Old photos show Texas Rangers history as far back as 1884

Texas Rangers are still an existing law enforcement division

Photograph shows Texas Rangers standing behind the moonshiners and their equipment. Circa 1922. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)

SAN ANTONIO – The history of the lawmen known as the Texas Rangers spans nearly two centuries.

“The Ranger story begins many years ago. In 1823, the Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin realized the need for a body of men to protect his fledgling colony, the land settlement effort that marked the beginning of Texas’ development,” the Texas Department of Transportation website states.

While the full history of the Texas Rangers can be found on the TxDOT website, it’s not all stories of bravery and heroism.

The history of the Texas Rangers is also tainted with tales of unlawfulness and crime.

“They protected settlers and enforced laws, but also sometimes executed thieves without a trial, drove Native American tribes from their homelands, and some Rangers even lynched Mexicans and Mexican Americans along the Texas-Mexico border,” according to the Bullock Museum.

Today, the Texas Rangers are still an existing law enforcement division. As of January 1, 2020, the Texas Ranger Division has 166 Rangers for the entire state. Company headquarters are located in eight geographical locations, including Company D in San Antonio.

“The modern Texas Ranger dresses in civilian clothes and is recognized by his western hat and western boots. Badges, still made from a Mexican coin, can be seen pinned to a Ranger’s shirt above the left pocket. Their duties vary by assignment, but Rangers generally have criminal investigative responsibilities supporting local law enforcement,” according to TexasRangers.org.

Here’s a look at some historical photos from the University of Texas at San Antonio Special Digital Collection that give a glimpse into the history of the Texas Rangers:

Photograph shows studio portrait of members of Texas Rangers Company F, Frontier Battalion. Each is armed with weapons. Circa 1884. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows four unidentified Texas Rangers of Capt. Brooks' Company mounted and posed at end of an iron and wooden bridge in 1892. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Reunion of Terry's Texas Rangers in San Antonio in November 1889. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows Texas Rangers and others on horseback with adobe structures in the background in a West Texas town. Circa 1915-1920. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows Texas Rangers standing behind the moonshiners and their equipment. Circa 1922. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows Texas Rangers Honeycutt and Trimble standing in a street with church and other adobe buildings in background in 1923. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows six unidentified Texas Rangers and an unidentified general of the Texas National Guard. The Rangers are holding rifles; the general is holding a riding stick. Circa 1925. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Three Texas Rangers, on horseback, holding radio transceivers in a pasture in June 1946. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows Texas Rangers standing in boat as a diver climbs aboard on Lake Austin in 1956. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photograph shows two Texas Rangers dusting a desk for fingerprints on an office desk in 1970. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.