Ask the Marshall
- Written by Marshall Trimble
- Published June 13, 2012
What were the pay scales for Old West lawmen?
Ted R. Holland
Cornelius, North Carolina
“Each marshal received a base annual salary of $200 through much of the 19th century,” historian Larry Ball tells me. Yet he could earn up to $4,000 annually, by earning a percentage of fees for serving subpoenas, warrants and handling other court matters. “However,” Ball adds, “he had to share such fees with his deputies.”
Those fees included “serving papers, $2; arrests, $4; mileage, 5¢ per mile. These amounts were gradually elevated,” says Texas historian Bill O’Neal.
The income of a local sheriff came primarily from collecting taxes. This could be lucrative in areas where railroads and mines were located.
A Tombstone town deputy marshal earned $15 to $25 a week, Ball says. Virgil Earp was hired as town marshal in 1881 at $150 a month, plus a percent of taxes collected, licenses issued and fines levied.
Regarding Texas Rangers, O’Neal says captains were paid $100 a month; lieutenants got $75; sergeants took in $50; and corporals and privates took home $40 a month (although the state legislature later cut private pay to $30—less than a cowboy made).