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Special Collections & University Archives: Texas Rangers (early history)

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Texas Rangers (Law Enforcement)

Texas Rangers Research Guide by William Bennett

Important Research Note

This history of the Texas Rangers as an agency of law enforcement is a complicated one and the historical record is not neutral. This research guide attempts to avoid perpetuating inherent bias, power, and racism and promotes the researcher's candid evaluation and interrogation of the historical record. While UTRGV Special Collections & Archives is tasked with access and preservation of our collections, we do not approve, endorse, or support the attitudes, prejudices, or behaviors found among these materials.

Summary: Texas Rangers

This research guide seeks to provide researchers with information regarding the early history of the Texas Rangers by providing students with suggestions for primary or secondary source materials, including archival and digital collections, books and episodes for further research. This guide only contains information about the organization’s history and origins, not the modern iteration of the Texas Rangers. (See also Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans.)

Background: Texas Rangers

Founded in 1823 by Stephen F. Austin, the Texas Rangers is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction that started out as a group of citizens, who served as the first protectors of the Texas frontier following the Mexican War of Independence.

The Texas Rangers would go through several changes after its initial inception. In 1835 the Rangers would be split into three companies consisting of a captain and 56 men. The Rangers were mostly tasked with protecting the Texas frontier settlers from Native Americans and took part in many historic battles such as the Battle of Plum Creek in 1840.

The Texas Ranger companies also played a role in the Texas Revolution, Mexican American War, U.S. Civil War, and the Mexican Revolution. During this time the Rangers reputation would spread further throughout Texas, serving as both a military unit and a police force.

Gallery of images from our collections and beyond

Page 34, U.S. Army officers and Texas Rangers

U.S. Army officers and Texas Rangers (1916), John R. Peavey Scrapbook, p. 34

Black and white photographs. Three photographs. "Col. Herbert J. Heackok Commanding Officer of the U.S. 16th Cavalry Fort Brown. He returned from a turkey hunt in Brooks county. "Capt. E. V. Spence, U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer Fort Brown." Texas Rangers (possibly) from left to right, "Kott, Salt, Bridges, John, Jesse."

See more from the John Randall Peavey Collection.

Certificate to John R. Peavey

John Randall Peavey, Special Texas Ranger certificate (1971)

Certificate appointing and commissioning John Randell Peavey of McAllen, Texas as a Special Texas Ranger on February 2, 1971 by William E. Sheir.

See more from the John Randall Peavey Collection.

[Group portrait of Texas Rangers]

[Group portrait of Texas Rangers]

From the UNT's Portal to Texas History: Photograph of a group of Texas rangers. Each ranger is holding a rifle of their own. Identified on the back are Jim King, Bass Outlaw, Riley Boston, Charles Fusselman, -- Derbin, Ernest Rodgers, Charles Barton, Walter Jones, Bob Bell, Cal Aten, Captain frank Jones, Walter Durbin, Jim Robinson, and Frank Schmidt (1932).

Photo of Stephen F. Austin statue, Texas Capitol, by Wally Gobetz (2012).

Photo of Stephen F. Austin statue at the Texas Capitol, Austin, TX, by Wally Gobetz (2012).

Stephen Fuller Austin (1793-1836) was Texas's first successful colonizer, bringing 300 families from the United States to the region in 1825.

Learn more about "The Father of Texas" from

Jacinto Trevino Rides Again

Newspaper clipping, "Jacinto Treviño Rides Again"

Newspaper clipping regarding Jacinto Treviño who is alleged to have killed Jimmy Darwin in retribution for the death of his brother Natividad and another man in Los Indios, Texas on May 28, 1910. Article is titled "Jacinto Treviño rides again"; published in the Valley Morning Star, 23 Oct 2005.

See also "Story of Jacinto Trevino" to learn about the famous corrido.

Bazan and Longoria Murders

Bazán and Longoria Murders Texas Historical Marker, photo by James Hulse, January 28, 2021.

