The Masterson’s

Sheriff ShieldThe old west produced a number of legends, some of whom became famous in their own lifetime, others only after they were dead, and some of these fellows were only legends in their own minds.  As children, we were most fascinated with the Hollywood version of frontier or old west characters, people such as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Bat Masterson.

And then there were characters who were entirely fictional, such as Lash La Rue, Hop-Along Cassidy, and the Lone Ranger.  I didn’t hear about Butch Cassidy or John Wesley Hardin until many years later.  Some of the men I mentioned were hardened criminals and dangerous to peace-loving communities.  Thinking back to my childhood, when we were role playing some of these characters, Billy the Kid never seemed to get through a session without being shot with a cap-pistol.  It finally got to the point where none of the boys wanted to be Billy the Kid anymore.  Maybe we learned a subtle lesson in our role-play.

The old west produced a few lawmen who commanded respect, too.  They were as tough as nails, unafraid of standing up to evil-doers, and some of these became models of the western hero.  I’ve written about a few of these characters, but I suspect most people living to day never heard of them:  John Hughes, Cap Arrington, Ira Aten, and Lee McNelly, to name a few.  I only excluded Wyatt Earp because everyone today knows who he was and what he did in the old southwest.  I suspect that none of the men I mentioned above saw themselves as heroes (few heroes do); they were just men who had a job to do —and did it.  These men never apologized for putting a bullet into someone who deserved it.  If one happened to be a desperado, these lawmen were very, very dangerous people.  No one went to a gun fight with a lavender colored water pistol in the days of the old west.  In a real gunfight, some people didn’t walk away.

The Masterson brothers were the real deal.  None of them were born in the United States.  They came from Henryville, Quebec, Canada.  Their father was Thomas, also born in Canada, of Irish ancestry, and Catherine McGurk Masterson, who was born in Ireland.  Thomas was a farmer, so his children (seven in total) were raised on farms in Canada, New York, Illinois, Missouri, and Wichita, Kansas.

While still in their teens, Edward, Bartholomew, and James left the family farm to hunt for buffalo on the Great Plains.  They then worked for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad under a man named Ray Ritter.  Their task was to grade a five-mile section of track.  Ritter eventually quit his position—and that would normally be okay.  In Ritter’s case, though, when he left, he took with him the Masterson Brother’s wages earned over several months of back-breaking work.  It took a year for the Masterson’s to track him down, but they did manage to corner him and collect their wages —at gunpoint, of course.

For a time, the brothers split up and went their separate ways.  We know far more about Bartholomew (Bat) than we do about either Edward (Ed) or James (Jim).  For a time, Bat Masterson went back to hunting buffalo.  While quartered at Adobe Walls, Texas, Bat became a non-volunteer participant in one of the west’s more celebrated Indian fights.

True West Mag 001Adobe Walls was the remains of an old trading post and the place of a previous confrontation with hostile Indians.  Buffalo hunters routinely quartered themselves there.  Hovel or not, it was better than sleeping out on the range.  On 27 June 1874, several hundred Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne hostiles, led by Quanah Parker, surrounded Adobe Walls.  The Indians were agitated, quite understandably, by the buffalo hunters who were, in consonance with the official policy of the United States government, systematically eradicating a critical source of food for the plains Indians.  (Note: Visual from True West Magazine).

The assault turned into a five day siege.  Masterson and the other twenty-seven hunters defended themselves [1].  At the conclusion of the confrontation, there were four dead hunters and between thirty and sixty dead Indians.  Realizing that he was facing a standoff of undetermined length, the Indian leader Quanah Parker and his band withdrew and the hunters were allowed to leave with their scalps intact.

Jim Masterson, the youngest, had returned to Kansas where he formed a partnership with Ben Springer in a Dodge City, Kansas saloon, which they called Lady Gay Dance Hall and Saloon.  This was before the word “gay” meant something smutty.  It was a successful enterprise due in large measure to the short-term rental arrangements saloon customers could make with the local ladies.  

