Territorial officials were assigned to help keep law and order in the West. The US Marshal was appointed by the president and was responsible for the whole territory. He couldn’t, obviously do it by himself so he chose deputies to help him. Town marshals were there to deal with local outbreaks of violence. These included gambling arguments and pub brawls; they could appoint deputies too if needed. Sheriffs were in charge of the counties. The local townspeople had an election and the sheriff was selected for usually two years. They were also allowed to choose people to help them.
They did a lot of work and behaved very responsibly. Due to the fact that they needed to carry a gun, they were often dubious characters. The railways The railways helped the development of law and order significantly. The vast open spaces of the West and the difficulties of travelling, before the railroads, were an open invitation to people who wanted to rob and murder. This contributed a lot to the lawlessness and violence. After the railroad, the officers could travel across the territory to help control the law and order.
So the expansion of the railways after 1869 made it easier for US Marshals and judges to enforce the law. Settlers and their families As people started settling, there was a greater need for law and order. More and more families were moving westwards so there was a bigger demand for the law to be kept. Settlers had moved to find prosperity and a better life for themselves and their families. Therefore, they were not prepared to tolerate lawlessness. Parents didn’t want their children brought up in a world that was dangerous and full of violence.
In 1872, cowboys were banned from Abilene and this is an example of settlers and families contributing to the development of law and order. Early on, towns were infested with criminals and outlaws and there was a lot of chaos. The government tried to stop all that and make it a better place to live. As state and local governments became established, the surroundings in which people lived were improved. The unorganised towns were replaced by properly planned out towns with roads, water supplies, sanitation and better quality buildings.
As they found out, a civilised environment helped to encourage civilised behaviour. There were many factors that helped cause lawlessness in the West. The mining and cow towns, which sprung up quickly, were particularly lawless in their early years. There was a shortage of reliable law enforcement officers and the government did not see the issue important enough to spend money on. The West was a huge area and transport was very slow. This made it difficult to enforce law and order. There were many conflicts between different economical groups such as cattlemen and homesteaders and cowboys and townspeople.
There wasn’t strong laws against violence so if you shot a man in self-defence, you had not broken the law, as long as the other man was armed. Vigilantes used violence and created terror as they had the ability to lynch people without a trial. Also, there were potential sources of conflict between ethnic groups such as blacks, Chinese, Mexicans and Europeans. In general, there were many gangs and gunslingers that dominated towns. All these factors led to lawlessness in the West. I would say that by 1895, the problems of lawlessness were progressively being resolved. There were various reasons for this.
More territories were becoming state so they took the responsibility of keeping law and order. Important decisions could be made there rather then hundreds of miles away. As the State and local governments were being established, the living places improved greatly. The chaotic towns were being sorted out and replaced with better organised ones. They had water supplies, sanitation, a road system and better quality buildings. This new mannerly environment helped to encourage civilised behaviour. Also, as families moved westwards, there was a greater demand for law and order to be kept.
The settlers had moved to find prosperity and a better life so they were not prepared to tolerate lawlessness. One of the most important reasons was the expansion of the railway after 1869. This made law enforcement much easier and the development of the telegraph also helped communications. All of this didn’t mean there wasn’t any more violence and that everywhere was full of law and order. But things were improving sufficiently. Most of the West now contained white settlers who wanted to live in a safe place with some sort of law and order and by 1869, this was done.