Legendary Lawman and a western giveaway
by Susan Page Davis
Bat Masterson is a western legend, thanks in large part to a television series loosely based on his stint as a lawman in Dodge City, Kansas. The show aired for three seasons in 1958-61, and starred Gene Barry as the gambling lawman, and portrayed him as a dandy. In real life Bat favored the derby hat, as does Barry in the show. The cane may have been added, or at any rate, its use was definitely enhanced in the series.
From 1955-59, actor Mason Alan Dinehart portrayed Bat Masterson as a recurring character in another TV series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O’Brian as Earp. For one overlapping year, both series aired new episodes.
|Gene Barry as Bat Masterson|
Copyright 1958 NBC-Television Photo
by Herb Ball
Born in Quebec Province, Canada, in 1853, Masterson’s legal name was Bartholomiew, from which the nickname “Bat” was probably derived. His parents moved to Kansas territory with their seven children. When he was 17 and his brother Ed was 19, the two left home for adventure on the frontier. Somewhere along the way, Bat changed his name to William Barclay Masterson.
Over the years, Bat held a lot of occupations, starting as a buffalo skinner and hunter. He was one of the 29 defenders at the Battle of Adobe Walls in Texas, when several Indian tribes joined together to attack a group of buffalo hunters. Other jobs he held for short periods included scouting for the Army and working as a teamster and on railroad construction.
Though Bat was known as a gunman, it is believed he only ever killed one man in a gunfight, not counting the Indian attack at Adobe Walls. Bat was wounded in that incident, and some say the cane he used during his lengthy recovery inspired his nickname. More likely he already had the nickname “Bat,” but the cane story was perpetuated by the television series.
|The "real" Bat Masterson,|
Public Domain photo
from Wikimedia Commons
In 1877, Bat opened a saloon in Dodge City. A short time later, he was appointed undersheriff of Ford County. That fall, he was elected county sheriff. His capture of a gang of train robbers soon after added to his reputation. Bat practiced shooting often, and this also contributed to his reputation, so that gunmen did not want to risk going up against him. His brother Ed, who became city marshal of Dodge City, however, was killed in a shootout with two drunken cowboys.
In April of 1879, Bat was appointed a U.S. Marshal, an office he held for about a year and a half. In between official positions, he gambled and hired on for various jobs, sometimes as muscle. In 1881 he joined friend Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, at the Oriental Saloon. While Bat was there, his younger brother, Jim, telegraphed for his help in Dodge City. Bat, then age 27, hopped the next train, to settle the business dispute that had already prompted gunplay. It was Bat Masterson’s last shootout. One of Jim’s cantankerous business partners was badly wounded, but it couldn’t be proved who had fired the shot. Bat paid a small fine and left town.
|Bat, standing, with friend|
Public domain photo
Bat dealt cards at saloons and began to dabble in newspaper writing. In the 1890s, he became sports editor for a Denver newspaper. Unfortunately, his drinking often got him in trouble, and in 1902 he was asked to leave Denver. He moved to New York, where his fortunes took a turn for the better.
Recognized as a celebrity in New York, he became friends with boxing champions Jack Dempsey, Jess Willard, and Jack Johnson, and several well-known writers, including Damon Runyan and Louella Parsons, and he once more took to sports writing. President Theodore Roosevelt invited him to the White House and offered him an appointment as U.S. marshal for Oklahoma, but Bat didn’t want to return to the West. Roosevelt appointed him deputy U.S. marshal in New York instead. He held the position for about two years.
|Bat Masterson's signature|
When he was named sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph, Bat resigned as a deputy marshal. He continued his sports beat and also wrote a series of articles about characters he had known in the Wild West for Human Life magazine in 1907. He continued writing until October 25, 1921, when he went to the newspaper office, sat down at his desk, and began to write his next column. Bat Masterson suffered a heart attack and died at his desk.
|Beneath the family name on Bat's tombstone appears his full name,|
William Barclay Masterson,
and the words, "Loved by Everyone."
Photo by Anthony22 at en.wikipedia
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Susan Page Davis is the author of more than forty published novels. A history major, she’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com.