After Adobe Walls, Bat signed on as a scout with the US Army, serving under Colonel Nelson Miles.  Miles commanded a force from Fort Dodge in pursuit of Comanche and Apache war parties across the Cherokee Strip (in Oklahoma) and into Texas.  Miles was also looking for the “four sisters,” young girls who had been kidnapped by Cheyenne Dog Soldiers [2] just outside Ellis, Kansas on 11 September 1874.  The girls, aged 9 to 15 years, were all that remained of the family.  After six months of searching, Colonel Miles managed to recover the girls alive.

Bat Masterson’s first shootout occurred in 1876 in Sweetwater, Texas.  Masterson was courting a young woman named Mollie Brennan, who was also the love interest of Corporal Melvin A. King, US Army.  Early in the evening of 24 January 1876, King engaged Masterson with his pistol and Masterson returned fire.  Masterson was hit in the pelvis, King was shot in the head, and one of King’s several rounds also found Mollie, who soon died —which enabled Melvin and Mollie to spend eternity together.  Bat eventually recovered from his wound and remained single.

Bat and Ed found their way to Dodge City, Kansas in 1877.  The brothers did not get off to an auspicious start, however.  On 6 June, Bat attempted to prevent the arrest of his friend Robert (Bobby Gill) Gilmore.  The arresting officer was Marshal Larry Deger, who was said to weigh around 315 pounds.  Bat was able to get his arms around Deger and hold him off while Gilmore escaped.  Masterson’s reward for this act of loyalty was a pistol whipping by Deger and his deputies.    In addition to serious bruises to his face and head, Bat was fined $25 for interfering with a law officer in the performance of his duties.  Gilmore, who surrendered, received a fine of $5.00.

In July, Sheriff Charlie Basset of Ford County hired Bat as an undersheriff.  The State constitution prohibited Basset from seeking a third term in office, so Bat decided to enter the race for county sheriff.  Masterson’s opponent in the contest was Larry Deger.  On election day, Bat Masterson was elected.  A month later, Ed Masterson replaced Deger as the town marshal of Dodge City.

On 1 February 1878, Sheriff Masterson captured the notorious outlaws Dirty Dave Rudabaugh and Ed West.  Both men were wanted in connection with an attempted train robbery.  Two additional suspects in the robbery were captured by Bat and Ed on 15 March. 

Ed Masterson 001As town marshal, Ed Masterson was responsible for enforcing city ordinances.  The violence existent in Dodge City at the time persuaded city fathers to impose a ban on vagrancy, street violence, and carrying firearms inside the city limits.  On 9 April, at about 2230 in the evening, Ed Masterson attempted to disarm a drunken cowman by the name of Jack Wagner.  Wagner shot Ed in his right side.  When Wagner fired his weapon, he was standing close enough to Ed that the discharged weapon set his clothing on fire.  At this point, the story becomes somewhat muddled and there are two accounts.  (Shown right: Edward Masterson)

In the first account, Sheriff Masterson was standing directly across the street from the Masterson/Wagner confrontation at the moment it occurred.  Ed, shot, staggered down the street and into Hoover’s saloon.  Bat ran across the street and shot both Wagner and his trail boss, Alf Walker, who was holding an unholstered six-shooter.  Ed Masterson passed away an hour later.  Wagner, who was hit in the abdomen, died the next day.  Walker, although shot in the lung and twice in his arm, survived.  This testimony came from the people who witnessed the event.

The second account is that Ed Masterson shot his attackers, and if not both of them, then certainly Wagner.  Meanwhile, there was some concern in Dodge City that the Texas cowhands might avenge the shooting of Wagner and Walker, and according to some academics, this would explain why the local news account was ambiguous in their reporting —to shield Bat. 

Jim Masterson 001Dodge City Mayor James H. Kelley named Charlie Bassett as Ed Masterson’s replacement.  Bassett in turn hired Wyatt Earp, James Earp, and Jim Masterson (shown left) as his deputies.

