Bat Masterson

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas, I’m Deb and Frank is with me this morning. And you know Heather and I were just out in Dodge City a few weeks ago, one of my favorite places because the history is so cool. And we were in the offices of the High Plains Journal out there, which you know has been around for a long time, and just a really wonderful publication. Very impressive staff. And it was very interesting because you know they’ve got a lot of Wild West figures hanging in the office, but the one that they had the most of was Bat Masterson. Do you remember the TV show? (Frank) Oh yea. Yea, yea. (Deb) That was my first introduction to
Bat Masterson. (Frank) But you know he hid behind the piano in the fights and then the way he got his name is he would get out and whack somebody with his cane. (Deb) Whack ’em with his cane. You know, he didn’t really have a cane. Why don’t we take a look and see what he was really all about. From Dodge City to New York City, Bat Masterson lived a life of adventure, surviving the violence of the Wild West that had claimed his brother, Ed, who was gunned down in Dodge. Gene Barry played the sophisticated lawman and gambler in the television show, Bat Masterson, that ran from 1958 to 1961. Bat became as famous as his legendary friend, Wyatt Earp. William Barclay Masterson, forever known as Bat to his friends and enemies alike, was born Bartholomew Masterson in Henryville, Quebec, Canada, on November 26th, 1853. The family moved to Illinois and eventually, to Wichita. Leaving home at 19, Bat became a buffalo hunter and Indian scout, working out of Dodge City. Masterson had his first shootout in 1876 in the town of Sweetwater, later Mobeetie, Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded. Some accounts say the girl jumped in front of a bullet meant for Masterson. Found to have been acting in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his rough ways and become an officer of the law. Though wounded in the hip he recovered, and did not need the use of a cane as portrayed in television. For the next five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a tough and reliable lawman. However, Masterson’s critics claimed that he spent too much as
sheriff, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1879. He made occasional visits to other western towns, including Tombstone, Arizona where he briefly worked with Wyatt Earp at the Oriental Saloon. He ended his Western days in plush Denver gambling houses, until reform-minded citizens asked him to leave. Bat moved in interesting circles. So many of those legendary characters were his friends, enemies or acquaintances. From his early hunts with Tom Nixon, Bill Tilghman, and Billy Dixon, with whom Bat lived through the siege at Adobe Walls, through his scouting days with Colonel, later General, Miles, to his friendship with Teddy Roosevelt and
the Earps, he saw or heard of the exploits commemorated in hundreds of books, stage plays, television shows, and movies. Bat’s later years were spent in New York City, where he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to serve as Deputy U.S. Marshal for the southern district of New York. He was a feature writer for Human Life Magazine, and a prominent
sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph. In 1921 he died at his desk of a heart attack. It was a quiet end for someone who had known such exciting times.