Portraits of Texas Governors  > The Wild West, 1874-1887 (this page)

Portraits of Texas Governors

The Wild West, 1874-1887

Richard Coke

Richard Coke

January 15, 1874 - December 1, 1876


Link - Letter about desperados

Letter from a grieving father about John Wesley Hardin and other "desperados"









Born: March 13, 1829 in Williamsburg, Virginia

Early Career: Coke graduated from the College of William and Mary and began practicing law before moving to Waco, Texas in 1850. In 1859 he was a member of a commission which removed the Brazos Reservation Indians to the Indian Territory. After serving in the Secession Convention of 1861, Coke rose in the ranks of the Confederate Army from private to captain. In 1865 he was appointed district judge, and in 1866 was elected Supreme Court justice, but was removed by General Philip Sheridan in 1867 as an "impediment to reconstruction."

In 1873, Coke won the governor's chair over E.J. Davis. Several tense days in January 1874 saw the state capitol turned into an armed camp, with two rival legislatures, as Davis refused to surrender his office. When President U.S. Grant would not support Davis' request for troops, Davis conceded and Coke was inaugurated.

Accomplishments: During Coke's term in office, he faced a state government which was in debt and without funds, an unprotected frontier, and problems with Indians and Mexican bandits. Coke reduced expenditures and made a new beginning of the public school system. He was reelected in 1876 after the Constitution of 1876 had returned the governor's term of office to two years. Later the same year, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and so resigned the governorship on December 1, 1876.

Later years: Coke served three terms in the Senate (1877-1895) and died in Waco on May 14, 1897.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor Richard Coke

Link - Letter about carrying six shooters

Letter from Brownwood asking for a restriction on the carrying of six-shooters


Jan 17 1874 Reconstruction ends in Texas

Jun 27 1874 Quanah Parker and Lone Wolf defeated at Adobe Walls trading post

Aug 30 1874 First battle of Red River War, which eventually broke Indian power in the Panhandle

Sept 28 1874 Defeat of south Plains Indians at Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, south of Amarillo

Sep 16 1875 Hurricane destroys port of Indianola

Luther Burbank pioneers crossbreeding in agriculture

Feb 15 1876 Present state constitution is adopted

Jun 22 1876 Santa Anna dies of old age in Mexico City

U.S. Centennial

Battle of Little Bighorn

Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Oct 4 1876 Agricultural and Mechanical College (later Texas A&M) opens

Nov 7 1876 Texas Rangers end the "Hoodoo War" in Mason County, a blood feud that had killed 18 people

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone

Richard B. Hubbard

R.B. Hubbard

December 1, 1876 - January 21, 1879


Link - Trouble at Sandy Point

Telegrams on a riot at Sandy Point near Houston


Born: November 1, 1832 in Georgia

Early Career: Hubbard graduated from Mercer College (1851) and Harvard Law School (1853). Hubbard then moved to Texas and began practicing law in Tyler. While campaigning for James Buchanan in the presidential election of 1856, Hubbard's oratorical skill earned him the nickname of "the Demosthenes of Texas." He was appointed U.S. district attorney for the Western District of Texas in 1858, and elected state representative in 1859. After serving as a colonel in the Confederate Army, Hubbard farmed until he could resume his law practice upon being pardoned. He was elected Richard Coke's lieutenant governor in 1873 and 1876. When Coke resigned in December 1876 to become U.S. Senator, Hubbard became governor and served out his term.

Accomplishments: No legislatures met during this period. Besides an enormous public debt, Hubbard had to contend with renewed feuding and outlawry in the state. Other issues included the penitentiary lease system, the rise of the Grange and the Greenback Party, and the first experiments with the party primary. Hubbard received a majority of votes for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in July 1878, but did not receive a two-thirds majority. He was passed over in favor of the compromise candidate, Oran Roberts.

Later years: President Grover Cleveland appointed Hubbard U.S. minister to Japan from 1885-1889. In 1899, Hubbard's book The United States and the Far East was published. He died in Tyler in 1901.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor Richard B. Hubbard

Link - Bass to Hubbard

Letter on the 1877 troubles that almost led to war with Mexico


Ku Klux Klan terrorism across the South

Feb 16 1877 First train service to San Antonio

Jun 18 1877 Charles Goodnight establishes first ranch in Panhandle

Chief Joseph's Nez Perce defeated in Idaho

Sep 1877 Months of mob violence begin over salt mining rights in the El Paso Salt War

Great Railroad Strike

Root beer invented

Jim Crow laws in the South

Edison invents the phonograph

Jul 21 1878 Outlaw Sam Bass killed by Texas Rangers in Round Rock

Yellow fever epidemic throughout the South

Lumber business begins to clear the forests of the Midwest and West

Oct 11 1878 Outlaw Bill Longley, killer of 32 men, hanged in Giddings

Cheyenne finally defeated in Dull Knife campaign in Wyoming

Carnegie consolidates steel industry


Oran M. Roberts

Oran Roberts

January 21, 1879 - January 16, 1883


Link - Proclaiming convening UT board of regents

Proclamation convening the Board of Regents for the University of Texas



Born: July 1815 in South Carolina

Early Career: Roberts was raised in Alabama from the age of three. By the time he graduated in 1836, he was librarian of the University of Alabama. Roberts was admitted to the bar the next year, and served a term in the Alabama Legislature. In 1841 Roberts moved to San Augustine, Texas, where he became district attorney (1844) and district judge (1846-1851). He was a member of the board of trustees and the faculty of the University of San Augustine when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Texas (1857). Roberts was elected president of the Secession Convention of 1861, led an infantry regiment during the Civil War, and briefly served as chief justice of the Supreme Court (1864-1865). After serving in the Constitutional Convention of 1866, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but was refused his seat by that radical Republican body. Roberts practiced law in Tyler and Gilmer until he was reappointed to the Supreme Court in 1874. In 1878 Roberts was unanimously chosen candidate for governor by the Democratic state convention after a week of deadlocked ballots.

