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.
Aten was born on 3 September 1862 in Cairo, Illinois. Aten's father,
Austin Aten, a Methodist minister circuit rider, moved the family to
Texas in 1876, settling near Round Rock. In 1878 Ira witnessed the death
of outlaw Sam Bass. Listening to the Texas Rangers present, young Aten
decided to become a lawman.
joined the Texas Rangers in March 1883. He became a member of Company
D under Capt. L. P Seiker and later served as Sergeant under Frank
Jones. He served as a Regular Ranger for over six years and then
as a Special Ranger (volunteering without pay) until 1891. Most
of his work was in the counties bordering the Rio Grande, roughly
from Pecos to Rio Grande City.
While Aten was
involved in many cases, he is probably best known for his involvement
in what has become known as the "Fence-Cutting
Wars." When barbed wire was first introduced on the range, many
people took exception to the fact that what was once free-range was
now fenced, and began cutting fences, especially on the larger ranches.
In some cases, these fence cutters resorted to violence and sometimes
murder. Beginning in 1886 Aten was assigned to help track down and
capture fence cutters. Often
working under cover as ranch hands, Aten and his partners would investigate
the fence cutting and had a great effect on reducing the amount of
damage being done. In 1888 Aten placed dynamite bombs along some of
the fences that had been cut several times. According to his memoirs: "I fixed
the bombs so that when the fence was cut between the posts it would
jerk a small wire laid under the grass to the cap and explode the bombs."
The Adjutant General
did not approve of this method and ordered Aten to remove the bombs.
Instead, Aten exploded several. Even though no more bombs were present,
word spread that the bombs were planted on all of the fences in Navarro
County, effectively stopping the fence cutters in that area. His
Ranger activity in Fort Bend County during the Jaybird-Woodpecker
War caught the attention of the leading citizens of the area and
he was appointed sheriff of Fort Bend County.
By December of
1890, he was living in Castro County. In 1893 he was appointed sheriff
in Castro County. In 1895 Aten was hired by the Capitol Syndicate
Company to help stop cattle rustlers on the XIT Ranch. He created
a ranch police force of twenty cowboys, enlisting the aid of two
other former Rangers, Ed Connell and Wood Saunders.
In 1904, Aten
moved his family to the Imperial Valley of California. In 1923 Ira
Aten was elected to the Imperial Valley District board, a body that
helped push through the legislation which authorized the building
of Boulder Dam and the All-American Canal to bring water to southern
California. He remained active in community organizations all of
his life. In 1945 Aten's Memoirs were published by J. Marvin
Hunter in his magazine, Frontier Times. Ira Aten died of
pneumonia at the age of 91, 5 August 1953. He is buried in the Evergreen
Cemetery in El Centro, California.
for further reading:
Ira Aten, Six and one-half years in Ranger Service, 1945Harold
Preece, Lone Star Man, New York, 1960Walter
Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers, Boston, 1935 Fred
Wilkins, The Law comes to Texas, Austin, 1999Adjutant
General's Service Records, Texas State Archives, Austin, Texas
Files, Texas Ranger Research Center, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and
Museum, Waco, Texas.