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Hays, John Coffee, 1817-1883 | University of Houston Libraries

Name: Hays, John Coffee, 1817-1883


Historical Note:

Texas Ranger extraordinary and Mexican War officer, son of Harmon and Elizabeth (Cage) Hays, was born at Little Cedar Lick, Wilson County, Tennessee, on January 28, 1817.

Hays became the prototypical Texas Ranger officer, and he and his cohorts-John S. (Rip) Ford, Ben McCulloch, and Samuel H. Walker-established the ranger tradition. Hays joined the Texas Rangers in the formative years of their role as citizen soldiers. His rangers gained a reputation as mounted troops with revolvers and individually styled uniforms, who marched and fought with a noticeable lack of military discipline. This rough-and-ready image of an irregular force left its imprint on the chronicles of ranger history.

In the thirteen years that he lived in Texas, Hays mixed a military career with surveying. At an early age he left home, surveyed lands in Mississippi, attended Davidson Academy at Nashville, and decided to cast his lot with the rebels in the Texas Revolution. In 1836 he traveled to New Orleans and entered Texas at Nacogdoches in time to join the troops under Thomas J. Rusk and bury the remains of victims of the Goliad Massacre. Houston advised Hays to join a company of rangers under Erastus (Deaf) Smith for service from San Antonio to the Rio Grande, under the orders of Col. Henry W. Karnes. In this role Hays took part in an engagement with Mexican cavalry near Laredo, assisted in the capture of Juan Sánchez, and rose to the rank of sergeant. After appointment as deputy surveyor of the Bexar District, Hays combined soldiering and surveying for several years.

He married Susan Calvert in 1847, and they had three daughters and three sons. Hays died on April 21, 1883, and is buried in California. Hays County, Texas, is named in his honor.

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Hays, John Coffee" http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fhabq.html (accessed April 27, 2007).

Sources: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Hays, John Coffee" http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fhabq.html (accessed April 27, 2007).


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