Western Life

California Rangers

The Need for Rangers

Back in the 1850s, California was swept with a gust of crime and killings perpetrated by not only the infamous “Five Joaquins” gang, but also other bandits following the newly discovered gold-mining potential in California. People from around the globe were immigrating and settling down in California to try their luck mining gold and potentially creating a fortune. Most of these immigrants included Mexicans. Anglo-Americans, unhappy with the immigrants laying claim on their mines, leading to a movement that eventually resulted in the government passing Foreign Miner’s Tax in support of the Anglo-Americans that relieved immigrants of their claims.

Engulfed in a burning flame of anger and betrayal, some of the miners turned to the life of a bandit and switched to crime in order to seek revenge. They carried out crimes in groups such as looting Anglo-American gold mines and even sometimes killing the mine owners. Besides the violence, these bandits would also smuggle horses and mustangs. The most famous gang at the time was known as the “Five Joaquin” gang, led by John Murrieta and his relatives. Soon, California was filled with fear.

The inception of California Rangers

Keeping in mind the situation, the state of California had its very first law enforcement agency known as the “California Rangers” to tackle the on-growing crime and violence. Formed in the year of 1853, the California Rangers’ first commander was Captain Harry Love. The California Rangers established itself as the sole reliable law enforcement agency branching out to the currently active California Army National Guard as well as early state militias.

First Objective

In the 1850s, the infamous “Five Joaquin” gang was virtually behind almost every crime or violent activity. Troubled by the situation, Governor Bigler inducted the California Rangers into an act of law. Captain Harry Love was entrusted with the responsibility to raise a company of twenty men to tackle and take down the “Five Joaquin” gang. Captain Harry did so rightfully by employing experienced veterans. In the months following the California Rangers’ inception, they had already captured a number of minor outlaws and after a long time, peace was gradually being restored. However, the primary objective; the “Five Joaquin” gang, was still at large. After 2 months of searching throughout the state, the rangers finally encountered the leader of the “Five Joaquin” gang; John Murrieta, along-with an accomplice. In an attempt to escape, both were shot and killed and other men were captured. Murrieta’s head was later publicly displayed to assure the locals that the man who had terrorized the state had been dealt with. This also served as a message for other bandits.

Disbandment of the California Rangers

On successfully completing their objective, the 20-men band of California Rangers were disbanded in the August of 1853 with a cash reward of $1000 that was later deemed “insufficient for their act of valour” and was later increased to $5000.

The California Rangers might have been short-lived, but they set a benchmark for new law enforcement agencies on how to operate and function. To this day, many of the Rangers’ roles and duties are still being carried out, although not under the label of the California Rangers.

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