Private Thomas P. Nigh

Private Thomas P. Nigh

Texas Rangers, Texas

End of Watch Tuesday, August 18, 1885

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Thomas P. Nigh

In 1880 J. T. Morris moved his family to Erath County where he established a reputation by killing two men while serving as a deputy sheriff. When Reeves County was organized in remote Southwest Texas, he was elected its first sheriff on November 4, 1884. In 1885, Texas Ranger Captain James T. Gillespie established the camp for Company E at Toyah, west of the county seat at Pecos. Captain Gillespie learned that the sheriff drank heavily and was prone to frequent outbursts. Relations between the sheriff and rangers, and the sheriff had been verbally abusive to the captain.

In the late afternoon of Tuesday, August 18, 1885, Sheriff Morris arrived in Toyah on the 6:40 p.m. train from Pecos. He was drunk and belligerent, and proclaimed, “By God I own Pecos and damned if I don’t run Toyah.” It was believed the sheriff came to town to kill Jep Clayton whom he had directed intense verbal abuse. The sheriff became upset that the rangers were watching his movements to prevent serious trouble. The sheriff got more drunk and was walking the streets with a cocked six-shooter.

Citizens complained to Captain Gillespie who ordered Sergeant L. F. Cartwright to make the arrest and disarm the sheriff without hurting him if possible. Sergeant Cartwright was accompanied by rangers William S. Hughes, Frank W. DeJarnette and Thomas P. Nigh. They found the sheriff drunk at the Favorite Saloon where Cartwright ordered the sheriff to give up his pistol and surrender. Sheriff Morris fired at Cartwright but missed. He fired a second shot at Nigh. The rangers returned fire, hitting the sheriff five times in the chest. The proprietor of the saloon was shot in both legs during the exchange. Nigh was killed instantly, but Morris was taken to the Field Hotel and died within minutes.

Thomas P. Nigh appears to have been in ranger service from July 17, 1883 until his death on August 18, 1885. He was a native of Ohio, and was survived by his young wife and two small children. The citizens were very generous in raising some money for the children who were being raised by Nigh’s brother-in-law, Mack Jackson, in Brown County. Nigh was reportedly buried by the rangers in Toyah.


  • Age 28
  • Tour 2 years, 1 month
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Killed

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Rest in peace and always know that no passage of time will ever erase you service and sacrifice.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

August 18, 2020

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