Banister, John Riley (1854–1918)

By: William R. Hunt

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: October 19, 2018

John Riley Banister, law officer, was born in Banister, Missouri, on May 24, 1854, to William Lawrence and Mary (Buchanan) Banister. His father deserted the family after Civil War service and settled in Texas. John, who had only three months of schooling, moved to Texas in 1867. He became a cowboy on Rufus Winn's ranch near Menardville, then worked for Sam Golson in Coleman and Mason counties in 1873. Banister fought off several Indian raids and joined his first cattle drive to Kansas in 1874. After another drive in 1876 he joined the Texas Rangers in Austin for Frontier Battalion service. His company was involved in escorting murderer John Wesley Hardin from Austin to Comanche for trial, skirmishes with Indians and outlaws, and the capture of outlaw Sam Bass.

After leaving ranger service in 1881 Banister moved to San Saba and made cattle drives to Kansas from 1881 to 1883. In 1883 he married Mary Ellen Walker and settled on a ranch near Brownwood, then moved to Coleman to run a livery stable. The couple had six children. Mrs. Banister died in 1892, and Banister married Emma Daugherty on September 25, 1894, in Goldthwaite; they had five children. For several years after 1889 he accepted special assignments as a detective for the Santa Fe and other railroads. In 1892 he became a treasury agent assigned to help police the Mexican border against cattle smugglers. After six years he resigned for full-time service as an inspector for the Texas Cattle Raisers Association (now the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association). He originated the field-inspection service for the association and was its first chief. Banister investigated cattle rustling for the association in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma until 1914, when he became sheriff of Coleman County.

Banister's career is documented by a collection of his papers in the Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University. Documents detailing his investigations of cattle theft are particularly valuable in detailing the longtime efforts of the cattlemen's association in protecting livestock. Banister died of a stroke on August 1, 1918, in Coleman, and was buried in Santa Anna. His wife then took over his job and in so doing became the first female sheriff in the United States (see BANISTER, EMMA DAUGHERTY).

Leona Bruce, Banister Was There (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Law Officers
  • Texas Rangers
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Military

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William R. Hunt, “Banister, John Riley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994
October 19, 2018