The Museum acquired a rather unique donation from Mrs. Rita (Kelley) Wuehrmann of Arizona that the Collections Staff affectionately refers to as “Ranger Rock.” This limestone rock has a truly incredible history and has traveled many miles over the years before landing back in Texas.
In the early 1920s, two young boys were visiting their grandmother’s ranch in Edwards County near the Nueces River. Ira Kelley, about age 10, and his younger brother Lewis, about age 8, discovered this rock in a cave while they were out exploring up in the mountains. The two determined boys decided that the rock was too interesting to leave in the cave and too heavy to carry, so they rolled it down the hill and kept it at their grandmother’s house.
Inscribed in the limestone are the names of several Rangers, including N.L. Telotte, P.S. Coy and Gonzales, as well as “RockSprings, Tex, May 9, 1878” and “Co F Front Batt.” Adjutant General Service Records reveal documentation for a Private N.L Telotte, as well as a Private Paulin S. Coy and someone by the last name Gonzales. Records also list Company F Frontier Battalion as being in Nueces country in 1878.
Mrs. Wuehrmann’s Family Story
How a rock inscribed by Texas Rangers in a mountain cave traveled to Arizona and back to Texas after 140 years
By Rita (Kelley) Wuehrmann
My siblings and I grew up in Arizona hearing a story of the rock my father and his brother found in a mountain cave on their grandmother’s Texas ranch in the 1920s. Little did we know that the fabled rock with Spanish writing on it, as Dad called it, would one day end up in Arizona with us.
My father, Ira Kelley, born in 1914, was perhaps ten years old and his brother Lewis two year younger when they climbed a mountain on their Grandmother Caroline Gelmilgia (Fergerson) Taylor’s ranch and found a cave to explore. Within it, they were amazed to find a rock that had inscriptions on it.
The rock was too exciting to leave behind and too heavy for the lads to carry, so they rolled it down the hill and kept it at Caroline’s house.
Then came the day in 1930 when the family pulled up stakes to leave Texas for a new start in the Arizona desert. My grandparents, Zack and Pearl (Taylor) Kelley drove to Pearl’s mother’s house to bid farewell. While there, Ira and Lewis loaded their treasured rock into the car unbeknownst to their parents.
Another stop before departure: the family visited the Wood Ranch to say goodbye to Pearl’s sister, Lebbie Wood and her family. That was when Zack discovered the rock in the car and declared that they were not taking it all the way to Arizona, and he offloaded it in the Woods’ car shed.
Fast forward to our first journey to Texas in 1988. Of course we took Dad along. At age 74, he was anxious to see old haunts and to visit kin. One of our stops was to see cousin Harley Wood, still living on his family ranch.
The “boys” had a great time reminiscing and swapping tales, which brought Ira to share the memory of the rock that he had to leave behind so many years before. That perked cousin Harley’s ears right up; he excused himself and went outside. When he returned carting the rock, none of us could believe our eyes!
At Ira’s mention of it, Harley’s memory had been alerted. That rock had lain in the Woods’ car shed for more years that the span between its being inscribed in the cave and Ira and Lewis discovering it!
Of course we brought it back with us to our central Arizona mountains where it was the subject of conversation for the next 30 years. We discerned as best we could the inscriptions and sorted out the names scratched into it – N.L. Telotte, A.B.Cox, P.S. Coy and Gonzales, along with “RockSprings, Tex. May 9, 1878,” and “Co F Front. Batt.” That made us realize it was related to Texas Rangers, but our research turned up nothing about those men.
Finally, we were encouraged to contact the Texas Rangers to see if they could tell us anything. What a surprise when we were informed that the men who sheltered in that cave on my Great Grandmother Taylor’s ranch were indeed Texas Rangers!
Those Rangers were on the ranch at just about the same time that Great Grandmother George Washington Taylor and Caroline were settling there on the Pulliam Prong of the Nueces River, north of Barksdale in Edwards County.
It seems so right that Dad’s rock should return to Texas, leaving to our imaginations just what was transpiring during those dangerous pioneering times when those Texas Rangers were on my great grandparent’s ranch.