Bartholomiew (Bat) Masterson

Bartholomiew (Bat) Masterson

Bartholomiew (Bat) Masterson was born in Iberville County, on 26th November, 1853. His family moved to Wichita in 1869 and three years later Bat and his two brothers, Ed Masterson and James Masterson, became buffalo hunters. In 1874 Masterson took part in the Battle of Adobe Walls between buffalo hunters and Comanches.

In August 1874 Masterson was employed as a scout for the Canadian-Panhandle expedition. He returned to Dodge City the following year and in January 1876 was accused of killing Melvin King in a dispute over a woman, Molly Brennan. Masterton was not charged with the murder and by 1877 was working as deputy sheriff. This included taking part in the search for Sam Bass.

Masterson was elected as sheriff of Dodge City. Masterson's first success was the capture of Dave Rudabaugh and Edgar West after they attempted to rob a train. He was also part of a posse that including Wyatt Earp, Bill Tilghman and Charlie Bassett that captured James Kennedy. In January 1879 he successfully arrested Henry Borne. In March 1879 Masterson he recruited 30 men in order to help the Santa Fe railroad reach the Arkansas River.

In November, 1879, Masterson lost the election to remain sheriff of Dodge City to George Hinkle. The following year he tried some gold mining in Colorado but failed to make his fortune. Masterson spent time in Kansas City before returning to Dodge in May 1883 where he defeated Al Updegraff in a gunfight.

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 Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, 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.

In 1884 Masterson began writing sports articles. He later moved to New York City where he became a the sports editor of the New York Morning Telegraph. One of his junior reporters was Heywood Broun. His biographer, Richard O'Connor, commented: "William B. Masterson, a short, bald, middle-aged man, who wore a brown derby and occasionally, when one of his enemies was in town, a .45-caliber revolver. Mr. Masterson was the sports editor and boxing expert whose views on prizefighting and horse racing were generally regarded as magisterial... Naturally young Heywood looked on Mr. Masterson with awe."

Bat Masterson died of a heart attack on 25th October, 1921.

Primary Sources

(1) Topeka Daily Commonwealth (5th June, 1883)

Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and all the sports in the country, held a meeting at Silverton and decided to take Dodge City by storm. Short is at Caldwell but will meet the party at Cimarron, 18 miles west of Dodge, perhaps Sunday night or soon after. Horses will be taken at Cimarron and the whole party will rendezvous at Mr. Oliver's, two miles west of Dodge. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp are now secretly in Dodge City, watching matters. When the time for action comes a telegram will reach them worded as follows: "Your tools will be there at ____," giving the time agreed upon. The plan is to drive all of Short's enemies out of Dodge at the mouth of the revolvers.

(2) Kansas City Evening Star (7th June, 1883)

The much talked of band of noted killers who were to congregate here and accompany Luke Short, the exile, back to Dodge City, Kansas are in part at least, at that place now. Advices from there state that Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Charley Bassett and Doc Holliday at present hold the fort and that trouble is liable to ensue at any moment. Mr. Bassett was here for quite a time and with Colonel Ricketts at the Marble Hall. He is a man of undoubted nerve and has been tried and not found wanting when it comes to a personal encounter. But Masterson and Doc. Holliday are too well known to need comment or biography. A notice has been posted up at Dodge ordering them out and, as they are fully armed and determined to stay, there may be hot work there tonight.

(3) Bat Masterson, interviewed in the Daily Kansas State Journal (9th June, 1883)

I arrived here yesterday and was met at the train by a delegation of friends who escorted me without molestation to the business house of Harris & Short. I think the inflammatory reports published about Dodge City and its inhabitants have been greatly exaggerated and if at any time they did 'don the war paint,' it was completely washed off before I reached here. I never met a more gracious lot of people in my life. They all seemed favorably disposed, and hailed the return of Short and his friends with exultant joy. I have been unable as yet to find a single individual who participated with the crowd that forced him to leave here at first. I have conversed with a great many and they are unanimous in their expression of love for Short, both as a man and a good citizen. They say that he is gentlemanly, courteous and unostentatious - 'in fact a perfect ladies' man.' Wyatt Earp, Charley Bassett, McClain and others too numerous to mention are among the late arrivals, and are making the 'Long Branch' saloon their headquarters. All the gambling is closed in obedience to a proclamation issued by the mayor, but how long it will remain so I am unable to say at present. Not long I hope. The closing of this legitimate calling has caused a general depression in business of every description, and I am under the impression that the more liberal and thinking class will prevail upon the mayor to rescind the proclamation in a day or two.

(4) Ford County Globe (12th June, 1883)

Our city trouble is about over and things in general will be conducted as of old. All parties that were run out have returned and no further effort will be made to drive them away. Gambling houses, we understand, are again to be opened, but with screen doors (probably ornate oriental type door shields designed to obscure the view from one room to another rather than fly screens) in front of their place of business. A new dance house was opened Saturday night where all the warriors met and settled their past differences and everything was made lovely and serene. All opposing factions, both saloon men and gamblers met and agreed to stand by each other for the good of their trade. Not an unlocked for result.

The mayor stood firm on his gambling proclamation, but as his most ardent supporters have gone over to his enemies, it will stand without that moral support he had calculated upon to help him in enforcing it. We have all along held that our mayor was over advised in the action he has taken and had he followed his own better judgment, and not the advice of schemers and tricksters who had selfish interests at stake, and not the best interests of this community, he would have fared much better. No one knows this now any better than himself. He has freed himself from that cropped-winged moral element and stands on the side of the business interests of Dodge.