Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bat Masterson

William Barclay "Bat" Masterson (November 26, 1853 – October 25, 1921) was a figure of the American Old West known as a buffalo hunter, U.S. Marshal and Army scout, avid fisherman, gambler, frontier lawman, and sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. He was the brother of lawmen James Masterson and Ed Masterson.

Born on November 26, 1853, at Henryville, Canada East and baptised as Bartholomew Masterson, he later used the name "William Barclay Masterson"

His father, Thomas Masterson (or Mastersan), was born in Canada of an Irish family; and his mother, Catherine McGurk (or McGureth), was born in Ireland. He was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters. They were raised on farms in Quebec, New York, and Illinois, until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas.

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 Walls in Texas, and killed Comanche Indians. He then spent time as a U.S. Army scout in a campaign against the Kiowa and Comanche Indians.

His first gunfight took place in 1876 in Sweetwater, Texas (later Mobeetie in Wheeler County, not to be confused with the current Sweetwater, the seat of Nolan County west of Abilene, Texas). He was attacked by a man in a fight, allegedly because of a girl. The other man 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 the late 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. 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 location of two court cases in which Bat testified under oath that he had shot both means that most now accept that Bat avenged his brother.

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. Marshal for the southern district of New York, under William Henkel. Roosevelt had met Masterson 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 journalists 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 Morning Telegraph, (a sporting newspaper featuring race form and results whose reputation was 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 establishments, 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." Actually, 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

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