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Monday, April 14, 2014

The REAL Texas Rangers

Ever since the masked man in the white hat rode across the silver screen upholding the law and saving damsels in distress, I’ve been a fan of the Texas Rangers. From a few carefully chosen men protecting the Texas frontier to the elite of modern law enforcement, the history of the Texas Rangers is as colorful as the land and people they protect.

Hollywood has been enamored with this badge-wearing hero since 1910, when the first movie featuring a Ranger was released. But who are the real Texas Rangers?

In 1823 the Empresario of Mexico, Stephen F. Austin, created two companies of men to act as “rangers for the common defense.” These men had to be strong leaders and fighters, and needed some specialized skills:
   >marksmanship with rifle and pistol;
   >mastery of the outdoor life; and
   >knowledge of the foe.

They also had to have their own horse and weapons, since the government provided only powder, lead and a few provisions. After that, they had to fend for themselves.

The Texas Rangers have been formed and disbanded many times in their history. In 1835, the provisional Texas government authorized recruiting 25 Rangers. That number grew to 3 companies of 56 men each, who all mustered out in 1846 and joined the Army as scouts and guerilla fighters, and became sensations in the eastern newspapers. That’s where the legend of the Texas Rangers began.

1874 brought the creation of six companies of 75 “young men, in good physical condition, without families, who owned good horses.” The state was to furnish arms and ammunition at cost, the amount to be deducted from the first pay of each soldier. Because the state only provided .45 caliber ammunition, the Rangers began using what is arguably the best-known weapon of the West:  The New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol, aka


1877  Salt War in El Paso
1877  Outlaw John Wesley Hardin shot in Pensacola, Florida
1878  Notorious outlaw Sam Bass captured near Round Rock, Texas
1880  Company “C” sent to the Panhandle to explore, making expanded
                  settlement possible
1883  Free Range War - sent to stop fence cutting and enforce peace
1900  Galveston Hurricane - maintain the peace and uphold the law
1901  Law enforcement around the oil boom
1915  Pancho Villa & the border raids
1920s Enforced Prohibition laws

In 1939, Captain Frank Hamer and 49 retired Texas Rangers offered their services to the King of England to defend their shores against Nazi invasion. That sent rumors flying through Hitler’s Reich that the Texas Rangers planned to infiltrate Nazi Germany. The rumors were based on tales of U.S. Army Ranger commandos, but by then the Texas Rangers were so famous that the Gestapo and Ministry of Propaganda assumed they would be facing the Texas Rangers.

By the way, Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Manny Gilbert were the law enforcement officers responsible for stopping Bonnie & Clyde.

The Texas Rangers didn’t become a permanent force until 1987. Today, the Rangers are made up of 116 officers, organized in Six Companies – the same six companies that were first put together in 1874.

Today’s Texas Rangers are considered to be one of the most effective investigative law enforcement agencies in the world.

And Hollywood still loves them. To date, Texas Rangers have appeared as characters in more than 220 films.

If you have never visited the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas, put it on your must-see list. It is a fascinating glimpse of the men and women who make up this amazing law enforcement agency.

Visit for information about me, my books and my stories in PRP's exciting anthologies WISHING FOR A COWBOY: Her Christmas Wish; & HEARTS AND SPURS: Coming Home!


  1. This was a fantastic and well researched piece, Tracy. I especially loved the part where the Rangers volunteered to protect and defend the shores of England from the Nazis--and I really lived that the news struck fear in the hearts of the Germans.
    I have a BB gun fashioned after the .45 Peacemaker that my dad gave me when I was 13. I used to be good at target shooting when I was a kid. We shot swinging tin cans on strings.
    The people of Texas have so much history of which to be proud.

  2. Good morning, Sarah! I found that piece of information fascinating, too--and amusing.

    What a cool BB Gun!

  3. Like most Texans, I can't get enough about the Texas Rangers. They're still a bunch no one wants to fool with. Thanks for spreading the word about one of Texas's proudest traditions, Tracy! :-)

  4. Always love me some history. The world is full of great stories and information and I appreciate you sharing what you find. This was so interesting and great to read. Thanks! Doris

  5. The Texas Rangers have always fired my imagination. Their ranks from the time of inception are filled with larger than life men. Some gave their life for pursuit of justice. The museum in Waco is such a fascinating place and I like how they continually change and add displays. And then the cemetery outside is truly on hallowed ground. So many valiant people buried there. Thanks for an interesting post.

  6. A great post, Tracy. Love those Texas Rangers!!

  7. Glad you stopped by, Doris!

    Me, too, Linda.

    Thanks, Kristy!

  8. Tracy, I loved this! I don't know very much about the Texas Rangers, and I love the fact that they volunteered to run the Nazis out of England! Very cool! And even better, that it had Hitler worried. LOL I remembered Frank Hamer's name from the Bonnie and Clyde history. He must have been one tough dude, for sure.

    Thanks for a wonderful post--well-written, well-researched, and very interesting!


  9. What a history they have, full of adventure and intrigue--and that's real life. No wonder over 200 movies have Texas Rangers!

  10. From a die-hard Texas gal, you did a great job. I always love stories about the Texas Rangers, and have one as a hero in Texas Promise.
    Thanks for the reminder of how famous and effective they still are.

  11. Tracy, Tanya tried to post twice and it ate both comments, so I'm passing along the shortened version...GREAT POST, TRACY!

    I'm sorry if anyone is having trouble commenting--it seems that's been happening a lot with MANY blogs, not just this one, this past week or two. Hope things get straightened out soon.


  12. Tracy, thank you for this helpful and educational post. I stopped in Waco in 2008, hoping to visit the museum to research a family story; sadly, the museum was closed for remodeling. Do you know if there is a roster of Rangers in their archives?

  13. Wish you'd left off the El Paso Salt War, Tracy, or at least mentioned what a debacle it was. This was one of the blackest eyes the Rangers ever suffered, and the only time a company of Rangers surrendered on Texas soil to their enemies. No history of the Rangers is complete without the bad as well as the good they've done... and the good far outweighs the bad.

  14. As former law enforcement, back in the 1990's, I was part of a case that took myself and two other agents to Texas. Our liaisons were Rangers. We had a blast with them. They wore Stetsons and Tony Lama boots that were made specifically for them. Really good guys. Had a blast. One was the only living Ranger honored in their museum. He had solved a high profile kidnapping case.

  15. Oh, I left out, that at the time, they still carried jerky and water in their cars.

  16. This was such fun to read. I didn't know about the Texas Rangers and the threatened *invasion* to fight Nazis. That was fabulous. One little tidbit I came across was how much the FBI (in its infancy as just the Bureau of Investigation) turned to the Texas Rangers for assistance when the situations got down and dirty.

  17. What a great post. Like so many, I didn't know about the Ranger's role (and perceived role) in WWII. (Can't imagine how I missed such a great story.) Someday I must visit the Texas Ranger Museum and I will remember the jerky and water in the car. I'll bet there are RCMP with jerky or pemmican in their cars - water is a given.

  18. Thanks Tracy, there is lots of history with the Texas Rangers. THE HIRED HAND, a columnist for the TIMES RECORD NEWS in Wichita Falls used to write a lot about the Texas Rangers. It's no wonder the entertainment world has also been fascinated with them.