John Reynolds Hughes, Texas Ranger, was born on February 11, 1855, in Henry County, near Cambridge, Illinois, to Thomas and Jennie (Bond) Hughes. In 1865 the family moved to Dixon, Illinois, where John attended country schools sporadically. Later they moved to Mound City, Kansas. At age fourteen Hughes left home to work on a neighboring cattle ranch but soon left there for Indian Territory. He lived among the Choctaw and Osage Indians for four years before moving to the Comanche Nation in 1874; there he traded in the Fort Sill area and became friends with Quanah Parker. After six years in Indian Territory and after a brief stint as a traildriver on the Chisholm Trail, Hughes bought a farm near Liberty Hill, Travis County, Texas, and entered the horse business.
In May 1886 he set out to find a band of men who had stolen horses from his and neighboring ranches, and after trailing them for several months he killed some of the thieves and captured the rest in New Mexico; he returned the horses to his neighbors. This exploit gained the attention of the Texas Rangers. Hughes was persuaded to enlist in the rangers at Georgetown, sworn in on August 10, 1887, and assigned to Company D, Frontier Battalion, at Camp Wood. He served mainly along the border between Texas and Mexico. In 1893 Hughes was a sergeant in charge of a ranger detachment at Alpine. After Texas Ranger Capt. Frank Jones was killed that year, Hughes was made captain in command of Company D in El Paso. He was later appointed senior captain, with headquarters in Austin, and on January 31, 1915, having served as a captain and ranger longer than any other man, he retired from the force. Zane Grey's novel The Lone Star Ranger (1914) is dedicated to Hughes and his Texas Rangers.
Hughes never married. He spent his later years prospecting and traveling by automobile. He became chairman of the board of directors and largest single stockholder of the Citizens Industrial Bank of Austin but maintained his residence in El Paso. In 1940 he was selected the first recipient of the Certificate of Valor, an award inaugurated to call attention to the bravery of peace officers of the nation. Hughes moved to Austin to live with a niece, and on June 3, 1947, at the age of ninety-two, he took his own life. He was buried in the State Cemetery.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Austin American, June 5, 1947. Dane Coolidge, Fighting Men of the West (New York: Dutton, 1932; 2d ed., Freeport, New York: Books for Library Press, 1968). Fort Worth Press, February 3, 1934. Jack Martin, Border Boss (San Antonio: Naylor, 1942). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Hughes, John Reynolds,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 12, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.