California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
California State Rangers
Official Title: California State Rangers, California Militia
Location: Quartsburg, Mariposa County
Mustered in: May 28, 1853
Mustered out: August 28, 1853
Commanding Officers
Harry Love, Captain, Commissioned: May 28, 1853
Patrick Edward Conner, First Lieutenant, Commissioned: May 28,1853
Unit papers on file at the California State Archives:

a. Organization Papers none
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 5 documents (1853)
d. Election Returns none
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 2 documents (1853)
g. Oaths Qualifications none
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices none
j. Requisitions none
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none


In 1849 a Mexican named Joaquin Murietta, accomplished by his wife, cane to the mines situated on the Stanislaus River. There he built a little wooden house, and began to wash the dirt to collect the golden particles which were found in it. In these days, the country was invaded by a number of individuals without faith or law to govern them. They were an evil lot and professed a hatred of all Mexicans, seeing in them only a conquered race without any rights or privileges. One band of these mad people who delegated to themselves the brutal privilege of doing everything at their caprice, presented itself to Joaquin, and advised him to abandon his claim, since no man of his race was allowed to work in the mines of that resign. When Joaquin refused to leave a place which promised him the hope of working out a fortune for himself, the fiercest ones of the gang left him prostrated from the force of blows with the butts of their revolvers. While he lay senseless on the ground, they overpowered his beloved wife, Carmen, and after subjecting her to the worst indignities imaginable they took her life.

It is easy to imagine the desperation and the thirst for vengeance which agitated the heart of Murietta when he regained consciousness and saw what had happened. But, while that grief was torturing his soul, he felt himself incapable of fighting alone against the murderers of his wife. One imprudence might cost him dearly. He resolved, therefore, to wait and suffer with composure until an opportunity to put his plans into execution should present itself.

Murietta quietly gathered about him a band of outlaws most of whom were his own countrymen, but among the gang were desperados of all nationalities. By 1851, everybody knew that a band o highwaymen were committing crimes throughout California, and their chief was no other than the youthful Joaquin Murietta. Caravans were surprised on the highways and they were compelled to stop and give up whatever they had Those who traveled through the wild and solitary regions were violently pulled from their saddles with lassoes and killed. In a. word, the whole State was disturbed by the exhibition of pillage and destruction which Joaquin's party of bandits were causing.

By 1853, his plundering and countless murders had reached such alarming proportions, that citizens from all parts of the State petitioned Governor Bigler to organize a military company to capture Murietta and his gang of marauding outlaws. The State Legislature on May 17, 1853, passed the following act which authorized the raising of a company of Rangers:

"The people of the State of California represented in Senate and Assembly do enact as follows:

Section 1: Captain Harry S. Love is hereby authorized and empowered to raise a company of mounted Rangers, not to exceed twenty men, and muster them into the service of the State for the period of three months unless sooner disbanded by order of the Governor, for the purpose of capture the party or gang of robbers commanded by the five Joaquin whose names are, Joaquin Murietta, Joaquin O'Comorenia, Joaquin Valenzuela, Joaquin Betellier, and Joaquin Carrillo, and their banded associates.

Section 2: Said Rangers shall furnish at their own expense the necessary horses, arms, and equipment, and ammunition for the purpose named in the first section and shall receive from the State of California the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars each month while in actual service during these said tree months, which shall be in full payment for all services rendered under the provisions of this act.

Section 3: The Comptroller troller of State is hereby directed to audit the account of said Rangers for their services upon the certificate of their commander and shall draw his warrant upon the Treasurer of State, who is directed to pay out the same out of any monies in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.

Section 4: It shall be the duty of the said Rangers upon taking any prisoners to deliver them safely to the County authorities for trial, and upon making recovery of any stolen cattle, horses or other property to deliver the same to the authorities of the County within which they may have been taken, and public notice shall be given as required by law. (1)

On May 28, 1853, in Quartsburg, Mariposa County, Captain Love organized the California State Rangers. This company was composed of twenty men all of whom had served under Captain Love in the Mexican War. Below is an image of the Muster And Descriptive Roll of Captain Love's company of State Rangers: (2)


Muster Roll of the California State Rangers. The hand written note in the far right column states, "On the 25th of July Inst. captured and beheaded Joaquin Murietta and one of his gang, and killed two others and took two prisoners one of which was drowned crossing Tulare Slough in Tulare County. The other was turned over to civil authority of Mariposa County. H. Love, Capt."

Many people thought it was a foolhardy venture to send only a small company against the infamous Murietta. Few realized that this was a company whose experience was a product of daring battles in the Mexican War, and at their head rode a leader whose mind was as severe and inflexible as the discipline through which he had passed, and that his strength of will was as much alive in danger as that of Joaquin Murietta. (3)
During the next two months the State Rangers captured many minor outlaws and horse thieves but there was never a trace of the elusive Murietta Finally on July 12, 1853, they captured Jesus, a brother-in-law of the bandit, who promised to lead them to Joaquin if they would let him go. (4)

On July 25, 1853, the State Rangers encountered Murietta and part of his band on the Arroyo Cantua near the Coast Range Mountains on the Tulare plains. On being observed, Joaquin and his men endeavored to escape on horseback, and in the conflict that followed Murietta and two of his men were killed, two captured, and the rest escaped.

In order to prove that the Rangers had killed the notorious outlaw, Captain Love had Murietta and his Lieutenant beheaded. The head of the Lieutenant spoiled due to a bullet wound in the skull and Captain Love was compelled to bury it at Fort Miller, but that of Murietta was placed in a glass jar filled with alcohol and put on exhibition where all could identify it. One of the two prisoners taken in the conflict was drowned while crossing; the Tulare Slough the other was turned over to the Tulare County authorities for trial. (5)

On August 29, 1853, Governor Bigler paid Captain Love the $1,000 reward money (see Comptroller's Warrant, below) and then mustered the State Rangers out of service. (6) On May 28, 1854, the State Legislature decided that the members of the State Rangers had not been sufficient rewarded for their services so voted to pay them an additional $5,000. (7)



(1) Act of the State Legislature of 1853 on file State Archives, State Capitol.
(2) Original Muster Roll of the California State Rangers, on file Adjutant General's Office.
(3) Life of Joaquin Murietta, translated from the Spanish of Ireno Paz by Frances Belle, published 1925, State Library.
(4) Letter from Captain Love to Governor Bigler, July 12,1853, on file Adjutant General's Office.
(5) Letter from Captain Love to Governor Bigler, August 4, 1853, Quartsburg, Mariposa County, on file Adjutant General's Office.
(6) State Comptroller's warrant on file State Archives, State Capitol. Photostat copy on file Adjutant General's Office.
(7) Life of Joaquin Murietta, translated from the Spanish of Ireno Paz by Frances Belle, published 1925, State Library.
This history was written in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the office of the Adjutant General and the California State Library
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