Bat Masterson

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Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson 1879.jpg
Bat Masterson in 1879, age 26
Born (1853-11-26)November 26, 1853
Henriville, Montérégie, Quebec, Canada East
Died October 25, 1921(1921-10-25) (aged 67)
New York City, New York, USA
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York
40°53′17″N 73°52′19″W / 40.88806°N 73.87194°W / 40.88806; -73.87194 (Grave of Bat Masterson)
  • Gambler
  • United States Army Scout
  • buffalo hunter
  • Lawman (sheriff and U.S. marshal)
  • Journalist
  • Gunfighter
Years active 1872–1900
  • Thomas M. Masterson
  • Catherine U. McGurk Masterson
Relatives James Patrick Masterson (brother)
Edward John Masterson (brother)
Bat Masterson signature.svg

Bartholemew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson (November 26, 1853 – October 25, 1921) spent the first half of his life in what is remembered as the "Wild West". During that period, he distinguished himself as a buffalo hunter, Indian fighter during the celebrated Second Battle of Adobe Walls, civilian scout for the U.S. Army, and gunfighter and lawman in Dodge City, Kansas and elsewhere, the "Wild West" phase of Masterson's life was essentially over by the mid-1880s when he was still in his early 30s. Masterson moved to Denver and established himself as a leading "sporting man", or gambler, he took an interest in prizefighting and became a leading authority on the sport. He attended almost every important match and title fight in the United States from the 1880s until his death in 1921, he knew, and was known by, all of the heavyweight champions from John L. Sullivan and James J. "Gentleman Jim" Corbett to Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey. He moved to New York City in 1902 and spent the rest of his life there as a reporter and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. Masterson's column not only covered boxing and other sports, but also gave his frequent opinions on crime, war, politics, and other topics, he became a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and became one of the "White House Gunfighters"[1] (along with Pat Garrett and Ben Daniels), who received federal appointments from Roosevelt. He was known throughout the country as a leading sports writer and celebrity at the time of his death in 1921.

Birth and early years[edit]

Masterson was born on November 26, 1853,[2] at Henryville, Quebec, in the Eastern Townships of what was then known as Canada East, and baptized Bartholomew Masterson.[3]

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,[4] he was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters.[5] They were raised on farms in Quebec, New York, Illinois, and Missouri until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas.[6]

Hunting buffalo[edit]

In his late teens, brothers Edward John "Ed" Masterson and James Patrick "Jim" Masterson and he left their family's farm to become buffalo hunters, during July 1872, Ed and Bat Masterson were hired by a subcontractor named Raymond Ritter to grade a five-mile section of track for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Ritter skipped out without paying the Masterson brothers all of the wages to which they were entitled, it took Masterson nearly a year, but he finally collected his overdue wages from Ritter – at gunpoint. On April 15, 1873, Masterson learned that Ritter was due to arrive in Dodge City aboard a Santa Fe train and that Ritter was carrying a large roll of cash. When Ritter's train pulled in, Masterson entered the car alone and confronted him and marched him out onto the rear platform of the train, where he forced him to hand over the $300 owed to him, his brother Ed, and a friend named Theodore Raymond. A loud cheer then went up from a large crowd who had witnessed the event.[7]

Battle of Adobe Walls[edit]

Bat was once again engaged in buffalo hunting on June 27, 1874, when he became an involuntary participant in one of the Wild West's most celebrated Indian fights – the five-day siege at a collection of ramshackle buildings in Texas known as Adobe Walls, the 200 Indians were led by famed Comanche Quanah Parker (1846-1911). The Indians suffered the most losses during the battle, the actual number of Indians killed is not known, and the number reported ranges from a low of 30 to a high of 70. The Adobe Walls defenders lost only four men – one of whom shot himself by accident,[8] after being fought to a standstill, Quanah Parker and his followers rode off.

In August 1874, Bat signed on as an army scout with Colonel Nelson Miles, who was leading a force from Fort Dodge to pursue Comanche and Apache war parties across the Cherokee Strip and into Texas, the force was eventually engaged to recover four sisters ranging in age from 9 to 15 who had been captured by a group of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. The sisters were part of a family that had been attacked outside of Ellis, Kansas, on September 11, 1874, while migrating to Colorado, their parents, brother, and two older sisters were killed and scalped. All four sisters were recovered alive by Miles's force over a period of almost six months.[6]

Gunfighter and lawman[edit]

Deputies Bat Masterson (standing) and Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, 1876: The scroll on Earp's chest is a cloth pin-on badge
Ed Masterson

The killing of Melvin A. King[edit]

His first gunfight took place on January 24, 1876, in Sweetwater, Texas (later Mobeetie in Wheeler County), he was attacked by a soldier, Corporal Melvin A. King, allegedly because of a girl named Mollie Brennan who was accidentally hit by one of King's bullets and was killed. King died of his wounds. Masterson was shot in the pelvis but recovered.[9]

Dodge City troublemaker and lawman[edit]

