OCTOBER 21, 2013
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William Barclay "Bat" Masterson was a figure of the American Old West known as a buffalo hunter, US Marshall, and Army Scout, avid fisherman, gambler, frontier lawman and sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. Born on November 26, 1853, at Henryville, Canada East, in the Eastern Township of what is Quebec today, and baptized as Bartholomew Masterson, he later used the name "William Barclay Masterson. He was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters.
In his late teens, he and two of his brothers, Ed Masterson and James Masterson, left their family's farm to become buffalo hunters. While traveling without his brothers, Bat took part in the Battle of Adobe Wells in Texas. He then spent time as a US Army scout in a campaign against Kiowa and Comanche Indians.
His first gunfight took place in 1876 in Sweetwater, Texas. He was attacked by a soldier, Corporal Melvin A. King, in a fight, allegedly because of a girl. The girl Mollie Brennan stopped one of King's bullets and was killed. King whose real name was Anthony Cook, died of his wounds. Masterson was shot in the pelvis but recovered. The story that he needed to carry a cane for the rest of his life is a legend perpetuated by the TV series starring Gene Barry.
In 1877 he joined his brothers in Dodge City, Kansas. Jim was the partner of Ed, who was an assistant marshal. Soon after his arrival, Masterson came into conflict with the local marshal over the treatment of a man being arrested. He was jailed and fined, although his fine was later returned by the city council. He served as a sheriff's deputy alongside Wyatt Earp, and within a few months he was elected county sheriff of Ford County, Kansas. As sheriff, Bat won plaudits for capturing four members of the Mike Roark gang, who had unsuccessfully held up a train at nearby Kinsley, Kansas. He also led the posse that captured Jim Kennedy, who had inadvertently killed an entertainer named Dora Hand in Dodge; with a shot through the shoulder Masterson eventually brought Kennedy down.
Fighting in Colorado on the Santa Fe side of its war against the Rio Grande railroad, Masterson continued as Ford County Sheriff until he was voted out of office in 1879. During this same period his brother Ed was marshal of Dodge City and died in the line of duty on April 9, 1878. Ed was shot by a cowboy named Jack Wagner who was unaware that Bat was in the vicinity. As Ed stumbled away from the scene, Masterson responded from across the street with deadly force, firing on both Wagner and Wagner's boss, Alf Walker. Wagner died the
next day but walker was taken back to Texas and recovered. The local newspapers were ambiguous about who shot Wagner and Walker, and this led some later historians to question whether Bat was involved. However, the recent locating of two court cases in which Bat testified under oath that he had shot both means that it must be accepted that Bat avenged his brother.
For the next several years, he made a living as a gambler moving through several of the legendary towns of the Old West. Wyatt Earp invited Masterson to Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in early 1881 where Earp owned a one-quarter interest in the gambling concession at the Oriental Saloon in exchange for his services as a manager and enforcer. Earp wanted Masterson's help in running the faro tables in the saloon. Masterson remained until April 1881, when he received an unsigned telegram that caused him to immediately return to Dodge City. COME AT ONCE. UPDEGRAFF AND PEACOCK ARE GOING TO KILL JIM. Jim Masterson was in partnership with A. J. Peacock in Dodger City's Lady Gay Saloon and Dance Hall. Al Updegraff was Peacock's brother-in-law and bartender. Jim though that Updegraff was dishonest and a drunk, and demanded that Peacock fire him. Peacock refused. Their disagreement grew until threats were made, prompting the telegram. Bat boarded the next train and arrived in Dodge City on April 16. Getting off the train before it stopped, Masterson
saw Updegraff and Peacock. He accosted them, "Hold up there a minute, you two, I want to talk to you.' Recognizing Bat, Updegraff and Peacock retreated behind the jail and exchanged gunfire with Masterson. Citizens ran for cover as bullets ripped through the Long Branch Saloon. Other individuals began firing in support of both sides until Updegraff was wounded. Mayor Ab Webster arrested Masterson. Later Bat learned that his brother Jim was not in Danger. Because the shooter who hit Updegraff could not be identified, Masterson was fined $8 and released. It was unclear who fired first. The citizens were outraged and warrants were issued, but Bat and Jim were permitted to Leave Dodge City.
In 1888 Masterson was living in Denver, Colorado, where he dealt faro for "Big Ed" Chase at the Arcade gambling house. In 1888 he managed and then purchased the Palace Variety Theater. It was probably here that Bat first met an Indian club swinger and singer called Emma Moulton, born Emma Walter neat Philadelphia in 1857. The pair subsequently lived together and it has been widely reported that they married in Denver in 21 November 1891. Although no record of the marriage has come to light thus far and Emma was not divorc4ed from her first husband until 9 November 1893, the partnership was to survive until Bat's death. While in Denver, he met and maintained a long term friendship with the famous confidence man, Soapy Smith and members of the Soap Gang.
