In 1883, former Dodge City lawmen, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Charlie Bassett, returned to town one last time. But they weren't here to enforce the law. Instead they posed a threat to law and order. They came to Dodge City as a show of force to support a friend in what became known as the "Saloon War."
It started with the Dodge City election of 1881 which ousted the gambling, prostitution and saloon tolerant "Gang." Dodge City's famous lawmen and Luke Short, a well known gambler, were part of this Gang.
Wyatt Earp had left Dodge City a few years before. After these elections, the remaining "Gang" lawmen left Dodge City for other venues. The "anti-gang" officials were led by mayor, Alonzo B. Webster. Despite the hostile environment, Short stayed in Dodge City.
Hoping to improve the climate for saloon owners and gamblers, Short's business partner, W.H. Harris, in 1883, ran against Webster's picked candidate, Larry Deger. When Deger won the election the situation got worse for Short and his friends.
Things came to a head in 1883, when Short bought the Long Branch Saloon and hired women to "sing."
Those with the right politics could run their establishment any way they wished. But Short had the wrong politics and, on April 28, the officials arrested his "singers."
Just a note of clarification: He did not hire his female singers for their ability to carry a tune. The intent was for them to entertain cowboys in other ways.
Short protested because these same officials looked the other way when other more politically connected establishments hired the same entertainment. He could not run his establishment against this competition.
Things got hot when Short and City Clerk Louis C. Hartman exchanged shots. Though neither was injured, Deger's men rallied against Short kicking him and his friends out of Dodge City. They blocked attempts by Short to return with physical threats.
To defend his interests, Short contacted his more powerful friends and political allies. He wanted to recoup some of his financial losses by returning to Dodge to sell his interest in the Long Branch.
Short's allies quickly laid plans to come to Dodge City to present a unified front against Deger and his forces. A serious confrontation was in the making; alarm spread throughout the State of Kansas. On June 3, Short's allies began arriving in Dodge City.
A total of seven men gathered to defend Luke Short. Famous gunslingers Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Charlie Bassett were ready to fight for Short. Joining this notorious group were former Long Branch owner, W.H. Harris; District Court Clerk, W.F. Petillon; Frank McLain and Neil Brown.
On June 10, 1883, these seven men and Short posed for an iconic photograph as the "Dodge City Peace Commission."
Though some of these men had been the "good guys" as lawmen Dodge City in the 1870's, in this case they posed a threat to law and order in Dodge. Given the reputation of these former Dodge City lawmen, Short's opponents feared for their lives. For awhile it appeared an all out shooting war would erupt.
Not a shot was fired or any blood spilled. All parties agreed to a compromise in which Short recouped some of his money and left town with his skin intact.
One of the provisions of this compromise was gambling in Dodge City was confined to back rooms out of the public eye. This was the beginning of the end of Dodge City's wild days. In just a couple short years the cattle drives ended and Dodge's nature became calmer and more conservative.