J.* Abijah Brooks
1855 – 1944
J. A. Brooks was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky on November 20, 1855. He moved to Collin County Texas about 1876 where he operated a farm and a ranch. Brooks joined the Rangers in 1883, serving in Company F under Captain Shely. Broo ks played a prominent role in the fence-cutting wars and tracking down the Conner gang in the early 1880s.
In a shoot-out with the Conners, one Ranger was killed and three Rangers, including Brooks, were wounded. Brooks lost several fingers on his left hand as a results of his wounds. He quickly moved up the Ranger ranks. In March 1888, J. A. Brooks was promoted to Lieutenant in charge of Company F, becoming Captain of the company in March 1889. Company F was kept busy with livestock thefts, fights, and murders.
The company was also involved in combating the crime caused by individuals like Catarino Garza and the Reese-Townsend feud at Columbus. Captain Brooks’ company was also on hand to put a stop to the Maher-Fitzsimmons prizefight in El Paso in 1896. With reorganization of the Ranger force, Brooks became Captain of Company A. Brooks was known as one of the “Four Great Captains,” along with John H. Rogers, John R. Hughes, and William J. McDonald.
The early 1900s saw the Rangers adding the policing of the oil-boom towns to their list of duties. After a long career with the Rangers, Brooks resigned in November 1906. Brooks moved to Falfurrias where he became active in local and state politics, serving in the 31 and 32 legislatures. In 1911, he helped to organize Brooks County, which was named in his honor. He became the county’s first judge in 1911, serving in that capacity until 1939.
J. A. Brooks died on January 15, 1944. He was buried in Falfurrias.
*There is some confusion as to his first name—most records records simply list him as “J. A.” while others list him as “John” or “James”.
Suggestions for further reading:
- Frederick Wilkins, The Law Comes to Texas, Austin: State House Press, 1999.
- Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers, Boston: 1935.
- William W. Sterling, Trails and Trials of a Texas Rangers, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
- Texas Adjutant General’s Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin, Texas.
- Vertical Files, Texas Ranger Research Center, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas.