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MORE ON NATHAN FULLER 


On Friday, November 21, 2008, 09:41 AM, Monty Waters wrote:

Gary Owen asked for more information on Nathan Fuller. I can supply some.

He notes some confusion about Fuller's re-enlistment in May 1918. This occurred at the height of the Porvenir investigation and decision to dismiss those involved. "General Order No. 5", dated June 4, 1916 had several purposes: first to discharge the five rangers, still on the payroll that participated in the Porvenir operation; second, to transfer the remaining Co. B rangers to Captain Gray's Company D; third, to reassign Fox to Austin; and finally, to terminate Co. B as a unit. Fuller was one of the rangers reassigned to Co. D. This letter was sent at the time Fuller's application was pending to re-enlist in Co. B, which is why his warrant still reads "Co. B", though by the time his warrant was endorsed by the Adjutant General, Co. B ceased to exist. Fox's reassignment to Austin never occurred because he resigned with a very public letter to the Governor. The well-known photograph of the mounted ranger company is often labeled Company A, but on the date the photograph was taken, Gray was captain of Company D.

Fox was a controversial captain, but he did hold Fuller in high regard. In an October 15, 1917 letter listing men under his command, Fox praised Fuller, Beard, Trollinger, Woelber, and Holden as the only rangers of his group that had over one year service with him and whom he considered "alright in every respect . . . sober and honest". He listed a total of 13 other rangers in this letter, quite and expansion from the Sept. 1917 payroll seen by Owens. All the other rangers were new enlistments (Boone Oliphant resigned in Sept. 1917; he re-enlisted in December), though some of them had law enforcement experience.

Fuller resigned Feb. 11, 1920 sending a letter to the Adjutant General highly critical of Captain Gray. He complained that Gray put him (Fuller) under the supervision of a less experienced ranger, P.F. Dyches. Not only was Dyches inexperienced, but he an another ranger had recently suffered the embarrassment of losing a handcuffed prisoner to armed Mexicans near Lajitas. Fuller wrote: "I told Gray I wouldn't work under Dyches. I will not work under no man who let a few mexicans come to this side and shoot him loose from a prisoner, in broad open daylight, and the prisoner hand cuffed."

But Gray had other complaints about Gray: He'd "done more lectionring [sic] the last two months than the man he wants to be elected. It is well known he has brought all the pressure possible to force the rangers to vote for Jeff Vaugn [sic] for sheriff. In fact he publicly stated that all rangers who did not so vote would soon be hunting a job." Finally Gray was hypocritical on the subject of alcohol: He was "always harping on the booze question, when he buys as much or more than any man he has under him, this is not hear say [sic] I know what I am telling."

The last two items in the indictment require some explanation. Presidio county had for ten years been a county that was partly wet (legal alcohol sales) and partly dry (alcohol prohibited). For instance, in 1918 the legislature made it illegal to sell liquor within ten miles of a military base, thereby making Marfa "dry." Needless to say some people found ways to slake the thirst of the men stationed near Marfa, despite the law. On October 18, 1919 the entire state became "dry" a year prior to the rest of the United States. Thus bootlegging, which had always existed, became even more lucrative. Gray believed the Presidio County Sheriff, Ira Cline, was protecting the activities of his bootlegging brother, Buford.

He was also using ranger [Jefferson Eagle] Vaughan to investigate the involvement of the Clines and other ex-rangers in a sensational robbery of a Mexican payroll officer near Marfa on July 30, 1919. Though several law enforcement officers were implicated in this crime in internal federal and state documents, no indictments or convictions were ever brought against the perpetrators. It is possible that Gray had very good reason to wish Cline out of office. Or it is possible that, for political reasons, he wished to have him connected with any criminal activity occuring in the county.

In any event, Fuller resented the pressure to support Vaughan and Gray's hypocrisy on the issue of alcohol. Vaughan did win election over Cline in 1920 by a very close (33 vote) margin. Cline blamed the votes of the recently enfranchised women voters for his defeat. This may've been a factor, for Vaughan was a tall "matinee idol" type of ranger and one of the models Zane Grey used for his novel "The Lone Ranger". He served as sheriff until 1927, and eventually became a ranger captain in the 1930s.

Nathan Fuller never served as a regular ranger again but he did obtain a "special ranger" warrant, which was basically a permit for him to carry a gun, when he went to work in 1922 as a railroad detective for the I&GN railroad. He held this warrant from August 22, 1922 to January 5, 1923. This warrant was endorsed by Captain Jerry Gray who either did not know of Gray's 1920 letter to the Adjutant General; forgave him for it; or had no choice but to endorse a warrant that in many cases was awarded through the governor's office.

I came across most of this information in my research on my grandfather AG Beard, who served with Fuller in Co. B. Sources:

"Texas Adjutant General Service Records 1936-1935" (online)

Harris and Saddler, "The Texas Rangers: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920" (Univ New Mexico, 2004"

Alvarado, "Ira Cline-Disciple of Law" (1972, on the Marfa Public Library web site)

Thompson, "History of Marfa and Presidio County" Vol II, (1985)

Texas Legislature, "Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the Investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force" (typescript, 1919, microfilm copy at the University of Texas, Center for American Studies)

Stopka, Christina; Partial List of Texas Ranger Company and Unit Commanders; (2005, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum) www.texasranger.org/ReCenter/Captains.pdf.

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