PRESCOTT VALLEY- Known as the ones who tamed the wild west, the Arizona Rangers are celebrating the organization’s 60th birthday. While the ones who started the group are no longer around, the memory and lessons are still here thanks to the volunteers that keep the legacy alive.
“I was very impressed with what they (The Arizona Rangers) stood for,” Ranger Claudia Hindriksen said about her decision to join the group. “I just had that proud feeling go through me and I thought this is something I want to do.”
Associate State Historian and Arizona Ranger Hank Hellman says without the original Arizona Rangers, the area would have waited many years to become a state.
“There was a big problem about the territory of Arizona because they wanted to become a state,” Hellman said. “The people in Washington (DC) said Arizona is too wild and too crazy and you’re not going to be a state until you straighten that all out. The territory legislature kicked out the money and started the Arizona Rangers.”
After being established, the organization cleaned up the crime the wild west was known for, eventually becoming 26 members and the basis of the late 1950’s television show “26 Men”.
“After seven years, they did pretty much clean up the state, they suppressed the crime,” Hellman said. “It’s been said because of the Arizona Rangers, the territorial rangers, from 1901-1909, is to a great extent why the state was finally formed in 1912. If it hadn’t been for them, it (Arizona) would not have been accepted probably until ...Alaska and Hawaii.”
The group did its purpose and was later disbanded in 1909, a few years before Arizona was named a state. However, Hellman said the original members were not satisfied letting the legacy of the Arizona Rangers fade.
“(In 1948) there were four rangers who were in the Prescott Frontier Days Parade,” said Hellman, adding the rangers were the Grand Marshals of the festivities. “After the parade, they got together for lunch and sat around and said we can’t let this thing die, we need to keep it alive somehow. They first started a social group among themselves and then it expanded. By 1957, it was formalized and we became the Arizona Rangers.
Today, Hellman said the Arizona Rangers focuses on three things; keeping the history of the Arizona Rangers alive, philanthropic work such as raising money to support children’s groups along with law enforcement backup.
In fact, in order to become a part of the organization, one must go through the same training of a police officer. This ensures when they are called out for backup, the group can assist officers in a critical situation.
“We train pretty hard to be able to stay up with that part of it so that we are there for them (police),” said Hindriksen, adding members have to qualify with a gun, baton, and handcuffs. “It was just a challenge and I am very proud to be part of this organization.”
Along with going through training, the volunteers must also purchase their own equipment and uniform. For Hindriksen, it’s all worth it because of what the Arizona Rangers stand for and all the charitable work done in the community.
“Working in the community and the young people…it’s very exciting,” Hindriksen said. “(The Arizona Rangers) does so much and gives back to the whole community.”
Individuals who wish to learn more about the Arizona Rangers or look into joining the group can visit the official website.