Shenanigans in Texas: El Paso Salt War, 1877

Shenanigans in Texas: El Paso Salt War, 1877

The only time in history Texas Rangers surrendered happened in the tiny town of San Elizario, near El Paso.

An increasingly volatile disagreement over rights to mine salt in the Guadalupe Mountains began in the 1860s and finally boiled over in September 1877. A former district attorney, who tried to lay claim to the salt flats, rather flagrantly murdered his political rival, who had insisted the flats were public property and the valuable salt could be mined by anyone. The dead man’s supporters, primarily Tejano salt miners, revolted.

A group of twenty hastily recruited Ranger stand-ins rushed to the rescue, only to barricade themselves inside the Catholic church in a last-ditch effort to keep the instigator alive long enough stand trial. Five days later they admitted defeat and surrendered to the mob, who killed the accused murderer, chopped up his body, and threw the pieces down a well. Then the rioters disarmed the Ranger puppies and kicked them out of town.

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