year, having been established by the Republic’s Convention on November 24, 1835. They passed an “Ordinance Establishing a Provisional Government,” Article 9 of which called for “a corps of rangers,” with an authorized strength of three companies of fifty-six men each (as here), all of whom had to supply their own equipment. According to Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution, the other two companies were captained by Silas M. Parker (1802-1836) and Eli Seal, but neither of those companies was anywhere near authorized strength (pp. 198-199). Thus, this is an extremely early Texas Ranger roll, a reflection of one of the several permutations the Rangers would take before they became the law enforcement organization that we know today.

     Mounted and/or armed contingents known as “rangers” date to early times in this country’s history. The presence of such groups in Texas dates back to the earliest days of Anglo settlement, the oldest two having been founded in Texas by Stephen F. Austin and Moses Morrison in 1823. No matter what they were called, formally or informally, their duties were basically the same—to roam and to search for and eliminate threats to the settlers and towns of the Texas frontier. In the early days, those efforts were aimed almost exclusively at marauding Native Americans, although as the threats shifted, the Rangers’ duties shifted as well. For example, Rangers were present at the Battle of San Jacinto, helped defend the Republic and state against Mexican bandits, accompanied the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War as regularly enlisted troops (during which they acquired a reputation for ferocity and prowess), and fought in the Civil War.

     Included with the muster roll are two documents with which the roll was found:

PARKER, Isaac. Manuscript bond in ink on Coahuilatecan sealed paper for 1834 and 1835 (Sello Tercero), signed by Parker and three witnesses at Nacogdoches on May 18, 1835. Small folio, one page, in English. Stained and split at some folds (no losses). Parker agrees to pay John H. Cummins $10,000 contingent upon his obtaining good title to two leagues of land.

[CHARLES MARTIN ESTATE]. Manuscript signed by Elijah Simmons Collard and witnessed by Gwyn Morrison, at Republic of Texas, Grimes County, docketed August 26, 1839. 4to, 4 pp. Probate accounting by Collard as administrator of an estate whose only asset was a $326 headright. Docketed and with filing notes. Collard (1778-1846), arrived in Texas in 1833, received a league of land, and was a member of the Consultation from Washington County as well as the General Council.

     “As strange as it may seem in some quarters, the Texas Ranger has been throughout the century a human being, and never a mere automaton animating a pair of swaggering boots, a big hat, and a six-shooter all moving across the prairies under a cloud of pistol smoke. Surely enough has been written about men who swagger, fan hammers, and make hip shots. No Texas Ranger ever fanned a hammer when he was serious, or made a hip shot if he had time to catch a sight. The real Ranger has been a very quiet, deliberate person who could gaze calmly into the eye of a murderer, divine his thoughts, and anticipate his action, a man who could ride straight up to death. In fatal encounter—the last resort of a good officer—the Ranger has had the unhurried courage to take the extra fraction of a second essential to accuracy which was at a premium in the art and science of Western pistology. The smoke from such a man’s hand was a vagrant wisp and never the clouds read of in books written for those who love to smell powder smoke vicariously” (Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense. Boston & New York, Houghton Mifflin Company & The Riverside Press, 1935, pp. ix-x).



Auction 22 Abstracts

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