Historic Border Patrol Badge Artifact

USBP History, Part 1

In the beginning, “Mounted Inspectors” were assigned by the Commissioner-General of Immigration to patrol our southern border. It was 1904 and Teddy Roosevelt was president of the United States. The Panama Canal had yet to be built. Only seventy five “Mounted Inspectors” were hired to guard all of America’s borders. And these men had to provide their own horses. They were given little supervision or orders — except an order that there would be no “swashbuckling.”

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Two events would forever change the mission and number of men guarding our borders: Pancho Villa and to a much lesser degree, Prohibition.

Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa

A civil war raged in Mexico from 1910 to 1920. More than a million Mexicans (about ten percent of the population) were killed during that civil war. Most of these deaths were at the hands of other peasants with farm implements, not guns.

What few know is that Wells Fargo Express played a major role in funding the marauding bandits who gave their bands such names as "Army Division of the North". Pancho Villa had a habit of robbing trains. One of the trains he robbed had over a ton of silver bars that belonged to a Wells Fargo subsidiary. The problem for Pancho Villa was that stealing a ton of silver bars was one thing, spending them was quite another. The Wells Fargo’s subsidiary, CompaƱia Mexicana de Express, S.A., worked a deal and traded $50,000 worth of Mexican pesos for the silver bars. Wells Fargo refused to publicly acknowledge this payment because it did not want to be accused of "aiding and abetting" which was — even then — a serious federal crime. The reference pages are here.

In early 1915, and after more than five years of brutal fighting, Francisco "Pancho" Villa paused his banditry and began rebuilding his forces. With 26 wives, Villa had a spirit seldom seen today. Villa wrote a letter to Emilio Zapata — another bandit pillaging Mexico at that time — and said:

“We have decided not to fire a bullet more against Mexicans, our brothers, and to prepare and organize ourselves to attack the Americans in their dens.”

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