Charles Bassett

Charles Bassett

Charles Bassett was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in about 1847. During the American Civil War he joined the Union Army.

After leaving the army he became a lawman in Ford County. He became sheriff in June, 1873 and with his under-sheriff, Bat Masterson, chased Sam Bass following his Union Pacific holdup at Big Springs, Nebraska.

A local law prohibited Bassett from being sheriff for a third successive term and he was forced to resign. His replacement, Bat Masterson, appointed him as under-sheriff.

When Ed Masterson was murdered in April 1978, Bassett became the new Dodge City marshal. Later that year Fannie Keenan was shot and killed by James Kennedy. Bassett was involved in the pursuit and capture of Kennedy. He also arrested Frank Loving who killed Levi Richardson in a gunfight.

Bassett resigned in November 1879 and was replaced by Jim Masterson. He went to New Mexico where he worked for the Adams Express Company. Later in moved to St. Louis, Montana and in 1880 he went in search of gold. He also lived in Colorado and Texas before settling in Kansas City.

In February, 1883, Luke Short moved to Dodge City and purchased the Long Branch Saloon with W. H. Harris. A power struggle now took place between Short and Nicholas B. Klaine, the editor of the Dodge City Times. In the election for mayor of the city later that year Klaine supported Larry Deger against Short's partner, W. H. Harris. Deger defeated Harris 214 to 143.

Soon after gaining power Deger published Ordinance No 70, an attempt to ban prostitution in Dodge City. Two days later the local police arrested female singers being employed in Short's Long Branch Saloon and accused of being prostitutes. That night Short and L.C. Hartman, the city clerk, exchanged gunfire in the street. Short was now arrested and forced to leave town.

Short had some powerful friends and in June 1883 he returned to Dodge City with Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday and other well-known gunfighters such as, M. F. McLain, Neil Brown and W. F. Petillion. However, Deger and Klaine refused to be intimidated and when they refused to back down, Short and his friends had to accept defeat. In November 1883, Short and Harris sold the Long Branch Saloon and moved to Fort Worth.

Charlie Bassett owned and worked in various Kansas City saloons until his death at Hot Springs on 5th January, 1896.

Primary Sources

(1) Governor Thomas Osborn, letter to Charles Bassett, Sheriff of Ford County (24th April, 1876)

This will be handed to you by Mr. R. C. Callaham, whose son, John F. Callaham, was executed by mob violence in your county, on the 8th. He visits Ford County for the purpose of making a thorough investigation of all the facts and circumstances attending the death of his son. He claims that there is no doubt of his son's innocence, and if this claim is correct the atrocity of the crime - an utterly law-defying one at the best - certainly demands the attention of all law-abiding people, and more especially of the officers to whom is entrusted the execution of the law and the preservation of the public peace.

I trust that you will extend to Mr. Callaham all the "assistance, counsel and encouragement which it may be in your power to extend. There must be an end to mob violence in this state, and local officers exercising vigilance and energy in its suppression and punishment may rely upon the Executive for support and assistance. Let me know in what manner I can be of service in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this recent outrage, and I shall not be slow in responding to any practical suggestion. In the meantime I trust that you will do everything in your power to facilitate the inquiry which Mr. Callaham proposes to institute.

(2) Charles Bassett to Governor Thomas Osborn (28th April, 1876)

Through what little information I gave him and his own exertions he has ascertained the fact that his son, John Calleham, was at Dodge City, on the 3rd day of April 1876 the day on which we held our municipal election. It appears from the statements made by the Sumner County and other papers that the horses were stolen on the 30th, and that the parties in pursuit followed the thieves a distance of 30 miles. The theory is that if the deceased John Calleham was here on the 3rd day of April that it would be physically impossible for him to have stolen those horses. Several Citizens of good standing are willing to qualify that they spoke with him on the 3rd of April, at Dodge City. If he was one of the thieves the time given him to travel over 300 miles of ground was 3 days from the night of the 30th of March to the morning of the 3rd of April. I do not hesitate to say that this fete could not be performed by any one horse or horseman in the time given, especially as the ground was so soft, as to leave an impression, so plain that it could be followed at a very rapid gait.

