The Texas Rangers are the oldest law enforcement organization in North America with state wide jurisdiction. For almost two hundred years the Texas Rangers have embodied the spirit of honor and pride in law work. They have become world renown for their man hunting and detective skills. The very name invokes a sense of wonder in listeners and sets cold the blood of criminals. Their tale has been told and reworked in all manner of stories from the Lone Ranger, to Walker, Texas Ranger. The Ranger name has become a valuable entertainment commodity and in return the Rangers themselves have become walking legends.
In 1820 Stephen F Austin (Not that Austin) was given permission by the Mexican government to enter and settle the territory of Texas with 300 families. Texas was a hostile land when vacant and unfortunately it was populated with people who were neither settlers nor Mexican, making it an even more inhospitable area. By 1823 it was clear that an enforcement force was needed to defend the settlers against agitated aboriginals.
Since Texas was still a part of Mexico, Austin sought additional permission from them to employ a small force of volunteers. On the tenth of August 1823, Austin received permission and selected ten men to "range" the borders of Texas and defend the frontier.
During the war for Texas independence, the Texas hierarchy recognized the Rangers accomplishments and the need for a nationwide law enforcement agency and in October of 1835 the Rangers were Formally organized and their ranks swelled to twenty-five men, the first full Ranger Company. Their primary role was still the protection of the frontier from Indians, but their jurisdiction had now been increased to cover outlaw gangs and Mexican bandits.
During the formal period of the Republic of Texas the Rangers became a valuable asset to the young nation and established itself as an exemplary law enforcement force. From 1836 to 1846 the history of the Rangers closely followed the troubled history of the nation it served. Texas was in near constant dispute with Mexico over territory and the Rangers were just as much appreciated as criticized. The company went through several periods of abolishment but always managed to survive. Because the organization was not structured as expensively as the regular Army, it was frequently able to reform. That all changed when Texas joined the Union and entered into war with Mexico.
In 1846 General Zachary Taylor added the Rangers to his attack force that crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico. For the first time the Rangers diverted from their mission of defense and assumed the role of attacker. This in no way hampered their effectiveness and they quickly became recognized as the best troops in the United States Army. After the Mexican War was over the job of protecting the frontier fell to the regular army troops and the Rangers saw very little service for the next several years.
In 1861 Texas seceded from the Union and the Rangers once again shouldered the responsibility of protecting the borders of Texas, only this time they were protecting Texas against former comrades. During the civil war years the Rangers occupied abandoned Army forts and their number swelled as they shielded Texas from both the Mexicans to the south, and the Union to the North. When the Civil War ended the United States Military extended the Amnesty to the Rangers and then disbanded the force.
Texas was a rough place though, and it wasn't long before the Rangers were needed again. In 1874 the Texas legislature reformed the Rangers and created six Ranger companies and one special Ranger Company. The role of the Rangers had been expanded from their familiar duty of border protection and they were now empowered to bring the law back to Texas.
The six Ranger Companies were formed into the Frontier Battalion and went about their familiar business of fighting off Indians until 1881 when the last Indian battle was fought in the Diablo Mountains. The one special Ranger Company was formed into the Special Ranger Force and their task was more difficult. They were charged with bringing law and order back to a practically lawless state. The Special Ranger Force continued their task until 1881. With the Indian battles over the Frontier Battalion assumed the role of law men and absorbed the Special Ranger Force into their ranks.
The Rangers were again reorganized in 1901 by the legislature. The Frontier Battalion was changed to the Texas Ranger Force and divided into four companies, each with twenty men. The new century brought changes to the role of the Rangers. The Indians and outlaws they had fought against were quickly becoming a mythical problem of the past. The Rangers had new battles and new, more modern enemies. Prohibition and the oil field boom created a new breeding ground for a different type of criminal.
In 1935 the Texas legislature formed the Department of Public Safety and again reorganized the Rangers. The Rangers were formed into six companies labeled A through F and each was led by a Captain. Organizational limits were put in place that have remained virtually unchanged to this day. Although the Rangers haven't changed much in the last seventy years, the state they serve has. The Rangers are somewhat of an enigma. They are better educated and better trained than any other law enforcement agency in the nation. Their total number of just over one hundred active members isn't nearly enough to cover the 254 counties in Texas. And yet, they remain the steadfast and exceptionally successful agency that they have always been. The Rangers themselves have no special powers over any other lawman in Texas, with the exception that they have no jurisdictional boundaries. Their purpose and resourcefulness can be heard in every repetition of their unofficial motto, "One riot, one Ranger."
Each Company has their own headquarters in geographically disperse regions of the state. Company A is headquartered in Houston, Garland is the Headquarters for Company B, Company C is housed in Lubbock, Company D is HQ'd in San Antonio, Midland is main office for Company E. Waco is the hosting city for the Ranger Hall of Fame and so, many people believe it to be the statewide Headquarters. However, Waco is the Head Quarters site for Company F and the statewide Headquarters are actually located in Austin, in the Department of Public Safety building.
Texas Rangers don't wear uniforms except for special occasions, and dress in civilian clothes during duty. They can be recognized by their distinctive western style hats and cowboy boots. If you think that may not be enough to spot a Ranger in a state filled with western hats and cowboy boots, never fear, the Ranger always displays his distinctive badge, still cut from a Mexican coin, pinned to his shirt over the left breast.
My thanks to the Texas Ranger Official website for providing dates and details. www.texasranger.org