The Official Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas
Texas Ranger History: Timeline - Order Out of Chaos

1901

IllustrationThe Legislature authorizes the formation of four (4) Ranger companies consisting of a total of 20 men. Their mission is to "protect the frontier against marauding or thieving parties and for the suppression of lawlessness and crime throughout the state."

The Spindletop Oil field is discovered, beginning an oil boom in Texas that lasts into the middle of the century. Many Texas Rangers, notably M.T. "Lonewolf" Gonzaullas in the 1930s, work against crime in the boomtowns and oil fields through the 1940s.

 

 

 

1910


Map of MexicoMexican Revolution causes increased disorder on both sides of the border.

 

 

 

 

1915-18

illustrationPanic spreads in 1915 when authorities in McAllen, Texas, arrest Basilio Ramos, Jr. Ramos is carrying a copy of the Plan of San Diego, a revolutionary manifesto supposedly written and signed at the South Texas town of San Diego. It calls for the formation of a "Liberating Army of Races and Peoples," of Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Japanese, to "free" the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Colorado from United States. Versions of the plan call for the murder of all white citizens over 16 years of age. The goal is an independent republic, which might later seek annexation to Mexico.

Raids from both side the the border quickly escalate into guerilla warfare and the United States responds by sending a large military force under Gen. John J. Pershing in pursuit of Villa. Texas responds by raising Ranger companies. At the time, the Ranger Force is very small, and incapable of maintaining law and order.

The Texas Legislature authorizes mass inductions and the "overnight" creation of new Ranger companies. The Ranger force grew to its largest level, but the lack of training and controls were evident. Some of the new companies uphold the law while others functioned as vigilante groups incensed by raids from Mexico. Hispanic, as well as Anglo, Texans served in these units. These Rangers are given orders "... to keep them (Mexican raiders) off of Texas territory if possible, and if they invade the State let them understand they do so at the risk of their lives."

The vigilante nature, and poor command structure led to incidents unacceptable to "regular" Rangers. After one retaliatory Ranger raid into Mexico, an entire company was dismissed. In one battle in 1917, as many as 20 Mexicans may have been killed by Rangers who crossed into Mexico.

The 35th legislature also created a "Loyalty Ranger Force", a secret service for the State. Loyalty Rangers were to brief the Adjutant General on Mexican revolutionary activities outside of San Antonio and in the border counties in Mexico and Texas.

In response to US troops on Mexican soil, President Carranza demands the withdrawal of US forces, which was summarily rejected. As a result, Mexican raiding intensifies and an attack against Laredo is considered with a combined force of "San Diego raiders" and regular Mexican Army soldiers. A state of war is narrowly averted when US and Mexican officials agree to a peaceful settlement.

Mexican raids into Texas in 1915-16 cause an estimated 21 American deaths; an estimated 300 Mexicans or Tejanos may have been killed in South Texas by the actions of Rangers, vigilantes and citizens. Some sources claim death tolls as high as 300 and 3,000.


1917-1919

The fragile peace on the Border was again threatened again in 1917 when a World War I telegram sent to Mexico by the German Secretary of State Zimmermanbecame public ". . . we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement...." Nothing materialized, but it served to further alarm the public.

In January of 1919 Representative José T. Canales of Brownsville demands a legislative investigation of the conduct of the various Ranger forces during the period 1915-1917 and the reorganization of the force. The Texas Legislature investigates nineteen charges made against the Texas Ranger forces in the aftermath of the Plan of San Diego and the War.

The investigation results in the reduction of the Ranger force to four companies of 17 men each. A tightening of qualifications for the Texas Ranger service leads to its initial professionalization.

1920-33

IllustrationNational Prohibition becomes law. Rangers work closely with Federal agents to confiscate illegal alcohol smuggled from Mexico and destroy stills. They shut down liquor distribution networks, illegal gambling parlors and speakeasies.

 


1932

Miriam "Ma" Ferguson is elected governor of Texas for the second time. In protest over political patronage and corruption, 40 Rangers quit the force and the remainder are fired. Political appointees replace them.



 

 

 

 

1934

DPS SealFollowing an investigation of corruption in the Ferguson administration, a panel recommends the formation of the Texas Department of Public Safety headed by an independent Public Safety Commission. Newly elected Governor Allred revokes the commissions of all Texas Rangers appointed by the Ferguson administration.


Clyde Barrow & Bonnie Parker

Former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Manny Gault (who left service when the Ferguson Administration gained power) are commissioned as special investigators to end the crime spree of notorious outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

The criminal duo broke into the Texas State prison in Huntsville to rescue a gang member, and shot their way out of two previous attempted arrests. Hamer and Gault decide to take no chances. They set up an ambush on a rural Louisiana road and pour a hail of bullets into the car. The shooting ends the lives of Bonnie & Clyde, but gives birth to a legend.

A 1960s movie starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, will resurrect the groundless legend of Bonnie & Clyde, part "Romeo & Juliet" and part "Robin Hood", soft-pedalling the fact that they killed at least 13 police officers and citizens. In one incredibly inaccurate scene, the movie depicts the pair capturing Frank Hamer -- an event that never occurred.


 

The Official Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas