A Notorious and Desperate Man

 John Ringo's reputation began to grow as the news of his escape from the Lamapsas jail was reported throughout Texas.  In June 1876, Scott Cooley was reported to have died.1  Meanwhile,  newspaper reports continued to report on hiss activities.  On July 14, 1876, the Burnet Bulletin discussed an ambushed attempt that had been made on Burnet deputies in order to free men that were in their custody. Though the attempt was unsuccessful, the newspaper commented:
". . . The notorious Ringo, who seems to have been the leader, is certainly a very desperate and daring man. . . ."
    On September 5, 1876, Mason attorney Hal Holmes encountered Ringo at nearby Bluff creek. Holmes had acted as a prosecutor for the town at times. Ringo threatened Holmes, who quickly returned to Mason. The incident was recorded in Holmes' wife's diary:
"Hal started to Bluff Creek and came back on account of Ringold being out there. . . . Heard that Ringold had threatened Hal so Hal got his arms ready if he should come to the house-- I feel fearfully worried and could not sleep much tonight."2
    The situation in the area continued to get worse.  Sheriff J. J. Strickland of Burnet asked the Governor for help from the Texas Rangers, who were dispatched to the area.3  On October 31, 1876, the Rangers and a party led by the Llano sheriff, captured John Ringo and George Gladdin.4  Both men were brought to Austin to be placed in the Travis County jail.   Their arrival caused much attention and the Austin Statesman commented:
"On Sunday, three desperadoes, men who have been a terror in the counties of Mason, Llano, Burnet, Lampasas, etc, were brought to Austin and lodged in the new jail . . . John Ringo is the party taken from the Lampasas jail last May by about forty men. He has been convicted of threatening the life of Sheriff J. J. Strickland, of Burnet, and was regarded as one of the most desperate men in the frontier counties. . . . "5
    Ringo remained at the Travis County jail in Austin. There he becomes friends with John Wesley Hardin, considered by many to be the most notorious gunman in western history. While Ringo was in the Travis County jail he was indicted by the Mason County Grand Jury in November 1876, for killing James Chaney. The original indictment was destroyed by a fire. Nonetheless, on May 18, 1877, a substitute indictment against Ringo was filed:
". . . On the names and by the authority of the State of Texas the Grand Jurors of Mason County in said State at the November Term A.D. 1876 . . . on their oaths in said court present that John Ringo, George Gladden and others with force and arms in the County of Mason and state of Texas did heretofore to wit on the 25th day of September A.D. 1875 then and there willfully feloniously and with malice aforethought in and upon the body of James Chaney . . .make an assault and that they the said Ringo, Gladden and others with certain guns and pistols then and there in there charged with gunpowder and leaden balls and then and there in their hands . . . shoot off and discharge . . . into the body of said Chaney . . . strike penetrate and wound . . . in the right side giving him the said Chaney one mortal wound . . . the said Ringo, Gladden and others . . . the said James Chaney did kill and murder against the peace and dignity of the state."6
    While in the Travis County Jail,  his conviction for threatening the Burnet Sheriff and his deputy in December 1875, was reversed by the appellate court.7  On October 29, 1877, an arrest warrant was issued against Ringo in Mason County and the sheriff took Ringo into custody on November 1, 1877. He was transported to Mason and held in the jail until his court date on November 12. He was brought before the court and the judge ordered that 50 men should be prepared to serve as a jury pool.9  Ringo's case was continued and on November 19, seven Texas Rangers transported him back to the Travis County jail.10   While en route to Austin it appears that Ringo was taken to Llano county in November 1877 for some reason.  The Austin Statesman on December 4, 1877, reported his arrival back in the Capitol city:
"Destinguished Arrivals.- . . . George Gladden, recently committed to the State prison for life, will be confined to a felon's cell here-to-day. John Ringo, charged with all manner of crimes, will cross the bridge this morning with Gladden. The pretty pair will rest for a time in the jail of this city. Sheriff Bozarth, of Llano, had these terrible fellows in charge. The people will be curious to see these two men, famous for the devilish deeds they have done."
    In December 1877, Ringo's attorney filed a writ of Habeas Corpus and demanded that a bond be set for his client.  The notorious man  was brought back to Mason and on December 20, 1877, Ringo was released on a $2500 bond.  He was ordered to appear before the court on May 10, 1878.11

    While on bond, on February 4, 1878, Ringo was arrested by five Texas Rangers in Junction City, Texas for disturbing the peace. He was released after giving a bond in the matter.12  On April 18, 1878, Ringo appeared in Mason and filed a sworn affidavit that several men were needed as witnesses in his case.  On May 15, 1878, the District attorney for Mason County requested that the case against John Ringo for the murder of James Chaney be dismissed because "testimony cannot be procured to make out the case." It appears that no witnesses were willing to come forward to testify against John Ringo.13

    After the murder charge against him was dismissed,  he settled at Loyal Valley, Mason County. In November 1878, Ringo was elected constable for Precinct#4 at Loyal Valley.14  Whether Ringo ever took the position is not known. At some point he left Texas, possibly in December 1878, and traveled to New Mexico.  By December 1879, he was in Arizona.

1.     Austin Statesman, August 18, 1876.  It appears that Cooley died around June 10, 1876.
2.     Holmes, Lucinda.  The Lucinda Holmes Diary.  Mason County Historical Society, Mason, Texas(1985), page 79.  The entry was dated September 5, 1876.
3.     Austin Statesman, September 23, 1876.
4.     Austin Weekly Statesman, November 9, 1876.
5.     Austin Weekly Statesman, November 9, 1876.
6.    District Court Clerk's Office, Mason County, Mason, Texas.  Cases 21.
7.     John Ringo and Scott Cooley were convicted in March 1876.  The conviction was reversed on July 27, 1877.  2 (Texas) Appeals Court  290 (1877).
8.     District Court Clerk's Office, Mason County, Mason, Texas.  Cases 21.  A capias warrant was issued on October 29, 1877, to bring John Ringo before the court in Mason to answer the charge of murder.
9.     District Court Clerk's Office, Mason County, Mason, Texas.  Cases 21.  Docket entry for November 12, 1877, page 29.
10.   District Court Clerk's Office, Mason County, Mason, Texas.  Mason County Court Commissioner's Book, Book No. One.
11.    District Court Clerk's Office, Mason County, Mason, Texas.  Cases 21.
12.   Texas Ranger Reports.  Adjutant General File.  University of Texas.
13.    District Court Clerk's Office, Mason County, Mason, Texas.  Cases 21.  Galveston Daily News, May 31, 1878.
14.    Official Election Register, pages 259-269.  Texas State Library, Austin, Texas.

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