Charles Drake Ferris, Texas Ranger

Charles Drake “Charlie” Ferris was the son of Warren Angus Ferris, a surveyor who laid out the first streets of the old city of Dallas, Texas.  Back in 1917, Charlie Ferris was interviewed by a regional newspaper at his home near Capitan in Lincoln County, New Mexico.  Among other things, Charlie talked about the capture of two Texas outlaws, James Pitts and Charles Yeager.  According to his recollection, previously written up in the old Pennsylvania Grit, Ferris served as a Texas Ranger for about twenty years.

Pitts and Yeager, both from Missouri, had fought during the Civil War as members of Quantrill’s Raiders, a pro-Confederate guerrilla group mostly operating in the buffer states between the North and South. After the close of the war and the death of William Clarke Quantrill in battle, they drifted with Jesse James, Frank James, the Younger brothers and others.  The pair eventually broke away and settled in south central Texas to the west of San Antonio, trying to settle in among the other area residents.  At one point, Pitts was even elected constable, but they continued on in crime, allegedly dealing in counterfeit money and stealing horses from time to time.  Their activities came to the attention of the Texas Rangers as the pair and some associates were operating in Burnet County near Marble Falls.

According to Ferris’ account, he knew them from previous attempts to arrest them and had once gone under cover as a horse thief.  Ferris says he rode alone into their camp as though he was backed by more Texas Rangers. Taking Yeager first by surprise, the outlaw surrendered.  The unsuspecting Pitts arrived later and was also arrested.

Ferris took his prisoners to jail in San Antonio.  In 1885, they were both tried and convicted in Federal District court in Austin.  On February 21, 1885, after the pair had been sentenced to life in prison, a United States Marshall named Harrington Lee “Hal” Gosling and other officers were taking them and some of their family members back to San Antonio aboard a train.

There had been a local outbreak of post office robberies and stagecoach in the general area between San Antonio and Fredericksburg that had attracted the interest of Federal authorities. Gosling had been appointed a United States Marshall back in 1884, partly in response to the robberies.  A native of Shelbyville, Tennessee, Gosling had attended the United States Naval Academy, studied law in Washington, D.C. and more recently had practiced law and owned a newspaper in Medina County, Texas.

As the train neared the Wetmore Station, about four miles from New Braunfels, Pitts produced a handgun and still aboard the train, a short exchange of fire ensued.  Marshall Gosling, then thirty-three years old, was quickly killed by a gunshot wound he suffered behind his left ear.  Others were wounded or killed, but the pair escaped.

Pitts’ body was found in a field near the railroad track.  He had also died from gunshot wounds received in the battle.  Pitts had been handcuffed to Yeager who had freed himself from Pitts’ body and escaped.  Yeager was apprehended a few weeks later and returned to prison in Illinois on the original conviction where he served about eighteen years of his sentence before being parolled.

Marshall Gosling was first interred at the Knights of Pythias Cemetery in San Antonio and in 1944, his remains were removed to Mission Burial Park South also in San Antonio, near the graves of his son and other family members.

Charles Drake Ferris died two years later in 1919 from influenza, during a local outbreak of the disease in Lincoln County and is buried in the Mountain View Burial Site.

Special thanks: Chuck Ferris, great grandson of Charles Drake Ferris.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

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