Western Life

California 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 other bandits following the newly discovered gold-mining potential in California. Virtually, everyone from across the globe was settling down in California to try their luck mining gold and potentially create themselves a fortune. Most of these immigrants included Mexicans. Anglo-Americans, unhappy with the immigrants laying claim on their mines, led 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, 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 miners and even sometimes killing them. Besides the violence, these bandits would smuggle horses and mustangs. The most famous of these bandits being the “Five Joaquin” gang was 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 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

Troubled by the crime and violent activity, Governor Bigler inducted the California Rangers into an act of law. Moreover, the first leader of the California Rangers; 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 restored. However, the primary objective; “Five Joaquin” gang, was still at large. After two 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 state that the man who had terrorized them 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 short-lived, but they set a benchmark for the new law enforcement agencies on how to operate and function. Many of the California Rangers’ roles and duties are being carried out to this day, although not under the label of California Rangers.

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