Fort Fisher, as it was known, was set up for a short time on the west bank of the Brazos river near the settlements that would give rise to Waco. It was established by the Texas Rangers to provide security for settlers in 1837 and to the best of our knowledge, it was also abandoned the same year. The outpost was named for William S. Fisher, Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas at the time. Fisher was a long time member of the Texas Army. He would later become a participant in the ill fated Mier Expedition after which he would be captured and imprisoned in Mexico. Fisher passed away around two years after being released from his confinement in Mexico.
Fort Fisher is likely better known today as being the site of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. The facility was conceived by several individuals connected to Waco and the Texas Rangers including former Ranger Clint Peoples, former Waco mayor Roger Conger, Wacoan Gaines deGaffenreid, Alva Stem and others. It was to house the Homer Garrison Museum and is the state-designated official historical center of the Rangers. Col. Homer Garrison had been a lawman since he was nineteen years old, serving as a deputy sheriff of Angelina County, a patrolman for the Texas Highway Patrol which became part of the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1935. Garrison went on to become the director of TDPS and commander of the Texas Rangers until his death in 1968.
The concept of the museum was supported by Governors John Connally and Preston Smith, who was present at the signing of the law creating the museum. By the time of the groundbreaking in 1968, Peoples had retired from the Rangers and was serving as a United States Marshal, but his last posting as a Ranger was to command Company F in Waco. Several individuals donated artifacts to the museum including Charles Schriner III and Joe Bates. Their collections included Bates’ Colt .45 made for Captain Ben McCullogh and a monogrammed carbine that once belonged to Ranger Captain Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzuallas.
Gaines deGraffenried was known as a leading collector of guns and historical memorabilia pertaining to the early days of Texas. He had been born and raised in Chilton, Texas. He was local rancher and had assembled one of the finest collections of historical weaponry. Gaines was named as the first curator of the museum and served in that capacity until his death in 1991. Prior his death, the City of Waco acquired a number of items from his collection and conveyed them to the museum. In addition, the museum’s collection includes items associated with Sul Ross, Rangers William Jesse McDonald, Gonzuallas, Frank Hamer and John R. Hughes. Conger, Peoples, Robert E. Davis, Sr., Bryce Brown and Dave Carnahan were named as the committee to screen items to be accepted into the museum.
(Image credit: Waco News-Tribune)
The museum also includes Texas Ranger service records from 1847 to 1935, historically significant photographs, books and other items connected to the law enforcement agency.
A statue of a Ranger mounted on horseback entitled Texas Ranger was installed on the grounds in 2008. It was created by Don Hunt and was a gift of Betsy and Clifton Robinson. A second statue stands at the entrance of the building and shows Ranger George Erath standing and holding surveying equipment. It is entitled Major George B. Erath – Frontiersman and was created and donated by the artist Robert Summers in 1976.
The museum structure was completed in 1976. It is now open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. It is located just east of Interstate 35 at Exit 335B. The museum commemorates the long history of the Texas Rangers and among other topics, provides biographical details of the thirty-one individuals named to its hall of fame. Other features and details about the facility are available on its website.
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