To be brief I am now of the opinion that the man was innocent of the crime alleged, and for which he has suffered death. Mr. Calleham wishes me to go to Sumner County and arrest the parties interested in the hanging, but without the assistance of the executive department I am totally unable to do anything, as I am in a poor fix financially to undertake so lengthy a journey.

(3) Dodge City Times (29th September, 1877)

A dispatch was received by Sheriff Bassett last Wednesday from Superintendent Morse, stating that the train robbers had started south and would probably cross the A. T. & S. F. near Lakin. Accordingly Bassett, under-sheriff Bat Masterson and John Webb went west on the Thursday morning train: but they heard nothing of the robbers and returned Friday morning, thinking it more likely that the robbers would cross near Dodge. A few hours before they arrived news was brought into town that five men had crossed the railroad going south about thirty miles west of here. As soon as preparations could be made, Bassett, Bat Masterson and Webb started south-west on horseback, intending to try to intercept the robbers if possible. Assistant Marshal Ed. Masterson and Deputy Sheriff Miles Mix went west the same day to find out what they could about the men who crossed the road. They could learn nothing of any importance except that the men had been seen on Thursday morning, but no one had taken particular notice of them. Masterson and Mix

returned the same evening. Nothing has been heard from Sheriff Bassett and his men since they started from here yesterday morning.

(4) Ford County Globe (8th April, 1879)

There is seldom witnessed in any civilized town or country such a scene as transpired at the Long Branch saloon, in this city, last Saturday evening, resulting in the killing of Levi Richardson, a well known freighter, of this city, by a gambler named Frank Loving.

For several months Loving has been living with a woman toward whom Richardson seems to have cherished tender feelings, and on one or two occasions previous to this which resulted so fatally, they have quarrelled and even come to blows. Richardson was a man who had lived for several years on the frontier, and though well liked in many respects, he had cultivated habits of bold and daring, which are always likely to get a man into trouble. Such a disposition as he posessed might be termed bravery by many, and indeed we believe he was the reverse of a coward. He was a hard working, industrious man, but young and strong and reckless.

Loving is a man of whom we know but very little. He is a gambler by profession; not much of a roudy, but more of the cool and desperate order, when he has a killing on hand. He is about 23 years old. Both, or either of these men, we believe, might have avoided this shooting if either had posessed a desire to do so. But both being willing to risk their lives, each with confidence in himself, they fought because they wanted to fight. As stated in the evidence below, they met, one said "I don't believe you will fight." The other answered "try me and see," and immediately both drew murderous revolvers and at it they went, in a room filled with people, the leaden missives flying in all directions. Neither exhibited any sign of a desire to escape the other, and there is no telling how long the fight might have lasted had not Richardson been pierced with bullets and Loving's pistol left without a cartridge. Richardson was shot in the breast, through the side and through the right arm. It seems strange that Loving was not hit, except a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other. Eleven shots were fired, six by Loving and five by Richardson. Richardson only lived a few moments after the shooting. Loving was placed in jail to await the verdict of the coroner's Jury, which was "self defense," and he was released. Richardson has no relatives in this vicinity. He was from Wisconsin. About twenty-eight years old.

Together with all the better class of our community we greatly regret this terrible affair. We do not believe it is a proper way to settle difficulties, and we are positive it is not according to any law, human or divine. But if men must continue to persist in settling their disputes with fire arms we would be in favor of the duelling system, which would not necessarily endanger the lives of those who might be passing up or down the street attending to their own business.

