The history of the Texas Rangers is the history of Texas itself. In 1820, Stephen F. Austin, best known as the father of Texas, requested and received permission from the Mexican government for 300 families to enter the territory of Texas. By 1823, the need to create a force in order to provide the pioneers with protection from hostile elements became apparent.
On August 10, 1823, since Texas was then a part of Mexico, Stephen F. Austin sought and obtained additional permission from the Mexican government to employ ten men from a group of volunteers to protect this new Texas frontier. Thus, the history of the Texas Rangers began with duties to “range” over wide areas to scout the movements of the renegade Indians. Some accounts say that he Rangers got their name from these ranging activities, but when you look at the original writings of Austin, when he assembled the 10 men he called them Rangers.
In 1835, the Texas Rangers were formally organized with twenty five men to form one Ranger company. The control of the Rangers was placed under the command of the military Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Texas. At that time, the Ranger’s primary concern was to protect against hostile Indians and to protect against outlaws and Mexican bandits. In order to survive, Rangers were forced to learn the Indian ways which included learning horsemanship equal to the Indians.
The Texas Ranger organization became better established during the period of the Republic of Texas, 1836 to 1846, but the Rangers were not without criticism and underwent movements of abolishment. Rangers were able to survive because the organization was structured in a less expensive manner than that of a regular army. The Rangers did undergo short terms of abolishment but were always called back into service. The early years were that of conflict since Texas and Mexico were in constant dispute over territory. The differences finally lead to a war between Texas and Mexico, when Texas joined the Union and became a member of the United States in 1845.
In 1846, General Zachery Taylor formed troops to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico. The Texas Rangers became a part of Taylor’s troops and thus, undertook a new dimension. The Rangers became a part of a complete military structure, yet this did not alter their effectiveness. The Rangers gained national prominence for the first time and were considered to be the best troops in the American Army.
For ten years following the end of the war with Mexico, the tasks of protecting the frontier were assumed by United States Army troops. The Rangers saw little service during that period. In 1861 Texas seceded from the Union leaving the total job of protection once again to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers soon occupied the forts abandoned by the United States troops and readjusted to provide protection for the residents of Texas during the Civil War years. When the Civil War ended, the Ranger force was disbanded by the United States Military authorities.
A part of Texas ceased to exist, not because of disorganization within the Texas Rangers, but because of the historical period of Union control. The frontier was soon to become unsafe when corrupt politicians gained control of the military forces. In 1874, the Texas Legislature, once again controlled by honest and responsible men, passed a bill creating six Ranger companies and a special force of one Ranger Company. The responsibility of the Rangers became two fold: protection against Indians and restoring law and order in Texas.