In the summer of 1878, a cowhand by the name of George Hoy discharged his pistol from inside the Comique Variety Hall.  At that moment, Wyatt Earp and Jim Masterson were standing just outside the hall.  Apparently, Hoy rushed from the hall, mounted his horse and was making his escape when Earp and Masterson fired and Hoy fell from his horse.  Although only wounded in his arm, Hoy died a month later.  Earp claimed to have fired the shot that killed Hoy, but there is no way to validate that claim, since Masterson could have also fired the shot that hit Hoy.  Earp may have been quick to claim credit for the shot because he and Hoy were involved in an altercation earlier in the day.  What we know for a fact is that Wyatt Earp was a deadly accurate shooter.

More violence erupted on 4 October when James (Spike) Kenedy, the 23-year old son of a wealthy Texas cattleman named Miflin Kennedy [3], shot and killed the actress Dora Hand (stage name Fannie Keenan).  Hand was a beautiful and talented 34-year old woman who, like Doc Holliday, suffered from consumption.  Dora migrated to Dodge City on the advice of a friend, who knew Mayor Kelley, who was also the owner of the Alhambra Saloon and Gambling House.  Through Kelley, Hand was hired as a performer at the Lady Gay Dance Hall and Saloon, which was jointly owned by Ben Springer and Jim Masterson.

Mayor Kelley was attracted to Dora and was known to escort her around the town.  By this time, Hand was earning good money at both the Lady Gay and Alhambra.  Spike Kenedy joined a long list of cowboys who became smitten with Dora Hand and he was exceedingly jealous of Mayor Kelley.  It was believed that this jealousy prompted Kenedy to fire a rifle into the town house of Mayor Kelley.  Kelley was out of town at the time, and Dora Hand was occupying the residence.  Spike fired two rounds of .44 caliber ammunition.  The first round lodged in a door, the second hit Dora in her side while she was sleeping, killing her instantly. 

Sheriff Masterson’s posse included Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, William Duffy, and Bill Tilghman [4].  Kenedy was apprehended the next day after Masterson wounded him in the arm with a .50 caliber rifle shot; Earp shot Spike’s horse out from under him.  Kenedy was returned to Dodge City and placed in jail pending trial.  Predictably, Miflin Kenedy soon arrived with a satchel full of money.  When Miflin left town with his son, he was poorer; the county judge was richer, and Dora Hand had the finest funeral ever held in Dodge City, Kansas.

In the late 1870s, gold prospectors discovered large deposits of silver in the Rocky Mountains not far from Leadville.  One way to reach these riches was to travel up the Arkansas River canyon.  The railroads had a better idea: construct track and service the extraction and transportation by rail.  Two companies had the same idea: the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company, and the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe.  The challenge, of course, was the 1,000 foot increase in elevation and a narrow access that would allow only one set of tracks.

By 1878, the DR&G line ran almost to Canon City, Colorado, a small supply town about 100 miles southeast of Leadville, at the mouth of the Great Canyon Gorge.  DR&G was a bit slow getting started, however, and AT&SF construction engineers began grading a rail bed westward into the canyon.  This began the so-called Royal Gorge War, and Bat Masterson was in the thick of it.

The issue went to court, which ruled in favor of AT&SF, so the DR&G erected a few stone-walled forts along the river’s mountain path and sabotaged the Santa Fe crews by rolling boulders down on top of the grading effort; at night, they sent men out to locate the workman’s tools and throw them into the river.  The court battle went on and DR&G won the right to build through the gorge.  Santa Fe threatened to build parallel tracks.  It was good old fashioned American competition and thuggery.  DR&G began to fear that the costs of all this would eventually ruin them, and so they offered to lease their tracks to Santa Fe for thirty years.  The offer resulted in a temporary truce, but as DR&G finances worsened, the company went back to court and tried to break the lease agreement.  Soon after this, pistols and rifles replaced pick-axes and shovels.

