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Text Box: Texas Ranger Hall of Fame

John Coffee "Jack" Hays







John Coffee Hays, named for Gen. John Coffee, was born at Little Cedar Lick, Wilson County, Tennessee, on the 28th of January, 1817. He was also known as Devil Jack Hayes.

Many websites attribute Jack Hays as the nephew of General John R. Coffee, his namesake, but this is not true. John Coffee Hayes was the son of a first cousin of General John Coffee’s wife.

The true story of Col. Hayes is more exciting than any fictional story that could ever be imagined. He was an early Texas Icon that overcame great odds to triumph where others failed. The son of Harmon and Elizabeth (Cage) Hayes, was born in Little Cedar Lick, Wilson County, Tennessee. His father fought with Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. Jack Hayes became a Texas Ranger Officer along with John S.(Rip) Ford, Ben McCulloch and Sam Walker. These four men established Texas Ranger tradition. Hayes was a man of smaller than average size. However, he was very intelligent and had a gift for being exceptionally wiry. He had great endurance for the rugged Texas terrain. His Rangers had a reputation as skilled horsemen that could use revolvers very well. The Rangers in their formative years were known as citizen soldiers. Their rough and ready style left a lasting impression on the beginning history of the Texas Rangers.

He mixed his Ranger career with that of surveying. He did this for a little over 13 years. He got most of his education at Davidson Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1836, he decided to join with the rebels in Texas. He entered Texas after traveling to New Orleans. He helped to bury the Texans that were killed at Goliad. He worked hard to learn about the Indian ways so that he could protect the surveying parties.

An Apache Chief, Young Flacco, became a good friend of Col. Hayes. Flacco once said, "Me and Red Wing aren't afraid to go to hell." But, Jack isn't afraid to go by himself." Some feel that this how he got the name of "Devil Jack." He was a hard nosed Indian fighter. From 1840-46, he was given the title of Captain. He engaged both the Comanches and Mexicans in many small skirmishes. It was a battle at Enchanted Rock that made Hayes famous. There he took on a group of Indians by himself. At Walker's Creek, Hayes and his Rangers were out numbered by a combination of Mexicans and Indians. These two battles help to solidify the legend of Captain Hayes and the Texas Rangers. The Rangers reputation grew during the Mexican War.

Hayes worked under General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott. Hayes and his Rangers used a form of guerrilla warfare to keep supply lines open. In 1849, Hayes went after gold in California. He became Sheriff of San Francisco County in 1850. Keeping up with his passion for surveying, President Franklin Pierce appointed him as Surveyor General of California in 1853. He became one of the founders for the city of Oakland, California.

Hayes married in 1847 to Susan Calvert. They had 6 children. He made many return trips to Texas in later years. During the Civil War he remained independent. He died in Piedmont, California on April 25, 1883. He is often referred to as one of the best to ever perform as a Ranger.

Hayes County, Texas was created in 1848 and named after the famous Texas Ranger. He is a member of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. To date there are only 30 members of this elite group. Colonel (Devil) Jack Hayes is among them.


Text Box: Texas Ranger Hall of FameThe HALL OF FAME is the State designated memorial of the Texas Ranger service, commemorating the service and sacrifices of 30 Texas Rangers who gave their lives in the line of duty or made significant contributions to development of the service.

John Coffee "Jack" Hays  1817-1883

Jack Hays was born 28 January 1817 at Cedar Lick in Wilson County, Tennessee. By the age of fifteen he had moved to Mississippi and began to learn surveying. By mid-1836 Hays was in Texas where he joined a Ranger company under Erastus "Deaf" Smith. He took part in a skirmish with the Mexican Cavalry and assisted in the capture of Juan Sánchez. He was appointed deputy surveyor of the Bexar District. Hays combined his knowledge of Indian warfare with his rangering.