Masterson soon made a complete recovery and settled in Dodge City, on June 6, 1877, Masterson tried to prevent the arrest of a certain Robert Gilmore – who was known to the locals as Bobby Gill. To do this, Bat somehow managed to wrap his arms about the girth of 315-lb City Marshal Lawrence Edward "Larry" Deger (1845–1924), thereby permitting Gill to escape. Masterson was grabbed by friends of Deger and pistol-whipped by the balloon-shaped lawman, the following day, Masterson was fined $25 for disturbing the peace. Bobby Gill, the cause of Masterson's fine, was assessed only $5, during July 1877, Masterson was hired to serve as under-sheriff to Sheriff Charles E. Bassett (1847–1896). Sheriff Bassett was prohibited by the Kansas State Constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, with the job up for grabs, Masterson wasted no time throwing his derby into the ring. The sheriff's race became particularly interesting when Masterson's opponent turned out to be Larry Deger, on November 6, 1877, Masterson was elected county sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, by the narrow margin of three votes.[10] Within a month of Masterson's election, on December 6, 1877, Ed Masterson replaced Larry Deger as city marshal of Dodge. Together, the Masterson brothers then controlled the city and county police forces.[11]

Sheriff of Ford County, Kansas[edit]

Sheriff Masterson got his term off to a roaring start on February 1, 1878, by capturing Dave Rudabaugh and Ed West, who were wanted for an attempted train robbery. Two more of the train robbers were caught by Bat and brother Ed on March 15, but the tandem law-enforcement effort came to an abrupt end when 25-year-old City Marshal Edward J. Masterson was shot and killed in the line of duty on April 9, 1878.[12] Ed was shot by a cowboy named Jack Wagner, who was unaware that Ed Masterson's brother Bat was in the vicinity, as mortally wounded Ed stumbled away from the scene, Bat Masterson responded from across the street with deadly force, firing on both Wagner and Wagner's boss Alf Walker, who was holding a gun. 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 Masterson was involved. However, the rediscovery of two court cases in which Bat Masterson testified under oath that he had shot both men adds credence to the idea that Bat avenged his brother.[13][14][15] More violence followed on October 4, 1878, when a variety actress named Dora Hand, known professionally as Fannie Keenan, was shot and killed by James Kenedy, son of the wealthy Texas cattleman Miflin Kenedy (1818–1895). Sheriff Masterson's posse, which included Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman, captured Kenedy the following day after Bat used his rifle to shoot him in the left arm, and other posse members killed his horse.[16]

Royal Gorge Railroad War[edit]

Santa Fe Railroad officials had wired Sheriff Bat Masterson asking him to recruit a company of men to battle the forces of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, which were contesting the right-of-way through the Royal Gorge near Pueblo, Colorado. As a Kansas sheriff, Bat had no authority in Colorado, but this did not prevent him from enlisting a large company of men, among Masterson's recruits were such noted gunmen as Ben Thompson, "Mysterious Dave" Mather, John Joshua Webb, and (possibly) Doc Holliday. The end of Masterson's involvement came on June 12, 1879, when he surrendered a roundhouse his men were holding at Canon City, Colorado, the "war" between the railroads was finally settled out of court. Masterson's Colorado activities did not go over well with the voters of Ford County, Kansas, on November 4, 1879, a bartender named George T. Hinkel (1846-1922) defeated Bat in his re-election bid for sheriff by a vote of 404 to 268.[17]

Billy Thompson and Buffalo Bill Cody[edit]

Photograph of the interior of the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas, taken between 1870 and 1885.

The 1880 Dodge City census revealed that Masterson was then living with one Annie Ladue, age 19, who was described as his "concubine". City Marshal James Masterson, Bat's younger brother, was listed on the same census as living with Minnie Roberts, age 16, also quaintly described as a concubine. Not long after this census was taken, Bat Masterson received a telegram from Ben Thompson asking Bat to save Ben's troublesome brother, Billy Thompson, from almost certain lynching in Ogallala, Nebraska. Billy Thompson had shot the thumb off a man named Tucker, who – despite missing a digit – managed to fire back and seriously wound Billy. Masterson took Billy Thompson out of Ogallala by a midnight train bound for North Platte, Nebraska; in North Platte, Masterson was provided with assistance by no less a personage than William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who promptly offered to help. According to Masterson, both Billy Thompson and he "were given a royal welcome and were immediately taken in charge by Colonel Cody, who found a safe place for us to remain until he could outfit us for the trip across the country to Dodge City." [18] The finale of the Billy Thompson episode was reported in the Dodge City Times, which noted that "W.B. Masterson arrived from a visit to Ogallala, this week, he says Nebraska is dry and many people are leaving the state. He came by wagon, and was accompanied by 'Texas Billy' Thompson, the latter has recovered from his wounds." [19]

Battle of the plaza[edit]