To head up their band of ruffians, Santa Fe hired Bat Masterson.  Masterson quickly brought in John “Doc” Holliday as his primary recruiter.  Of course, a Kansas sheriff had no jurisdiction or authority in Colorado, so he was never acting in an official capacity in this endeavor.  Soon lining up behind Masterson and Holliday were noted gunmen, such as Ben Thompson [5], Dave Mather, and J. J. Webb [6].  In total, around sixty men took up positions at the Santa Fe roundhouse in Pueblo, 35-miles east of Canon City.   

Bat Masterson 001Determined to drive Masterson and his gang out of the roundhouse, engineers and lawmen of the DR&G rode to Pueblo to commandeer a cannon from the state armory, but Masterson had beat them to it.  The incident ended peacefully enough when DR&G met with Masterson and convinced him that it would be the right thing to do to surrender the roundhouse.  An alternative, and equally plausible explanation was that Masterson ended up with a fist full of cash to send him back to Kansas.  Back home in Kansas, voters were not thrilled with Masterson’s moonlighting in Colorado and he was voted out of office in 1879.  (Shown right, Bat Masterson in 1879).

In that same year, Jim Masterson was appointed town marshal after Charlie Bassett resigned.  During his tenure as a deputy marshal and later, town marshal, Jim made several hundred arrests, mostly involving drunken cowhands who transited through Dodge City on annual cattle drives.  In 1881, Jim lost his job when the city government changed hands, the citizens electing people who felt that the Marshal’s office was too restrictive with fun-loving cowboys.  Jim then concentrated his energies on the saloon business with partner A. J. Peacock.

In 1880, Bat received a telegram from Ben Thompson asking for his help.  Thompson’s brother, Billy, had gotten himself in some trouble over in Ogallala, Nebraska.  Billy had managed to shoot the thumb off of a man named Tucker, who despite the missing digit, returned fire and wounded Billy.  Masterson went to Ogallala and spirited him out of town on a midnight train.  Aiding Masterson was William F. Cody, who gave Masterson and Thompson sanctuary until they could return to Dodge City.

Instead, Bat Masterson relocated to Tombstone in February 1881.  In Tombstone, Masterson met the gunman Luke Short and they became friends.  Bat, Luke, and Wyatt Earp worked as faro dealers at the Oriental Saloon.  Masterson had only been in Tombstone for a few months when he received a telegram that compelled his return to Dodge City.  Jim had a falling out with Peacock and threats of death were made.  The issue, in terms of the total history of the old west, was minor.  Peacock had hired his brother-in-law as a bartender over Masterson’s objections.  Jim apparently believed that Al Updegraph was dishonest; Peacock stood in defense of Al and suggested that Jim might lose his life if he pursued the matter further.

Bat arrived back in Dodge City on 16 April 1881.  Exiting the train depot, Masterson spotted Peacock and Updegraph waiting just outside.  Firing erupted between Peacock and Updegraph and the Masterson brothers, but no one is sure who among them initiated the gunplay.  Bullets ripped through the Long Branch Saloon, and people scurried for cover.  Other gunmen soon chimed in and bullets were flying everywhere.  Updegraph, the only casualty, was shot in the lung but later recovered.  Mayor A. B. Webster arrested Bat, but since the actual shooter of Updegraph could not be identified, Bat was assessed an $8.00 fine for discharging his weapon inside the city limits and released.  He and Jim left Dodge City soon after.

Bat Masterson’s reputation as a gunfighter developed as a result of a practical joke played on a gullible news reporter in August 1881.  Seeking a story in Gunnison, Colorado, the reporter asked Dr. W. S. Cockrell about “man killers.”  Cockrell pointed to a young man nearby and identified him as Bat Masterson, saying that Masterson had killed 26 men.  Cockrell followed up by telling him a few made up stories about Masterson’s exploits.  The reporter made notes and published his story in the New York Sun.  It was a well-written story, picked up by several other newspapers, and this is how Bat Masterson became known as a gunfighter.  Masterson wasn’t even in Colorado at the time.

