A ubiquitous part of Western history and myth, the Texas Rangers are one of the most storied law enforcement agencies in the world. Their legacy is the product of nearly 200 years of protecting the frontier.
1918; Rangers with Army deserters.
Company B; Atlanta, Texas, 1921. C. M. Weaver, Tip Eads, Martin Koonsman, Roy Hardesty, and Warren Belcher.
Company E Ranger Camp; Presidio, Texas, December 1948.
Texas Rangers; 1933. Tom L. Heard, Sgt. John Sadler, Capt. Mace, Bob Smith, and Elbert Riggs.
Frontier Battalion Company D; Uvalde, Texas, ca. 1887. Capt. Frank Jones.
Company A; Harlingen, Texas, 1904.
Frontier Battalion Company D. Capt. Dan W. Roberts, camp scene.
Frontier Battalion Company F—ca. 1885: 1. J. W. Bick; 2. Pete Edwards; 3. Capt. Joe Sheely; 4. George Farrer; 5. Brack Norris; 6. Charlie Norris; 7. Link (?) Sheely; 8. Tom Mabrey; 9. Bob Crowder; 10. Cecilio Charro.
Texas Ranger captains; November 1956. From left to right—Bob Crowder, Jay Banks, Gully Cowsert, Johnny Klevenhagen, Raymond Waters, A. Y. Allee, Sr., Col. Homer Garrison, and Clint Peoples.
Texas Rangers; ca. 1945. Standing left to right—A. Y. Allee, Zeno Smith, Leon Vivian, Joe Bridge, and Ralph Rohatsch; Seated left to right—Capt. Gully Cowsert, Frank Mills, and John Hensley.
Company D; near Laredo, Texas, 1918. Capt. Will Wright, John Eads, Sgt. Wright Wells, and Tom Connally.
Following the Mexican War of Independence, tensions were high between the newly settled families of what is now Texas and the native tribes. In 1823, the “Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin, assembled an informal militia to protect the settlers and “act as rangers for the common defense.” This group became the ancestors of the Texas Rangers.
In 1835, the Rangers became formally constituted, and within two years, their ranks numbered more than 300. During the Texas Revolution and Mexican-American War, they functioned as scouts, spies, and couriers. They also played a critical defense role against Indian, Mexican, and outlaw attacks. Armed with Colt revolvers, they were a devastating force.
In the following decades, the Rangers’ reputation expanded far outside the Texas borders. Names like Leander McNelly, John Jones, and John Coffee Hays circulated across the West. The Rangers’ capture of notorious criminal John Wesley Hardin and killing of outlaw Sam Bass only increased their reputation and renown. Today, there are some 150 commissioned Texas Rangers who wear the iconic badge.
The following images, courtesy of the Texas Ranger Museum and Hall of Fame, offer a glimpse into the history of the oldest state law enforcement body in the country.