Bat Masterson, 1879

Masterson spent the remainder of 1880 in Kansas City and Dodge, on February 8, 1881, he left Dodge and joined his friend Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, where he also met Luke Short for the first time. Earp, Short, and Masterson worked as faro dealers, or "look outs", at Tombstone's Oriental Saloon. Masterson had only been in Tombstone for two months when he received an urgent telegram that compelled him to return to Dodge City, his brother Jim Masterson was in partnership with Alfred James "A. J." Peacock[20] in Dodge City's Lady Gay Saloon and Dance Hall. Albert "Al" Updegraff [21] was Peacock's brother-in-law and bartender. Jim thought 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. Masterson arrived in Dodge City on April 16, 1881,[13] and accosted Updegraff and Peacock. Recognizing Masterson, 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 A.B. Webster arrested Masterson. Afterward, Masterson learned that his brother Jim was not in danger. Updegraff recovered, the shooter who hit Updegraff could not be identified, so Masterson was fined $8.00 and released.[13]:206

Who fired first was not clear. Citizens were outraged and warrants were issued, but Bat and Jim Masterson were permitted to leave Dodge.[13]:210


Bat Masterson became more widely known as a gunfighter as a result of a practical joke played on a gullible newspaper reporter in August 1881. Seeking copy in Gunnison, Colorado, the reporter asked Dr. W.S. Cockrell about mankillers. 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. Cockrell subsequently apologized to Bat, who insisted he was not even in Gunnison at the time.[14]

City marshal of Trinidad, Colorado[edit]

Masterson was appointed city marshal of Trinidad, Colorado, on April 17, 1882, he had hardly settled into his $75-a-month marshal's job when Wyatt Earp requested Masterson's help to prevent the extradition of John Henry "Doc" Holliday from Colorado to Arizona. Masterson took his case directly to Colorado Governor Frederick W. Pitkin, who listened to Masterson's appeal and finally refused to grant Holliday's extradition. Masterson's rescue of Doc Holliday, and his nightly "moonlighting" as a faro dealer spelled doom for his career as city marshal of Trinidad, on March 28, 1883, a local paper noted: "There are now two 'bankers' running for city offices – Mr. Taylor of the Las Animas County Bank, and Mr. Masterson of the bank of 'Fair O.' Both have a large number of depositors – one of time depositors and the other receives his deposits for keeps." [22] The voters of Trinidad got the message, on April 3, 1883, Masterson was defeated by a lopsided vote of 637 to 248.[23]

Dodge City War[edit]

The "Dodge City Peace Commission" June 10, 1883: From left to right, standing: William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon, seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Michael Francis "Frank" McLean and Cornelius "Neil" Brown

Masterson's term as city marshal of Trinidad expired just in time for him to come to the aid of his friend, Luke Short, who had been run out of Dodge City by the mayor – Masterson's long-time enemy, Larry Deger. Within weeks, a group of gunfighters recruited by Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp descended upon Dodge City, the result of this gathering reinstated Luke Short in Dodge. Before disbanding on June 10, 1883, Short, Masterson, Earp, and five others posed for the historic group photo that was immediately dubbed "The Dodge City Peace Commission". [24]

First attempt at journalism[edit]

Masterson was back in Dodge City on November 1, 1884, where he issued a small newspaper called Vox Populi, which was devoted to local political issues. Three days after its appearance, Bat received a flattering – and prophetic – review of his journalistic effort from another Dodge City paper which observed: "We are in receipt of the first number of Vox Populi, W.B. Masterson, editor, which in appearance is very neat and tidy, the news and statements it contains seem to be of a somewhat personal nature. The editor is very promising; if he survives the first week of his literary venture, there is no telling what he may accomplish in the journalistic field." [25] Editor Bat Masterson did not survive his first week. Vox Populi folded after printing just one issue and almost another 20 years would pass before Bat made journalism a full-time profession in New York City.

Denver, Colorado[edit]

Nellie (McMahon) Spencer[edit]

Masterson finally called it quits with Dodge City and made Denver his center of interest. Masterson was not in Denver long when he became involved in a divorce scandal, the trouble began in a Denver theater on September 18, 1886, when a comedian named Lou Spencer, who was performing on stage, spotted his wife, Nellie, seated in the audience on Bat Masterson's knee. Spencer cut short his routine and confronted Masterson, who displayed his concern by hitting Spencer across the face with his pistol. Nellie Spencer watched from the wings while the two men slugged it out. Finally, they were arrested, fined, and released a short time later; in its account of the incident, the Rocky Mountain News described Bat as one "who pleases the ladies," and Nellie McMahon Spencer as "a beautiful woman, with a fine wardrobe and a sweet voice." [26] Three days later, Nellie filed for divorce and the Denver papers were quick to report that Nellie had "eloped" with Masterson. No record has been found of Bat and Nellie getting married, and she soon disappeared from Bat's life.[27]

Emma Walter[edit]

