Military Wiki
Patch of the Rangers
Agency overview
Formed August 1861-May 26, 1865; 1882; 1901; 1957-
Dissolved 1909
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
General nature
  • Law enforcement
  • Civilian police
Operational structure
Headquarters Tucson, AZ

The Arizona Rangers are an Arizona unpaid, non-commissioned civilian auxiliary nonprofit that is available to assist and support law enforcement[1] modeled on the Texas Rangers. The Arizona Rangers were created by the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1901, disbanded in 1909, and subsequently reformed in 1957 as a nonprofit organization. They were originally created to deal with the infestations of outlaws in the sparsely populated Arizona Territory, especially along the Mexican border. The original rangers were an elite, well-trained, and originally a secretive agency mounted on quality horses and well equipped with modern weapons at the state's expense. The rangers were very effective in apprehending members of outlaw bands. The modern day Arizona Ranger organization is a private nonprofit organization with no governmental authority.


Civil War-era Arizona Rangers raising the Confederate flag in 1862 in Tucson in the newly created Confederate Territory of Arizona.

First Arizona Rangers

The first Arizona Rangers were organized to police the new gold boom towns and mining camps in the western half of the New Mexico Territory that arose after the first gold strike in 1858 in Gila City. In his history of the Arizona Rangers, stretching back to 1861, Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble revealed "Arizona’s first Ranger may have been one of the founders of Phoenix, Jack Swilling."

Civil War-era Confederate Arizona Rangers

After the establishment of the Confederate Arizona Territory, Territorial Governor John Robert Baylor decided he needed to supplement existing militia companies with a regiment of militarized Rangers modeled after the war-time Texas Rangers. He intended this regiment to consist of several companies of cavalry. On January 25, 1862, the first Confederate ranger company, Company A Baylor's Regiment of Arizona Rangers commanded by Captain Sherod Hunter, was mustered into service at the town of Dona Ana located just north of present-day Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hunter's Company consisted of about 75 men for the most part residents of the newly created Confederate Territory of Arizona. The Confederate Arizona Rangers were armed with revolvers and Springfield Model 1847 smoothbore musketoons, probably taken from the Union Fort Fillmore after it surrendered in August 1861. The companies were enlisted for three years, or the duration of the war. They were picked for their skills and experience with the hardships of frontier life. On February 10, 1862 Company A was ordered to occupy Tucson, the largest town in the western Confederate Territory of Arizona. Tucson was located along the Butterfield Overland Mail route, the only one between California and the Rio Grande and Mesilla valleys, and an ideal location for an advanced post to observe and delay the advance of Union forces gathering under Colonel James Henry Carleton at Fort Yuma. By taking possession of Tucson, Baylor would also protect the citizens and secure the Confederate claim to possession of western Arizona, which had been abandoned by Union troops in 1861. Company A arrived in Tucson on February 28, with the loss of only one life; Corporal Benjamin Mayo who had died of exposure at San Simon stage station on the 25th.

The invasion of Arizona by the Union "California Column" would have come much sooner but for the tactics of Captain Hunter and Company A. After Hunter's Company A retreated from Tucson and arrived in Mesilla on May 27, 1862, it was organized with two Arizona militia companies, the Arizona Guards of Pinos Altos and the Arizona Rangers of Mesilla,, under Herbert's Battalion of Arizona Cavalry under the command of Lt. Colonel Philemon T. Herbert. It served as the rearguard to the remnants of the Confederate Army of New Mexico as it withdrew from El Paso to San Antonio, in July 1862. By the end of May 1863 the Arizona Battalion had been reduced by losses and it was disbanded. Company A still had enough men to continue as a viable company, and was kept in being but renamed as the independent Arizona Scout Company, attached to Green's Brigade. The other two companies of the Battalion were disbanded and the men consolidated with those of Company A to form the Arizona Scout Company. After the Red River Campaign, from March–May 1864, the Texas Cavalry Division, under Major General John A. Wharton, was among the units ordered northward into Arkansas. The Arizona Scouts, went with them and for the rest of 1864 fought minor skirmishes and conducted routine picket duty and scouting. In November 1864, Captain James Henry Tevis (who by that time had recovered from his wounds) returned to command of the Arizona Scouts until General Edmund Kirby Smith, surrendered all Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River on May 26, 1865.

Late 19th Century Arizona Rangers

Marshall Trimble goes on to discuss the militia groups formed before Gov. Frederick Tritle authorized the first company of Rangers in Tombstone in 1882.[2]

Early 20th Century Arizona Rangers

Originally, only one company was authorized, consisting of a captain, a sergeant and not more than twelve privates, but, in 1903, the force was increased to twenty-six men. The rangers, many of whom in the early years were veterans of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, were skilled horsemen, trackers and marksmen. Though originally intended to be covert, the group became widely publicized and conspicuous, sported their badges boldly, and were distinctively well-armed.

In addition to dealing with rustlers, and other outlaws, the rangers were called on to deal with several large strikes by Mexican workers at mines in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. During the Cananea Riot in 1906, over twenty striking Mexicans were killed along with at least two Americans. In response, Captain Thomas H. Rynning led a posse of nearly 300 men to Cananea and was successful in helping the Mexican authorities restore order.

