John Riley Banister

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John R. Banister as a young man, posed for a "tin type" photograph. John Riley Banister as a young man.jpg
John R. Banister as a young man, posed for a "tin type" photograph.
John Riley Banister with Luther Alred (Oklahoma, November 11, 1911) John Riley Banister with Luther Alred (Oklahoma, November 11, 1911).jpg
John Riley Banister with Luther Alred (Oklahoma, November 11, 1911)

John Riley Banister (May 24, 1854 – 1918) was an American law officer, cowboy and Texas Ranger.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Cowboy animal herder

A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend. A subtype, called a wrangler, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeos. Cowgirls, first defined as such in the late 19th century, had a less-well documented historical role, but in the modern world work at identical tasks and have obtained considerable respect for their achievements. Cattle handlers in many other parts of the world, particularly South America and Australia, perform work similar to the cowboy.

Texas Ranger Division Texas law enforcement agency

The Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a U.S statewide investigative law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction in Texas, based in the capital city of Austin. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption, acted in riot control and as detectives, protected the governor of Texas, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force at the service of both the Republic (1836–1845) and the state of Texas.


Early years

Banister was born in Banister Hollow, a small settlement located in Camden County, Missouri, which was to become a local hub or center for surrounding communities. His parents were William Lawrence and Mary (Buchanan) Banister. According to biographical sources, all the Banisters were musicians and played fiddle, banjo, guitar and other instruments. They also sang long ballads and played Irish and Scottish jigs and reels.

Camden County, Missouri County in the United States

Camden County is a county located in the U.S. state of Missouri. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 44,002. Its county seat is Camdenton. The county was organized January 29, 1841 as Kinderhook County and renamed in 1843 for Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden, Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom, and leader of the Whig Party.

Around 1863 John's father, after being wounded twice while serving in the Confederate Army, did not return home and instead moved to Texas and married Mary Catherine Miller, a young woman of mixed Anglo-Saxon and Native American descent, with whom he had six other children. Whether or not William had formally ended his marriage with Buchanan prior to marrying Miller is a fact not noted in any historical record.

British people citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, British Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies, and their descendants

The British people, or the Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependencies. British nationality law governs modern British citizenship and nationality, which can be acquired, for instance, by descent from British nationals. When used in a historical context, "British" or "Britons" can refer to the Celtic Britons, the indigenous inhabitants of Great Britain and Brittany, whose surviving members are the modern Welsh people, Cornish people, and Bretons. It may also refer to citizens of the former British Empire.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. More than 570 federally recognized tribes live within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while "Native Americans" are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. The US Census does not include Native Hawaiians or Chamorro, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Move to Texas

What inspired Banister to leave Banister Hollow is not clear, although oral history suggests that it was in part due to his mother's unhappiness and abusive treatment from an uncle named Argiles Hicks. Further anecdotal evidence suggests that the wild, chaotic nature of the region was also an influence, as, according to Leona Bruce, mobs and guerillas were a constant threat. Furthermore, the attraction to the West, the land where Banister's father had gone before, may have been the strongest impetus. Banister, at age thirteen, along with his brother, Will (who was named after their father) decided to leave their home to seek out their father in Texas.

Not having a map or any kind of predefined route, one Spring night in 1867 the two boys did not return home from hunting at the Niangua River. This timing was chosen because the boys understood that their leaving would not have been permitted by their family and their grandfather would have followed them and punish them had he had sufficient warning.

Niangua River river in the United States of America

The Niangua River is a 125-mile-long (201 km) tributary of the Osage River in the Ozarks region of southern and central Missouri in the United States. Via the Osage and Missouri rivers it is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River.

There is no historical or anecdotal record to suggest that the boys ever set foot in Banister Hollow again. Nor is there record to show how John and Will Banister traveled or what transpired during that time, although there is record of the boys asking other passing travelers at the earlier stages of their journey questions about how and where to cross the rivers, what kind of storms normally occurred in the Spring, how to plan a route and stay on track and where there might be danger from Native Americans. They traveled nearly six-hundred miles alone, armed with only a single rifle, a small amount of lead and powder, and a bag of Banister Hollow cornmeal. Four months after leaving Banister Hollow, the boys arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, a well-known town which was a source of supplies for settlements in the surrounding region.

Fort Worth, Texas City in Texas, United States

Fort Worth is a city in the U.S. state of Texas. It is the 13th-largest city in the United States and fifth-largest city in Texas. It is the county seat of Tarrant County, covering nearly 350 square miles (910 km2) into three other counties: Denton, Parker, and Wise. According to the 2017 census estimates, Fort Worth's population is 874,168. Fort Worth is the second-largest city in the Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington metropolitan area, which is the 4th most populous metropolitan area in the United States.


After arriving in Fort Worth, Banister and his brother, after inquiring after their father from many strangers, were befriended by a man named Colonel Rufus Winn, who was a Confederate veteran. Winn, who had two young children with his wife, Mary Elizabeth Vaughn, was touched by the boys' tale and was concerned for their safety. Not wanting them to join outlaws, Winn and his wife took them in. On the Rufus Winn ranch Banister assisted Winn with all manner of chores and duties, and within a short time became a vital family and community member.

From cattle driving to catching outlaws

After driving cattle for the Rufus Winn Ranch near Menardville and later the Sam Golson ranch in Coleman and Mason counties, Banister joined the Texas Rangers in Austin, Texas for Frontier Battalion service, which involved escorting murderer John Wesley Hardin to Comanche for trial, and later the capture of outlaw Sam Bass.

After leaving ranger service in 1881, John Banister moved to San Saba and returned to cattle driving until 1883, making drives to Kansas. In 1883 Banister married Mary Ellen Walker and settled on a ranch near Brownwood. After moving to Coleman to run a livery stable, the couple had six children. Mrs. Banister died in 1892, and Banister married Emma Daugherty on September 25, 1894, in Goldthwaite. Banister and Daugherty had five children.

Special assignment, field-inspection, sheriff

Between 1889 and 1892, Banister accepted special assignments as a detective for the Santa Fe and other railroads. In 1892, he became a Treasury Agent assigned to help police the U.S.-Mexico border against cattle smugglers. After six years, he resigned and became inspector for the Texas Cattle Raisers Association (now the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association). He originated the field-inspection service for the association and was its first chief. Banister investigated cattle rustling for the association in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma until 1914, when he became sheriff of Coleman County.

Banister's career is documented by a collection of his papers in the Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University. Documents detailing his investigations of cattle theft are particularly valuable in detailing the longtime efforts of the cattlemen's association in protecting livestock. Banister died of a stroke on August 1, 1918, in Coleman, and was buried in Santa Anna. His wife then took over his job and in so doing became the first female sheriff in the United States.

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