who was bat masterson

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The theme of this article is the fierce law man Bat Materson.

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Bartholomew Masterson, the Gentleman Lawman, was born in 1853 in Quebec, Canada, the son of a prairie farmer. Bartholomew – Bat for short – was the second of five sons. He soon emerged as the natural leader among the boys. When he was 19, Bat talked two of his brothers, Ed and Jim into escaping the boring life of the farm with him and trying their hands as Buffalo hunters. Never returning to the farm of his youth, Bat led his brothers into the wilds of south west Kansas in search of the Buffalo herds. Along the way the youths got involved in many adventures.

On one occasion Bat – his brothers had returned to the farm – found himself in the Texas panhandle town of Adobe Walls when it was attacked by some 500 Indians. Along with about 35 other hunters he held off the onslaught for five days. A few years later he rode as a scout for Colonel Nelson A. Miles in a campaign against the Kiowa and Commanche.

In 1876 Bart had his first gunfight. He was in Sweetwater, Texas when he got involved with a local girl who was already in a relationship. The other man was a U.S. Army sergeant. One night this man found Bat and the girl together in a saloon. He opened fire on Bat. It ended up lodging in Bat’s pelvis. As he fell, Bat shot back. The man died the next day. From that point on Bat carried a cane as a result of the injury sustained from this encounter.

In 1877 Bat arrived in Dodge City. He was ready to settle into business as a saloon keeper. His brothers Ed and Jim had preceded Bat to Dodge. Jim was the owner of a saloon – dance hall, while Ed had just been appointed assistant Marshall. Almost immediately Bat got into trouble with the law. He took exception to the way that local Marshall Larry Deger, a 300 pound behemoth, was manhandling a man he had just arrested. As Deger kicked the man in the behind, Bat grabbed the Marshall from behind, allowing the prisoner to escape. This act got bat arrested and thrown in jail. He was ordered to pay $25 plus costs.

Dodge City was a hotbed of political controversy, primarily between Mayor James Kelley and Marshall Deger. This feud was primarily feuled by business, with both men owning rival saloons. The rivalry between them reached a head when the Mayor ordered assistant Marshall Ed Masterson to arrest his boss on a minor charge. Over the next 24 hours both the Marshall and the Mayor found themselves behind bars. Things were truly chaotic.

     Meanwhile the office of county sheriff was coming up for election. Marshall Deger put himself forward. He was opposed by a candidate put forth by the local citizenry – Bat Masterson. In the election, Bat beat out Deger by three votes. Before long Deger was fired as city Marshall of Dodge. In his place Ed Masterson was promoted to Marshall. The two Masterson brothers now controlled the law in not only Dodge City but all of Ford County.

Bat’s county wide duties meant there was little time to learn the ropes. He took to wearing a fashionable black suit, a bowler hat and, of course, his cane as he set about taming the county. Two weeks into his term he led a posse against a band of train robbers. Despite the fact that their were two other posses out for the gang, it was Bat who brought them in. Bat proved himself a hard working, effective sheriff. He became known and respected among the outlaw community, many of whom chose to avoid his jurisdiction. He soon had the reputation of a feared gunfighter.

Although he didn’t have to often use his guns against opponents, Bat would spend countless hours perfecting his gun skills in public. He had the reputation as a perfect shot.

In April, 1878 tragedy struck the Masterson’s when Ed was killed during an arrest attempt. Later that spring Bat’s younger brother was appointed Marshall in his brother’s place. A day later Bat was defeated for re-election as sheriff.

Bat travelled  as far away from Dodge as he could get. He turned up in Colorado as a gambler. Before long he was again wearing a badge, this time as town Marshall of Trinidad, Colorado. His reputation soon had the local thuggery cleaning up their acts. But as he aged, the years took their toll on his reflexes. He began to move from law keeping to saloon keeping, and then to promoting prize fights. He moved on to Denver and from there to New York city where he became a sports writer.

In 1905, President Roosevelt offered to appoint Bat as U.S. Marshall for the Oklahoma Territory. Bat turned him down, stating that his reputation would see him become a magnet for all manner of hothead trying to prove themselves.

The great lawman died while writing his column for the New York Telegraph on October 25, 1921. He was 68 years of age.