Sunday, September 25, 2016

John Erastus Buster: Loyalty Ranger

Old Hall Cemetery
Birth: Dec. 30, 1851
Death: Jun. 11, 1937

LOYALTY RANGER

John Erastus Buster was born December 30, 1851, in Albany, Clinton County, Kentucky, to John Prather Buster and Martha Jane Lair. John stood 5ft 11in tall, had blue eyes, dark hair and a light complexion. He was married to his first wife, (name unknown) and had a son, Lair. He married a second wife , Emma Sanola Mayfield, in December 1894. They had four children. John was a farmer in Lewisville, Denton County, Texas. In the 1900 census, he was listed as a "ginner" in Denton County, Texas so he must have lived in "cotton farming" country. John enlisted in the Texas Rangers as a LOYALTY RANGER on May 5, 1918 through February, 1919. Loyalty Rangers worked under cover and most people never knew what they did. They were a secret service, working under the Hobby Loyalty Act of 1918. The 1920 census has him listed as a real estate insurance agent. John Erastus Buster died June 11, 1937, in Lewisville, Denton County, Texas.

In 1900, the Frontier Battalion faded along with the frontier; but by July of 1901, the Legislature passed a new law concerning the Ranger service. The force, to be organized by the governor, was created "for the purpose of protecting the frontier against marauding or thieving parties, and for the suppression of lawlessness and crime throughout the state." Ranger captains picked their own men, who had to furnish their own horses and could dress as they choose. They did not even have a standard badge.

THE BLOODIEST DECADE, 1910-1920

The decade of unrest saw massive enlistments in what was then called the Texas State Ranger Force. Three groups served side-by-side and often were intertwined: Regular Rangers, Special Rangers, and Loyalty Rangers. The Regulars were on the state payroll and assigned to companies. Special Rangers included those hired by private groups for various duties (livestock inspectors, railroad police, oil field security, etc.). Some in this group were "honoraries." The difference between Regular and Special Rangers was often blurred. Loyalty Rangers, authorized by the Hobby Loyalty Act (1918), enjoyed the status of Regular and Special Rangers, but focused their attention on local subversion and acts of disloyalty. Many Rangers had relatives in the organization during these years. One small town in Wilson County, Texas, boasted twenty-two residents who became Rangers. A majority of the force were native Texans, but others came from the South and Midwest. Two had been Arizona Rangers. In 1935 the Rangers became part of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Panic spread in 1915 when authorities in McAllen, Texas, arrest Basilio Ramos, Jr. Ramos was carrying a copy of the Plan of San Diego, a revolutionary manifesto supposedly written and signed at the South Texas town of San Diego. It called for the formation of a "Liberating Army of Races and Peoples," of Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Japanese, to "free" the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Colorado from United States. Versions of the plan call for the murder of all white citizens over 16 years of age. The goal was an independent republic, which might later seek annexation to Mexico.

Mexican raids into Texas in 1915-16 caused an estimated 21 American deaths; an estimated 300 Mexicans or Tejanos may have been killed in South Texas by the actions of Rangers, vigilantes and citizens. Some sources place the death toll as high as 300 and 3,000.

In January of 1919 Representative José T. Canales of Brownsville demanded a legislative investigation of the conduct of the various Ranger forces during the period 1915-1917 and the reorganization of the force. The Texas Legislature investigated nineteen charges made against the Texas Ranger forces in the aftermath of the Plan of San Diego and the War.

The investigation resulted in the reduction of the Ranger force to four companies of 17 men each. A tightening of qualifications for the Texas Ranger service led to its initial professionalization.

BOOTLEGGERS AND SPIES

South Texas border, amor car 1918
In 1918, the national prohibition law was passed. It gave the Rangers, along with federal officers, another problem to cope with on the border. Many a burro train of bootleg liquor from Mexico was intercepted, and shoot-outs between Rangers and smugglers were not infrequent.

During the first World War, the already large regular Ranger force was supplemented with another 400 Special Rangers appointed by the governor. After the war, on the heels of a Legislative inquiry into the Rangers' operation on the border, the Legislature in 1919 reduced the size of the force to four companies of 15 men, a sergeant and a captain. Additionally, the lawmakers authorized a headquarters company of six men in Austin under a senior Ranger captain.

Texas was in a state of transition, and so were the Rangers. Rangers still rode the river on horseback, but they also used cars. The automobile was taking over as the principal mode of transportation in Texas and the rest of the country. And horseless carriages needed oil, not oats. The increased national demand for petroleum fueled a new law enforcement problem for the Rangers.

In addition to their traditional duties, along with assisting in tick eradication efforts, handling labor difficulties and the enforcement of prohibition, the Rangers had to deal with lawlessness that came with the oil boom in Texas.  

John Prather Buster (b.1814) KY, Father
Claudius Buster (b.1788) VA, Grandfather
William Woods Buster (b.1729) NC, Great-grandfather
William Buster, Jr (b.1729,) VA, 2nd Great-grandfather
William Bustard/Buster (b. 1696) VA, 3rd 
Great-grandfather


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