The history of the Texas ranger spans almost 200 years. Countless Rangers patrolled the frontier, dealt with in army battles, and also arrested cattle rustlers. Their story contains heroic action of bravery, but also moments that an obstacle our idea the the Rangers together noble lawmen. They defended settlers and also enforced laws, but also sometimes executed thieves there is no a trial, drove native American people from your homelands, and also some Rangers also lynched Mexicans and Mexican Americans along the Texas-Mexico border.

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“Rangers for the common defense”

In 1823, empresario Stephen F. Austin announced he would supplement the mexican government’s militia patrols v his own force of ten men, whom he paid out of his very own pocket. Thus, the Texas ranger were born.

Unsatisfied through the security the Mexican government provided, Stephen F. Austin created his own force of “rangers” to defend the men and also women living in his colony. Austin tasked the Rangers through patrolling the roads and also wilderness around the swarm for “errant thieves united through Indians.” countless of the men who volunteered as Rangers stayed in Austin’s colony and also hoped their company would help protect your own family members from attacks by American Indians. Part were additionally motivated by the desire to take revenge ~ above American ind for past raids.

During the Texas transformation in 1836, the provisional government authorized the an initial official, government-sanctioned Ranger force to patrol the Texas frontier and also protect settlers from raids by American Indians. Despite this pressure was reorganized after Texas won its self-reliance from Mexico, it continued to duty in much the exact same way: teams of volunteers were arranged as castle were essential to patrol and protect the frontier, climate disbanded when their specific missions were done.


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Stephen F. Austin composed his order developing the an initial Ranger pressure on the earlier of a land file dated august 4, 1823. The company was led by sublievenant Moses Morrison. Photo courtesy Stephen F. Austin Papers, di_08980, The Dolph Briscoe facility for American History, The university of Texas at Austin

Patrolling the Frontier

After the 1836 Texas Revolution, a tide of new settlers headed to Texas enticed by acre of land available for little money. This raised settlement led to problems with American indians who already occupied the territory and a renewed desire come send the Texas Rangers the end on patrol.

To protect the brand-new Texans, Ranger companies patrolled the frontier and the border v Mexico. That was throughout this time that john “Jack” Coffee Hays became the most famed Texas Ranger that the era. Fighting in few of the period’s most far-ranging battles between Texans and American Indians, Hays easily proved himself to it is in a solid leader, clever decision-maker, and fearless and also brutal fighter. He increased up the ranking quickly and also was soon leading Ranger carriers on frontier patrols and also in battles against American Indians.

Hays and the Texas Rangers also played a critical role in securing the Texas-Mexico border throughout the 1840s. Agaton Quinones and also Manuel Leal led teams of thieves who crossed the Rio Grande into Texas to plunder travelers and rustle cattle, climate fled earlier to Mexico to sell their stolen goods. These bandits operated under the protection of mexican Captain Ignacio Garcia, who obtained a percentage of the profits. In response to the increasing variety of attacks by Quinones’s and also Leal’s men, Hays was given broad legal powers to track under the thieves and execute them without trial, which he did.


Each was equipped with a rifle, a pistol, and also a knife. V a Mexican blanket tied behind his saddle and tiny wallet in which he brought salt and ammunition and also perhaps a little panola or parched corn, spiced and sweetened – a an excellent allayer of thirst – and also tobacco, he was fitted for a month. The little body the men, unencumbered by package wagons or fill trains, relocated as lightly over the prairie together the Indians.

– john C. Caperton, author of “Sketch the Colonel man C. Hays, Texas Ranger”


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During the Texas Revolution, the Texas provisional government authorized rangers to be payment $1.25 per day to add $5.00 every month because that food and supplies; policemans earned $50 to $60 every month. However, the men had actually to administer their very own horses, tack, weapons, and also ammunition. This 1848 publish depicts a Ranger astride his horse. Image courtesy Library that Congress, Prints and also Photographs Division

Rangers together Soldiers

On December 29, 1845, Texas became component of the unified States. The borders established led directly to a war with Mexico. Numerous current and also former rangers joined the fight.

Using the skills they had actually honed battling American indians in Texas, the Rangers conveniently made a surname for themselves as bold fighters throughout the U.S.-Mexican battle (1846-48). Their scouting and also tracking skills also assisted locate mexico camps and guerilla battle aircraft both during and after the war.