In Denver, Masterson dealt faro for "Big Ed" Chase at the Arcade gambling house;[28] in 1888, he managed and then purchased the Palace Variety Theater.[29] There, Masterson probably first met an Indian club swinger and singer called Emma Moulton, born as Emma Matilda Walter near Philadelphia on July 10, 1857,[30] the pair subsequently lived together and they were widely reported to have married in Denver on November 21, 1891, although no record of the marriage has come to light thus far. The only known source for that date was given by Bat Masterson's brother, Thomas Masterson, years after Bat died.[31] Emma was not divorced from her first husband, Edwin Winford Moulton (1847–1922), until November 9, 1893.[32] When they were later enumerated in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Bat and Emma claimed that they had been married for 17 years, suggesting a marriage date of 1893. Masterson's biographer has raised the possibility that Bat and Emma were actually married on November 21, 1893, two weeks after Emma's divorce from Edwin Moulton. Bat and Emma were traveling through various eastern states at that time, and they were possibly married on November 21, 1893, in one of those eastern states. So far, an actual marriage record has not been found.[33]

Sullivan–Kilrain heavyweight championship fight (1889)[edit]

The sports-minded Masterson was at ringside during the John L. Sullivan–Jake Kilrain heavyweight championship fight at Richburg, Mississippi, on July 8, 1889. Bat was not there merely to observe the action, he was the designated timekeeper for Kilrain and came under fire from some sources for how he handled his role. Reportedly, Bat saw to it that Luke Short, Johnny Murphy, and "twelve other good men were scattered around the ring where they would do the most good in case of an emergency." [34]

Sullivan–Corbett Heavyweight Championship Fight (1892)[edit]

On September 7, 1892, Bat Masterson, Luke Short and Charles E. Bassett attended the John L. Sullivan–James J. Corbett championship fight in New Orleans. According to a Dodge City paper, Masterson bet on the winner, while noting, "Charlie Bassett and Luke Short were among the notables in attendance. Bassett bet his money on Sullivan." [35] This was probably the last time that the three friends got together. Both Short and Bassett would be dead in less than four years.[36] Masterson was in Jacksonville, Florida, on January 25, 1894, acting as a second for Charlie Mitchell during Mitchell's heavyweight title shot at the champion – James J. "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. As usual, Bat was backing the wrong man. Mitchell was knocked cold in three rounds.[37]

Bodyguard for a millionaire[edit]

Masterson briefly moved to New York City in 1895 to serve as a bodyguard for a millionaire named George Gould.[38] Bat wrote his Denver pals glowing accounts of fishing trips "with the Goulds on their yacht," and announced his intention to remain in New York City indefinitely, on June 6, 1895, a Denver paper quoted a friend of Masterson's, who observed that "Bat has at last fallen into a dead easy game." [39]

Final years in Denver[edit]

Masterson was back in Denver on April 6, 1897, serving as a deputy sheriff of Arapahoe County, when he got into an election-day dispute with a man named Tim Connors. Masterson drew his pistol and Connors attempted to seize it, during the scuffle, the gun went off and a man named C.C. Louderbaugh was shot in the left wrist.[40]

On April 9, 1899, Masterson became a partner in a boxing club called the Colorado Athletic Association. Within only a few days, Masterson was frozen out of the organization by his partners. Masterson retaliated on April 18 by founding a rival boxing club – the Olympic – with himself as president. Masterson received favorable media coverage from a Denver newspaper called George's Weekly, where Masterson was employed as sports editor.[41]

On the 1900 Federal Census record for Arapahoe County in Denver, he listed 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 listed his occupation as Athletic Club Keeper.[42] During September 1900, Bat sold his interest in the Olympic Athletic Club and made another visit to New York City. Masterson had decided to settle in New York City, but had a sudden change of heart and returned to Denver – with humiliating results.[43]

Two conflicting versions are given for what caused Bat Masterson's final departure from Denver. Masterson's story was that an irate woman belted him with an umbrella on May 2, 1902, when she took exception to an "undesirable" like Bat Masterson trying to cast his ballot at a local election. An alternate version states that Masterson had become a dangerous drunk who was run out of Denver for being a public nuisance.[44] Whatever actually happened, Masterson left Denver and never returned.

New York City[edit]

New York newspaper columnist[edit]

By June 6, 1902, Masterson was in New York City, where two other men and he were arrested on a bunco charge. Masterson and his companions were accused of fleecing George H. Snow, a Mormon elder, out of $17,000. Two days after his arrest, Masterson complained to a reporter, "This fellow Gargan who arrested me is a warm baby – in his mind, he thinks all people are suckers. That's the trouble with these mush-headed coppers. Give them a political job to keep from starving and they think they own the earth." [45] No sooner had these charges against Masterson been dropped than on June 15, 1902, he was arrested again for carrying a concealed weapon. Fortunately for him, an invaluable friend, Alfred Henry Lewis (1855–1914), turned up at this point. Lewis got his brother, William Eugene Lewis (1861–1924), to provide Masterson with employment as a columnist on William's newspaper, the New York Morning Telegraph, his column, "Masterson's Views on Timely Topics," concerned sports in general and boxing in particular. The column appeared three times a week from 1903 until his death in 1921; in 1905, Alfred Henry Lewis published The Sunset Trail, a fictionalized biography of Masterson.[46]

Presidential appointment[edit]

Alfred Henry Lewis introduced Masterson to President Theodore Roosevelt and the two formed a friendship that resulted in Masterson being a frequent White House guest and also included regular correspondence. President Roosevelt also arranged for Masterson's appointment as deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York, on February 2, 1905, President Roosevelt wrote Masterson a letter which concluded with the lines: "You must be careful not to gamble or do anything while you are a public officer which might afford opportunity to your enemies and my critics to say that your appointment was improper. I wish you to show this letter to Alfred Henry Lewis and go over the matter with him." [47] Bat served in his $2,000 per year job until August 1, 1909.

