Brown County Scrapbook: Texas Ranger Henry Warren McGee

Ronnie and Donnie Lappe
Special to the Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

Part One taken from research written by Bob Cooke, a descendant

In 1835, Henry Anderson McGhee married Jane Warren in Lawrence County, Alabama. They had 12 children, six of whom died as infants or early teens. Henry Warren McGhee was born in Lawrence County, Alabama on Jan. 1, 1854.

According to the 1870 Census for Lawrence County, Alabama, Henry Warren McGhee was 16 years old. His father’s occupation was listed as farmer. In 1872, Henry Warren McGhee moved with his parents to Texas. His mother died in Bremond, Texas in 1872.

In 1873, the family moved to Waco, Texas. In March 1876, McGhee was a policeman and was involved in a shootout with outlaws on the streets of Waco. Deputy Sheriff Moses L. “Moak” Wright was killed by outlaws. Deputy Wright, along with Deputy Albert Dutton and Waco Police Officer Henry McGhee, approached a group of men who were suspected horse thieves. When the men were questioned about who they were, they gave their names as Hilton and stated that they were from Navarro County.

The officers did not attempt to arrest them at that time, but they went off to consult with one another. As the men started to mount their horses and leave, the officers again came upon them and demanded that they surrender. The officers drew their revolvers as they approached, and the horse thieves had their pistols out. Deputy Wright seized one man, who jerked loose and snatched Wright’s pistol. At that moment, another man on horseback fired, hitting Wright. Deputies Wright and Dutton opened fire on the parties as they ran. McGhee was not hurt, but stumbled and fell. Deputy Wright’s wounds were treated, but he died three hours later.

James B. Gillett recorded that McGhee was involved in several pistol duels in Waco as a deputy Marshall. He was slightly wounded in one of those duels. Henry joined the Texas Rangers by enlistment on April 16, 1877 at the age of 23. He enlisted at the Ranger’s camp on the Nueces River in Uvalde County, in Company A of the Frontier Battalion, under Capt. Neal Coldwell.

For two years, from 1875-77, he was a member of the Texas Ranger force, during the most turbulent years in the history of that organization. He assisted in establishing and holding the first court in San Saba County at Kimbleville and took part in other law and order work in this territory during the pioneer days. Along with other Rangers, he was engaged in some of the most famous battles with outlaw gangs, including a fight with Sam Bass, notorious outlaw who was killed by the Texas Rangers. In the 1880 Census, Henry Warren McGhee was said to have resided in Mason, Texas. His occupation was listed as saloon keeper.

On Nov. 26, 1881, Henry Warren McGhee married Emma D. Keyser at a ranch near Fredericksburg. She was the granddaughter of Henrich Conrad Kothmann, from Art, Texas. He was one of the original German immigrants to Texas. McGhee later owned and operated a jewelry store in Brady. Later that year, the family moved to Brownwood.

According to Margaret McGhee Westbrook, daughter to Henry and Emma McGhee, her father was in the liquor business. He lived in a two-story house on Avenue E, with porches both up and down, nearly all around the house. He lived there from 1898 to 1907. It was on the outskirts of Brownwood, with only one or two neighbors around. The family had a servant’s house and orchard, and they kept a horse and cow at the back of the lot. McGhee drove to town using a horse and buggy.

During the “blue northers,” lap robes were used in the open buggy during the 2-3 mile drive to town and back to keep warm. A stove was heated and wrapped in burlap to keep their feet warm. McGhee liked the Ranger songs that were happy and boisterous songs.

McGhee was Scotch-Irish, and known to be happy-go-lucky. He was 6-foot-3 and considered good looking with curly black hair and blue eyes.

The 1900 census showed that Henry Warren McGhee resided in Brownwood. It lists his occupation as capitalist. He ran a drug store and a saloon in Brownwood. The store was on Baker Street, between Center and Fisk. In 1903, he was the Mayor of Brownwood for a short time. In 1908, he moved to El Paso and stayed there 2-3 years. He was in the real estate business.

The 1910 census showed that Henry Warren McGhee still lived in El Paso, and real estate was his occupation. He lived there from 1909-1911. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church. The 1911 Brownwood city directory showed Henry Warren McGhee to be in real estate. And by 1914, the city directory showed him to be a bookkeeper for Brooke Smith & Co., and manager of Alamo Manufacturing Co.

Part II describing Henry Warren McGhee’s time as a Texas Ranger will appear next time.