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Arizona Rangers

Patch of the Rangers
Agency overview
Formed 1901; 1957-
Dissolved 1909
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Bisbee, Arizona

The Arizona Rangers are an Arizona unpaid, non-commissioned civilian auxiliary agency 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. They were created to deal with the infestations of outlaws in the sparsely populated Arizona Territory, especially along the Mexican border. The 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.


  • History 1
  • Leadership 2
  • Uniforms and insignia 3
  • Similar agencies 4
  • Popular culture 5
  • Fallen officers 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


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

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On February 15, 1909, the Arizona legislature repealed the act establishing the Arizona Rangers.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:

Modern-day Arizona Rangers

In 1957, a voluntary 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 present-day Arizona Rangers are an unpaid, all-volunteer, law enforcement support and assistance civilian auxiliary police 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. Sergeant Jeff Kidder was said to have exchanged gunfire while intoxicated, with Mexican police in Naco, Sonora. Manuel Sarabia was a Mexican revolutionary.

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.

Similar agencies

The Arizona Rangers had been preceded by the organization of the Arizona Territorial Rangers in 1860. This group was formed by the 1860 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 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

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Raine, William MacLeod (1905). Pearson's Magazine: Carrying Law into the Mesquite. Pearson Publishing Co. 
  4. ^
  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
  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. ^
  11. ^ Arizona Raiders
  12. ^ ODMP Carlos Tafolla
  13. ^
  14. ^


  • Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Arizona Rangers" March 6, 2004

Further reading

  • DeSoucy, M. David, Arizona Rangers, Arcadia Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7385-4831-9
  • Miller, Joseph, editor, The Arizona Rangers, Hastings House, 1975, hardcover, 268 pages, ISBN 0-8038-0353-2
  • O'Neal, Bill, The Arizona Rangers, Eakin Press, 1987, ISBN 0-89015-610-7

External links

  • Official website
  • History page Arizona Department of Public Safety website
  • Arizona Rangers reenactment group Bremen-Germany
  • David Leighton, "Street Smarts: Slight but tough rancher helped tame wild, wooly Arizona," Arizona Daily Star, May 14, 2013
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