Chuck Parsons

REYNOLDS, NELSON ORCELUS (1846–1922). Nelson Orcelus (Mage) Reynolds, Texas Ranger, son of H. G. and B. D. (Taylor) Reynolds, was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, on November 21, 1846. Although at least one contemporary claimed that Reynolds earned his nickname while serving in the Confederate Army in Missouri, and that he was in fact born in that state, Reynolds’s only documented Civil War service was as a private in Company B of the 147th Illinois Infantry during the last year of the war. Reynolds arrived in Texas in 1872 and perhaps worked as a cowboy briefly. On May 25, 1874, he enlisted in the ranger force of Cicero R. (Rufe) Perry in Blanco County. He served almost continually until 1879, when he retired from the service, having achieved the rank of lieutenant of Company "E". He saw service under such well-known leaders as C. R. Perry, Dan W. Roberts, J. M. Denton, and Neal Coldwell. For a time he served with the escort of Maj. John B. Jones.

Although he saw action against Indian raiders, his most famous exploits were in action against white outlaws. He served briefly in Mason County but resigned rather than pursue his dear friend Scott Cooley, former fellow ranger of Company D. He gained fame when, on July 28, 1877, with a very small force, he arrested the leader of the Horrell faction and ten of its sympathizers and thus brought an end to the Horrell-Higgins feud of Lampasas County. This resulted in his being given the command of the newly formed Company E. He was responsible as commander for transporting and guarding the notorious John Wesley Hardin during his trial and incarceration in the Travis County Jail. Another well-known fugitive Reynolds had in custody was John P. Ringo, later famous in Tombstone, Arizona. Reynolds helped quiet the difficulties in San Saba County in 1878. Though he arrived in Round Rock too late to take part in the street battle that destroyed the Sam Bass gang, one of his men arrested the mortally wounded Bass. Reynolds retired from the ranger service in 1879. He was elected sheriff of Lampasas County in 1886 and 1888. He later engaged in private business in Caldwell, Orange, and Brazoria counties. He was married to Irene T. Nevill on September 13, 1882, in Austin. The couple had two children. Reynolds, called the "Intrepid" by James B. Gillett, died on March 1, 1922, and is buried in Center Point.


James B. Gillett, Six Years with the Texas Rangers, 1875 to 1881 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1921; rpt., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1976). John Wesley Hardin, The Life of John Wesley Hardin as Written by Himself (Seguin, Texas: Smith and Moore, 1896; new ed., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961). Records of the Frontier Battalion, Texas State Archives, Austin. Daniel Webster Roberts, Rangers and Sovereignty (San Antonio, 1914; rpt., Austin: State House Press, 1987). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982).

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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, Chuck Parsons, "REYNOLDS, NELSON ORCELUS," accessed October 21, 2018,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on January 6, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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