Accomplishments: His motto was "pay as you go," and to reduce the state debt inherited from the Davis and other administrations, he reduced pensions to veterans of the Revolution. Roberts also discontinued the payment of rewards for capture of criminals, liberally granted pardons to relieve the overcrowded prisons, and reduced appropriations for the public school system to save money. Despite this latter measure, he helped found two normal schools (Sam Houston State and Prairie View), revitalized Texas A&M, and helped create the University of Texas, where classes began in 1883. An unexpected added expense was the need to build a new state capitol building after the old one burned in 1881.

Later years: After his second gubernatorial term ended in 1883, Roberts taught law at the University of Texas for ten years. In addition to writing several books, he helped create and lead the Texas State Historical Association. Roberts died in Austin on May 19, 1898.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor Oran M. Roberts


Link - Letter offering to hunt down Sam Bass gang

Letter from detective offering to hunt down the Sam Bass gang


Edison invents lightbulb

Uncle Remus stories published

Bicycling becomes popular

Mar 15 1881 Agents for the Texas & Pacific railroad create the town of Abilene

May 31 1881 Fort Griffin, once headquarters for buffalo skinners, is abandoned

Jul 2 1881 President Garfield shot; dies of his wounds Sep 19

Booker T. Washington founds Tuskeegee Institute

Clara Barton founds Red Cross

Nov 19 1881 Texas state capitol building burns to the ground

Dec 16 1881 Texas & Pacific Railway reaches West Texas and joins Southern Pacific tracks, forming second transcontinental railroad

Tuberculosis bacillus discovered

Rockefeller organizes Standard Oil Trust

Electric fan invented

Strikes in iron and steel industry

Jul 25 1882 Judge Roy Bean opens the Jersey Lilly in Langtry, first saloon west of the Pecos

Nov 28 1882 Norris Wright Cuney organizes black longshoremen in Galveston

Mass immigration from Europe

Boxing becomes popular

John Ireland

John Ireland

January 16, 1883 - January 18, 1887

Link - Letter on fence cutting wars

Letter from the Adjutant General on the fence-cutting wars



Born: January 1, 1827 in Kentucky

Early Career: While in his 20s, Ireland was constable and deputy sheriff of his home county, and he studied law. In 1853 he moved to Seguin, Texas, where he was elected mayor in 1858. After serving in the Secession Convention of 1861, he joined the Confederate army where he rose in rank from private to lieutenant colonel. Ireland was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866, and a district judge until removed by General Philip Sheridan as "an impediment to reconstruction" (1867). In 1872 he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, and in 1874 to the Texas Senate. While legislator (and later as governor), Ireland was known as "Ox Cart John" for his opposition to railroad subsidies on the grounds of their encouraging monopoly and privilege. He was briefly a Supreme Court justice until the Constitution of 1876 eliminated his seat. He was then defeated in a race for U.S. Senate (1876) and again in a race for U.S. House of Representatives (1878). Ireland won the gubernatorial race in 1882 over strong opposition from the Independent candidate George W. "Wash" Jones.

Accomplishments: As governor, Ireland reversed Oran Roberts' policy of rapid sale of public lands, arguing instead for a minimum price and sale to the highest bidder. The proceeds from these sales went into permanent funds for public schools, the state university, and state institutions. The constitution was amended to provide school districts with taxing power, and a state superintendent of education was created. Ireland reduced the number of pardons, and called a special session of the legislature in 1884 to deal with the fence-cutting war. That same year, Ireland was reelected by a greater margin than before. Ireland's suggestion to establish a railroad commission failed to pass and he had to contend with strikes by the Knights of Labor in 1885 and 1886. He refused to sign a contract to rebuild the capitol unless native Texas stone was used.

Later years: Upon retirement in 1887, Ireland unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate against John H. Reagan. He then resumed the practice of law in Seguin. Ireland died in San Antonio on March 15, 1896.

Handbook of Texas article about Governor John Ireland

View Photograph of Governor John Ireland

Link - Message on new state capitol

Message to the legislature
on the new State Capitol


Brooklyn Bridge opens

Krakatoa volcanic explosion

Jul 4 1883 World's first rodeo held in Pecos

Twain's Life on the Mississippi

Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Sep 15 1883 University of Texas opens

Ladies' Home Journal founded

Stevenson's Treasure Island

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

1884 Fence-cutting wars lead to end of the open range

Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Washington Monument completed

Burton's Arabian Nights

First self-service restaurant in New York City

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado

European colonization of Africa

Karl Benz builds motor cars in Germany

Aug 19-21 1886 Indianola destroyed a second time by hurricane and fire; town abandoned

Gottlieb Daimler builds motorcycles in Germany

Statue of Liberty erected

Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kidnapped

Haymarket Riot

American Federation of Labor founded


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Page last modified: June 29, 2022