Rabb, Thomas (1831–1915)

By: William V. Scott

Type: Biography

Published: April 21, 2022

Updated: April 21, 2022

Thomas Rabb, farmer, Texas Ranger, Confederate captain, and stock raiser, was born to Andrew and Margaret Howell (Ragsdale) Rabb on January 26, 1831, in what is now Wharton County, Texas. His father, Andrew Rabb, one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists, had moved to Texas by 1824, served as a delegate to the Convention of 1833, and later served in the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Thomas Rabb was named for his uncle, Thomas J. Rabb, who fought in the Texas Revolution and served as an early Texas Ranger. The same year Thomas was born, Andrew Rabb moved his family to the developing community of La Grange in present-day Fayette County. On October 23, 1850, Thomas Rabb married Martha J. Harrell in Fayette County, Texas. The couple had four children—John, Margret, Elizabeth, and Edward. By 1860 Rabb was farming in Karnes County, where he raised 600 horses, 43 head of cattle, and 300 hogs on 900 acres. His real estate was listed at $3,000, and his personal estate was listed at $40,000 on the 1860 census. Rabb’s obituary indicated that he possibly served with the Texas Rangers prior to the war.

During the Civil War in June 1861 in Karnes County, Rabb was elected captain of a company of Mounted Volunteer Rangers designated in the Twenty-ninth Brigade, Texas State Troops, to repel a potential invasion of the state. In October a report states that the men furnished their own horses. Soon Captain Rabb commanded Company A, Frontier Regiment, Texas State Troops, under Col. James M. Norris. Rabb enlisted in Karnes County for twelve months and was mustered at Helena on January 23, 1862. The company established Camp Rabb which was situated fifteen miles northeast of Eagle Pass and was one of eighteen Confederate outposts placed a day's ride apart, from Red River to Rio Grande, to prevent American Indian attacks and Federal invasion. The camp was established by James M. Norris on April 7, 1862, as a ranger station for the Frontier Regiment and named for company commander, Capt. Thomas Rabb. Rabb was stationed at Rio Grande Camp (Station) in May 1862; he earned $140 a month. The company was soon designated Company H in Norris’s Frontier Regiment, Texas Militia. The camps guarded the road and a ford on the Cotton Road, used as major Southern supply line through the frontier.

On January 1, 1863, Captain Rabb was enrolled as captain in Company D, Duff’s Partisan Corps, under Col. James Duff. In February 1863 Col. James E. McCord took command of the Frontier Regiment and reorganized Captain Rabb’s command as First Company A, McCord’s Frontier Regiment, Texas Cavalry. Rabb mustered in as captain of Company D, Thirty-third Texas Cavalry, at Camp McCord on January 24, 1863. On May 1, 1863, Rabb was mustered into Confederate service as captain of Company D, Thirty-third Texas Cavalry. In July 1863 he was detached from the company for recruiting service.

Rabb was still not with his command in September 1863, when part of Company D, along with Capt. Cristóbal Benavides' Company H, engaged in a skirmish with bandits under Octaviano Zapata near Mier, Mexico. In November 1863 Captain Rabb's company was in camp near Richard King's ranch, after coming across Carrizo on the Rio Grande. In January 1864 Rabb and Company D were stationed at Victoria, Texas, and stayed in this vicinity until Rabb reported for “Special duty” serving on a general court martial in Bonham where he served through August 1864.

After the war, Thomas Rabb returned to Karnes County. His wife, Martha, died on May 3, 1876, and on April 16, 1878, Rabb married Nannie L. (Williams) Goode in Fayette County. They had a son, Osceola (“Ocie”). The couple resided in Karnes County, where Rabb was listed as a stock raiser on the 1880 federal census. According to Rabb’s own recollection, as reported in a feature in the February 4, 1906, edition of the San Antonio Daily Express, he and his family moved to Silver City, New Mexico, in 1885. That same year his mother, Margaret Ragsdale Rabb, who was living with the family, died in Silver City. Rabb continued farming and raising stock. His obituary stated that during this time he was also involved in some part of the Apache Wars, which eventually resulted in the capture of Geronimo. In 1886 the family moved to the Mimbres River area of New Mexico, where they lived until about 1900, when they moved to Deming, New Mexico. There, he was listed on the 1900 census as a “Retired Farmer.” Thomas Rabb died on February 23, 1915, in Deming and was buried in the Mountain View Cemetery there.

“Capt Thomas Rabb,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/16302855/thomas-rabb), accessed April 19, 2022. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Deming Headlight (New Mexico), February 26, 1915. Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin (Camp Rabb). San Antonio Daily Express, February 4, 1906. The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • South Texas

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

William V. Scott, “Rabb, Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rabb-thomas.

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April 21, 2022
April 21, 2022

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