John B. Jones, Confederate Army officer and Texas Ranger, was born in Fairfield District, South Carolina, on December 22, 1834, the son of Henry and Nancy (Robertson) Jones. The family moved to Texas in 1838 and settled first in what became Travis County; Jones subsequently moved to land that later became part of Matagorda County and then to a site in what is now Navarro County. After attending Rutersville College near La Grange and Mount Zion College at Winnsboro, South Carolina, Jones enlisted as a private in Benjamin F. Terry's Eighth Texas Cavalry but left the regiment to become adjutant of Joseph W. Speight's Fifteenth Texas Infantry with the rank of captain. He later became assistant adjutant general of Polignac's Brigade and was promoted to major at the end of the war. According to Wilburn Hill King, the Texas Ranger' nineteenth-century historian, Jones "had made an excellent record as a man of superior business tact and judgment, and on the battle-field his coolness, quickness of judgment, breadth of comprehension, soldierly skill, and management had marked him as one to trust in time of difficulty."
At the war's end Jones went to Mexico hoping to locate a suitable site for an expatriate Confederate colony, but returned disappointed. In 1868 he was elected to the state legislature as representative of Ellis, Hill, Kaufman, and Navarro counties but was denied his seat by the Radical Republicans. In January 1874 the Fourteenth Legislature authorized the formation of five companies of Texas Rangers to be known as the Frontier Battalion, and on May 2 Governor Richard Coke appointed Jones to command of the battalion with the rank of major. Jones was well suited to execute the governor's mandate to put an end to Indian raids on the frontier and to enforce the laws of Texas in the interior. The new battalion was successful in suppressing Indian incursions against White settlements. Jones reported to Gen. William Steele that during the first six months of the battalion's service more than forty Indian raiding parties had been reported on the frontier, of which the rangers engaged fourteen. During the second six months Jones's men had only four Indian fights, and after May 1875 only six raids and one small battle were reported. During this period Jones reported an estimated thirty-seven Indians killed; the battalion lost two killed and six wounded. On July 12, 1874, Jones led a contingent of twenty-seven to forty rangers in an attack on a party of more than 125 Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches under Lone Wolf at Lost Valley in Young County. Other fights took place in areas as remote and diverse as El Paso, Brown, and Menard counties. In the seven years of its occupation the battalion was also responsible for the quelling of considerable civil unrest as well as the return of much stolen property recovered from the Indians.
In 1877 Jones was sent to El Paso to quell the Salt War of San Elizario but was unable either to restore order or to overcome the band of Mexican citizens who sought to keep the salt deposits at the foot of Guadalupe Peak open to the public, as provided by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. When an international commission was named to mediate the difficulties, Jones was appointed to represent Texas. At Lampasas on July 30, 1877, Jones and his men effected a truce in the notorious Horrell-Higgins feud. The next year they were instrumental in running the Sam Bass gang to ground at Round Rock, where the infamous train robber was killed on July 19, 1878. One newspaper, reporting the general satisfaction with which the frontier greeted his success, reported that "As an Indian fighter, Major Jones has acquired a reputation unsurpassed, and now that a quietus has been put upon the red man, he is devoting special attention to the rest of the outlaws and lawless characters generally among more civilized classes. In this field he has so far achieved a success no less conspicuous than on the frontier."
In January 1879 Jones was appointed state adjutant general by Governor Oran M. Roberts, and on February 25 he married Ann Eloise Holliday Anderson, the widow of Thomas J. H. Anderson. Jones was active in the Masons and was grand master in 1879 of the Grand Lodge of Texas. While serving as adjutant general and still commanding the Frontier Battalion, he died in Austin on July 19, 1881. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery there.
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Adjutant General's Records, Texas State Archives, Austin. Dictionary of American Biography. John Holland Jenkins, Recollections of Early Texas, ed. John H. Jenkins III (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958; rpt. 1973). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (John B. Jones, Lost Valley Fight). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). J. W. Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas (Austin: Hutchings, 1889; rpt., Austin: State House, 1985). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).
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.
Thomas W. Cutrer,
“Jones, John B.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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