Marker text, "On September 27, 1915, Jesus Bazán and his son-in-law, Antonio Longoria – both recognized Tejano community leaders and the latter a Hidalgo County Commissioner – traveled to a local Texas Ranger camp on the Sam Lane ranch to report a horse robbery that occurred a few days prior at their ranch north of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County. Although Bazán and Longoria should have had the law on their side, anti-Mexican violence in the region was persistent..."

See also Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria Marker Dedication Ceremony

Mantanza of 1915 Texas Historical Marker

Mantanza of 1915 Texas Historical Marker, photo by James Hulse, January 31, 2021.

"In the late 19th and early 20th century, racial tensions near the United States - Mexico border and the lower Rio Grande Valley erupted into violence. The change from ranching to commercial agriculture and a shift in racial hierarchies led to increased discrimination against Mexican Americans and Mexicans in the region. In addition, economic problems and the Mexican Revolution increased the immigrant population to Texas. This influx along with the rise in Anglo immigration to South Texas increased racial tensions..." Continue reading.

See also "Refusing to Forget"

J.T. Canales, Cameron County

José Tomás "JT" Canales (1877-1976), Cameron County, Texas House of Representatives

José Tomás "JT" Canales (1877 – 1976) was an American businessman, lawyer, and politician based in Brownsville, Texas. He served five terms in the State House, where he was the only Hispanic representative at the time. He is best known for his work on behalf of Mexican-Americans and Tejanos in Texas, defending civil rights of Hispanic and other minorities.

See also the J.T. Canales Investigation (1919).

The entire typed transcript of the 1919 Ranger investigation (almost 1500 pages) is also available from the Texas State Library in PDF format.

John Salmon

John Salmon "Rip" Ford (1815 - 1897)

Half-plate ambrotype of John Salmon Ford (c. 1858), photographed while serving as a Texas Ranger, wearing a fringed buckskin coat, gauntlets and flap revolver holsters.

Learn more about Captain Rip Ford from the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

Francis Augustus Hamer (1884 - 1955)

Captain Frank Hamer on Horseback. Photo of from the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas.

Learn more about Frank Hamer from this two-part series by Dr. Ken Bridges.

Color lithograph West Lipan Apache warrior sitting astride a horse and carrying a rifle

West Lipan Apache warrior

Image from UNT's Portal to Texas History: Hand-colored stone lithograph of a West Lipan Apache warrior sitting astride a horse and carrying a rifle; from Emory's United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Washington, 1857.

The Lipans Apaches were formally recognized as friends of the Republic of Texas (1836-1845) by the Treaty of Live Oak Point with Chief Cuelgas de Castro in 1838. Lipans are said to have ridden with the Texas militia and the Rangers, including Chief Flacco (circa. 1790-1850) led a Lower Lipan band that ranged from east of San Antonio to areas southwest of San Antonio (particularly Medina and Uvalde counties). He was a close associate of Ranger Capt. Jack Hays.

Read more about Chief Flacco and other notable Lipan leaders

Black and white photo of Captain John

Captain Jack Hays

John "Jack" Coffee Hays (1817–1883) joined the Rangers in 1836 when he moved to Texas. He led two regiments of mounted volunteers in the Mexican-American War. He was promoted to Captain in 1840. According to the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum, "His Ranger companies, often mixed groups of Anglos, Hispanics and Indians, engaged in battles and skirmishes with both the Comanches and other Indian tribes, as well as Mexican troops, throughout the early years of the 1840s." continue reading.


Archival and Digital Sources

John Randall Peavey Collection

John Randall Peavey, 1892-1985. During his long career in law enforcement he served as a deputy sheriff, as chief scout for the U.S. Army border troops from 1916 to 1920, and as assistant chief of the Valley sector of the U.S. Border Patrol. He also served as a Texas Ranger and after his retirement, he continued to hold a commission as a special Ranger.

See also the John R. Peavey Scrapbook. Scrapbook of John R. Peavey reflecting his days as a U. S. Border Patrolman in the Rio Grande Valley. WARNING: Graphic content and offensive language are present.

