Western Life

Bat Masterson – Wild West Gunslinger

Bartholomew ‘Bat’ Masterson was born on November 26, 1853 and became one of the most famous lawmen of the late 19th and early 20th century. Masterton left his family’s farm as a teenage with the intention of hunting buffalo on The Great Plains. In June 1874, he became one of 28 hunters who were forced to defend buildings in the Texas Panhandle of Adobe Walls. They held out for five days against several hundred Comanche warriors. Four of the men from Masterson’s team died during the siege, with the tribe losing between 30 and 70 warriors. After the fighting came to a standstill, the Comanche rode off. After this, Masterson signed up for the US Army, as a scout to pursue Native American war tribes.

Although Masterson helped successfully scout out the tribes, he didn’t remain at this post for an extended period. By January 1876, he had travelled to Sweetwater, Texas, where he took part in his first gunfight, with Corporal Melvin A. King. Accused of killing a young girl, King shot Masterson in the pelvis but died of injuries he sustained. Bat Masterson moved on to Dodge City, where he quickly got involved in preventing the arrest of Robert Gilmore. He wrapped his arms around the sheriff, who weighed 315 pounds, allowing Gilmore to get away. The lawmen pistol whipped Masterson, and he was later charged $25 for disturbing the peace.

In July 1877, Masterson was hired to serve as undersheriff in Dodge City. He ran for the sheriff’s position, after the latter was prevented from seeking a third consecutive post, winning by three votes. Within a month, his brother, Ed, became the city marshal, and the brothers began to clean up Dodge. At the beginning of 1878, they successfully captured several wanted outlaws. Their run ended after Ed was mortally wounded by a cowboy known as Jack Wagner. Bat retaliated and shot Wagner from across the street, resulting in the outlaw dying the following day.

In 1881, Masterson moved to Tombstone, Arizona, but didn’t settle here for very long. By the following year he ended up in Trinidad, Colorado, where he was appointed city marshal. As soon as his position was secure, Wyatt Earp requested his help in preventing the extradition of Doc Holliday from Colorado to Arizona. Masterson appealed directly to the governor, who granted his wishes, which caused him to lose favour with the people of Trinidad. After he lost the re-election, by a landslide, the former city marshal rushed to the aid of his friend, Luke Short, who had been turned out of Dodge City. He recruited a group of gunfighters and they descended upon Dodge. Their attack became known as the ‘Dodge City War,’ and resulted in Short being reinstated.

Later in his life, Bat Masterson was introduced to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the two became good friends. The president arranged for Masterson’s appointment as deputy US Marshal for the Southern District of New York. Roosevelt’s successor did not like Masterson, however, and had him removed from the post. As well as being a lawman, Masterson was a successful sports journalist. In October 1921, Masterson suffered a heart attack, at his desk, after writing the final column for the morning telegraph. He was 67 at the time and was subsequently buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, with the epitaph ‘Loved by Everyone.’

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