Stephen F. Austin State University

'Lone Wolf' Earned His Place in Gregg County History (November 2011)

'Lone Wolf' earned his place in Gregg County history
By Van Craddock

Gregg County wasn't for the weak-of-heart back in 1931.

When we found out we were sitting in the middle of the world's biggest oil field, the criminal element made a beeline to East Texas. Pretty soon, con men, thieves and ne'er-do-wells were out of control. Residents were afraid to go outside at night.

But then, Texas Ranger Sgt. Manuel T. Gonzaullas showed up in Kilgore one day, and things began to change.

Now, I need to explain that "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas was not from the read-them-their-rights school of law enforcement. The Ranger was a veteran of more than one gunfight from brushes in other boomtowns. But mostly, the mere mention of "Lone Wolf" was sufficient to make the local crime rate drop dramatically.

He was almost 40 years old when he first appeared in Kilgore, but what a dramatic appearance it was. He wore a white Stetson, two pearl-handled six-guns, and spurs on his boots. He rode a black stallion named Tony. And while thugs shuttered in fear (his reputation had preceded him to Gregg County), the women swooned. "Lone Wolf" just happened to be one of the most handsome men in East Texas.

Immediately, "Lone Wolf" went to work ridding Kilgore, Longview, Pistol Hill and other communities of the less-than-desirables. The fact that Kilgore, which was a hamlet of 700 souls before oil was discovered, had no jail wasn't a problem to the Ranger sergeant. He came up with what was known as "Lone Wolf's Trotline," a long heavy chain that ran the length of a Baptist church building.

There, the lawbreakers were bound to smaller trace chains attached to the heavy chain, and those who experienced the "Trotline" said it wasn't a very pleasurable experience. The prisoners were fed once a day and it got a little crowded because "Lone Wolf" kept bringing prisoners into the small church. This went on for some time until a city jail was constructed.

"Lone Wolf" and other law officers raided the beer joints, domino halls, gambling dens and houses of ill repute that had sprung up in the great East Texas Oil Field, but only to round up those thought capable of violent crimes. The gamblers, prostitutes and bootleggers were for local lawmen to deal with.

Gonzaullas operated with a heavy hand, to be sure, and his brand of law enforcement would be out of place nowadays (civil rights and all of that). But back in the early 1930s, he knew he was the only real law in the oil fields. If nothing else, he was effective.

"Lone Wolf" left the Ranger force briefly and in 1934 ran for the office of Gregg County sheriff. Apparently he had arrested too many of the county's residents because he lost the election.

Gonzaullas returned to the Ranger force, eventually retiring in 1951. He died in 1977 at the age of 85.

Gonzaullas was inducted into the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame at Waco in 1982, a fitting tribute to the man who brought a semblance of law and order to Gregg County and the East Texas Oil Field.