James B. Gillett

James B. Gillett (November 4, 1856 – June 11, 1937) was a lawman of the Old West, mostly well known due to his service as a Texas Ranger, and is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

Early life and careerEdit

Born James Buchanan Gillett in Austin, Texas, Gillett was raised working as a cowboy on local ranches. He joined the Texas Rangers in 1875, in Menard, Texas. Gillett initially served under Captain D. W. Roberts with "Company D", and later served with Captain N. O. Reynolds and Captain G. W. Baylor, whose daughter Helen would later marry Gillett. Mostly assigned to the West Texas border regions, Gillett found himself involved in numerous skirmishes with Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche Indians. He was involved in the July 21, 1878 killing of outlaw Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas, when Bass was shot by Texas Ranger George Herold, and Gillett later took part in putting down both the Mason County War and the Horrell-Higgins feud.

He first came to notice when, in January, 1881, while under the command of Captain Baylor, his company pursued a hostile band of Apache which had attacked a stagecoach. The Rangers surprised the band, killing six of the Apache, scattering the rest of the band. Gillett also pursued outlaw Dick Dublin that same year, killing Dublin in a gunfight. His fights with Indians and several little known outlaws made him a legend in the Ranger organization.

Capture of the Baca brothers, resignationEdit

On New Year's Eve, 1881, Gillett's friend, A. M. Conklin, was murdered in El Paso by the Baca brothers, after Conkiln was involved in a fight with Onefre Baca. Gillett and fellow Ranger George Lloyd set out in pursuit of the brothers immediately after the killing. Tracking the brothers to their uncle's home, Gillett made it known they were there to bring the brothers in. The Uncle, Jose Baca, was a local Judge, and offered Gillett a $1,000 bribe to allow his nephews to go free, which Gillett refused. Gillett and Lloyd captured all of the brothers at Jose Baca's house with the exception of Onefre Baca.

Onefre Baca had fled to Mexico, and upon learning this, but receiving no authorization to enter Mexico, Gillett crossed the border into Mexico illegally to arrest Onefre Baca, and then took him to Socorro, Texas to be held until he could be taken back to El Paso. Shortly afterward, Onefre Baca was lynched by an angry mob. After only six years service, under protests that he illegally arrested Baca by entering Mexico and under pressure from Texas Governor Oran M. Roberts, Gillett resigned from the Rangers at the rank of sergeant, accepting a position as Deputy Marshal for El Paso, Texas, in June, 1882, working briefly under famed gunman Dallas Stoudenmire.

Gillett held the marshals position until 1885, when he left to accept a job managing the Estado Land and Cattle Company, a position he held for another six years. He started his own ranch after that, in Alpine, Texas, then moved he and his family to Roswell, New Mexico in 1907. Purchasing the Barrell Spring Ranch, Gillett then began raising a premium herd of Hereford cattle. Gillett retired from ranching in 1923, leasing his ranch to his son Milton, and moved to Marfa, Texas. In 1921, Gillett had written his memoirs, Six years with the Texas Rangers, which has remained in print since. He died of heart failure on June 11, 1937, and is buried in the Marfa cemetery.

In his book "The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier" (St. Martin's Press, 2004, pgs.211-212) Scott Zesch records an incident when Gillett, along with another young ranger Ed Seiker, fought in a running battle with a band of Apache Indians during which the two nearly killed a 'white Indian' named Herman Lehmann who had been captured and adopted by the Indians and had become a warrior himself, and also killed and mutilated an Apache warrior named Nusticeno who they "butchered terribly": "In their zeal, the novice rangers had shot the Apache countless times, carved the skin off him, and even decapitated him," and took his bow, quiver, shield, and moccasins as trophies.[1]

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Police appointments
Preceded by
Dallas Stoudenmire
City Marshal of El Paso, Texas
May 27, 1882–March 24, 1885
Succeeded by
Thomas B. White