Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 34
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regular Texians, their leaders Jack Hays and Samuel Walker,
and their gargantuan Walker Colt pistols became frequent
newspaper copy. When the war ended, Hays unexpectedly
found himself a national celebrity.
After the war Colonel Hays married Susan Calvert in Se-
guin. But Texas was becoming tame, and the West beck-
oned. In 1849, Hays' fame and familiarity with the Lipan
Apaches won him an appointment as Indian Agent along the
Gila River in Arizona and New Mexico. However, the arid
and hostile land was not to his liking. After a few months,
the Hays family moved to San Francisco and the promising
gold fields of California.
Hardscrabble mining held little appeal to Hays, so he ran
for sheriff of San Francisco County and became a pillar of
the Gold Coast. Some time after his arrival, he became ac-
quainted with painter William Smith Jewett (1812-1873),
newly arrived from New York.
Like Hays, Jewett was young, adventurous, and an early
achiever. He had trained at the prestigious National Acad-
emy of Design, becoming a portrait painter to the rich and
famous. In 1849, he caught California fever and set sail to
make his fortune painting the influential and newly rich.
By 1851, Sheriff Hays was of an age and stature that warranted
preserving his likeness for posterity. Evidently Hays commis-
sioned Jewett to paint his portrait, not as a formal pose but in
the form of a tableau. The painting was briefly mentioned
in the December 8, 1851 issue of the Alta California news-
paper, the same publication that made Mark Twain famous.
In Jewett's work, Captain Jack sits dressed in buckskin on
a mountaintop. A fanciful river with ships is in the back-
ground-probably inspired by Jewett's familiarity with the
Hudson River or the nearby San Francisco Bay. Despite
these inaccuracies, the location that the artist was attempt-
ing to capture is widely thought to be Enchanted Rock near
Fredericksburg. Captain Jack has a rifle in hand and a
Colt pistol nearby. Small figures, which family tradition
identifies as Comanches, are approaching in the distance.
The legend behind the painting holds that, in 1841, Hays
was leading a survey crew or a ranging company near En-
chanted Rock. He was trapped by a party of Comanche
warriors, variously reported as "a few" to more than 100.
Armed with only two pistols and a rifle, Hays managed to
hold them at bay until he was rescued.
Unfortunately, no contemporary accounts of the incident
exist. Some historians have cast doubt that this event hap-
pened, but it seems highly unlikely that Hays, with a sur-
veyor's regard for accuracy, would have commissioned or
sanctioned the painting of an entirely fictional event. The
more likely explanation, as an oral tradition, "Jack Hays at
Enchanted Rock" was enhanced in the telling and retell-
ing. The story had become a canon part of Texas Ranger
lore, and to paraphrase, when fact became legend, Jewett
chose to paint the legend.
Hays kept the painting until his death in 1883, after which
time, it passed to his descendents. Jewett went on to paint
California landscapes and famous personages and in 1869,
he returned to New York where he later died.
Fortunately, chance and exceptional advocacy meant that
the painting would ultimately reside in Texas. Banker and
history enthusiast Bob Thornton of Dallas and wife Vera
were on a bird photography trip around Sisters, Oregon,
in May 1993. A chance meeting introduced them to Ro-
blay McMullin, 88, who was interested to learn that they
were from Texas. On a visit to McMullin's home, the
Thorntons were stunned when she showed them Jewett's
painting of Jack Hays along with a .41 caliber Wesson
rifle matching the one in the painting. McMullin identi-
fied herself as the widow of Jack Hay's grandson.
She was considering the future of the painting, which
had been requested by several California museums be-
cause of its Gold Rush provenance. The Thorntons
gently suggested that, instead, Captain Jack should
return to Texas.
McMullin ultimately decided to donate the painting (and
the gun depicted in it) to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
and Museum in Waco on her death. She believed that
"Texans have a good record of honoring their he-
roes." Today, 160 years after it was painted in Cali-
fornia, this historic piece of art belongs to the people
of Texas, thanks to McMullin and the Thorntons. *
Byron A Johnson is director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
and Museum in Waco.
Alta California, San Francisco, CA, December 8, 1851.
James K. Greer, Colonel Jack Hayes: Texas Frontier Leader
and California Builder (New York: Dutton, 1952; rev. ed.,
Waco: Morrison, 1974)
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940 (Sacra-
mento: Crocker Art Museum, 2002)
Oakland Museum of California, California, Art of the
GoldRush exhibit (Oakland: 1998)
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Correspondence
Files: Bob and Vera Thornton and Roblay McMullin, (Waco:
Texas Ranger Research Center, 1993-1996)
Robert Utley, Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the
Texas Rangers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Frederick Wilkins, The Highly Irregular Irregulars: Texas
Rangers in the Mexican War (Austin: Eakin Press, 1990)
34 TEXAS HERITAGE I Volume 1 2011
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