The early history of the Colonial Rangers is really the history of one man: Christian Gray.
In the early 1500s, when the first European settlements were beginning in America, a young magus was born in Ireland. Possessed of a bit of wanderlust, maybe due to the stories of a german alchemist who was briefly allowed on the island, the boy signed on as a midshipman with a group of Spanish Explorators who were brave enough to approach the lands of the Druids on their way to the new world. As can happen in the lives of the wielders of magick, the ship never made it to the Unspoiled Lands.
Instead, the wreckage of the ship washed up on the shores of China with a few survivors including the young life magus. It's not commonly known why the boy remained behind in China with a sect of akashic monks when the other survivors departed, but it is a fact that he stayed in China for 20 years. He eventually made it to the new world on a ship from China to the new trade colony of Shan Fan and later settled in a small town called Smith's Bluff as it's apothecary, healer, and town sheriff.
As a small town on the west coast half way between the spanish colony of Foothill Ranch and the Chinese colony of Shan Fan life was relatively uneventful until the beginning of the Franco-Chinese war. The influence of the Tribal Nations kept full scale war from breaking out between the two colonies, but a subtle war of intrigue and sabotage insued. Smith's Bluff was in the middle of that battlefield.
At first, the Sheriff of Smith's Bluff, spent his time worrying about keeping his own little town from burning down around his ears, but eventually a spanish agent did manage to "literally" burn down part of Smith's Bluff. The magus tracked the agent back to Foothill Ranch, captured him in the dead of night, and dragged him back to Smith's Bluff to rot in jail. As the war waged on, similar incidents happened with both agents of the Chinese and the Spanish. As his reputation grew, messages would arrives from both colonies reporting crimes and asking for the magus' help in tracking down the responsible parties. Fortunately, the war ended before one military or the other decided to obliterate the small town, regardless of what the Tribal Nations had to say.
After the war, a precedent had been established where this one lawman could move in and around the various west coast colonies in the pursuit of justice. With time that roll expanded to include the German and French colonies on the east coast as well. Christian Gray became known as "The Ranger". Somewhere along the way, he took in an annoying orphan boy as an apprentice, and the rest, as they say is history.
Slowly the small band of Rangers grew, first with an apprentice or two learning Gray's particular style of magick and then, others began coming to Smith's Bluff looking to join. A boarding house and the town apothecary became the nexus for the ranger school, which the Rangers began to refer to as Gray University.
When a writer began to publish fictionalized accounts of the Rangers, the Rangers found themselves celebrities. Smith's Bluff was beset with a population boom of prospective Rangers as well as donations and offers of support, and treaties were formalized with the colonies granting the Rangers official status. Fortunately, Ranger Palmer Young had attended the great University of Paris before becoming a Ranger and was able to manage the flood of applicants. Gray University grew from just the Ranger school to a full university.
The Colonial Rangers are a judiciary and legal force operating in every colony, and now the Unspoiled Lands, with the support of local law enforcement. In matters involving mystic crime or criminal activity that crosses colonial borders, the Rangers have ultimate authority. Also, each Colonial Ranger rank has an equivalent military rank that allows the Ranger to commandeer military support if needed from the various colonial armies or the AES.
Gray University in Smith's Bluff is not only the colonies' premier arcane college, but also the most prestigious military academy in the colonies. The Rangers benefit from the fact that a number of the various city leaders and colonial army leaders were trained there. Both Christian Gray and Ernest York have had mentor relationships with a number of people who now hold positions of power in the colonies.
Becoming a Ranger
Most Ranger deputies were originally cadets at Gray University. Every Ranger has a mandate to attempt to recruit any magickally gifted child he sees. Because of the folk hero status of the Rangers, this isn't usually that hard of a job. A child with magickal aptitude not only recieves free education, but their families are paid to make up for any hardship the absense of the child will cause. Rangers will also offer free education to any non-magickal child they find to be "gifted" and almost any orphan they come across.
More than one misguided young magus has been given the choice to either "go to school or go to jail". A few examples in the last 400 years are Lt. Colonel John Webster who was found running numbers for a money lender in Houston or Colonel Gage Rhodes who was found running a gang in New Amsterdam. A graduated cadet with magickal gifts can go on to become a full time deputy.
Also, any Ranger can recruit a deputy on the spot. Usually these are talented people (magickal or not) the Ranger can put to use in solving the current crisis. In some cases, they get the same "Recruit or Shoot" treatment the kids get. However, for the most part, these are temporary deputies who are let loose after a crisis is over. However, if these talented individuals happen to have magickal talent, they sometimes decide to stay on. When they have some time in and they can get a letter of recommendation from a Ranger, they go off to the Ranger Trials to try and earn their place in the ranks.
Any Magus can approach a Ranger, a city HQ, the Ranger Trials or Gray University and request admission to the deputy ranks. The Magus is then tested and, if possesd of reasonable skill, assigned to a Ranger Liutenant.
The Ranger Trials
When a deputy shows promise and has spent some time in the field, he can undergo the Ranger Trials. The Trials are a series of tests designed to determine if the deputy is ready to become a full fledged Ranger. The tests have become a bit of a public spectacle and are held at different times in the various Trade Cities. It works wonders for Ranger recruiting.
"Naming" and Reputation
Upon passing, the Trials, the deputy is promoted and named. Part of Ranger tradition, from the promotion of Ernie York from apprentice to Ranger, also involves bestowing a code name on the Ranger with his commission. It's the honor of the highest ranking Ranger at the Trials to assign the name. The code name is often a tinted with a little humor and is either a reflection of the Ranger's style or personality. More than one Ranger has had an annoying nickname made "official" at the end of his Ranger Trials.
As a result, almost every cadet is pre-occupied with creating a reputation and nickname in hopes of avoiding an unfortunate "naming" at the Ranger Trials. The most unfortunate example of a naming mishap came when fiery redheaded Moira Keats was given the name Firebrand after she had tried to cultivate the nickname Corsair for many years. While many believe the name fitting, the unfortunate part was the resulting series of broken noses the following six months. It is still commonly believed ill-advised to call the Colonel, The Firebrand Ranger as opposed to Colonel Keats.