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Lawman Bartholomew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Dodge City lawman Bat Masterson. SUBMITTED PHOTO

In its early days, Dodge City was home to one of the best known gunfighters and lawmen who walked the West.

Bartholomew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson was born November 26, 1853 at Henryville, Quebec, Canada. His family lived in New York and Illinois before settling near Wichita, Kansas.

Not yet in his 20's in 1872, Bat, with brothers Ed and James, came to southwest Kansas to help build the railroad. In November, they joined Henry H. Raymond in the buffalo hunt. This team succeeded in killing up to 20 buffalo a day.

Bat's first encounter with gunplay was probably in 1874 with a group of hunters at the famous Indian Battle of the Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle.

Within months of the Battle, Bat was back in Dodge.

June 1876 Ford County District Court records show Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson as Deputy Sheriffs for Sheriff Charlie Bassett.

Bat, Earp and Bassett were a members of the "Gang," and fought the non-Gang lawmen.

In June 1877, Bat had a physical altercation with City Marshal and Gang opponent, Larry Deger.

The anti-Gang folks may have been in control of the City offices, but Gang forces were in control of the County. Bassett promoted Bat to Undersheriff where he the reputation of being a great lawman.

Bassett couldn't serve as Sheriff after 1877 due to term limits. When anti-Gang Deger ran as Sheriff, Bat ran against him and won by three votes. Bat appointed Bassett as his Undersheriff.

Within two weeks of Bat taking office in January 1878, he made news when he and his posse captured robbers of a Kinsley train.

Tragedy struck on April 9, 1878 when Jack Wagner killed Bat's older brother, Ed. Marshal Ed thought he had disarmed the drunken cowboy, but Wagner had a second pistol and shot Ed at close range in the abdomen.

A gun battle followed which involved Bat and other lawmen. Wagner was mortally wounded, and one of his compatriots, Alf Walker, was seriously hurt. Ed died about a half hour later surrounded by Bat and friends.

Bat was a hardworking sheriff during the spring and summer of 1878 capturing horse thieves and returning stolen horses among other things. In October, he was part of the posse that caught, James Kenedy, the killer of Dora Hand.

In January 1879, Bat replaced H.T. McCarty, who was shot and killed in the Long Branch Saloon, as deputy United States Marshal.

Bat was instrumental in capturing Dull Knife's band of Native Americans accused of numerous raids in the region.

Ultimately, this hurt Bat and his friends, as this band was acquitted after spending six months in jail at taxpayer expense. This was the beginning of the end for the "Gang" as the political tide began turning against them.

In November 1879, George T. Hinkle defeated Bat for Sheriff of Ford County in a bitter election, and in December 1879, Bat's last act as sheriff was escorting two horse thieves to prison at Leavenworth.

Bat was in and out of Dodge during the early 1880's.

In 1883, he came back as a member of the Dodge City Peace Commission defending friend Luke Short during the Saloon Wars. Around 1885 Bat left Dodge permanently.

Bat Masterson died October 25, 1921 while working at his sports editor desk at the New York Morning Telegraph newspaper.