Writes for Human Life magazine[edit]

Bat Masterson circa 1911 in New York City

Alfred Henry Lewis encouraged Bat to write a series of sketches about his adventures which were published by Lewis in Human Life magazine.[48] Masterson provided five biographical studies in 1907 on Ben Thompson,[49] Wyatt Earp,[50] Luke Short,[51] Doc Holliday [52] and Bill Tilghman.[53] Masterson also explained to his audience what he felt were the best properties of a gunfighter. Other articles were supposed to be in Masterson's Human Life series, which had appeared under the title of "Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier." The next three issues of Human Life came and went without a Masterson article. Finally, in the November 1907 issue, editor Alfred Henry Lewis tried to assure his readership that Masterson would indeed resume the series by explaining that Masterson's reasons for "breaking off the output" were "wholly of an idle, indolent, midsummer sort, which the managers of this magazine hope to overthrow so soon as a cooler temperature comes to the assistance of their arguments." Lewis offered this apology as part of his own article called "The King of the Gun-Players: William Barclay Masterson." [54] Lewis met with only limited success. Bat did provide one more article, on Buffalo Bill Cody,[55] but that was his final Human Life contribution.

President Taft has Bat fired[edit]

Theodore Roosevelt did not seek a third term in 1908, his successor, William Howard Taft, did not share Roosevelt's enthusiasm for Bat Masterson. President Taft had his attorney general conduct an investigation of Masterson's employment as a deputy U.S. marshal, which resulted in Masterson being terminated on August 1, 1909. For the remaining 12 years of his life, Bat Masterson roamed all over the United States covering the major boxing events of that era for the New York Morning Telegraph.

Johnson–Willard heavyweight championship fight (1915)[edit]

On at least one occasion, a sports-writing assignment actually took Masterson out of the country to Cuba, on April 5, 1915, the 61-year-old Bat Masterson was in Havana, Cuba, attending the heavyweight championship fight between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard. As he arrived, he posed for a newsreel cameraman, he was now quite portly. The mustache of his younger days was long gone along with most of the hair on top of his head; in the brief film clip, he removes his hat, smiles for the camera, and replaces the hat on his head. Twenty-eight stills from this film can be viewed in a 1984 book on Masterson.[56] Later that day, in the official film made of the fight, Bat can be seen as one of the seconds for Jess Willard, climbing through the ropes just prior to the start of the fight.[57]

Joking with Roosevelt[edit]

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. One week later, Theodore Roosevelt asked President Wilson for permission to lead a "Rough Rider"-type regiment against the Germans in France. While Roosevelt was waiting for Wilson's answer, he got some kidding from his friend Masterson, who wrote Roosevelt on May 14, 1917: "I wish you would arrange for an appointment with Tex Rickard and myself to meet you at your office when convenient. We want to tell you how to organize your European expedition and how to win your battles when you get there." [58]

Final days[edit]

On July 2, 1921, Masterson attended his last heavyweight championship fight, the so-called "Million Dollar Gate", promoted by Tex Rickard, in which Jack Dempsey defended (and retained) his title of heavyweight champion of the World. Three months later on October 7, silent-screen cowboy star William S. Hart (1864-1946) visited Masterson. They were photographed standing together on the roof of the New York Morning Telegraph building and went back to Masterson's office where he asked Hart to sit in his chair and pose for a second photo with him. According to Hart: "I did so, and he stood beside me. Mr. Masterson was sitting in that same chair eighteen days later when he heard the last call." [59] Hart subsequently cast a Masterson lookalike as Masterson in his biographical film Wild Bill Hickok, which was released in 1923.

Death and burial[edit]

The grave of Bat Masterson

Bat Masterson died at age 67 on October 25, 1921, at his desk from a massive heart attack after writing what became his final column for the New York Morning Telegraph. About 500 people attended Bat Masterson's funeral service at Frank E. Campbell's Funeral Church at Broadway and 66th Street. Masterson's honorary pall bearers included Damon Runyon (1880–1946), George "Tex" Rickard (1870–1929), and William Eugene Lewis (1861–1924). Runyon was a close friend of Masterson's and offered this memorable eulogy: "He was a 100 percent, 22-karat real man. Bat was a good hater and a wonderful friend, he was always stretching out his hand to some down-and-outer. He had a great sense of humor and a marvelous fund of reminiscence, and was one of the most entertaining companions we have ever known. There are only too few men in the world like Bat Masterson and his death is a genuine loss." [60] Masterson was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, his full name, William Barclay Masterson, appears above his epitaph on the large granite grave marker in Woodlawn. Masterson's epitaph states that he was "Loved by Everyone".[61][62]

