Historically Speaking: Brother Johnson in lawless Dodge City

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Union Church.

Dodge City had a reputation of being lawless with little room for the civilizing influence of religion. However, even in the early days there were those struggling to bring righteousness to this raucous cow town. 

According to “Dodge City, The Most Western Town of All,” by Odie B. Faulk, during his time in Dodge City an evangelist attempted to convert "Mysterious Dave" Mather. 

This evangelist was “Brother Johnson” who had persuaded the owner of the Green Front Saloon to allow services in his establishment. Every night, the saloon was filled to capacity as the reverend pulled live snakes out of a whiskey bottle to demonstrate the evils of inebriating spirits. 

Johnson took it upon himself to convert assistant marshal Dave Mather. After days of urging, Mather finally agreed to come to services one evening. 

When Mather arrived, he was escorted to a seat of honor next to the podium in front of a room full of the faithful. Here Johnson proceeded to preach directly at him about the horrors of hell and beauties of heaven. He went on to say the angels in heaven would rejoice at the conversion of a sinner like Dave Mather. 

Johnson declared if he could convert Mather, he would be ready to die and go straight heaven. Other men in attendance jumped to their feet agreeing they too would be willing to die and join them in heaven. 

After sitting silently with his head bowed through all of this, Mather stood and declared that he was filled with religion and knew if he were to die, he would go straight to heaven as well. 

Then Mather pulled out his gun and told the congregation of his fear of backsliding and missing out on eternal bliss. He proposed killing them all, along with himself, to prevent any of them from meeting this fate. 

“I will send you first,” he stated to Johnson as he fired a shot above his head. Then he turned and fired several shots above the heads of the faithful. All fell to the floor cowering in fear. As Mather walked towards the door he remarked “You are all a set of liars and frauds, you don’t want to go to heaven with me at all.” 

Soon thereafter, Brother Johnson left Dodge and the “faithful,” after being ridiculed by the townsfolk, soon backslid to their old sinful ways.