The Rangers’ prowess in fight was striking, and by the end of the battle the indigenous “Texas Ranger” evoked images of fierce fighters and expert trackers about the world. Some Mexicans also gave them the nickname “los diablos Tejanos”: the adversary Texans. Unfortunately, the Rangers’ habits in other areas would straight contradict their heroic battlefield reputation. After the battle of Monterrey, one group of Rangers burned homes and also killed as countless as 100 civilians. Rather stole whiskey and livestock from mexico peasants. Basic Zachary Taylor said of the rangers under his command, “There is scarcely a type of crime that has not been reported come me together committed by them.”


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By the mid-1840s, pistol manufacturer Samuel Colt heard the his five-shot Paterson revolver had actually served Texas rangers well in your fights against Comanche warriors. In 1846, Colt approached Texas Ranger Samuel pedestrian to ask exactly how the gun might be improved. From their discussions, the larger, more powerful Colt six-shooter was born. Colt even engraved a scene from among Ranger Jack Hays’s most well known battles versus Comanches on the cylinder. Colt did obtain one detail wrong, though: he verified Hays and his guys wearing the uniforms that U.S. Dragoons. Image courtesy Autry national Center, Los Angeles

On the Offensive

With the U.S.-Mexican war behind them, the Rangers went back their focus to patrolling the frontier and also tracking American Indians, this time with a more aggressive approach.

While the U.S. Army was officially in fee of keeping pioneers safe from attacks, there frequently weren’t sufficient soldiers to carry out the task effectively. In Texas, the rangers filled in the gaps. Together in the past, castle patrolled the frontier, tracking down cattle thieves and pursuing American Indians who raided settlements. However, the Rangers also became much more aggressive. Rather of responding to strikes after castle happened, the Rangers began tracking tribes’ movements and going top top the offensive.

In 1858, Texas Ranger man Salmon “Rip” Ford led 100 rangers in a six-month campaign against Comanches. The ranger were join by one equal number of Tonkawas, who were traditionally adversaries of Comanches. Working together, the Rangers and Tonkawas tracked Comanches v orders to punish them because that the terrible raids lock had performed in Texas. Ford and also his males pursued Comanche raiders come Indian Territory, overcome the border without permission, and then followed them to their permanent camp on tiny Robe Creek. Over there the 200 fighters from Texas struck 600 Comanches. Despite the uneven numbers, the Rangers’ remarkable firepower helped them victory the battle. They eliminated 80 Comanches and also lost only among their very own in the fight.

For many, the victory confirmed that Texas necessary to depend on that is Ranger force, and also not the U.S. Army, for protection. Heedless that the stays lost, the Rangers’ new, more aggressive method became standard exercise for the following twenty years. It just ceased as soon as the U.S. Army and also the Texas rangers forced practically all American Indians out of Texas.


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At the begin of the battle of Antelope Hills, Comanche headman Pohebits Quasho rode out to satisfy the Rangers. He to be nicknamed “Iron Jacket” for the Spanish armor he wore and his people thought he was invincible. When the ranger shot and killed him in ~ close range and then went on come overwhelmingly loss the Comanches, it was a morally damaging loss because that the American Indians. This painting by frederic Remington depicts the Texas ranger charging the Comanche village at tiny Robe Creek, as defined to Remington through Texas Ranger Colonel “Rip” Ford.

“Prairie Patrolmen”

The Texas Legislature authorized the very first permanent Ranger force in 1874. The Rangers and also the U.S. Military drove the critical Comanche and also Kiowa the end of the state shortly after. In response, enhancing numbers of inhabitants headed come the Texas frontier and also created a brand-new set of problems for the rangers to police.

As an ext and much more settlers poured right into the frontier, disputes inevitably arose. As soon as tensions flared end the control of salt lakes near San Elizario in 1877, the rangers were notified to save the peace. They did the same during the Fence Cutting wars in the 1880s. In the conflict between ranchers who wanted to keep the variety open and also those who wanted come fence in your land and livestock, the rangers tracked down and arrested accused fence cutters. The Rangers also assisted local law enforcement once the Sabine county Sheriff asked for aid bringing in the Conner Gang, which to be terrorizing the entire county. The Rangers ended up being such a continual presence in rural areas that one publishing nicknamed them “prairie patrolmen.”