On February 15, 1909, the Arizona legislature repealed the act establishing the Arizona Rangers. During the seven years of its operations, 107 men served with the rangers. The vote to disband was vetoed by Republican Governor Joseph Henry Kibbey, but the Democratic-dominated assembly overrode the veto, backed by political pressure from county sheriffs and district attorneys in northern Arizona.

After the Arizona Rangers disbanded, many of the former Rangers stayed in law enforcement. Harry C. Wheeler was elected sheriff of Cochise County and Thomas Rynning became the prison warden in Yuma, Arizona.

Seven former Rangers reunited in 1940 to ride together in the Prescott Rodeo Parade. In 1955, the Arizona legislature authorized a $100 monthly pension for former Rangers who had served at least six months and who still lived in Arizona. Five men qualified for this pension.

William MacLeod Raine wrote the following about crime in Arizona Territory and the effectiveness of the Arizona Rangers in a 1905 edition of Pearson's Magazine:

The work assigned to these Rangers was arduous and dangerous one. For many years sheriff's officers and vigilantes had found themselves entirely unable to cope with the lawless bands which made their headquarters in the bad lands. But the condition of affairs had grown unendurable. The temerity of the outlaws was not only a scourge to the community, but a menace to the good name of the Territory. No man's sheep or cattle were safe from the raids of the organized bands of outlaws, who would sweep down on a range, drive away the cattle, reach the mountain fastnesses long before the posse could be organized for pursuit. Raids and murders had become so common that they were scarcely noted. There were a dozen bands of the horse and cattle thieves, at the head of which were such man as 'Bill' Smith, the notorious Augustine Chacon, commonly called 'Pelelo', and the train robber, Burt Alvord. Yet within a year of the time of its organization, this little band of rangers, consisting of a captain, a sergeant and twelve privates, had practically cleared the territory of hundreds of bad characters. Many of them had paid for their lawlessness with their lives and the rest had been driven across the line into Mexico... The Rangers are recruited from old cow-boys and from the ranks of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. They have to be able to rope and ride anything on four legs, as their horses may be killed and remounts are at times absolutely necessary. Especially quick work is required in heading fugitives from the border. A crime is reported, the ranger slaps on the saddle and is away. To the credit of the ranger it may be said that nine times out of ten he brings back his man, dead or alive.[3]

Modern-day Arizona Rangers

In 1957 a nonprofit organization called the Arizona Rangers was organized, founded with the assistance of four former members of the agency. The modern Arizona Rangers were officially recognized by the state of Arizona in 2002, when Arizona Governor Jane Hull signed Legislative Act 41. The purpose of this act was "to recognize the Arizona rangers, who formed in 1901, disbanded in 1909 and reestablished in 1957 by original Arizona rangers." The recognition by the State of Arizona gives no law enforcement authority to the organization. Members of the organization receive 24 hours of initial training and then sporadic monthly training, and appear at public at events in the capacity of security guards.

The present-day Arizona Rangers are an unpaid, all-volunteer, law enforcement support and assistance civilian nonprofit organization in the state of Arizona. They work co-operatively at the request of and under the direction, control, and supervision of established law enforcement officials and officers. They also provide youth support and community service and work to preserve the tradition, honor, and history of the original Arizona Rangers.[4]


The first Captain of the Arizona Rangers was Burton C. Mossman of Bisbee, Arizona. Mossman, who had previously been manager of the 2-million-acre (8,100 km2) Aztec Land and Cattle Company in northern Arizona, had some success in controlling rustling of his company's cattle.

In July 1902 after successfully recruiting and organizing the original Rangers, Mossman resigned to return to ranching. He was replaced by Thomas H. Rynning. The third and last commander of the Arizona Rangers was Harry C. Wheeler.

In general, the men of the Arizona Rangers were extremely capable; their exploits were widely reported by the newspapers of the day.[5] Many of these reports are collected in the book, The Arizona Rangers, edited by Joseph Miller.

Uniforms and insignia

Arizona Rangers were not issued standardized uniforms, as they were originally intended to operate undercover.[6]

Badges of the Arizona Rangers, which were first issued in 1903 were solid silver five-pointed ball-tipped stars, lettered in blue enamel with engravings etched in blue, and are a valuable collectible. An officer's badge was engraved with the Ranger's name, while badges for enlisted men were numbered. Upon resignation, a Ranger returned his badge, which was then available to be assigned to a new Ranger.[citation needed]

Similar agencies

The Arizona Rangers had been preceded by the organization of the Arizona Territorial Rangers in 1860. This group was formed by the Provisional Territorial Government, principally to protect against Apache raids. The intent was to have three companies of Territorial Rangers, two were formed in the mining camp of Pinos Altos, known as the "Arizona Guards" and the "Minute Men", and another, the "Arizona Rangers", in Mesilla by Captain James Henry Tevis.[7]

With the arrival of Baylor's Confederate Army in Mesilla and his declaration of a Confederate Territory of Arizona in early 1862, the Arizona Territorial Rangers were disbanded by Captain Tevis who joined San Elizario Spy Company in the Confederate Army. The Confederate Territorial Governor, General Baylor eventually saw the need for the rangers also and formed Company A, Arizona Rangers as the first of three companies for the defense of Arizona Territory. It was commanded by Captain Sherod Hunter and Second Lieutenant James Henry Tevis. The Arizona Rangers were sent to Tucson to defend western Arizona Territory. When the California Column drove the Confederates out of Arizona Territory, plans for organizing the Arizona Rangers were put off for years.

