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Frank Wagner

GRAY, MABRY B. [MUSTANG] (1817–ca. 1848). Mabry (Maberry, Mayberry, Mabery) "Mustang" B. Gray, Texas Ranger, was born in 1817 near Spartanburg, South Carolina. He moved to Texas in 1835 and was granted land in Stephen F. Austin's fifth colony. He was in the company of Capt. William W. Hill and participated in the battle of San Jacinto. During the Republic of Texas era he was granted land five miles north of Ingleside in San Patricio County. Gray probably led a gang of "cowboys" in 1842 that attacked a group of Mexican traders carting goods from Camargo to Refugio and Victoria. A few miles outside of Goliad, they attacked and captured the traders, tied them together, and shot into the huddled men until they all seemed dead. One of the Mexican traders, Manuel Escobedo, survived, and was interviewed by John J. Linn. Gray was in command of the Corpus Christi Texas Rangers during the Mexican War. His company included Andrew Jackson Walker, Reuben Holbein, David B. Hatch, Pat Quinn, and William Clark, all of whom were mythic figures of the time.

Stories abound of Gray's exploits. Once, while hunting buffalo, he was separated from his group and thrown from his horse. He is said to have killed a longhorn (some sources say a bison) and then used the hide to form a lariat, which he dropped over a mustang from the limb of a tree. He was able with care to tame the wild horse sufficiently to ride back to a settlement, and he was ever afterwards known as Mustang Gray. Another of Mustang Gray's feats that achieved considerable notice consisted of dribbling gunpowder from a powder keg he held in his hand, igniting the stream of powder, and hurling the twenty-five-pound keg into the air. When the train of fire reached the gunpowder keg, it exploded. It appears that he accomplished this feat several times, and each success increased the awe in which he was held.

Dr. S. Compton Smith, however, was not impressed by Gray or the Texas Rangers. In Chile Con Carne, or The Camp and the Field (1857), he wrote "Texas Rangers...were mostly made up of adventurers and vagabonds....The gang of miscreants under the leadership of Mustang Gray were of this description. This party, in cold-blood, murdered almost the entire male population of the rancho of Guadalupe, where not a single weapon, offensive or defensive, could be found! Their only object was plunder!" Dr. Smith was outraged by an incident near Matamoros involving Gray's rangers. Some members of the Corpus Christi Rangers learned of an attack on the Patterson Rogers freight train at Arroyo Colorado. Only William Long Rogers survived, though his throat had been cut. Gray's rangers determined that the culprits were from La Mesa Ranch, about forty-five miles upriver from Matamoros on the Mexican side. Part of the company rode for La Mesa, and the remainder stayed in camp. Those who stayed behind made a particular point of showing themselves frequently in Matamoros wearing distinctive jackets. The other rangers attacked the ranch, burned many houses, and killed numerous men. They then rushed back to camp, exchanged jackets with those who had remained behind, and visited Matamoros. Dr. Smith's indignation was heaped upon Gen. Zachary Taylor, who was unable to identify the participants in the raid because the few witnesses who came forward recognized only the jackets and not the men.

Gray is believed to have been captured during the assault on Monterrey during the Mexican War and may have gained his release by an escape engineered by a Mexican woman, but only legends attest the story. If Gray had been captured at Monterrey, he would have been among the prisoners released under the capitulation terms negotiated by General Taylor. Many other stories about him are incorporated in a book by Rev. Jeremiah Clemens. The Corpus Christi Rangers were mustered out of service July 21, 1847, at Camargo. A ballad arose about Mustang Gray and his adventures, and was sometimes used as a lullaby. It was recorded in Andrew Jackson Sowell's Rangers and Pioneers of Texas (1884), and begins "There was a noble ranger, / They called him Mustang Gray; / He left his home when but a youth, / Went ranging far away." Gray died of cholera or yellow fever in Camargo, probably in 1848. Judge James O. Luby identified the unmarked grave of Mustang Gray at Rio Grande City during the 1860s, but the exact site is not now known.


Jeremiah Clemens, Mustang Gray, A Romance (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1858). J. Frank Dobie, Mustang Gray: Fact, Tradition, and Song (Austin: Texas Folklore Society, 1932). John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: Sadlier, 1883; 2d ed., Austin: Steck, 1935; rpt., Austin: State House, 1986). Andrew Jackson Sowell, Rangers and Pioneers of Texas (San Antonio: Shepard, 1884; rpt., New York: Argosy-Antiquarian, 1964).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Frank Wagner, "GRAY, MABRY B. [MUSTANG]," accessed May 24, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgr24.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 29, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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