In April 1882, Bat Masterson accepted an appointment as the city marshal of Trinidad, Colorado; Jim Masterson became one of his deputies.  Masterson was hardly a week into his new job when Wyatt Earp requested his assistance in preventing the extradition of Doc Holliday from Colorado to Arizona.  Masterson met with Colorado Governor Frederick W. Pitkin, who after listening to Masterson’s appeal, denied Arizona’s request for extradition.  In any case, Masterson continued dealing faro while employed as city marshal, which voters overwhelmingly objected to, and in 1883 Marshal Bat Masterson was no longer employed in that capacity.

As a member of the Trinidad Police Department, Jim Masterson arrested John Allen for the shooting and death of Frank Loving, in what is remembered as the Trinidad gunfight [7].  On 15 April 1882, John Allen and Frank Loving were playing cards when an argument ensued.  Both men left the saloon and stepped into the street, threats were exchanged, and both men went for their guns.  Mutual friends intervened, however, and each man went his own way.  The next morning, Loving entered the Imperial Saloon, where Allen worked, with a pistol in his hand.  Allen drew his weapon and shot at Loving —but missed.  Loving returned fire —and he missed.  Saloon patrons scrambled for cover, and in this melee, Loving’s gun was knocked from his hand.  Allen, using another man as his shield, discharged several wild shots at Loving —all of them missing their mark.  Loving recovered his pistol and shot at Allen several times —and these shots went astray as well.  Allen escaped and went into hiding in Hammond’s Hardware Store.  When Loving entered Hammond’s to purchase more ammunition, not knowing that Allen was inside, Allen stepped out and shot Loving in the back.  Ultimately, as was often the case back then, Allen was acquitted of murder on account that he shot Loving in the back in self-defense.  Allen later moved to Dodge City, where he became a preacher.

In 1883, Bat Masterson responded to a request from Luke Short to aid him in a matter in Dodge City.  Short, who had become part-owner of the Long Branch Saloon felt that it was inappropriate for Mayor Larry Deger to close down his saloon and order him out of town.  Deger was Bat’s long-time enemy, so it didn’t take him very long to respond on the side of Luke Short.  Within weeks, Masterson recruited a group of gunfighters, including Wyatt Earp, intending to resolve what had become known as the Dodge City War.  Masterson dubbed his group the Dodge City Peace Commission. 

Dodge Peace 1883Deger’s decision to close down the Long Branch coincided with the cattle season; closing down saloons would financially ruin a number of saloon owners.  The issue was serious enough to involve Kansas Governor George W. Glick, as well as the Santa Fe Railroad.  Eventually, the saloons and gambling halls were reopened, including the Long Branch.  No blood was spilled, but the event did result in one of the more famous old west photographs posed for by eight renowned gunmen: Bill Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Charlie Basset, Bill Petilion, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLean, and Neil Brown.

Late in 1884, Bat Masterson started a small newspaper he named Vox Populi.  The paper operated for about a week before folding.  He would have to come back to journalism later in life.

In 1884, Bat was living the good life in Denver, Colorado.  On 18 September, he attended a Denver theater where comedian Lou Spencer was performing on stage.  During his performance, Spencer looked down into the audience and spotted his wife Nellie sitting on Masterson’s knee.  Spencer cut short his act and confronted Masterson, perhaps using his loud voice, and Masterson clubbed him across the face with his pistol.  A struggle then ensued while Nellie watched in amusement from the wings.  Masterson and Spencer were arrested, fined, and released.  Nellie filed for divorce within the week and, if the local paper is believable, Nellie and Bat “eloped.”  There was never any record of a marriage between the two, and Nellie soon disappeared from Bat’s life.  At the time, Bat Masterson was known as a “ladies man.” 

