A Happy Home

Today in History, February 7: 1867 –

“Pa and Ma always managed to create a happy, secure home wherever they lived–whether in the little log cabin in the woods near Lake Pepin, Wisconsin, on the prairie near the Verdigris River in Indian Territory, the sod dugout by Plum Creek in Minnesota, the surveyor’s house on Silver Lake, the homestead shanty on the claim, or in Pa’s house in the brand-new town of De Smet in Dakota Territory.”

Laura Ingalls-Wilder is born in Wisconsin. Her children’s books would bring the frontier prairie home to millions.


Texas Rangers Become Official

Today in History, November 24: 1835 –

The provincial legislature of Texas, before Texas was a nation or a state, orders the creation of companies of “Rangers” to patrol the range, or frontier. Their job, continuing a less official group of rangers begun by Stephen F. Austin in 1823, was to protect citizens from Indians and bandits.

The Rangers would see success at fighting Commanche and bandits. When the Texas war for independence came they served as scouts and couriers.

During the Mexican-American War they would earn more fame (or infamy depending on your position…the Mexican populace referred to them as los Diablos Tejanos, or Texas Devils) for their fighting acumen and scouting for the US Army. How many police agencies can say they were recruited as a unit to fight alongside the military at war?

Over the next century and a half the Rangers would have their highs and lows…being all but disbanded during the Civil War and due to politics on other occasions.

But when it counted they were there to track down bad guys like John Wesley Hardin, Sam Bass and other terrors as the West was settled, and Bonnie and Clyde during the thirties.

The Rangers were known for their relentless tactics against the Native American tribes and others. They also took the fight to the KKK and against lynchings.

Today the Texas Rangers are much different. They are still the elite response unit…but as part of the Texas Department of Public Safety they are the investigators working with the patrol arm of the Highway Patrol.


Today in History, February 13: 1822 – Missouri Lt. Governor William Ashley, already an enterprising entrepreneur in the gunpowder business, posts an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Advisor seeking 100 men to volunteer for an expedition up the Missouri River as fur trappers. The expedition first tried to setting up a trading post on the Yellowstone River in Montana, but the Arikara Indians, firmly entrenched in the fur trading business themselves, kept raiding the post to eliminate the competition. Ashley then set upon a new idea; he told his trappers, including Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, James Beckwourth (first African-American mountain man) to go overland by horse into the mountains to trap, and once a year they would meet at a location set by Ashley for a “Rendezvous”, where they would spend several weeks trading their furs for supplies…and taking the opportunity for a rare socializing event, spent mostly intoxicated. The Mountain Men sold their furs to Ashley for a tidy profit, and then disappeared into the wilderness again. Ashley spent two years at this venture, making a huge profit, then sold his Rocky Mountain Fur Company and returned to politics, serving terms in the House and the Senate. But the Rendezvous system carried on for years in the fur trade.