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GLANTON, JOHN JOEL (1819–1850). John Joel Glanton, soldier of fortune, outlaw, and notorious bounty-hunter and murderer, was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, in 1819. According to reports he was an outlaw in Tennessee before his arrival in Texas. In 1835 he was living with his parents at Gonzales, Texas. His fiancée may have been killed by Lipan Apaches that year. On October 2 he joined the movement to San Antonio to dislodge Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos. Glanton was a free scout for the army under Col. James W. Fannin, Jr., and allegedly a Texas Ranger captain at sixteen. He narrowly missed the Goliad Massacre. According to camp gossip, President Sam Houston banished Glanton from Texas for reasons unknown, though apparently the order was never enforced. After the Texas Revolution Glanton joined the ranger company of Capt. John C. Hays in protecting San Antonio. He is said to have gone to East Texas during the Regulator-Moderator War. Apparently Glanton supported neither faction in the dispute, but he allegedly wounded or killed the best fighter on each side. Local residents, objecting to his actions, reportedly considered lynching him.

During the Mexican War Glanton scouted as a free ranger with Colonel Hays for Gen. Zachary Taylor. On January 13, 1847, he enlisted in Company A under Capt. Walter P. Lane. He rendered heroic service in clearing northern Mexico of guerrillas in the Chevallié Battalion. While in Lane's company, Glanton killed an unarmed Mexican and stole his horse. The Mexican authorities protested, and Taylor ordered Glanton arrested, but Lane warned Glanton of his impending arrest and he escaped into Texas. He was later in the command of Capt. Alfred M. Truitt and distinguished himself as a lieutenant in the special scout company of Capt. John S. (Rip) Fordqv. Glanton was discharged from the company of Capt. Jacob Roberts on April 30, 1848, at Camp Washington, near Veracruz, and before the end of the year was a lieutenant under Capt. Benjamin F. Hill in the regiment of Col. Peter H. Bell fighting Indians on the Texas frontier again. He was forced to leave Bell's regiment when he shot a fellow infantryman during a dispute.

In 1849 he rode out of San Antonio for California with thirty well-armed gold-seekers, leaving his wife, Joaquina Menchaca Glanton, called "the most beautiful woman in the Republic of Texas," whom he had married in 1846, and a daughter. In Chihuahua City Michael H. Chevallié and Glanton may have influenced the state legislature to pass the Fifth Law over the veto of the governor, empowering Chevallié to contract with guerrillas to capture or kill troublesome Indians on an individual basis. Chevallié entered the first contract the next day, and Glanton was in his company on several successful expeditions north of the capital. These campaigns were the source of bitter controversy in Chihuahua. Chevallié resumed his journey to California, and by the third week of June Glanton had taken over the contract and company of Chevallié or had entered his own contract. His campaigns during the remainder of 1849 were widespread, successful, and financially rewarding. By 1850, however, it became increasingly difficult for the Glanton gang to find hostile Indians, and they began to attack peaceful agricultural Indians in the vicinity of Fort El Norte. Finally they turned to taking Mexican peon scalps for profit. As a result the Chihuahua government drove Glanton and his company into Sonora and put a bounty on his scalp. There he contracted with the authorities to fight the Indians, traded Indian scalps for bounties, and again resorted to taking Mexican scalps to increase his profit. He and his gang seized and operated a river ferry controlled by the Yuma Indians. While operating the ferry, they killed Mexican and American passengers alike for their money and goods. Finally, they schemed to kill a party of Mexican miners who used the ferry, but before they carried out their plot, the Yumas attacked the ferry and killed Glanton and most of his men in mid-1850. Glanton was scalped.


Ralph A. Smith, "John Joel Glanton, Lord of the Scalp Range," Smoke Signal, Fall 1962.

Ralph A. Smith


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Ralph A. Smith, "GLANTON, JOHN JOEL," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 27, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.