Reference Files

Texas Rangers: Mostly newspaper clippings and articles from the 1950s about the early history of the Texas Rangers.

Anderson Yancey "A.Y." Baker (1874-1930) A. Y. Baker joined the Texas Rangers in 1896.  

Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria Marker Dedication Ceremony

The born-digital collection consists of images and recordings of the Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria marker dedication ceremony. This marker commemorates the double murder of Jesus Bazán and his son-in-law, Antonio Longoria, on September 27, 1915 along a dirt road near their ranch outside of Edinburg.

Rio Grande Valley Oral Histories

John Randall Peavey (Parts 1-9), 1981. Peavey reflects on his life history spanning the early family history and 1905-1915 period through his Sheriff's campaign of 1946. This interview was conducted by Hubert J. Miller in between December 22-23, 1981.

Delia Ramirez Alaniz Oral History, 1987. Delia Ramirez Alaniz talks about life as a child: family, education, religion, and funerals in Havanna, Texas. She also talks about marriage and land grants. Additionally, she talks about how one of her teachers stated a Tabasco school on fire, how Texas Rangers killed a Mexican, Patricio Perez and Senovia Perez, A.Y. Baker of Edinburg, how Juan Cortina is a relative, Clay Henry Davis, Josefa De La Garza Perez, land title for Fort Ringold, Porciones 70, 71, 72, 78, 80, 81, 88, 104, the history of Havana, Matias Tijerina, the Walkers, and how the Great Depression wasn't felt in the ranches. Interview conducted in Spanish by Ruben Alaniz in 1987.

Antonio Villegas Sr. Oral History, 1978-09-10. Antonio Villegas Sr. talks about Los Tubitos Ranch, Aniceto Pizana, Luis De La Rosa, Las Norias raid, Captain W.M. Hanson, land selling, 1915 Olmito railroad derailment, Texas Rangers, Military Highway, Juan Cortina, Jesus Acevedo, ca1915 burning, and Japanese soldiers who came to South Texas. Oral recording took place on 10 September, 1978 in Pharr, Texas.

Maria Brewster Castillo, 1987. Mary Brewster Castillo (1916-1998) tells how the Brewster family came from Mississippi or Alabama in covered wagons during the late 1800's. Her father was John Manuel Brewster, a Texas Ranger and physician. She talks in great detail about memories of her father and the early history Hidalgo County and Chapin (prior to Edinburg), including how people traveled between Texas and Mexico. She discusses A.Y. Baker, former Texas Ranger and mayor of Edinburg. Interview conducted on 31 March 1987 by Norma Linda Canales. Learn more about Mary.

J.T. Canales Investigation (1919)

Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force, Volume I

Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force, Volume II

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum: 1919 Canales Investigation

José Tomás Canales and the Texas Rangers: Myth, identity, and power in South Texas, 1900–1920. Ribb, Richard Henry.  The University of Texas at Austin ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2001.

UTRGV/TSC Regional History Series

Explore the rich historical heritage of the Rio Grande Valley. The series includes articles written by scholars from a variety of institutions across the United States and Northern Mexico. Users can browse or search the collection for relevant articles.

External Resources

Research Compiled by William D. Bennett

William Bennett is a former student assistant at Special Collections & Archives. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication at UTRGV with minors in history and anthropology. William hopes to pursue a career in either broadcast or print journalism in the future, but he still has an interest in history. During his time with Special Collections & Archives, William collaborated and assisted with the creation of several exhibits and events and compiled resources for research guides.


The research guides compiled by UTRGV staff and students are intended to assist patrons who are embarking upon new research endeavors. Our goal is to expand their knowledge of the types of resources available on a given topic, including books, archival materials, and websites. In so doing, our compilers have taken care to include collections, digital items, and resources that may be accessed not only through UTRGV but also via other institutions, repositories, and websites.

We wholeheartedly respect the research interests of others. Therefore, please contact us if you wish to submit a resource for consideration, or if you have a question about or an issue with a specific cited resource.

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