When Gene Turney heard about the discovery of an extraordinary find on a West Texas ranch, he set out to return it to the family of a particular West Texas trail rider.

He presented the 100-year-old badge to Elizabeth Turney Schenkel, of Sonora, during his recent visit to Sonora on Saturday, July 18.
“We believe that the badge is a membership badge for the Texas Old Trail Riders Association,” Turney said.

Pointing to the date inscribed on the metal badge, he added. “They sent those out in that month, July the 22nd 1920. Also, there is also a lapel pin somewhere that they sent with that. We believe there was leather on here [pointing to a narrow opening at the top of the badge] and that it was a watch fob. How it became lost is not really known.”

The badge belonged to Valrious Jackson Turney, also known as Joe Turney. He was a pioneer cattleman of Texas and noted trail driver who played an important part in carving out the history of the cattle business in the state’s early days.

The badge was discovered by a man who was working on a ranch south of Sonora. The individual insisted on returning it to the family.

“I must get this in the hands of the Turney family, he said to me [Gene Turney]. The man who found this, I don’t know if they make people like him anymore. He didn’t have to do this,” Turney said.

According to Schenkel, it was found on the Gail Espy Ranch which was handed down to Gail from her parents Sam and Sarah Allison, according to Schenkel.

Finding it there made sense to her.

“My great grandparents Joe Turney and his wife were good friends with Sam Allison and his wife,

Schenkel said. “To my knowledge, they never actually lived there [the ranch] but they used that place as a recreational place to go play and enjoy the water.” Schenkel said.

The Turney family has been ranching in Sutton County for over 100 years, she added. They are still ranching here today. The Turney Ranch is at the epicenter of one of the best ranching sections of West Texas, in Sutton, Val Verde and Crockett counties.

Joe Turney is listed in the Texas Old Trail Riders Association.

In 1884, Turney made his first trip “up the trail” at the age of 17 years, according to historical records. On the trail, he helped drive 6,400 head of steer for the Ohio Cattle Company to Mussel Shell River in Montana. He made the 2,000-mile journey an additional two times after that.

Finally, in 1904 he settled in Del Rio where he ran cattle on the ranch until 1913 then he ventured into the sheep business. In 1923 he leased out the ranch and retired.

Clutching the badge in her hand and smiling, Schenkel said she was proud to have it back in the family.