John B. Denton

The Bigger-Than-Life Story of the Fighting Parson and Texas Ranger

978-1-57441-840-8 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
256 pp. 6 b&w illus. 5 maps. Notes.
Pub Date: 12/06/2021


  • Cloth $29.95

Denton County and the City of Denton are named for pioneer preacher, lawyer, and Indian fighter John B. Denton, but little has been known about him. In this extensive, in-depth look into the life and death of Denton, Mike Cochran has made use of new materials not available to previous biographers to help bring the story to life.

John B. Denton was an orphan in frontier Arkansas who became a circuit-riding Methodist preacher and an important member of a movement of early settlers bringing civilization to North Texas. He was a participant in the first missionary effort to bring Methodism to Texas, answering a call from William B. Travis to bring Methodists to the new republic. Denton then became a ranger on the frontier, ultimately being killed in the Tarrant Expedition, a Texas Ranger raid on a series of villages inhabited by various Caddoan and other tribes near Village Creek on May 24, 1841. He was leading a small raiding party that had separated from the larger group led by General Edward Tarrant when he was shot by native defenders.

Denton’s true story has been lost or obscured by the persistent mythologizing by publicists for Texas, especially by pulp western writer Alfred W. Arrington, and by the self-aggrandizing stories told by members of the Tarrant raiding party. His death came at a time when entrepreneurs were trying to attract Anglo settlers to the Republic of Texas and were especially apt to glorify the early settlers. Denton was further made a martyr of the church by Methodist historians.

Cochran separates the truth from the myth in this meticulous biography, which also contains a detailed discussion of the controversy surrounding the burial of John B. Denton and offers some alternative scenarios for what happened to his body after his death on the frontier. This is the definitive, fact-based biography of John B. Denton.

Texas Local Series

Published by University of North Texas Press