Popular media[edit]

Novels and comic books[edit]

  • Bat Masterson, along with many other historical figures of the time, is a character in the novel The Buntline Special (2010) by Mike Resnick.
  • Dell Comics also published a short-lived comic book based on the television series. The first issue was published as Four Color Comics #1013, followed by Bat Masterson #2–9 (1960–62). All the issues had photographic covers, the stories were scripted by Gaylord DuBois.
  • The 1986 novel The Ham Reporter, by Robert J. Randisi, features Bat Masterson as an investigating newspaperman.
  • The 1985 novel The Old Colts by Glendon Swarthout, tells a fictional tale involving the elderly Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.
  • The 1999 novel Masterson, by Richard S. Wheeler, describes a fictional trip from New York to California, wherein Bat meets film actor William S. Hart and visits Wyatt Earp, the trip takes place in late 1919, just before the imposition of national prohibition of alcohol. Among other amusing observations he makes is the statement that Las Vegas is just an unimportant whistle stop town – "always was, always will be."
  • The comic series The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa portrayed him alongside Wyatt Earp, Soapy Smith, and hanging Judge Roy Bean.
  • The 2011 novel The Gunsmith #351 (The Trial of Bat Masterson) by Robert J. Randisi, describes a time in which fictional character Clint Adams comes to the aid of his friend, Bat Masterson, who has been wrongly accused of murder and is being pursued by the "victim's" brother. Many references are made to Masterson as one of Adam's closest friends throughout the series.
  • The 2015 novel And The Wind Whispered by Dan Jorgensen features Bat Masterson as one of the key characters in a book set in 1894 Hot Springs, SD. In it, he joins forces with famed reporter Nellie Bly and Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock to help thwart an outlaw gang's incursion on the city and attempts to rob visiting (and vacationing) dignitaries in the southern Black Hills community.



  • Mason Alan Dinehart (1936– ), played Masterson from 1955 to 1959 in 34 episodes of the ABC Western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian in the title role.
  • Bat Masterson was a U.S. television series loosely based on the historical character. Masterson was portrayed by Gene Barry (1919–2009). Bat Masterson aired on NBC in 108 episodes from October 8, 1958, to June 1, 1961, and featured Masterson as a superbly dressed gambler, generally outfitted in a black suit and derby hat, who was more inclined to "bat" crooks over the head with his gold-knobbed cane than shoot them. Hundreds of thousands of plastic derby hats and canes were sold as children's toys during the show's run.
  • Animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera satirized Masterson in a 1964 Punkin' Puss and Mushmouse cartoon, "Bat Mouseterson", in which Mushmouse's city-dwelling, cane-wielding cousin comes to hill country for a visit and teaches Mushmouse the gentleman's way of warding off Punkin' Puss.
  • A character called "Bat Masterson" appears in the 1980s Western series Bordertown in the episode "Nebraska Lightning", where he helps the fictional characters U.S. Marshal Jack Craddock and Canadian Northwest Mountie Corporal Clive Bennett take on the Nebraska Lightning Gang.
  • In one episode of Beakman's World, Beakman portrayed himself in a short film as Masterson when teaching about how actors do not injure themselves when doing things that are meant to cause injury.
  • Gene Barry reprised his role as Masterson in the episode "A Gathering of Guns" (1987) on the television series Guns of Paradise (Hugh O'Brian also reprised his role as Wyatt Earp).
  • A man claiming to be Bat Masterson, portrayed by Philip Bosco and credited as Mike Killabrew, appears in the series Early Edition in a 1997 episode titled "Bat Masterson".[63]
  • A character called Bat Masterson, portrayed by Steven Ogg, appears in the 2014 Murdoch Mysteries episode "Glory Days", going to Toronto in pursuit of famous outlaws and clashing with the local constabulary's style of investigation.
  • A character called Bat Masterson is played by Matthew Le Nevez in the 2015 Lifetime TV series, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, a counter-history to the legend of Lizzie Borden.


Masterson is mentioned in various games using the names of "authentic" historic characters.

  • Red Dead Revolver character Jack Swift is based on Bat Masterson.
  • Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures narrator, both original quotations and fictional quotations attributed to Bat Masterson are used throughout the rulebook.
  • Bat Masterson is used as a non-player character in Pirate101.


