George Washington (Cap) Arrington, lawman and rancher, was born John C. Orrick, Jr., in Greensboro, Alabama, on December 23, 1844, the son of John and Mariah (Arrington) Orrick. After his father's death in 1848, his mother married William Larkin Williams, who was later killed in the Civil War. In 1861, at the age of sixteen, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and rode with John S. Mosby's guerrillas, often doing undercover work as a spy. After the war's end, Orrick went to Mexico, but arrived too late to join Emperor Maximilian as a mercenary. After murdering a black businessman at his hometown in June 1867, he made a brief trip to Central America before moving to Texas in 1870. At that time he adopted the name George Washington Arrington to break with his troubled past. He worked for the Houston and Texas Central Railway in Houston and later took a job at a commission house in Galveston. In 1874 he farmed briefly in Collin County; he was subsequently hired to help trail a cattle herd to Brown County.
Arrington was in Brown County in 1875 when he enlisted in Company E of the newly organized Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers. During his first two years of service he distinguished himself in the Rio Grande valley by tracking down fugitives and outlaws. Maj. John B. Jones recommended his promotion from sergeant to first lieutenant in 1877 because of his successful accomplishment of difficult missions. The following year Arrington was made captain of Company C and stationed at Coleman. In July 1878 he was ordered to Fort Griffin to restore peace in the wake of vigilante activities. In the summer of 1879 his company was moved to the Panhandle to investigate depredations at area ranches. His opposition to federal American Indian policy soon brought him into sharp conflict with Lt. Col. J. W. Davidson at Fort Elliott. In September Arrington established Camp Roberts, the first ranger camp in the Panhandle, east of the site of present Crosbyton. From there in January and February 1880 he led his men on a successful forty-day search for the Lost Lakes in eastern New Mexico; the troop also charted the area from Yellow House Canyon to Ranger Lake, in eastern New Mexico, and located watering places and American Indian hideouts. In 1880–81 Arrington and his men covered much of the Panhandle and were stationed briefly at both Mobeetie and Tascosa. Because of his rank he received the nickname "Cap."
Arrington resigned from the rangers in the summer of 1882 to take advantage of Panhandle ranching opportunities. After helping area ranchers break up a major rustling ring, he was elected sheriff of Wheeler County and the fourteen counties attached to it. About that time he met Sarah (Sallie) Burnette, who had come to visit her sister Jane (Mrs. Henry L.) Eubank at the Connell-Eubank ranch. They were married at her hometown, Westboro, Missouri, on October 18, 1882. They became the parents of three sons and six daughters; the first son died in infancy. During Arrington's years as sheriff, the family resided at the county jail in Mobeetie. His reputation as the "iron-handed man of the Panhandle" increased with his fatal shooting in November 1886 of John Leverton, who was suspected of cattle rustling. Although murder charges were filed against Arrington by Leverton's widow, he was acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
Arrington served as county sheriff until 1890. During his service he filed on choice ranchland on the Washita River in Hemphill County. After first living in a dugout he erected two cabins as his home and headquarters and in 1885 registered his CAP brand. In 1893 he was appointed manager of the Rocking Chair Ranch by its British owners. In that position Arrington made considerable improvements by shipping cattle, paying off accounts due, and interviewing prospective buyers. He remained manager until December 1896, when the Continental Land and Cattle Company bought the Rocking Chair lands.
Arrington resumed management of his own ranch after 1896. As a Mason and Shriner he became involved in the civic affairs of Canadian, where the family lived for seven years in the former home of Cape Willingham so the older children could attend school. In 1897 Arrington escorted George Isaacs, convicted killer of Hemphill county sheriff Thomas McGee, to the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. Later the Arringtons built a new house at the ranch and helped establish a rural school in the vicinity. To the end of his life, Cap was cautious about visitors because of enemies he had made as a peace officer and was seldom seen in public without a gun. In his last years he suffered from arthritis and made frequent train trips to Mineral Wells for the hot baths. On one of these trips in 1923 he was stricken with a heart attack. He was taken to his home in Canadian, where he died on March 31. He was buried in the cemetery at Mobeetie. Sallie Arrington remained active in the Canadian WCTU and First Baptist Church, of which she was a charter member, until her death on June 1, 1945. In 1986 the Arrington Ranch, on which oil was later discovered, was owned and operated by the heirs of Cap's younger son, French; Arrington's older son, John, established a ranch near Miami, in Roberts County. Arrington's papers are in the Research Center of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
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Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). Jerry Sinise, George Washington Arrington (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1979). Estelle D. Tinkler, "Nobility's Ranche: A History of the Rocking Chair Ranche," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 15 (1942).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Ranching and Cowboys
Ranchers and Cattlemen
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
H. Allen Anderson,
“Arrington, George Washington,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
March 10, 2021
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: