Five Texas Rangers Who Left Their Mark

Anyone familiar with my books might think I have a thing for Texas Rangers, and they be would right.  The Texas Rangers are the oldest law enforcement agency and will celebrate their bicentennial in two years. Stephen F. Austin organized the first group of 10 Texas Rangers back in 1823.

Those early Rangers had no formal law enforcement training, used their own horses and weapons, and faced some of the deadliest outlaws alone.  Some even worked without pay.  It was a hard job, requiring countless hours in the saddle and endless nights beneath the stars.   

Some modern historians take issue with the Rangers’ “brutal force,” but times were tough and the stakes high. Historical events are often subjected to differing interpretations when viewed from modern times. 

Most agree, however, that many Texas Rangers made their mark in Western history. Too many, in fact, to name here.  But here are a few:   

 Frank Hamer

Frank started out as a blacksmith and then became a cowboy.  He may have remained so had he not helped in the arrest of a horse thief. That’s when the crime-fighting bug bit.

Counted as one of the most fearless men in Western history, he is credited with killing more than 60 outlaws.  In the course of his work, he sustained 17 wounds and had been left for dead four times.   He retired in 1932 but, even then, no outlaw was safe.  Two years after his retirement, he retained a commission as Special Investigator in the case of Bonnie and Clyde.  His work ended their deadly crime spree and resulted in their deaths.


William McDonald

Considered by some to be the greatest captains in Texas Ranger history, McDonald’s distractors considered him an irresponsible lawman who precipitated violence and sought publicity. Most, however, agreed that he was “a man who would charge hell with a bucket of water.”

 “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’,” was his motto.  Upon being sent to Texas to prevent a prizefight, he was asked by the sheriff where the other rangers were. According to legend, this was when the phrase “One riot, one Ranger,” was coined.


John Armstrong

Texas Ranger Armstrong didn’t let anything get in the way of catching his man, not even a bullet wound to his leg.  On assignment to capture notorious criminal John Wesley Hardin, Armstrong cornered the outlaw on a train.  Limping aboard, Armstrong switched his cane to his left hand and drew out his gun.  (Now that’s something you don’t see in movies.) 

He shot and killed one of Hardin’s gang members, knocked Hardin unconscious, and disarmed the other three outlaws.  Once he had everything control, the other law enforcers filed onto the train to take the men into custody.


John “Rip” Ford

Ford couldn’t seem to make up his mind what profession he wanted to pursue. He was a lawyer, doctor, surveyor, newspaper editor, teacher, historian, playwright, printer, mayor, sheriff, chief of police, city marshal, and state and national senator. But he’s most remembered as a Texas Ranger.

He was nicknamed Rip because of his habit of writing the words “Rest in peace” next to the names on the company’s casualty list, and for leading his men into successful battles.


Ira Aten

Ira joined the Rangers in 1878 and played a central role in the Fence-Cutting Wars.  Barbed wire put an end to the once-open range. Disgruntled cowboys, hustlers, and outlaws became fence clippers.  Attempts to stop the wire cutters failed until Ira came up with a solution: dynamite. 

He rigged the wires so if the one on top was cut, it would trigger an explosion.  Word quickly spread that bombs were planted under the fence lines, effectively ending the “war.”

So what is your favorite type of western hero?


Two of my Texas Ranger stories

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32 thoughts on “Five Texas Rangers Who Left Their Mark”

  1. Welcome today. I do love the Texas Rangers. They were so full of grit and justice. I love men who are not afraid to make a difference and show that they are strong enough to uphold justice. Who love their women (or come to) and see people through Gods eyes (or come to) quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  2. What fascinating history, Margaret. Loved learning all these details! I love McDonald’s motto. We need a little bit more of that today. And I had no idea that Aten’s dynamite ended the fence cutting wars. How clever, and terrifying. And not only was Armstrong the stuff of legend, his mustache was legendary as well. Great stuff today!

  3. What an interesting blog! History … what a gift to digest! I like Texas Rangers and enjoy reading their legends in the making. They exercised boldness for all the right reasons. Such courage, honor, and determination exemplified in their character. Thank you for all the pictures included in the history lesson. Great read again today. So happy to be part of your readership group at P & P.

  4. Always love a good Texas Ranger story.. They always make good reading. They are some interesting men to be sure. They remind me of out Mounted Police in Canada, they always get their man..

  5. I like them all! Texas Rangers are tops, though! I grew up watching westerns with my Daddy. I still watch them in reruns, and I love to watch Laredo. Then, of course, Walker Texas Ranger, the original with Chuck Norris, not the new one. And, the original about Rangers, the Lone Ranger.

      • I agree!! I’m enjoying watching all of the reruns now!! Just as much (maybe more) than I liked them as a child. I also like watching the old movies on GRIT tv, with Audie Murphy, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott.

  6. Hi Ho Silver! I love Texas Rangers and was introduced to them by my Daddy and the tv westerns that we watched together. The Line Ranger and the original Walker, Texas Ranger were, and still are, favorites.

  7. Good morning! I love reading about the Texas Rangers. What dedication and what great stories. Thanks for a fun post with my morning coffee. 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this very informative and very interesting post, I enjoyed reading it. I agree The Texas Rangers, everyone who risks their lives for other people are all heroes to me.

  9. The particular job isn’t as important as the man who is doing it. A man who is honest and works hard to make a good life for himself and family is important. He stands ready to help those who need it and wants to see justice done, even if it may not be exactly within the confines of the law.

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