  • Bat Masterson's Creede by Tony Clark

Masterson plays an important role in the play Bat Masterson's Creede, a play written about Masterson and the important role he played in the silver boomtown of Creede, Colorado.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laughead, George. "W. B. "Bat" Masterson | Dodge City Lawman | Frontier Gunfighter, Gambler, Buffalo Hunter | Ford County Historical Society, Dodge City, KS". Retrieved 2017-09-29. 
  2. ^ Other dates are cited in some Colin sources, but his baptism is recorded in the Quebec Archives in a record dated 27 November 1853, making it clear that he was born the previous day. (See DeArment, Robert K., Bat Masterson, The Man and the Legend, University of Oklahoma Press, 1979, pp.9–10.)
  3. ^ Bartholomaeus Masterson in the 1870 US Census in St. Clair County, Illinois
  4. ^ Bat Masterson later claimed on U.S. census that he was born in Illinois or Missouri, but that was probably because he had never bothered to become naturalized and had voted and held public office.
  5. ^ The six other Masterson children were Edward John (1852-1878), James Patrick (1855-1895), Nellie E. (1857-1925), Thomas (1858-1941), George Henry (1860-1889), and Emma Anna "Minnie" (1862-1884).
  6. ^ a b Clavin, Tom, "Dodge City", p.39
  7. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1979 - pp. 32-33.
  8. ^ William Olds blew his own head off by accident as he was descending a ladder. William "Billy" Tyler was killed by the Indians, and two brothers, Isaac and Jacob Scheidler, were sleeping in their wagon when the Indians attacked and were killed by them.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Masterson defeated his opponent, Lawrence Edward "Larry" Deger, by a vote of 166 to 163.
  11. ^ Dodge City Times, December 8, 1877.
  12. ^ "City Marshal: Edward J. Masterson". Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c d DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-8061-2221-2. 
  14. ^ a b DeArment, Robert K. (2005) Broadway Bat: Gunfighter in Gotham (Talei Publishers)
  15. ^ The evidence is reviewed in Penn, Chris "Gunfire in Dodge City: The Night Ed Masterson Was Killed" Wild West December 2004
  16. ^ Dodge City Times, October 12, 1878.
  17. ^ Dodge City Times, November 8, 1879.
  18. ^ Masterson, W.B. "Bat." "Colonel Cody - Hunter, Scout, Indian Fighter." Human Life Vol. 6, No.6, March 1908.
  19. ^ Dodge City Times, July 17, 1880.
  20. ^ Alfred James "A.J. Peacock was born in Watford, Hertfordshire, England on March 4, 1838, he died in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 15, 1891.
  21. ^ Albert "Al" Updegraff was born in 1847 in Shelbyville, Indiana. He died in Dodge City, from smallpox on February 2, 1883.
  22. ^ Trinidad Daily Advertiser, March 28, 1883.
  23. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, 1979 - p. 247.
  24. ^ On July 21, 1883 The National Police Gazette published an engraving based upon the iconic group photograph taken by Charles A Conkling just 41 days earlier. It was the first occasion that a version of this group portrait was reproduced for a wide audience - and the first time it was provided with the caption by which it remains best known, "The Dodge City Peace Commission".
  25. ^ Globe Live Stock Journal, November 4, 1884.
  26. ^ Rocky Mountain News, September 22, 1886.
  27. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson's New York City Years. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013 - pp.38-39. ISBN 978-0-8061-4263-0
  28. ^ DeArment, Robert K. (1982) "Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers" Norman: U OK Press. p. 173.
  29. ^ Secrest, Clark. (2002) "Hell’s Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime In Early Denver" Boulder: UP CO. pp. 143–145.
  30. ^ Emma was the daughter of John Walter (1826–1862) and Catherine Bantom (1829–1907). She had two sisters, Anna Maria Walter (1854–1935) and Clara Virginia Walter (1858–1865).
  31. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson's New York City Years, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013 - pp. 40-41. ISBN 978-0-8061-4263-0
  32. ^ Penn. Chris. (2011) "Bat Masterson's Emma." Wild West Historical Association Journal, Volume IV Number 2.
  33. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson's New York City Years, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013 - p. 41. ISBN 978-0-8061-4263-0
  34. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 13, 1889.
  35. ^ Dodge City Globe-Republican, September 9, 1892.
  36. ^ Luke Short died on September 8, 1893, just a year and a day after the fight. Charles E. Bassett died on January 5, 1896.
  37. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1979 - pp. 342-343.
  38. ^ DeArment, Robert K. (Feb 14, 2013). Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson's New York City Years. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806189116. 
  39. ^ Rocky Mountain News, June 6, 1895.
  40. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, 1979 - pp. 346-347.
  41. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, 1979 - pp. 351-361, 363, 367.
  42. ^ 1900 United States Federal Census Record, Arapahoe, Denver, Precinct #3
  43. ^ DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, 1979 - pp. 361-363.
  44. ^ Raine, William McLeod. Guns of the Frontier, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940 ( pp. 167-69).
  45. ^ New York World, June 8, 1902.
  46. ^ Lewis, Alfred Henry. The Sunset Trail: A Novel, New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1905.
  47. ^ Roosevelt to Masterson, February 2, 1905. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  48. ^ The full title of the magazine was Human Life: The Magazine About People Edited by Alfred Henry Lewis.
  49. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 4, No. 4 ) January, 1907.
  50. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 4, No. 5 ) February, 1907
  51. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 5, No. 1 ) April, 1907
  52. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 5, No. 2 ) May, 1907
  53. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 5, No. 4 ) July, 1907
  54. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 6, No. 2 ) November, 1907
  55. ^ Human Life (Vol. 6, No. 6 ) March, 1908
  56. ^ DeMattos, Jack. Masterson and Roosevelt. College Station, TX: Creative Publishing Company, 1984 ISBN 0-932702-31-7.
  57. ^ Boxing's Best: Jack Johnson, HBO Sports Presentation. Big Fights, Inc., 1989. VHS Tape, 55 minutes. ISBN 1-55983-158-8
  58. ^ Masterson to Roosevelt, May 14, 1917. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  59. ^ Hart, William S. My Life East and West, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929 - p. 307.
  60. ^ Eleven years after Masterson's death, a collection of Runyon's short stories was published under the title Guys and Dolls. These stories later formed the basis for the classic 1950 musical comedy of the same name. The central character in Runyon's Guys and Dolls was a high-rolling gambler from Colorado whom Runyon barely disguised under the name of Sky Masterson.
  61. ^ "Bat Masterson Dies at Editor's Desk. Sporting Writer and Last of Oldtime Western Gun Fighters Was 67. Beat in Long Siege. Deputy U.S. Marshal for Southern District of New York Under His Friend, Colonel Roosevelt". New York Times. October 26, 1921. William Barclay Masterson, better known as Bat Masterson, sporting writer, friend of Theodore Roosevelt and former sheriff of Dodge City, Kansas, died suddenly yesterday while writing an article at his desk in the office of The Morning Telegraph. 
  62. ^ "Bat Masterson". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  63. ^ Bat Masterson on IMDb

