Rufe LeFors, traildriver, rancher, and lawman, the son of James and Mahala (West) LeFors, was born on August 25, 1859, near Jenny Lind, ten miles south of Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1878 Rufe, along with his father and brothers and sisters, crossed Indian Territory and established a ranch on Cantonment Creek near Fort Elliott in the Texas Panhandle. They were among the first settlers in that area and participated in the early events of the Panhandle frontier. LeFors worked as a bounty hunter for wolf and bear for Charles Goodnight on the JA Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon, drove cattle north from Texas, rode for a while with Capt. George Washington Arrington of the Texas Rangers, and joined him as a deputy when Arrington was elected sheriff of Wheeler, Gray, and Roberts counties. LeFors returned to ranching in 1882 with his brother Perry, and was married to Fanny Sanders in Mobeetie, Texas, on January 11, 1883; they had three children.
In 1885 LeFors bought four sections of land on the North Fork of the Red River and built his own ranch about seven miles from the family ranch, from which he managed both operations. He was appointed a deputy United States marshal and continued to ranch and to rear his young family in Texas until 1889, when he bought land near Norman, Oklahoma. He was elected constable in 1897 and served until 1901. He left that job to claim land being opened in the Kiowa and Comanche territories and, after resettling near Lawton, Oklahoma, was appointed mounted policeman and served under city marshal Heck Thomas, one of the first United States marshals in Indian Territory. LeFors was soon elected chief deputy sheriff in the first elections in the territory and served as deputy until he was elected sheriff in 1906. He served in that office until 1911, when he returned to ranching. During his tenure as a law officer, LeFors encountered outlaws Henry Brown and Billy the Kid (see MCCARTY, HENRY), confronted Bert Casey and his gang in a Lawton bar, and stood up to the corruption that often marked frontier law in its early years. Shortly after retiring from office, LeFors moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he made his home until his death in January 1946. For the benefit of his family, he recorded his memoirs in 1941, and they were published in 1986.
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Rufe LeFors, Facts As I Remember Them: The Autobiography of Rufe LeFors, ed. John Allen Peterson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Ranching and Cowboys
Ranchers and Cattlemen
Trail Drivers and Riders
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
John Allen Peterson,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
March 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 9, 2019