Brown County Historical Scrapbook: John and Emma Banister

Brownwood Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

John Riley Banister was a law officer. He was born in Banister, Missouri on May 24, 1854 to William Lawrence and Mary Banister. His father deserted the family after the Civil War and settled in Texas.

John, who had only three months of school, moved to Texas in 1867. He became a cowboy on Rufus Winn’s ranch near Menardville. He then worked for Sam Golson in Coleman and Mason counties in 1873.

Banister helped fight against several Native Americans and joined his first cattle drive to Kansas in 1874. After another drive in 1876, he joined the Texas Rangers in Austin for Frontier Battalion service. His company was involved in escorting murderer John Wesley Hardin from Austin to Comanche for trial, skirmishes with Native Americans and the capture of outlaw Sam Bass.

After leaving Texas Ranger service in 1881, Banister moved to San Saba and made cattle drives to Kansas from 1881 to 1883. In 1883, he married Mary Ellen Walker and settled on a ranch near Brownwood, then moved to Coleman to run a livery stable. The couple had six children.

Mary Ellen Banister died in 1892, and John Banister married Emma Daugherty on September 25, 1894 in Goldthwaite. They had five children.

In 1889, he started doing law enforcement for railroads. In 1892, he became a treasury agent assigned to help police the Mexican border against cattle smugglers. After six years, he resigned.

He started to work full time as an inspector for the Texas Cattle Raisers Association (now the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association). He originated the filed inspection service for the association and was the first chief. Banister investigated cattle rustling for the association in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma until 1914.

He moved to Coleman and bought a farm. He was elected Sheriff of Coleman County.

There is a collection of his papers in the Southwest Collection of Texas Tech University that documents his law enforcement career. His documents speak about investigating cattle and the longtime efforts of the cattlemen’s association in protecting livestock.

John Banister died of a stroke on August 1, 1918 in Coleman, Texas, while he was still Sheriff, and was buried in Santa Anna.

Emma Daugherty was born in Forney, Texas on October 20, 1871, to Bailey and Martha Ann Daugherty. Her father came to the area from Alabama before the Civil War. He was murdered in 1878.

Her mother remarried. Emma stayed with her family for two or three years, then went to live with the family of her uncle, Lou Daugherty, in Goldthwaite. She completed her formal education and studied to become a teacher. She taught in Turkey Creek, Mills County and at Needmore on Jim Ned Creek in Coleman County. She stayed in the home of the Sam Golson family.

On September 25, 1894, in Goldthwaite, she married John Banister. He was a former Texas Ranger and special agent of the U.S. Treasury Department. After several months of travel, the couple settled in Santa Anna, where Emma started raising John’s four small children from a previous marriage and gave birth to five of her own.

John had experience tracking cattle rustlers. He started working for the Texas Cattle Raiser’s Association. He was the first chief. He was elected sheriff of Coleman County in 1914, and the family moved from the farm to the first floor of the Coleman County Jail. Emma served as John’s office deputy. She bought supplies, ran her household, and oversaw the preparation of meals for the family and the prisoners.

On August 1, 1918, the Sheriff died, and the commissioners of Coleman County appointed his wife to complete his term in office. Newspapers across the county wrote articles about a female sheriff. It described Emma Banister as “part of a stock of westerners that does not know fear.”

She ran the office efficiently by day, answering mail, instructing deputies, replying to inquiries and managing the prisoners. In the evenings, she kept the records up to date, planned meals and took care of domestic duties.

She declined the county commissioners’ offer to place her name on the ballot for the November elections for a further term in office. At the completion of the term, the family moved back to the farm in Santa Anna.

Mrs. Banister was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and a Baptist. In later years she took little credit for her service as Sheriff of Coleman County. Oil income enabled her to travel and to deal in real estate in Santa Anna and in Elida, New Mexico.

She and her husband had collected Indian artifacts and trophies of his forty four years in law enforcement. Most of the collection is now in the museum at Fort Concho National Historic Landmark in San Angelo. Emma Banister died in Brownwood Memorial Hospital on June 4, 1956 and was buried in Santa Anna.