Further reading[edit]

  • DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson's Rescue of Bully Bill," True West, October 1979.
  • DeArment, Robert K. Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "That Masterson-McDonald Standoff." True West, January 1998.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson and the Boxing Club War of Denver." Colorado Heritage, Autumn 2000.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson in New York City." Wild West, June 2001.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson's Femmes Fatales." True West, October 2001.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson Myths." Wild West, June 2004.
  • DeArment, Robert K. Broadway Bat: Gunfighter in Gotham. The New York City Years of Bat Masterson, Honolulu, Hawaii: Talei Publishers, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-9770525-0-8
  • DeArment, Robert K. Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson's New York City Years. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8061-4263-0
  • DeMattos, Jack. "The President and the Gunfighter," True West, February 1976.
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Those Guns of Bat Masterson," Frontier Times, March 1977.
  • DeMattos, Jack. Masterson and Roosevelt. College Station, TX: Creative Publishing Company, 1984. ISBN 0-932702-31-7
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Gunfighters of the Real West: Bat Masterson," Real West, February 1985.
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Between Pals: A Missive Between Presidential Gunfighters." Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, July–September 1993.
  • Earp, Wyatt. "Wyatt Earp's Tribute to Bat Masterson, the Hero of 'Dobe Walls," San Francisco Examiner, Sunday, August 16, 1896.
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry. The Sunset Trail: A Novel, New York, NY: A.L. Burt Company., 1905
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry' "The King of the Gun-Players, William Barclay Masterson," Human Life Vol. 6, No. 2, November 1907.
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry. "William Barclay Masterson: An Adventure Story with a Live Hero." Texas Magazine, March 1913.
  • Masterson, W.B. (Bat). "Alfred Henry Lewis Lived in Action He Penned." New York Morning Telegraph, November 11, 1917.
  • Masterson, W.B. (Bat). Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier. ( The 75th Anniversary Edition Annotated and Illustrated by Jack DeMattos ). Monroe, WA: Weatherford Press, 1982. ISBN 0-9604078-1-2
  • Miller, Nyle H. and Snell, Joseph W. Why the West Was Wild, Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1963.
  • O'Connor, Richard. Bat Masterson: The Biography of one of the West's Most Famous Gunfighters and Marshals. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1957.
  • Palmquist, Bob "Who Killed Jack Wagner?" True West, October 1993.
  • Penn, Chris, "A Note on Bartholomew Masterson," English Westerners Brand Book, Vol. IX, No. 3, April 1967.
  • Penn, Chris, "Gunfire in Dodge City: The Night Ed Masterson Was Killed", Wild West, December 2004.
  • Penn, Chris. "Bat Masterson's Emma." Wild West History Association Journal, April 2011.
  • Roberts, Gary L. "Bat Masterson and the Sweetwater Shootout." Wild West, October 2000.
  • Thompson, George C. Bat Masterson: The Dodge City Years, Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1943.
  • Wiltsey, Norman B. "A Man Called Bat," True West, December 1956.

External links[edit]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Charlie Bassett
Sheriff of Ford County, Kansas
November 9, 1877–November 4, 1879
Succeeded by
George T. Hinkel
Preceded by
Lou Kreegler
City Marshal of Trinidad, Colorado
April 17, 1882–April 3, 1883
Succeeded by
Lou Kreegler