Joseph Lancaster, journalist, was born in Devonport, England, on March 30, 1816. After being apprenticed as a printer, he stowed away on a vessel bound for New York and landed there about 1831. He migrated westward, worked on newspapers in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, and went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he was employed by the Flag of the Union. There he met John (Dr. Jack) Shackelford and joined the Red Rovers. After his arrival in Texas, Lancaster was assigned to courier duty between James W. Fannin, Jr., and Sam Houston. He was saved from capture near Goliad by a Mexican woman. After making his way back to Houston, he was hospitalized because of exposure and illness. He accompanied Anson Jones to San Jacinto and participated in the battle. After discharge from the Texas army, he returned to Alabama and resumed the newspaper business. Lancaster did not file for bounty land before leaving Texas or for several years after his return. When he did file, his claim was denied because his service could not be confirmed. He is not listed in the muster rolls or any other list of soldiers.
He was editing the State Advocate at Carrollton, Mississippi, when he met Mary Evalina Barnett, whom he married on May 23, 1842. After their marriage, Mrs. Lancaster worked with him on newspaper ventures. The Lancasters bought the Patriot at Houston, Mississippi, and through its columns advocated annexation of Texas. After Texas became a state they moved their printing plant to Washington-on-the-Brazos and on January 16, 1849, first published the Texas Ranger and Brazos Guard. As editor of this paper Lancaster began a crusade to promote steamboat navigation of the Brazos River. The first printing house was the old Capitol. The Ranger was Democratic in politics and loyally supported Anson Jones. Much of Jones's Republic of Texas is composed of editorials and articles taken from the Ranger. The printing office was burned in 1852, possibly by an arsonist. Lancaster subsequently purchased the Washington Semi-Weekly Star, which he renamed the Texas Ranger and Lone Star.
He and his two sons, Franklin Briscoe and William, joined the Confederate Army and served four years. Eva Lancaster managed and edited the Ranger without missing an issue during the war. The policy of the Ranger after the war was to accept the fait accompli of Southern defeat and make the best of it, and the office was burned again. Lancaster was appointed to head the Texas State Library and moved his paper to Austin, where under the administration of Governor E. J. Davis the Ranger received state patronage. Its publication was discontinued when Lancaster died on January 8, 1874.
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Hobart Huson, "Story of an Old Washington Hand Press," Frontier Times, April 1937. Pamela A. Puryear and Nat Winfield, Jr., Sandbars and Sternwheelers: Steam Navigation on the Brazos (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Marilyn M. Sibley, Lone Stars and State Gazettes: Texas Newspapers before the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
June 19, 2020