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Texas Rangers

TEXAS RANGERS

TEXAS RANGERS. In 1823 Stephen F. Austin hired ten men he called "rangers" to conduct a raid against the Indians. On 24 November 1835 the Texas legislature created a police force of three companies, fifty-six men each, known as Texas Rangers. Their numbers and reputation rose and fell, influenced by threats to the Texas Republic and governmental economy. Organized along military lines, the rangers had no uniforms in the nineteenth century. Later they began to wear suits with the ubiquitous cowboy hat.

Rangers served in the Texas Revolution as scouts, but their numbers remained small. In December 1838 Mira-beau B. Lamar, president of the Republic, added eight companies. Until the Mexican-American War the rangers were Indian fighters. During his second presidency of Texas, Sam Houston used 150 rangers under the command of Captain John Coffee Hays to protect the frontier from Indian raids, and the rangers gained a reputation for toughness and dedication to duty.

After Texas became a state, from 1848 to 1858, the rangers had no official duties since the United States controlled the border and the frontier. In January 1858 Senior Captain John S. "Rip" Ford led attacks on Indians from the Red River to Brownsville. During the Civil War and Reconstruction the rangers contributed little to law and order, but subsequently they pacified the border with Mexico and stopped various feuds in the state. Between 1890 and 1920 the state legislature dramatically reduced the number of rangers.

The Mexican Revolution changed the situation. Reacting to Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico, rangers killed approximately five thousand Hispanics from 1914 to 1919. Shocked, the state legislature set new standards of recruitment and professionalism. In the 1920s the rangers dealt with riots, labor strikes, the Ku Klux Klan, and oil strikes. The Great Depression marked a low point in the organization's history. Because the rangers supported her opponent in the Democratic primary, Miriam A. "Ma" Ferguson fired all forty-four rangers. The new force was only thirty-two men.

In 1935 legislators created the Texas Department of Public Safety and administratively combined the rangers, the highway patrol, and a state crime lab. The five companies of rangers were restored, and qualifying examinations and behavioral standards were instituted. Between 1938 and 1968 Colonel Homer Garrison Jr. shifted the rangers' focus to detective work. During that time, in response to World War II, fears of sabotage, the civil rights movement, and urbanization, the number of Rangers increased.

After 1968 the rangers worked closely with local police and improved their recruitment, training, and scientific methods. By 1993 the ninety-nine officers included two women, and by 1996 Texas had 105 rangers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gillett, James B. Six Years with the Texas Rangers, 1875–1881. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1925. A classic autobiography.

Procter, Ben. Just One Riot: Episodes of the Texas Rangers in the Twentieth Century. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1991. A brief scholarly evaluation.

Webb, Walter Prescott. The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense. 2d ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965. The major source for understanding the Rangers' behavior and their resulting reputation.

Donald K.Pickens

See alsoTexas .

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Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers, mounted fighting force organized (1835) during the Texas Revolution. During the republic they became established as the guardians of the Texas frontier, particularly against Native Americans. The Texas Rangers at first consisted of three companies of 25 men each. Said to "ride like Mexicans, shoot like Tennesseans, and fight like the very devil," the rangers were unique as a police force in that they never drilled, were not required to salute officers, and wore neither uniforms nor any standard gear except the six-shooter. In their first decade of operation, the rangers effectively quelled lawlessness in Texas on frequent occasions, and in the Mexican War (1846–48) they served as scouts and guerrilla fighters, gaining a wide reputation for valor and effectiveness.

In the late 1850s the rangers fought vicious battles with the Comanche, and in the Civil War, Terry's Texas Rangers gained renown. In the Reconstruction era the Texas Rangers were engaged to control outlaws, feuding groups, and Mexican marauders and were responsible for keeping law and order along the Rio Grande. In 1874 the Texas Rangers were organized for the first time on a permanent basis in two battalions; one was assigned to arbitrate range wars on the frontier, and the other was sent to control cattle rustling on the Texas-Mexico border. The heyday of the great cattle business, with its feuds and shootings, its outlaws and rustlers, was also the heyday of the Texas Rangers.

In the 20th cent. the police responsibilities of the rangers, around whom much lore had built up, decreased, and by 1935 their numbers had diminished considerably. By act (1935) of the Texas legislature, the rangers were merged with the state highway patrol under the jurisdiction of the state department of public safety. The rangers now form an elite investigative squad within the Texas highway patrol. The first women rangers were admitted to the force in 1993.

See W. P. Webb, The Texas Rangers (2d ed. 1965), C. M. Robinson, The Men Who Wear the Star (2000).

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"Texas Rangers." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Texas Rangers." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/texas-rangers