Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

MASTERSON, BAT (1853-1921)

The man destined to achieve fame and notoriety as Bat Masterson, frontiersman, lawman, and gunfighter on the frontiers of Kansas and Texas, was born at Henryville, Quebec, Canada, on November 26, 1853. Christened Bartholomew and called Bart or Bat by his family, he chose to use the name William Barclay Masterson throughout his life.

Masterson grew up on farms in New York, Illinois, and Kansas. He left his father's farm in Sedgwick County, Kansas, in 1871 to hunt buffalo and soon gained a reputation as a dead shot and intrepid frontiersman. In June 1874 he was the youngest of twenty-eight buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls, Texas, who withstood an attack and siege by several hundred warriors led by Quanah Parker. Masterson served as a civilian scout in the Red River War of 1874-75. A shooting on January 24, 1876, at Sweetwater (now Mobeetie), Texas, was the basis for his gunfighter reputation. He killed a soldier after the man shot a woman to death and severely wounded Masterson. He served as a city policeman at Dodge City, Kansas, during that town's most uproarious years and was elected sheriff of Ford County before reaching the age of twenty-four. On April 9, 1878, after his brother, Dodge City marshal Ed Masterson, was shot and killed, he avenged that murder by killing one and wounding another of the assailants.

Residing primarily in Colorado after 1880, Masterson returned to Dodge City frequently, most notably as a participant in an 1881 gunfight in the town's plaza in which he shot and wounded a local saloon man and as a member (with Wyatt Earp and other gunmen) of the Dodge City Peace Commission formed in 1883 to protect the interests of gambler Luke Short. In 1902 Masterson left Denver for New York City, where he became a well-known boxing authority and sports columnist. He died on October 25, 1921, in New York and is buried there.

See also IMAGES AND ICONS: Dodge City, Kansas; Gunslingers / WAR: Adobe Walls, Battle of.

Robert K. DeArment Sylvania, Ohio

DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.

Previous: Macleod, James | Contents | Next: McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents

XML: egp.law.030.xml