Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996 Page: 9
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national hero, he was lionized by the
press, and celebrations were thrown in
his honor wherever he traveled.
After the war and the annexation of
newly-won territory, a county was even
named for him in tribute. Although subsequent
generations of Texas school children
were raised to revere the early heroes
of the Republic: Austin, Houston, Travis,
Crockett, and Bowie, with barely a nod
toward this great Ranger, it is nevertheless
Jack Hays, who in the judgment of many,
could legitimately stake claim to being the
bravest and most extraordinary of them all.
The obvious question, the one I then
asked, was "why are these possessions of
Jack Hays here in Oregon and how do you
happen to have them?" Roblay explained
that shortly after the Mexican-American
War, Hays moved to California where he
became sheriff of San Francisco, a successful
businessman and land owner, and
the actual founder of Oakland, California.
In response to the second part, she
simply said "and you see, I was married to
the grandson of Colonel Jack Hays."
Vera and I were quite naturally stunned
that these important Ranger treasures, so
clearly Texan in scope and historical significance,
were quietly hanging in a little
campground home in Oregon. My next
rwmwp ~ ena ~ I~llr Ilg
Future generations of Texans will owe a debt of
gratitude to Roblay McMullin, shown above with
painting of Captain Jack Hays and the rifle thought
to be the one that Hays used in fending off
Comanches near Fredericksburg.
question, lobbed at Roblay a little more
directly than was perhaps polite, was "what
do you plan to do with these?" She replied
that she had not yet made any definite
"We reflect back on that
unusual confluence of
us to Oregon...to a little
cottage owned by a little
lady who had never been to
Texas, but who had hanging
above her door a remarkably
of Texas Ranger legend."
plans, but that her original inclination, since
she had no heirs, was to bequeath them to
Gene Autry's Western Heritage Museum in
Los Angeles, which already owned an imposing
collection of Jack Hays memorabilia.
I told her that simply didn't feel right,
since these were Texas historical items that
belonged in Texas. Even Enchanted Rock,
I explained, was a famous Texas landmark
originally preserved by The Nature Conservancy
of Texas and now operated as a state
park. Roblay twinkled a bit, smiled, then
acknowledged that there was some truth to
what I was saying. She asked if there was
place in Texas that would provide an appropriate
home for Hays' possessions. We
then discussed at some length the Texas
Ranger Museum in Waco and agreed to
discuss it further when I returned to Texas.
The rest, as they say, is history. We
contacted Fort Fisher - the Texas Ranger
Hall of Fame and Museum, and I worked
with Roblay during the next several weeks
to hammer out the details of a potential gift.
Roblay also sent to me the definitive written
work on Jack Hays (a book written by
James Greer, now 94, who still lives in
Waco) that acually references this particular
oil painting of Hays in 1851 by a San
Francisco artist named W.S. Jewett. We
were able to work out terms whereby the
Ranger Museum would buy the painting
and rifle from Roblay for $50, and she
would in turn be allowed to retain possession
of them for as long as she lives. The
deal was wrapped up and closed in October
1993, and the Texas Ranger Museum is
now the official owner of the painting, the
rifle, as well as a portrait of Mrs. Jack Hays,
and the chair in which she sat for that
Vera and I have not been back to Oregon,
although we think of Roblay often,
exchange cards, and talk to her on the
phone every now and then. And occasionally
we reflect back on that unusual
confluence of circumstances, in some respects
almost mystical in sweep, that drew
us to Oregon, where we had never been, to
a little cottage owned by a little lady who
had never been to Texas, but who had
hanging above her door a remarkably important
piece of Texas Ranger legend.
As for Roblay, she is now 88, feisty,
and in reasonably good health. She will
not, however, agree to come to Texas,
either to see the Ranger Museum or to
undertake a general visit. She always begs
off, citing the immobility of her "advanced
years," although I regrettably detect a
hint of that original, indelicate implication
that she really does not feel she
would be missing all that much.
Despite, however, her never having
been to our state, Roblay nevertheless has
a keen, instinctive feel for that special
kind of pride Texans have in their land
and its history, and has remarked on more
than one occasion that "Texans have a
good record of honoring their heroes."
And future generations of Texans who
visit Captain Jack Hays at the Texas
Ranger Museum in Waco will owe Roblay
McMullin a special debt of gratitude for
her generosity, to be sure - but more
precisely for her innate sense of order and
rightness which, at the end of the day, as
she set about to tidy up her own affairs,
compelled her to simply do what she
could to put things in their proper place.
Bob and Vera Thornton are residents of
Dallas, where Bob serves as vice chairman of
Texas Commerce Bank.
HERITAGE * WINTER 1996 9
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996, periodical, Winter 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45404/m1/9/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.