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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by William S. Powell, 2006Colonial Rangers. Image available from U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Rangers were county officers in North Carolina from the colonial period until 1868. The post was a survival of British officialdom when royal parks and forests were patrolled against intruders and poachers. Their specific duties in North Carolina were defined by law at various times during the eighteenth century. Although rangers were expected to serve "for the Protection and Defense of the Frontier," it is unclear from the term whether some of them were engaged in the War of the Regulation to quell the uprising.

Rangers were appointed by the justices of the county court for a term of one year. One of their main county duties was to watch for stray livestock and to return it to its owner, for which they received specific compensation. They were also instructed to see that hunters did not leave deer that they had killed in the woods to attract vermin. In 1764, following the French and Indian War, any ranger operating at his own expense was entitled to be paid £30 from the treasury for each enemy Native American killed or captured. On 30 July 1776, during the American Revolution, the Council of Safety spoke of keeping in the ranger's custody anyone who was regarded as "an Enemy of the Colony."


Robert J. Cain, ed., North Carolina Higher-Court Minutes, 1724-1730 (1981).

Clarence W. Griffin, Essays on North Carolina History (1951).

Image Credit:

Colonial Rangers, 1760. "To Range the Woods New York, 1760". Image available from U.S. Army Center of Military History. Available from (accessed October 12, 2012).