In the early 1880s, Arizona was not only having an Indian war, but border crimes and killings were making Arizona unfit to live in. Upon taking office, Governor Frederick Augustus Tritle faced a problem of lawlessness within the territory caused by outlaw cowboys and hostile natives. On April 24, 1882 he authorized formation of the 1st Company of Arizona Rangers in Tombstone making John H. Jackson its Captain. They were to be similar to Texas Rangers and combat outlaws and hostile Indians. His first assignment to the Rangers was to scout near the border of the territory for Indians, and for those who recently killed a teamster there. The Rangers Captain was only able to pay the first months wages, and the Governor despite his best efforts was never able to get them funded by the Territorial Legislature or Congress. On May 20, he wrote Johnston informing them they should continue until the end of the month when their pay ran out. Following the Earp Vendetta Ride and the departure of the Earps lawlessness in the area seems to have quieted.[8]

The analogous agency in the Territory of New Mexico, organized in 1905, was called the New Mexico Mounted Patrol. Across the Mexican border in northern Sonora was a similar law enforcement agency called the Guardia Rural, colloquially known as the rurales. This group is often confused with another group often referred to with the same colloquialism, the Guardia Fiscal, which was commanded by a Russian, Colonel Emilio Kosterlitzky, who cooperated closely with the Rangers.[9]

Another group known as the Arizona Rangers is based in Tucson and is part of Missouri Western Shooters.[10]

Popular culture

Arizona Ranger, a low-budget black-and-white film produced by RKO, was released in 1948, starring Jack Holt and his son Tim Holt.

In the 1965 film Arizona Raiders, Clint (played by Audie Murphy) is released from prison and deputised as an Arizona Ranger by Captain Andrews (played by Buster Crabbe) to track down and capture the remnants of Quantrill's Raiders near the border of Mexico.[11]

In the 1976 film The Last Hard Men, actor Charlton Heston portrayed Captain Sam Burgade, a retired Captain of the Arizona Rangers who pursues the ruthless outlaw who has escaped from prison and kidnapped Burgade's daughter for revenge. Burgade had been the arresting officer for the crime that sent the outlaw to prison.

An Arizona Ranger is featured in the song, "Big Iron", in Western singer Marty Robbins' album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. The song was later used in Fallout: New Vegas.

The syndicated western television series, 26 Men, aired from 1957–1959, told the stories of the Arizona Rangers. It stars Tristram Coffin as Ranger Thomas H. Rynning.

The Arizona Territorial Rangers Reenactment Group, headquartered in Netcong, New Jersey, is a historical reenactment group.

In the video for Toby Keith's song, "Beer For My Horses", Willie Nelson portrays a retired Arizona Ranger.

Western Author: Ralph Cotton has penned over thirty adventure novels starring fictional Arizona Territory Ranger Sam Burrack.

Fallen officers

During the tenure of the Arizona Rangers, three officers died in the line of duty.[12][13][14]

Officer Date of Death Details
Carlos Tafoya
October 8, 1901
Killed after the Battleground Gunfight
Jefferson P. "Jeff" Kidder
April 5, 1908
Killed after a gunfight in Naco, Sonora
John W. Thomas Jr.
July 21, 1992
Killed after a shootout in Sierra Vista, Arizona

Notable Arizona Rangers

Sergeant Jeff Kidder was said to have exchanged gunfire while intoxicated, with Mexican police in Naco, Sonora. Manuel Sarabia was a Mexican revolutionary.

See also


  1. "Format Document". Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  3. Raine, William MacLeod (1905). Pearson's Magazine: Carrying Law into the Mesquite. Pearson Publishing Co.. 
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2008. 
  5. "RANGER'S LONG CHASE.; More than a Thousand Miles Over Deserts and Mountains", New York Times, June 1, 1902
  6. O'Neal, Bill (1987). The Arizona Rangers. Austin, TX: Eakin Press. p. 12. 
  7. Arizona State University Library, Hayden Pioneer Biographies Collection, biography of James Henry Tevis, p.1[dead link]
  8. Wagoner, Jay J., Arizona Territory 1863–1912: A Political history, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, (1970). ISBN 0-8165-0176-9.pp. 194-200
  9. Vanderwood, P. J. (1972). Review: Emilio Kosterlitzky: Eagle of Sonora and the Southwest Border. by Cornelius C. Smith, Jr. The Hispanic American Historical Review, 52(2), pp. 304-306.
  10. "Ă˜stfold kulturutvikling » Kulturnett Ă˜stfold". 2016-04-08. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  11. Arizona Raiders
  12. ODMP Carlos Tafolla
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 4, 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 


Further reading

External links

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