Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum: 1-35 and University Parks Drive | PO Box 2570, Waco, TX 76702-2570 | (254) 750-8631
Ranger Hall of Fame
The 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.
Harvey McNelly 1844 - 1877
H. McNelly was born March 12, 1844 near Follansbee, Brooke County, Virginia.
Leander spent two years in Missouri with the family of his older brother
Peter, before returning to Virginia.
By the later 1850s, Peter McNelly had settled
in Washington County, Texas, bringing Leander with them. By 1860, L.
H. McNelly was already showing signs of the tuberculosis that would
later cause his early death. In the years before the outbreak of the
Civil War, McNelly tended sheep for Travis J. Burton.
In September 1861, McNelly was mustered in as
a private in Campbell's Company, 2nd Regiment of the Sibley Brigade,
5th Texas Cavalry. He saw action in campaigns in New Mexico, Galveston
and Louisiana. By the end of the war he was a captain of a company charged
with hunting down deserters.
Following the war, McNelly returned to farming
near Brenham, Texas. He also spent some time working for the General
Land Office. When the Reconstruction-era State Police agency was formed
in 1870, McNelly accepted a commission as one of four captains of the
force. He was wounded in Walker County in February 1871, but continued
to serve in the State Police until they were disbanded in April 1873.
In 1874, McNelly was commissioned to head a
special force of Texas Rangers called the Washington County Volunteers.
Although separate from the Frontier Battalion, the mission of the "Special
Force" was the same -- to protect the frontier from the depredations
of factions both inside and outside of the state.
McNelly's Rangers were very active in suppressing
lawlessness in the Nueces Strip, an area of land along the border between
the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. They were instrumental in quelling
the Sutton-Taylor Feud and curbing the activities of John King Fisher
and Juan Cortina.
The "Special Force" was effective,
but many saw their tactics as too aggressive. For example, McNelly and
his men crossed into Mexico and engaged in gun battles with bandits
and citizens in attempts to recover stolen livestock. This was in contravention
of U.S. policy and Mexican law and raised the ire of politicians in
By early 1877, McNelly was incapacitated by
the effects of the tuberculosis he had suffered from for years. He was
forced to resign his command and retire to his farm.
Leander H. McNelly died of tuberculosis on September
5, 1877. He is buried at Burton, Texas.
Suggestions for further reading:
Chuck Parsons and Marianne E. Hall Little, Captain L. H. McNelly, Texas Ranger, Austin: State House Press,
Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers,
George Durham, Taming the Nueces Strip,
Austin, UT Press, 1962
Frederick Wilkins, The Law Comes to Texas,
Austin: State House Press, 1999
Adjutant General's Records, Texas State Archives,
Vertical Files, Texas Ranger Research Center,
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas