Texas Ranger: John Coffee Hayes



“The struggle for Texan Independence, and the storming of Monterey attest to his bravery as a soldier, while his many deeds of charity and boundless generosity exhibit his Christian spirit.” These words were part of a published tribute about John “Captain Jack” Coffee Hayes in the El Paso Daily Times, May 2, 1883.


An illustrious Indian fighter and Texas Ranger, Hayes was born on January 28, 1817, near Little Cedar Lick, Tennessee. By the age of 15, John had learned the trade of land surveying, and at 19, he moved to Texas. In 1836, John joined the Texas Rangers under Erastus “Deaf” Smith, and soon became a legend in Texas lore.


Serving as a deputy surveyor of the Bexar County District, Hayes remained an active Texas Ranger. For more than 11 years, “Captain Jack” protected settlers from attacks by the Comanche and Mexican marauders. His exploits were many and truly astounding. Some of his most famous battles were at Cañon de Ugalde, Painted Rock, Bandera Pass, Plum Creek, Salado (Monterey), Mexico, and Walker's Creek.


The battle at Walkers Creek was significant because it was the first place where our troops, under the command of John Coffee Hayes, used repeating firearms in combat. Someone said that the introduction of the 5-shot Colt revolver was the equivalent of nuclear weapons against the bow and arrow.


In an article about Hayes's love of God, the Wilson Post stated: “He was very Christian, too. He actually had a Baptist preacher with him, who was a Ranger, and they would pray before going into battle." Indeed, at the battle of Plum Creek, Hayes asked Rev. Z. N. Morrell and Rev. Thomas J. Cox to offer prayers.


But the battle that made Hayes a true Texas legend was fought near Fredericksburg. The Comanches had a sacred area known as the Enchanted Rock. For centuries, they had held ceremonies at that rock and considered it the home of their deities. Somehow, Hayes was alone and surrounded by over 100 Indians there, but came out alive and victorious.


Susan Calvert became John’s wife in 1847. They chose to repeat their marital pledges at the now historic Magnolia Hotel in Seguin, Texas. John kept his vows and only his death in 1883 separated him from Susan.


In 1850, Hayes left the Texas Rangers and moved to San Francisco. He was elected sheriff and is credited as one of the founders of the city of Oakland. Because of his love of Christ and a strong desire to help others, Hayes established what is now known as the California School for the Blind.


The Pacific Methodist newspaper summed up the life of John Coffee Hayes by saying, “Like brave men, generally, he is ardently attached to his family...and speaks in respectful terms of the piety of his wife and the interests of Christianity." Let it be remembered that Texas hero John Hayes, loved God.

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