• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Today in Texas history: Texas Rangers officially sanctioned by the Provisional Government

ByRobin H. Purcell

Nov 24, 2022

The famous Texas Rangers law enforcement organization received official approval from the Texas Provisional Government on this day in 1835.

Originally formed in 1823 where Stephen F. Austin signed 10 frontiersmen, the Rangers served as the unofficial law enforcement agency. It was primarily used to repel Native American attacks against the original Texan settlers, primarily from the Tonkawa, Karankawa, and Comanche tribes.

“Under Mexican law, Austin was authorized to form a militia to repel Indian raids, capture criminals, and patrol against invaders,” according to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum website. This rank of 10 was compensated at $15 per month, “payable in property”.

The actual ranks of the loosely composed organization wavered, swelled, and dwindled days and months at a time.

The museum adds, “The official records show that these companies went by many names: companies, mounted riflemen, mounted volunteers, minutemen, spies, scouts, and mounted rifle companies. Whatever names they were known by, these units performed the same wide-ranging tasks.”

The Texas mug

Their weapons and tactics were as crude and sporadic as the frontier required. “The early Rangers fired Spanish pistols, Tennessee and Kentucky rifles, carried Bowie knives made in Sheffield England, and rode swift Mexican ponies.”

They were once true Swiss army knives for men described to “drive like a Mexican, ride like an Indian, shoot like a Tennessean, and fight like the devil.”

Two years after the provisional Texas government gave the band its official sanction, just before declaring independence from Mexico, the Rangers’ ranks had swelled to over 300. After official approval, a member received $1.25 per day.

During the War of Independence “[Rangers] reported on the withdrawal of civilians from the Mexican army in the famous ‘Runaway Scrape’, harassed columns of Mexican troops and provided valuable information to the Texan army.”

“The only men who responded to Col. William B. Travis’s last-minute request to defend the Alamo were Rangers, who fought and died for Texas independence.”

The Texas Rangers featured prominently in another skirmish with Mexico 10 years later during the Mexican-American War – sparked by a border dispute over land between the Rio Grande and Nueces rivers.

During the conflict, Rangers served as scouts for the US Army and “fought the war with such ferocity that they were nicknamed ‘Los diablos Tejanos’ – the ‘Texas Devils'”.

The organization, like its members, was thrown into the wild after the Civil War — convening briefly and frequently disbanding until the Great Depression, when the group was consolidated as part of the Texas Department of Public Safety, under which it operates today.

Rangers kept order at the border, tracked down bandits, cracked down on rum smugglers during Prohibition, and hunted down Bonnie and Clyde in this century in between.

Today, the organization performs an investigative function, often as specialized units called in to investigate all sorts of suspected irregularities.

In 1968, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Waco, where it continues to operate, showcasing the history and legacy of rangers over the nearly 200 years of the organization’s existence.