Maltby, William Jeff (1829–1908)

By: Lou Rodenberger

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: December 2, 2020

William Jeff Maltby (Captain Jeff), Texas Ranger and pioneer, was born in Sangamon County, Illinois, on December 17, 1829. After a year's service as a volunteer in Gray's Battalion, Arkansas Volunteers, in 1846–47, he became a civilian employee of the United States Army in Fort Smith, Arkansas. From 1849 to 1855 Maltby served the army as a teamster, wagonmaster, scout, and dispatch-bearer. He helped build several Texas frontier forts including Fort Belknap, Fort Clark, and Fort Concho. In 1856 at Fort Clark, Maltby operated a stage stop on the road from San Antonio to El Paso. He moved to Burnet County and married Mary Francis McKiney on June 7, 1857. During the Civil War Maltby served one year with the Seventeenth Texas Volunteer Infantry. In 1863 he returned home and organized neighbors into a minute men militia as a Texas Ranger sergeant to protect the area from raiding Indians. After a court martial initiated by Reconstruction officials in 1864, Maltby signed a Union loyalty oath and began ranching in partnership with G. C. Arnett in Burnet, Lampasas, Llano, and San Saba counties. He organized early cattle drives to Calvert, Texas, New Orleans, and Kansas. When the Frontier Battalion of the reorganized Texas Rangers was formed in 1874 under Maj. John B. Jones, Maltby was appointed commander of Company E. He served in this capacity from May 5 to December 13, 1874, and took part in the struggles between the Rangers and Indians and White desperadoes. In 1875 he returned to Burnet County and moved his family to a Callahan County farm in 1878. In later years Maltby was a West Texas booster and well-known horticulturist. He accompanied the Texas Agricultural Exhibit to Chicago in 1891. Jeff and Mary Maltby had eight children. In 1906 he published Captain Jeff, which narrates his experiences as frontiersman, Texas Ranger, and Indian fighter. Historian Rupert N. Richardson says in the introduction to the 1965 facsimile edition of Maltby's memoirs that, although the author's account may be exaggerated and sometimes inaccurate, his observations are valuable for the unique perspective they give on early Texas frontier life and times.

Chuck Parsons, James Madison Brown, Texas Sheriff, Texas Turfman (Wolfe City, Texas: Henington, 1993). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). Robert Lee Williamson, A History of Company E of the Texas Frontier Battalion, 1874–1879 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1952).

  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Military
  • Soldiers

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

Lou Rodenberger, “Maltby, William Jeff,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 2, 2020