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Menard Man Taught General Custer How to Shoot Deer

2014 June 19
by Jan Wilkinson

I recently came across this little article written by J. Marvin Hunter in Volume 6 Number 5, page 207, Frontier Times Magazine, February 1929. The heading reads; Published Monthly at Bandera, Texas Devoted to Frontier History, Border History, Border Tragedy and Pioneer Achievement.

When deer hunters flock to Southwest Texas there are related many startling tales of individual prowess with the gun. But an authentic claim that tops all others is advanced by John L. Menges, 78, a resident of Menard.

Menges taught General George A. Custer how to shoot deer and was with the famous Indian fighter when he brought down his first buck, a 12-pointer, while stationed in Texas.

Menges was a freighter, carrying provisions by ox-cart between towns and forts in West Texas. Custer was stationed at Fort Mason and Fort Concho to protect the settlers against Indians. Though a good rifle shot Custer complained that he was unable to kill a deer. Menges undertook to show him and succeeded.

Wild game was plentiful in that day, buffalo and deer, disappearing when cattle was brought in. Menges learned to read while driving an ox cart and killed his first deer at the age of 11. He shot it at 94 paces by moonlight, he says.

To the fact that he was sick the day Custer left this section, Menges attributes the fact that he is alive today. He had been invited to accompany Custer as a scout but was unable to go because of illness. Going into the far West, Custer was killed at the Battle of The Little Big Horn.

Menges’ father was a deserter from the Imperial German Army, who migrated to Texas and settled near where Gonzales now is. Menges has spent his entire life in the Southwest and boasts that he has never been lost. He was born November 30, 1851, at Fredericksburg, Texas.

While he admits that his aim is not as accurate as it was 60 years ago, he still can bring down a deer better than most hunters. He has a special hunting license from the state.

I found that John Ludalfh Menges was born 30 Nov 1852 in Fredericksburg, Gillespie, Texas and lived in Junction, Kimble, Texas and died 6 Feb 1941 in Odessa, Ector County, Texas and raised his family in Junction.  I find this to be quite a story and a way to share some photos of George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876). I did find this blog and reference to the books published by Custer.

In 1871 General Custer began to contribute articles on frontier life to the “Galaxy,” which were published in book-form under the title “My Life on the Plains” (New York, 1874). He was engaged on a series of “War Memoirs” for the “Galaxy” at the time of his death. He occasionally contributed articles on hunting to “Turf, Field, and Farm” and “Forest and Stream.” His life has been written by Frederick Whittaker (New York, 1878).

1859 ca. United States Military Academy Cadet George Armstrong “Autie” Custer


1859 Feb 17 West Point New York cadet George Armstrong Custer

1862 staff of Brigadier General Andrew Porter with George A. Custer reclining with a dog (hand-colored from

1864 c Virginia, George A. Custer at his headquarters with dog at his feet by Brady & Co.

1864 General Custer and wife Libby photo by Mathew Brady Library of Congress


1865 Aug 8 Alexandria, Louisiana – Brevet Major-General George Armstrong Custer, US Army before leaving for Texas during Reconstruction

1874 George Armstrong Custer and wife Elizabeth Clift Bacon at Fort Abraham Lincoln Dakota Territory

1875c George Custer center with wife to his right and 7th Cavalry officers and wives near Fort Abraham Lincoln (from Facebook True West Magazine)


1875c George Custer was off climbing Harney Peak when his officers gathered for this drinking party during the Black Hills Expedition. Sitting in the front, by one of the guidons, is Fred Grant, son of President Ulysses S. Grant. ( True West Archives)

The fateful day of the Battle of Little Bighorn occurred on June 25, 1876. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, along with five companies of the 7th Cavalry attacked the village of the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Indians along the Little Bighorn River in southeastern Montana and all the soldiers were killed.


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