As frontier towns flourished in dimension they often developed their own regulation enforcement agencies, at some point making the Rangers much less necessary. Through 1901, the Rangers’ usefulness was in question and state government shrank their numbers significantly.


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As much more people moved right into West Texas and settlements ~ above the Texas frontier grew, the Rangers continued to patrol rural locations looking for cattle thieves and other lawbreakers. While the end on patrol the ranger camped in tents simply as they had actually done because that decades. Picture courtesy basic Photograph Collection, UTSA distinct Collections

Scandal on the Border

In the late 1910s, the duty of ranger in Texas was as soon as again called into question as violence and scandal breached public trust and also challenged their role as frontier heroes.

In 1915, tensions in between Anglos and also ethnic Mexicans follow me the Texas-Mexico border exploded right into violence between the 2 groups. To regain order, branch James Ferguson sent thousands of Texas Rangers, including plenty of brand new Special Rangers, come the border. Come quell the violence, the Rangers imposed their very own brand that lynch law versus Mexicans and also Tejanos. They executed at least 300 “suspected Mexicans” without any trial or conviction.

The governor warned the ranger to stop executing Mexicans, but the violence continued for several more years. Finally, in 1919, Representative José Tomas Canales that Brownsville requested an examination of the Rangers before a joint committee. The joint committee uncovered that the Rangers broke the legislation repeatedly and also engaged in unwarranted violence. The appointments of almost all the special Rangers were cancelled, several providers of continual Rangers disbanded, and both brand-new and currently members were subjected to more stringent qualifications.


Texas Rangers and also local vigilantes exerted small effort come distinguish between rebellious Tejanos and also residents not taking component in the uprising. Soon after a mexican raid top top the Norias Ranch, unknown assailants killed four Tejanos found in the area—three of who were determined as Abraham Salina, Eusebio Hernández, and Juan Tobar. The adhering to morning, three Texas Rangers consisting of Captains wilhelm Hanson and James Monroe Fox posed with their lassos approximately the lifeless bodies. The photo soon circulated as a souvenir postcard, dehumanizing those slain and prompting outrage amongst Tejanos. Image courtesy Robert Runyon photograph Collection, RUN00096, The Dolph Briscoe facility for American History, The college of Texas in ~ Austin

Toward Professionalization

Under the brand-new leadership that Captains wilhelm L. Wright, cutting board R. Hickman, and Frank Hamer, the ranger reformed and performed together a much more professional force in the 1920s. During this time they went back to their law enforcement duties, patrolling because that smugglers and also cattle rustlers ~ above the border.

In 1932, simply as your star to be on the increase again, the ranger made a significant political miscalculation that had damaging consequences. The rangers backed incumbent governor Ross Sterling versus Miriam “Ma” Ferguson. As soon as Ferguson was elected, she fired every Ranger top top the force for sustaining her opponent. The Rangers had actually to rebuild your ranks indigenous scratch. The new recruits weren’t yet up to the task, and also Texas skilled a brand-new era of lawlessness throughout the 1930s.

Nevertheless, the Rangers ongoing to professionalize their ranks. In 1935, the Rangers relocated under the Texas department of public Safety, do them just one part of a larger law enforcement agency. They ended up being the detective eight of the room of windy Safety, and uniformed regulation enforcement duties to be assigned to Highway Patrol officers.

At the exact same time the ranger were moving away from their past as frontier lawmen, Hollywood elevated the frontier Ranger persona to new heights with The Lone Ranger television present in 1949. The series, followed by number of films, developed a new popular image of the Rangers as noble lawmen assisting those in need and meting the end justice. This romanticized version of the Rangers pertained to define the Rangers and also overshadow their previous misdeeds.

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Colonel Homer Garrison took command that the rangers in 1938, and he reshaped them into the modern-day police force we recognize today. Photo courtesy university of north Texas Libraries, The Portal come Texas History, livestock Raisers Museum

The Story Continues

Over almost 200 years, the Rangers have actually transformed native a little militia protecting Stephen F. Austin’s colony to a corps that frontier lawmen who occasionally crossed the line between law enforcement and also law breaking, and finally right into modern-day Texas’s official state police force. Today, lock investigate some of the state’s most serious crimes and difficult cases and carry on the tradition of the initial Rangers, who sought to defend their friends and also family from harm.