Milam brothers patrolled bloody Mexico border
by Jeanne Williams - Temple Daily Telegram
December 20, 2010
CAMERON — Defined by some historians as “The Bloodiest Decade” for Texas Rangers
keeping the peace along the turbulent thousand-mile Texas-Mexico border, 1910-20 also
coincided with devastating drought, a post-World War I agricutural depression and the
time two Milam County brothers gave up on farming and signed up as Rangers.
Authors Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler’s book, “The Texas Rangers and the
Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920,” details turbulence that erupted
along the border that included a plot to invade Texas by Mexican Army troops, called
the Plan de San Diego.
The plan called for the execution of non-Hispanic men age 16 and older, the
establishment of a Hispanic republic and the overthrow of Pancho Villa’s outlaw cartel
along the border — all plotted by Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, the book said.
Meanwhile, back in Milam County, international troubles were the last thing on the
minds of the Perkins brothers, who discussed their failure to prosper as farmers in the
Yarrellton community and considered as a last resort a bank robbery to solve their
money problems, according to local accounts. As they rode horses to Cameron reviewing
their options, the brothers shelved the idea of the outlaw trail and decided instead to
seek careers in law enforcement.
At the suggestion of Milam County Sheriff L.L. Blaylock, the pair chose to join the
Texas Rangers. The brothers boarded a train for Milano and headed to Austin. State
records show James Clark Perkins and his younger brother, T.E.P. Perkins, of the
Yarrellton community in north Milam County being sworn in as Texas Rangers by Texas
Adjutant Gen. James A. Harley on Sept. 10, 1918.
The brothers confided to long-time family friend Charles C. Smith Jr., a Cameron
attorney, that the Texas Rangers signed on the two farmers on the condition they would
serve as border patrol agents to quell cattle rustling, illegal immigration and spill-
over into Texas border of violence from the Mexican Revolution.
“They were paid $30 a month and ‘found.’ Riding their own mounts and armed with their
own weapons, the lawmen camped out on the boarder eating chuck wagon cooking,” Smith
said in a 1994 interview. “They were not afraid of anything. The word fear was not in
Once mustered in to Company L, the brothers posed on horseback with 10 other Texas
Rangers for an official photograph. Days later, T.E.P. Perkins was ambushed by Mexican
outlaws and fatally wounded in the back. His brother initiated a “systematic campaign
for retaliation,” Smith said. Unofficial raids of revenge eventually led to Perkins’
transfer away from the border. Perkins resigned from the Texas Rangers, and joined the
Southwestern Cattle Raisers’ Association as an investigator.
Smith, who died several years ago, said in the interview that he ranked James Perkins
on his personal list of Milam County’s legendary law officers: Sheriff Carl Black,
Cameron City Marshal Gene Smith and Leroy Johnson, a detective for Santa Fe railroad,
who joined Perkins on the Houston waterfront to corral mobs as a mariners’ union was
formed in the 1930s.
For all his outward toughness, Perkins was described by Smith as a kind man who never
failed to notice children. When he came to town he often handed out dimes or half
dollars to them. He also introduced Smith to William Penn-brand cigars. Perkins died
Feb. 13, 1968, but he did not go down without a fight, Smith said.
When admitted to Cameron’s St. Edward Hospital, Perkins reluctantly surrendered his
clothing, but insisted on keeping his .45-caliber semi-automatic Winchester, which he
tucked under his pillow.
The Perkins’ brothers tenure in the Texas Rangers is remembered in Cameron with a mural
painted on the side of Friendly Tavern at Main Street and South Travis Avenue. The
mural project was developed by longtime Cameron businesswoman Kay Green through the
Cameron Tourism Advisory Committee and Cameron Chamber of Commerce. The rangers also
are documented by the book “Texas Ranger Biographies: Those Who Served, 1910-1921” by
Harris and Sadler.