In 1840, Hays was appointed a captain of the Rangers. He proved himself to be a fearless fighter and a good leader of men. His Ranger companies, often mixed groups of Anglos, Hispanics and Indians, engaged in battles and skirmishes with both the Comanches and other hostile Indian tribes, as well as Mexican troops, throughout the early years of the 1840s. Hays and his Rangers were involved in important actions at Plum Creek, Cañon de Ugalde, Bandera Pass, Painted Rock, Salado, and Walker's Creek. The battle at Walker's Creek marked a turning point in Indian warfare with the first effective use of repeating firearms in close combat with the Comanche.Hays gained further respect as a fighter during the Mexican War. The First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, under the command of Colonel Jack Hays, served with the army of Zachary Taylor. Hays' men scouted for the army and took part in the Battle of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1846.

The next year, another regiment under Hays helped to keep the communication and supply lines open between Veracruz and Mexico City for the troops under Winfield Scott. After the Mexican War, Hays left Texas, following the gold rush to California in 1849. He was elected as Sheriff of San Francisco in 1850. In 1853 he was appointed U. S. Surveyor General for California. He was one of the developers of Oakland, and held interests in land, banking and utilities. In 1876, Hays was a delegate to the Democratic national convention.

Hays died 21 April 1883 and was interred in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.


One of many accounts of his service -----

Capt. Jack Hays and a company of around twenty men were on a surveying expedition in what would become southwestern Llano County in the early 1840’s. (There are discrepancies regarding the specific year). The company camped on Crabapple Creek, which meanders through both Gillespie and Llano Counties. Hays rode out alone the next morning to inspect Enchanted Rock. When the Comanches saw the notorious Ranger near their holy mountain with surveying equipment, they were angered and attacked. Hays climbed toward the summit and found a niche inside one of the rock’s many crevices to shield himself from the advancing Indians. Although greatly outnumbered, Hays successfully held off any attempts by the Comanches to climb toward him and take his life. The real hero in this standoff, however, wasn’t the superior skills of the Ranger; it was the weapons he had with him. His rifle was the standard musket, one shot at a time variety, which was prevalent at the time. What Jack Hayes had that turned out to be his life saver were his two pistols, known to be "Colt Paterson Revolvers." When the other Rangers arrived, the Indians fled. According to most accounts, the Indians lost as many as twenty warriors in the battle. Five or six were dead near where Hays fought, and twice as many were found below. A few Rangers were seriously wounded, but none fatally. During the Texas Centennial in 1936, an engraved bronze plaque was placed near the summit of Enchanted Rock to pay tribute to Captain Hays and this skirmish.

Samuel Colt had received a patent in 1836 for an innovative firing pistol with a revolving cylinder capable of shooting five bullets in succession before reloading. The idea had occurred to him as a seaman aboard the sailing ship Corvo when he noticed a similar principle in the workings of the ship’s capstan. Colt built his first plant in Paterson, New Jersey at the age of twenty-two, and the revolver became known as the "Colt Paterson." He went to Washington D.C. and received a favorable endorsement from President Andrew Jackson, which enabled him to promote the pistol directly to the military. The U.S. Army and Navy looked at the gun, but neither group recognized its potential. Sales continued to dwindle due to the economic crash of 1837, slow manufacturing time, and conflicts with the "Militia Act of 1808," which prevented selling directly to local militias. When Martin Van Buren became president, Colt’s company was saved when the government purchased guns in 1837 to use in fighting the Seminole Indians in Florida. The weapon had some reloading problems, especially when fired by untrained soldiers, but Colt continued to improve his design until 1843 when he ran out of funds and was forced to close his manufacturing factory in New Jersey.

Thanks to the insight and persistence of the Texas Rangers, however, Samuel Colt would not be out of business for long. Somehow some of the pistols made their way from Florida to the Texas frontier and attracted the attention of the Texas Rangers, who immediately saw the gun’s potential in fighting Indians or invading Mexicans. A post-Civil War slogan claimed "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal." An Indian could fire up to twenty arrows a minute, but a rifle could only shoot once or twice before reloading. Colt’s revolver offered a successful way to effectively counteract the Indian’s skillful shooting abilities. A repeating pistol gave the Ranger a weapon that could be fired as rapidly, with more accuracy and hitting power than the Indian’s bow and arrow.


(Jack Hays is 1st cousin 1X removed of Mary Donelson, wife of John R. Coffee)

John R. Coffee is my 1st cousin 6X removed – David Arthur

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