We do not know that there is cause to censure the police, unless it be to urge upon them the necessity of strictly enforcing the ordinance preventing the carrying of concealed weapons. Neither of these men had a right to carry such weapons. Gamblers, as a class, are desperate men. They consider it necessary in their business that they keep up their fighting reputation, and never take a bluff. On no account should they be allowed to carry deadly weapons.

(5) Witness statement by Adam Jackson, bartender at the Long Branch Saloon (April, 1879)

I was in the Long Branch saloon about 8 or 9 o'clock Saturday evening. I know Levi Richardson. He was in the saloon just before the fuss, standing by the stove. He started to go out and went as far as the door when Loving came in at the door. Richardson turned and followed back into the house. Loving sat down on the hazard table. Richardson came and sat near him on the same table. Then Loving immediately got up, making some remark to Richardson, could not understand what it was. Richardson was sitting on the table at the time, and Loving standing up. Loving says to Richardson: 'If you have anything to say about me why don't you come and say it to my face like a gentleman, and not to my back, you dam son of a bitch.' Richardson then stood up and said: 'You wouldn't fight anything, you dam—' could not hear the rest. Loving said 'you try me and see.' Richardson pulled his pistol first, and Loving also drew a pistol. Three or four shots were fired when Richardson fell by the billiard table. Richardson did not fire after he fell. He fell on his hands and knees. No shots were fired after Richardson fell. No persons were shooting except the two mentioned. Loving's pistol snapped twice and I think Richardson shot twice before Loving's pistol was discharged.

(6) Witness statement by Charlie Bassett (April, 1879)

When I first heard the firing I was at Beatty & Kelley's saloon. Ran up to the Long Branch as fast as I could. Saw Frank Loving, Levi Richardson and Duffey. Richardson was dodging and running around the billiard table. Loving was also running and dodging around the table. I got as far as the stove when the shooting had about ended. I caught Loving's pistol. Think there was two shots fired after I got into the room, am positive there was one. Loving fired that shot, to the best of my knowledge. Did not see Richardson fire any shot, and did not see him have a pistol. I examined the pistol which was shown me as the one Richardson had. It contained five empty shells. Richardson fell while I was there. Whether he was shot before or after I came in am unable to say. I think the shots fired after I came in were fired by Loving at Richardson. Richardson fell immediately after the shot I heard. Did not see any other person shoot at Richardson Did not see Duffey take Richardson's pistol. Do not know whether Loving knew that Richardson s pistol had been taken away from him There was considerable smoke in the room. Loving's pistol was a Remington No 44 and was empty after the shooting.

(7) Ford County Globe (9th September, 1879)

Dodge City has added another item to her history of blood, and rum has found another victim.

Yesterday afternoon B. Martin and A. H. Webb became involved in a dispute in a saloon on Main street. Many complimentary allusions to the parentage, habits and previous history of the parties, usually passed during such scenes in Dodge circles, were freely bandied between the two, ending by Webb knocking Martin down. Martin, who was a remarkably small man, generally inoffensive and timid, made an apology to Webb for some of his strongest epithets, and then went out and sat upon a bench in front of his little tailor shop adjoining Henry Sturm's saloon. Webb seemed to be very little placated by the submission of his little antagonist. He walked up Main street, threatening more vengeance at every step. He went into Zimmennan's hardware store and asked Mr. Connor to loan him a pistol, but he was refused. He then went to his house on the hill, saddled his horse, got his Winchester rifle and returned to Main street. He hitched his horse at Straeter's corner, walked to where Martin was seated, raised the rifle with both hands and brought the barrel of it down on Martin's head with terrific force. Martin fell like a log and never was conscious afterward.

Webb then jumped for his horse to make off. The murderous blow, however, had been seen by several persons, who ran to prevent the escape. Marshal Bassett seized him and took away his rifle, which was found to be loaded and cocked. He was first taken to the calaboose, but a crowd gathering quickly among whom were some who favored lynching, the sheriff deemed it prudent to remove the prisoner to the county Jail.