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Texas Rangers: A family tradition

By Raymond V Carter Research Historian ©2017

Standing in this 1918 photograph taken in Harlingon, Texas, are Texas Ranger George Sadler (left) and his wife Mrs. Maude Sadler nee Rogers (right). Their daughter, Audrey Sadler, sits in the lap of Texas Ranger John Setters. (Note that Mrs. Sadler has removed her hat for the photograph but retains a firm grip on her model 1895 Winchester, caliber .30-40 Krag.)

During my childhood in the 1950’s, the Texas Rangers were the idols of us kids who played cowboy games. My grandfather’s stories of the Texas Rangers in our family only fueled the fire and filled us kids up with the excitement of realism. My grandfather, V.R. “Pete” Coffman, and being a lawman, worked with the likes of Texas Rangers Dan Westbrook, Bill Murray and John Conners. The last time I saw Ranger Westbrook was when he was living at Fort McKavett in 1965. My relatives, uncles and cousins who were Rangers came from the Smith, Whitley, Buck, Sadler and McCombs families.
The first Ranger in the family would have been Grandpa William Berry Smith, who was a well-known fighter in the late 1830’s Texas Indian Wars. The second Ranger in the family was Uncle James Madison Buck, who joined up in 1859 at San Marcos with Captain William Tobin’s Mounted Volunteers and fought in the Juan Cortina War at Brownsville.
Elisha Franklin Whitley Sr. served as a private in the Frontier Regiment in Kerr County in 1862. He and his family lived about a quarter of a mile from the mill and log schoolhouse in Kerrville. His grandson, William Elisha Whitley would serve as a Ranger in Harlingen. Uncle Bill Whitley enlisted on July 5, 1909, in Cameron County under Captain Frank Johnson of Company A.
Uncle Bill killed Fracisco Balli, who had killed his cousin, Deputy Sheriff Bommer (aka Benny) Lawrence along with Ranger Quirl Carnes in the San Benito Ambush in 1910. The shooting, as it was told to me by cousin Richard Winters, which is different from other versions I’ve heard went like this: “Uncle Bill walked into a saloon and was noticed by Balli, who immediately cussed and said, ‘That is the S.O.B. cousin of Lawrence I killed!’ Balli drew his gun, but Uncle Bill was faster. Uncle Bill shot and killed Balli while Balli’s bullet landed in the floor between Uncle Bill’s feet.”
Around Medina County, were the McCombs brothers: Uncle John Wesley, Lewis, Sam and George. They fought and chased the Indians in the late 1850’s and 1860’s. In A.J. Sowell’s “Early Texas Indian Fighter,” Sowell gives one of the accounts of them chasing and fighting the Indian with Bigfoot Wallace in Bandera County.
Uncle James Kaine Sadler and Aunt Mary E. Berry Sadler, who lived at Bigfoot, Frio County, raised five sons who became Texas Rangers. They were George W., John W., Lenard T., Thomas H., and William D. That should be a record in Ranger history!
Cousin George and his family lived in Van Horn, Texas, and in 1978 I visited with his widow, Maude, and his daughter, Audre. George served from 1917 to 1919 and again as a Special Ranger in 1935. Cousin John is in the picture found on page 3 of the “History of Bandera County” and served off an on from 1918 to 1931 and as a Special Ranger from 1933 to 1935. Cousin Bill served in 1918. Cousin Lenn also served in 1918, but was accidentally killed by Ranger Lock that year. Cousin Tom served in 1917.
I could write books about them and as you might expect, I am very proud of them. Nothing else to say.