In 1889 the two friends were involved together in the famous Denver registration and election fraud scandal. In 1892 he moved to the silver boom town of Creede, Colorado, where he managed the Denver Exchange Club until the town was destroyed by fire. On the 1900 Federal Census record for Arapahoe County in Denver he lists his name as William Masterson with his birthplace as Missouri in 1854. His wife is listed as Emma Masterson married for 10 years and he lists his occupation as Athletic Club Keeper. Bat continued to travel around the boom towns of the West, gambling and promoting prize fights. Bat began writing a weekly sports column for George's Weekly, a Denver newspaper, and opened the Olympic Athletic Club to promote the sport of boxing.
Bat Masterson lived in the American West during a violent and frequently lawless period. His most recent biographer concludes that, Indian-fighting aside, he used a firearm against a fellow man on just six occasions, far less than some of his contemporaries. However the fact that he was so widely known can be ascribed to a practical joke played on a gullible newspaper reporter in August 1881. Seeking copy in Gunnisdon, Colorado, the reporter asked Dr. W.S. Cockrell about Man Killers. Dr. Cockrell pointed to a young man nearby and said it was Bat and that he had killed 26 men. Cockrell then regaled the reporter with several lurid tales about Bat's exploits and the reporter wrote them up for the New York Sun. The story was then widely reprinted in papers all over the country and became the basis for many more exaggerated stories told about Bat over the years. Masterson left the west and went to New York City by 1902, where he was arrested for illegal gambling.
President Theodore Roosevelt, on the recommendation of mutual friend Alfred Henry Lewis, appointed Masterson to the position of deputy to U.S. Marshall for the southern district of New York, under William Henkel. Roosevelt had met Bat on several occasions and had become friendly with him. Masterson split his time between his writing and keeping the peace in the grand jury room whenever the U.S. Attorney in New York held session. He performed this service for about $2,000 per year from early 1908 until 1912 when President William Howard Taft removed Masterson from the position during Taft's purge of Roosevelt Supporters from government positions.
Bat Masterson worked as a sports writer and editor, and a columnist. His career as a writer started around 1883 and ended at his death in New York City in 1921.
He wrote a letter published in the Daily Kansas State Journal, on June 9, 1883, that mentioned his arrival in Dodge City, the famous Long Branch saloon, and his famous cohorts who made the Long Branch their headquarters during the so-called "Dodge City Saloon War." It was during this time that Bat met newspapermen Alfred Henry and William Eugene Lewis. Both journalist were destined to play a role in Masterson's future as a scribe. Masterson published Vox Populi, a single edition newspaper focusing on local Dodge City politics in November 1884. Masterson penned a weekly sports column for George's Weekly sometime after his arrival in Denver, Colorado, in the late 1890s.
Masterson continued his writing career in New York at the New York Moring Telegraph, (a sporting newspaper featuring race form and results whose reputation as part of what was known as "a whore's breakfast," which consisted of a cigarette and the Morning Telegraph)c.1904. Hired by the younger Lewis brother, William Eugene Lewis, he reprised his role as sports writer, later becoming the paper's sports editor. The politics, sporting events, theaters, fine dining es6tablishments, and varied night life of his adopted city became fodder for his thrice weekly column "Masterson's Views on Timely Topics" for more than 18 years. W. E. Lewis eventually became the general manager and president of the company and promoted his friend Masterson to vice president and company secretary.
While in New York City, Masterson met up again with the Lewis brothers. Alfred Henry Lewis eventually wrote several short stories and a novel The Sunset Trail, about Masterson. Alfred Lewis encouraged Bat to write a series of sketches about his adventures which were published by Lewis in the magazine he edited, Human Life (c. 1907-1908). Masterson regaled his readers with stories about his days on the frontier and his gunfighter friends. He also explained to his audience what he felt were the best properties of a gunfighter.
It was during this time that Masterson sold his famous sixgun-"the gun that tamed the West"-because he "needed the money." It has been reported that Masterson bought old guns at pawnshops, carved notches into the handles and sold them at inflated prices. Each time he claimed the gun was the one he used during his career as a lawman.
Bat Masterson died at age 67 on October 25, 1921, while living and working in New York City. He collapsed at his desk from a heart attack after penning what became his final column for the New York Morning Telegraph. His body was taken to Campbell's Funeral Parlor and later buried after a simple service in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. His full name William Barclay Masterson, appears above his epitaph on the large granite grave marker in Woodlawn. His epitaph states that he was "Loved by Everyone."
Report presented by Beancounter