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HISTORY OF THE ARIZONA RANGERS

  Arizona Rangers Badge
 

“ONLY THREE MEN EVER
WORE THIS BADGE."

  • BURTON C. MOSSMAN 1901-1902
    Ended large scale cattle rustling in North America.
  • THOMAS H. RYNNING 1902-1907
    Made more arrests and convictions than any man in Arizona.
  • HARRY WHEELER 1907-1909
    “The shootinest Ranger of ‘em all”.

The Arizona Rangers was an Arizona law enforcement agency modeled on the Texas Rangers. The Arizona Rangers were created by the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1901, disbanded in 1909, and were subsequently reformed in 1957. They were created to deal with the infestations of outlaws, especially rustlers, in the sparsely populated Territory of Arizona, especially along the Mexican border. The Rangers were an elite, well-trained, and secretive agency mounted on the best horses money could buy and well equipped with modern weapons at State expense. They were very effective in apprehending members of outlaw bands, often surprising them by descending on them without warning.

Originally, only one company was authorized, consisting of a captain, a sergeant and not more than 12 privates. In 1903, the authorized force was increased to 26. 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.

Arizona Rangers were not issued standardized uniforms, as they were originally intended to operate undercover. 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.

 

THE ORIGINAL THREE CAPTAINS OF THE ARIZONA RANGERS

Burton C. Mossman - Ended Cattle Rustling in North America  

 

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 (8,000 km²) Aztec Land and Cattle Co, also called the "Hash Knife outfit", in northern Arizona near Holbrook and Winslow, had some success in controlling rustling of his company's cattle.1867 in Illinois. He was a farmer, a rancher, a cattle- man, and a Rough Rider. He spoke Spanish and was a great storyteller. Mossman was commanding captain from August 30, 1901 until July 1902 after successfully recruiting and organizing the original Rangers, Mossman resigned.

     
Thomas Rynning - Rough Riders  

 

The second was Captain Thomas Rynning, Born in Beloit, Wisconsin, Rynning enlisted in the US Army rising to the rank of first sergeant and rode with General Miles. He was a track and field competitor. he served as a second lieutenant in Troop B of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and one of several former Rough Riders to join the Arizona Rangers following the war. and had been building railroad bridges for Southern Pacific before joining the Arizona Rangers.Following Burt Mossman's resignation, he was appointed head of the Arizona Rangers on September 1, 1902. Resigning his position with the Arizona Rangers in March 1907, he was appointed superintendent of the Arizona State Prison by President Howard Taft and later had the prison moved from Yuma to Florence, Arizona.

     
Harry Wheeler - Iron Will & Honesty  

 

The third captain was Harry Wheeler, the son of Col. William B. Wheeler of the U.S. Army, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1897 he enlisted in the First Cavalry before being given a medical discharge at the rank of sergeant in 1902. A crack shot with a rifle or pistol, Wheeler joined the Arizona Rangers in 1903 and was promoted to sergeant four months later. In 1907, Wheeler replaced Thomas H. Rynning as captain of the Arizona Rangers, and served as the agency's leader until its disbanding in 1909. He had served the Rangers at every rank and had brought discipline and idealism to the ranks. He was known for his iron will and absolute honesty.In 1911, Wheeler was elected sheriff of Cochise County and was reelected in 1914 and 1916.

 

ARIZONA RANGERS PRESENT DAY

 

Re-established in 1957 by a few surviving original Territorial Arizona Rangers, the present day Arizona Rangers are an unpaid, all volunteer, law enforcement support and assistance civilian auxiliary in this State who work co-operatively at the request of and under the direction, control, and supervision of established law enforcement officials and officers. The also provide youth support and community service and work to preserve the tradition, honor, and history of the 1901-1909 Arizona Rangers.

 

THREE ARIZONA RANGERS HAVE BEEN KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY:
Jeff Kidder, Carlos Tafolla and John Thomas.

 

JEFF KIDDER
Jeff Kidder was born November 15, 1875 and died Sunday April 5, 1908 in Naco, Mexico. He was just the sort of man wanted by Capt. Wheeler-brash, sure of himself, quick tempered and an excellent marksman. In his five years on the force, he had risen to the rank of sergeant and on the night he died was celebrating having just “reupped”. He was killed in a shoot-out in a bar in Naco. Arizona Ranger Captain Tom Rynning said “Jeff kidder was the fastest--absolutely the quickest hand with a six shooter I’ve ever met up with. He worked the hammer with the thumb of his pistol hand as fast as I could fan it with my other hand.” Arizona Ranger Captain Harry Wheeler said, "Jeff was a noble, manly fellow, brave and energetic, the best all around man I had…Jeff Kidder was one of the best officers who ever stepped foot in this section of the country. He did not know what fear was."

 

 

 

AZ Rangers - Present Day

 

Jeff Kidder - Killed in the Line of Duty
Jeff Kidder

CARLOS TAFOYA 1865 - Sept 8, 1901
Carlos was one of the fourteen original Arizona Rangers that were commissioned in 1901. There was a Captain, Burt Mossman, and 13 enlisted. The first big battle that the Rangers were involved in occurred even before the 13 man roster was complete. Early in October of 1901 Carlos and fellow Ranger Duane Hamblin had joined a posse of civilians who had trailed notorious outlaw and horse thief Bill Smith and his gang into the area south of Big Lake on the Black River. There they enlisted the help of Bill and Arch Maxwell, noted trackers. On October 8 the posse trailed the gang into their camp on Reservation Creek. They crept within 300 yards of the outlaws and at sunset the two Rangers and Bill Maxwell advanced into the outlaw camp and ordered them out. Bill Smith came out dragging his rifle. At 40 feet he brought the rifle up and opened fire. Maxwell was shot in the forehead and died instantly. Carlos was shot in the torso but continued to fight. Two outlaws were wounded, but the gang escaped. Before losing consciousness Carlos pulled a dollar from his pocket and gave it to one of the posse members. “Give this dollar to my wife,” he gasped. “It and the months pay coming to me is all she will ever have.” He died at midnight. Burt Mossman took the dollar to the governor and asked for a pension for Aceana, his wife. The legislature approved a $25 per month pension. The next two legislatures cut it to $12.50 per month. The final territorial legislature increased it to $20.

  Arizona Rangesr - Guns

 

SGT. JOHN THOMAS
In 1992, Sergeant John Thomas, also serving as a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. ARMY, was killed in the line of duty. He was only the third Arizona Ranger to die in the line of duty, and he was the only modern-day Ranger to give his life in public service. His partner, Ranger Mark Genz (now a Corporal with the Cochise County Sheriff's Department,) was able to survive the ambush, wounding the assailant. The assailant, with a Ranger bullet in his leg was apprehended, tried and sentenced to 43 years in prison. Sergeant Thomas died two days after the attack.

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