Soapy Smith 001Several years later, Bat Masterson and crime boss Soapy Smith (shown left) became good friends.  There was some talk of Smith and Masterson being involved in fraudulent voting.  Soapy got his moniker from a swindle scheme he had of selling bars of soap with prize money hidden inside the packaging —a scheme to increase the sale of bars of soap.  It was a swindle because through sleight of hand, Smith would ensure that only members of his gang purchased the bar with the prize money inside.  His real name was Jefferson Randolph Smith II (1860-98).  Smith was shot and killed by members of a vigilance committee who had some objections to his “three card monte” scheme and stealing $2,700 from miner John Douglas Stewart.

Jim Masterson, meanwhile, had become an undersheriff in Colfax County, New Mexico.  In 1889, he returned to Kansas and took an active role in the so-called Gray County War.  Cimarron and the nearby town of Ingalls were locked in a contest to decide which town would become the new county seat, an important factor in the financial stability of the town.  The election ended with claims of fraud from both sides and so the matter was referred to the Kansas Supreme Court. 

Bill TilghmanIn the meantime, Mr. Newt Watson, the new county clerk, demanded that Cimarron turn over all county records so that they could be transported to Ingalls.  The Cimarron men refused, so the folks from Ingalls organized a resistance mob, which included Bill Tilghman (shown left), Jim Masterson, Ben Daniels, Neal Brown, and Fred Singer—all of whom were former Dodge City lawmen.  Added to these, a few “cowtown mercenaries.”  To give these men “semi-official” standing, Tilghman deputized them.  He was empowered to do this through his appointment as temporary county sheriff after the elected sheriff, Joe Reynolds, was incapacitated by a bullet wound to the stomach.

Tilghman and his men arrived in Cimarron on 12 January 1889.  They pulled the wagon up in front of the courthouse and Watson, Masterson, Singer, and Billy Allensworth entered the building to begin loading the county records; the rest of the men waited outside.  While this was going on, Cimarron men were moving into position to attack.

Suddenly, the Cimarron men opened fire on the men standing nearest the wagon.  Tilghman was hit in the leg, Brooks was gut shot, and the wagon’s teamster was also hit, but they all managed to get into the wagon and drive it out of town.  Inside, Masterson and his crew took up firing positions on the second floor, where they were able to defeat attempts by the Cimarron men to storm the building.  The Cimarron men rushed the building several times, but each effort was thwarted.  The battle lasted for around six hours, ending only after the Cimarron men received a telegram from Bat Masterson warning them that unless his brother were allowed to leave town, he would hire a train and bring enough men to blow Cimarron off the face of Kansas.  Masterson and his boys put down their weapons and were briefly taken prisoner.

In total, there were ten casualties: seven wounded, three killed.  Tilghman and his men were later prosecuted, but acquitted on account of the fact that no one could tell who shot whom.  Although there was no further violence, the dispute over the county seat lasted until 1893 when Cimarron became the new county seat.

Bat Masterson was a sportsman with a keen interest in prizefighting.  He knew John L. Sullivan, Gentleman Jim Corbett, and Jack Dempsey.  In 1892, Bat moved to Creede, Colorado where he managed the Denver Exchange Gambling Club until the town was destroyed by fire.  Masterson then joined Luke Short and Charlie Bassett in attendance at the Sullivan-Corbett fight in New Orleans.  All three men made a lot of money from gambling, but they also spent a lot of money in maintaining their upper-class lifestyle.

After the Gray County War, Jim Masterson moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma and was later appointed a deputy sheriff in Logan County.  On 1 September 1893, while serving as a Special Deputy US Marshal, Jim participated in the Battle of Ingalls, Oklahoma against the famed Doolan-Dalton gang.  Jim was responsible for the capture of Arkansas Tom Jones.  Even then, Jim was not well.  He passed away in Guthrie from tuberculosis on 31 March 1895.  He was 39 years old.

