The Former Texas Ranger's Association will commemorate "the service rendered and the sacrifices made" by John Wesley Smith of Company N Minute Men of San Saba County. The marking of a Texas Ranger's grave with the Texas Ranger's Memorial Cross helps to honor and preserve the true history of the Texas Rangers. The Texas Ranger Memorial Cross Program researches, identifies, and documents the burial sites of Texas Rangers statewide and places the Memorial Cross at the resting place of the honored Ranger. The cross, with the mounted Ranger circle star badge, is a landmark relating to the preservation of Texas heritage. The Dedication Ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 26, at John Wesley Smith's grave site at China Creek Cemetery in San Saba.
John Wesley Smith was born February 22, 1847, in Limestone County, Alabama, the first of ten children for parents Benjamin Franklin Smith, Sr. and Wilmeth Catherine Thompson. He moved to Texas from Alabama with his parents around 1857 at the age of 10, first settling in Caldwell County and shortly thereafter in San Saba County.
John Wesley, age 20 and Elizabeth Ketchum, 19, were married May, 16, 1867. Elizabeth was born March 20, 1848, in Illinois, the daughter of Green Berry Ketchum and Temperance Katherine Wydick.
From the age of 10, John Wesley became accustomed to the saddle and range, ranching most of his lifetime between the Colorado and San Saba Rivers. He attended to his own affairs which won him a host of friends and the confidence and respect of the whole community.
In the early day, the Indians were very troublesome, and he had several fights and narrow escapes as he told this story recorded in San Saba County History 1856-1983. "One day while out attending to the interests of the ranch on a pony which I had named 'Two Bits', I saw some distance away, one of my neighbors' horses standing alone in a ravine. This seemed a little strange, and aroused my curiosity to such an extent that I decided to investigate. I approached cautiously, and to my surprise found him in the possession of an Indian, while five more were lurking around. They saw me about the time I saw them and when I turned, they gave me chase and held me an uncomfortable close run for a mile and a half, until I reached a creek whose banks were high and thickly covered with a growth of small trees and brushwood. Here I dodged into a hidden cow path, and giving them the slip, crossed the stream and made my escape. Had I not run upon this path which was well known to me, I would most certainly have left my scalp with the Indians."
With law enforcement almost nonexistent, beginning in 1870, Texas resolved to solve their own problems through the county based Texas Rangers, authorized by the Legislature, "for each county that may be so infested with marauding and thieving parties." If this was ineffective, the Governor could call out unlimited numbers of volunteer Minute Men. Private John Wesley Smith, age 25, whose commanding officer was Wm. H. Ledbetter, joined 19 other men, most of them close friends, neighbors, and relatives, with the Company N Minute Men, San Saba County, on September 13, 1872, and was discharged April 5, 1874 (136 days of service as shown on the Texas Muster Roll). He became 1st Corporal during this period of time and served 70 days. The Muster Roll of November 19,1872, indicated his pay was $20 for the month of September. Upon his death, December 29, 1918, his widow received a pension under the Act of March 4, 1917 (Indian Wars) for $12 per month.
John Wesley, called "Pap", and Elizabeth, called "Ma", had twelve children: Temperance Katherine, Banner, Lee Wilson, Patrick M., Anna May, Green Berry, Ala, Ike, Inez Fay, Edgar Clarence, Bettie B., and John Wesley, Jr.
According to his obituary in the San Saba News, "John Wesley Smith was jovial by nature and was a familiar name to all the ranches of West Central Texas. He had been on the "trail" with all of them and was an ideal 'cowboy'. He joined the Methodist Church early in life and died true to his faith. Rugged, frugal, charitable, generous, big hearted, these are qualities which exemplified themselves in the life of this pioneer cowboy and citizen."