Hall, Jesse Leigh (1849–1911)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 7, 2020

Jesse Leigh Hall, Texas Ranger, rancher, and United States army officer, was born in Lexington, North Carolina, on October 9, 1849, the son of James King and Frances Mebane (Rankin) Hall. Artist Frederic Remington characterized him as "a gentleman of the romantic Southern soldier type, and he entertained the highest ideals, with which it would be extremely unsafe to trifle." Hall moved to Texas in 1869 and soon thereafter changed the spelling of his middle name to Lee. He started his Texas career as a schoolteacher but soon signed on as city marshal in Sherman, deputy sheriff of Denison, and sergeant at arms of the Texas Senate. In August 1876 he received a commission as second lieutenant of Leander H. McNelly's Special Force of Texas Rangers, operating in the Nueces Strip, and was then posted at Goliad to solve a recent bank robbery. Although the robbers had fled to Mexico, Hall was successful in breaking up a band of vigilantes and earned the good will of the citizens of the community. As one wrote, "Lieutenant Hall had come an entire stranger, had taken in the situation at a glance and applied the remedy which caused the bold bad men to flee to parts unknown." In October 1876, due to McNelly's increasingly ill health and decreasing political popularity, Hall became acting commander of the company and moved it from the border to Cuero to suppress the Sutton-Taylor Feud. His arrest of five ringleaders of the Sutton faction allowed him to report: "The agony is over." The special force was reorganized at Victoria in January 1877, and Hall was promoted to first lieutenant and company commander. The company's sergeant, John B. Armstrong, became the second lieutenant.

In February Hall broke the command into units of one and two men and scattered it along the border to suppress cattle rustling, cross-border raiding exacerbated by the Díaz revolution in Mexico, and the depredations of J. King Fisher and his gang. Hall served as captain of the special company only until 1880 before turning over command to his first lieutenant, T. L. Oglesby. In March 1881 the company was merged with the Frontier Battalion as Company F.

In 1880 Hall married Bessie Weidman, who hated the ranger service. The couple became the parents of five daughters. Most of Hall's subsequent business ventures were failures. From 1880 to 1885 he managed the Dull Ranch and was active in settling the fence cutting troubles of that era. After serving as agent to the Anadarko Indians, he was indicted for embezzlement and for making false claims in 1888, but the suits were dismissed for lack of evidence. Until 1898 he was engaged in business in San Antonio, but with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War he raised two companies, the "Immunes," for service in the First United States Volunteer Infantry regiment. When the regiment was released from service, Hall reentered the army as a first lieutenant and saw action as a leader of the Macabebe Scouts in the Philippine Islands. He received a brevet promotion to captain for conspicuous gallant service at Aringay and Batangas and was discharged on October 6, 1900. In 1906–07 he was a security guard for the director of the Giroux Consolidated Mining Company.

Hall died on March 17, 1911, and was buried in the National Cemetery at San Antonio. According to nineteenth-century Texas Ranger historian Wilburn H. King, Hall was "a man of daring and almost reckless physical courage, of fine physique and resistless energy." Although he was unsurpassed as a ranger and lawman, he was unable to enter the twentieth century gracefully. His life was probably abbreviated by strong drink.

George Durham, Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly's Rangers (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962). Dora Neill Raymond, Captain Lee Hall of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1940). Frederic Remington, How the Law Got into the Chaparral: Conversations with Old Texas Rangers (rpt., from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, December 1896, Austin: Jenkins, 1987). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Hall, Jesse Leigh,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hall-jesse-leigh.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 7, 2020