After serving briefly as a bodyguard for the millionaire George Gould, Bat decided that he wanted to settle down in New York City.  For a few years, he traveled between Denver and New York City.  Rumors that he had taken to heavy drink persisted in Denver.  Whether or not true, he became a resident of New York City in 1902—but not without some scandal.  He was accused of running a bunko operation against George H. Snow, a Mormon elder, but all charges were dropped in this case.  He was also arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.  At about this time, Alfred H. Lewis hired Masterson as a journalist for the New York Morning Telegraph.  Bat Masterson became a sports writer with a focus on boxing and wrote a weekly column from 1905 until his death in 1921. 

Bat Masterson 002While employed by the newspaper, Lewis encouraged Masterson to write a series of sketches about his adventures, which were later published in Human Life magazine.  He also wrote stories about Ben Thompson, Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, Doc Holliday, William F. Cody, and Bill Tilghman.  He also provided his readers with some insight to the best properties of a gunfighter. (Shown left, Bat Masterson in his 60s).

In 1905, Bat Masterson received a Presidential appointment as Deputy US Marshal for the Southern District of New York.  During his appointment, Theodore Roosevelt prohibited Masterson from gambling or other disquieting behavior that might reflect unfavorably on his administration.  Masterson, earning $2,000 per year, served in this capacity until 1909, when Roosevelt left the White House.  Newly elected William Howard Taft did not share Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for Masterson and the famous Bat Masterson was “let go.”

Bat Masterson died from a heart attack on 25 October 1921.  He had lived an exciting 67 years.  


  1. Silva, L. A.  Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend, Volume I: The Cowtown Years. Santa Ana, CA: Graphic Publishers, 2002
  2. DeArment, R. K.  Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979
  3. DeArment, R. K.  Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson’s New York City Years.  Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2013


  1. One of the hunters died from an accidental discharge of his rifle.  See also: The Red River War. 
  2. “Dog Soldiers” were from six Cheyenne military societies from around the 1830s that played a dominant role in Cheyenne resistance to the westward movement of Anglo-Americans.  They operated mostly from Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming.  Most of these hostiles were killed by the US Army at the Battle of Summit Springs.  Remnants of the Dog Soldiers became more secretive in their lodgings and activities.
  3. Miflin Kenedy was a stern former ship’s captain and a Pennsylvania Quaker who earned his fortune as a cattleman.  For a while, Kenedy partnered with Richard King (of King Ranch fame), which ended in 1868.Kenedy purchased the Laureles Ranch, a 172,000 acre spread 23 miles west of Corpus Christi.  Both King and Kenedy contributed much wealth to Dodge City, Kansas.  Spike was the mixed blood son of Miflin and Petra Vela de Vidal Kenedy, the daughter of a former Spanish provincial governor.  Petra was 26-years old and the widow of Colonel Luis Vidal when she married Miflin in 1852.  Spike was nothing like his parents.  He loved his whiskey, and he loved whoring.  Arrogant by his father’s wealth, Spike did not think that the law applied to him.  
  4. For more information on Bill Tilghman, see The Guardsmen.
  5. For an account of Ben Thompson’s assassination, see: A Dangerous Dandy. 
  6. Webb was a respected lawman turned bad in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Michael Keliher, a tough who refused to relinquish his weapon to Marshal Webb.  Keliher went for his gun, but Webb was much faster and shot him dead —three times, which the jury in the case believed was a  clear demonstration of excessive zeal.
  7. Loving was known as “Cockeyed Frank.”  He was involved in two well-publicized shootouts, the other being in Dodge City after a squabble with Levi Richardson, a man with a sour disposition and a highly misplaced reputation as a gunfighter.

About Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.
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4 Responses to The Masterson’s

  1. kidme37 says:

    Heck of a life. Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating account, my friend.

    I’ve been “a fan” of Bat Masterson’s ever since the television series Bat Masterson. The man apparently was a dandy good with a gun.

    These men never apologized for putting a bullet into someone who deserved it.</i.

    Instant justice, huh? Taxpayer relief bullet.

    Liked by 1 person

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