Bat Masterson - Lawman
Bat Masterson 1853-1921Bat Masterson was born in Illinois in 1855. His real name was William Barclay Masterson. His brother Ed was two years older. Eventually they would have two more brothers and two sisters. The family eventually moved to Kansas, where they built a farm in Sedgwick County. Bat and Ed were close and often went hunting and fishing togther. He didn't think much of book learning and snuck out of the schoolhouse whenever he could.
He got his first job at seventeen. He and Ed graded railroad bed for the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe railroad. Shortly afterward, he became a buffalo hunter supplying meat to the railroad crews. His headquarters was a small community called Adobe Walls, Texas. He was there when Indians led by Comanche war chief Quanah Parker, attacked the town on June 27, 1874.
Bat and friend Billy Dixon were just getting ready to leave when the horizon was covered by Comanche and Cheyenne Indians. The white men lost four, while the Indians lost about 30. The white men were able to hole up in the buildings, many of them sod, which were impervious to Indian fire arrows. The Indians attacked for several hours then withdrew. Small bands pestered them for six more days. Soon after, the army under General Nelson A. Miles left Fort Leavenworth to avenge the battle. Bat and Dixon hired on as army scouts. Bat left that effort after a short time.
In 1875, Bat killed his first man at Sweetwater, Texas. The incident occurred over one Molly Brennan. Bat and Molly were both wounded by the gunfire of her jealous ex-lover Melvin A. King, before Bat killed him. After he recuperated, he returned to Dodge City, where he worked as a deputy marshal under Wyatt Earp.
While there, he purchased an interest in the Lone Star dance hall. He figured this would show interest in the town and help him in his bid for county sheriff. It must have helped for he won the election on November 6, 1877. He appointed Charlie Bassett as his undersheriff. His first job was to run down an outlaw gang that tired to rob a train at Kinsley, Kansas. He captured all four men, one of which was Dave Rudabaugh, who would later ride with Billy the Kid.
In April 1878, Bat's brother Ed, a deputy marshal, was killed in Dodge City in a shoot-out with two cowboys. Afterward Bat rigorously enforced his no gunplay laws. He imposed a 9 p.m. curfew. Later he hired his brother Jim as a deputy.
In January 1879, Bat was appointed U.S. deputy marshal. He was involved in the famous war between the railroads Denver & Rio Grande and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe for the rights to build to Deadwood. Bat and his posses protected crews of both railroads from being killed in shootouts. That fall he lost his bid for re-election. This was due in large part to accusations by a newspaper editor that he was crooked. So in 1880, he made a living at cards and faro. He spent some time at the boom town of Leadville, Colorado. From there he went to Tombstone, where he dealt faro. He also helped Wyatt Earp take care of a few problems. He left just before the O.K. Corral incident. In April of 1882, he was appointed marshal of Trinidad, Colorado. He was only there about a year, however. For the next few years he drifted from town to town, following the boom towns and cow towns. He spent time in Dodge City, Denver, Trinidad, Reno, and Las Vegas. Somewhere along the way he learned the sport of boxing. Though he didn't fight, he frequently was a timekeeper, promoter, second, or referee.
He also became interested in theater production. He bought the Palace Variety Theater in Denver. He met a beautiful actress there named Emma Walters. He married her on November 21, 1891. He wasn't at home much as he still made his living gambling in boom towns. His reputation kept bad men from bothering him. He also vigorously followed and attended boxing matches and became adept at picking the winners. He wrote a weekly sports column for a Denver paper. He opened the Olympic Athletic Club to promote boxing.
In 1896, a fight to determine the new heavyweight champion was going to be held in El Paso. Promoters, gamblers, dance hall girls, and the fighters themselves flocked to the area to get ready. The Texas governor was outraged as state law prohibited prize fights. He sent in the Texas Rangers. This was not popular with the town's citizens, as they had raised the money for the purse. Bat arrived in town to make sure the fight went on. He escorted Tom O'Rourke, who held the $10,000 purse.
Under pressure, promoter Dan Stuart picked up the whole shooting match and moved it to Langtry, where Judge Roy Bean held sway. A ring was built a few hundred yards away in Mexican territory. In less than two minutes, Fitzsimmons knocked out Maher. Bat ensured Fitzsimmons got his money. Then he returned to Denver to write about it in his weekly column.
A rival club owner, Otto Floto began a vendetta against Bat for some unknown reason. They duked it out in the street one day, with Bat getting the upper hand. Later he sold out his interest in the club. After that he said farewell to Denver and headed to New York.
He arrived there in 1902. Teddy Roosevelt was president at the time. He appointed Bat as U.S. deputy marshal of New York. He also worked as an editor for the New York Morning Telegraph. His three-times-a-week column was one of the most popular.
When Roosevelt left office, Taft and his cronies had no further use for Bat. He was fired in 1909. But he stayed in Manhattan, where he still wrote his columns. During that time, Frank Ufer accused him of gaining his reputation by shooting Mexican and Indians in the back. It took two years for Bat's slander case to go to court. The court awarded him $3,000 in damages when various scouts, sheriffs, gunfighters, and soldiers testified to his bravery and skill.
He dabbled in politics over the next few years and became closer friends with Roosevelt. He and promoter Tex Rickard even sat down with him one day to discuss military strategy for the upcoming fighting in World War I. Roosevelt became ill from a fever contracted in a South American jungle and died on January 6, 1919. Bat was quite broken up over the death of his friend.
Bat spent his last years writing his columns and visiting gyms. He was always very active in the fighting business. On October 25, 1921, he went to work as usual. But right in the middle of typing his article, he died of a sudden heart attack. His wife died in 1932.
-copyright 2005 by Beth Gibson