Friday, May 23, 2014

Bat Masterson--Legend of the West

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,
about 1879
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
Wyatt Earp
Public domain photo
 
      After that, Bat drifted around gambling and getting involved in minor fracases, but for the most part his reputation was now that of a man who avoided violence when he could. He served a short stint as town marshal of Trinidad, Colorado. He became involved as an official and a promoter of horse races and prizefights and settled in Denver. In 1891, he married an actress named Emma Walters. They never had children.

      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
 
 


      If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy (print or e-book) of one of Susan's westerns, leave a comment below. Two winners will be chosen May 30. Choose Cowgirl Trail, The Lady's Maid, Lady Anne's Quest, A Lady in the Making, The Sheriff's Surrender, The Gunsmith's Gallantry, The Blacksmith's Bravery, or Almost Arizona.
 
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
 
 

  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.

 

33 comments:

  1. Susan, I loved your very informative post about Bat Masterson. I found it so very interesting. Mr. Masterson was quite a guy. I would love to win one of your wonderful and I thank you for the opportunity.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Melanie. I had a lot of fun researching him. He wasn't all white-hat, but he's certainly one of our most beloved real-life western characters.

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  2. Hi Susan. This was very interesting. I really enjoyed reading about Masterson's life. I had never heard the true story. I love learning history from you authors. I of course, saw the movies you mentioned. Still love westerns and have several channels where I watch all of the old favorites I had missed. I loved all of the Wyatt Earp of course and my favorite was John Wayne movies. Got to meet him. Was a thrill. I also loved Bonanza, Wagon Train, Rifleman, and so many others I can watch now. But love to read these stories of one's real life. Thanks. Would really love to win one of your westerns. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. I'm with you, Maxie--love the way we can see so many of these old shows now and reminisce.

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  3. I enjoy reading about Bat - thank you for sharing your post with us. griperang at embarqmail dot com

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  4. Very interesting article. I enjoy learning more about Western history. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Claudia. Sometimes I get browsing in books about the old West and just sort of disappear for hours.

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  5. I remember watching so many cowboy shows as a kid with Bat Masterson. I think I was fascinated with his name. It was cool to read more about the real man. I never knew he was a sports editor.

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    1. Yeah, he was one of the few who hung up his gun and made it in a totally different profession. Thanks, Vickie!

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    1. Hi, Candice, and you're welcome! Good to see you here.

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  7. Susan, loved this post ! I never missed an episode of Bat Masterson on tv as a kid. I remember our group of neighborhood friends used to play as cowboys and cowgirls and one was always Bat ! ( LOL ) we had our cowboy hats and gun belts and always had a Jail space in the garage. Great memories and we all grew up normal !!
    I never knew all of Bat's history and found it very interesting.
    thank you
    mcnuttjem0(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Oh, that brings back memories! In the loft of our old barn there were several wooden bedsteads. We stood them up along the walls for the false fronts of a western town.

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  8. Great article! I enjoy learning more about history.

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  9. I loved stories about Bat Masterson when I was growing up. Thanks for the post. I learned so much from your fascinating research.

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    1. You're making me smile, Nancy! Don't you just love doing research? I think it's a gene.

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  10. Susan, thanks so much for this post - it brought back such great, long-forgotten memories. I loved the Bat Masterson TV show and can still sing the theme song. And I always thought Gene Barry was so suave and cool :)

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    1. Oh, me too, Winnie! And I was thinking as I looked at the photos that Gene Barry might have looked good if he'd grown a Bat mustache!

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  11. I have read about Bat Masterson before, but your info really brings him alive! Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Joy! There was so much more I didn't have space for ...

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  12. Very interesting... I'd hear a bit about Bat Masterson, but it's always fun to learn more. :)
    Thanks for the giveaway! :)

    crazybooklover7 [at] yahoo [dot] com

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    1. You're welcome. And Crazy Book Lovers are always welcome here--it's a good place to hang out.

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  13. Thanks for sharing the fascinating history of this man! I wonder just what one has to do to get asked to leave Denver... Please enter me in your giveaway!

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com

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    1. Oh, Heidi, that was not his finest moment. Poor man! I was so glad when I learned he had cleaned up his act in NY. And maybe that episode had something to do with his not wanting to go west again when TR offered him the job.

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  14. Great post and what a legend...would love to win one of your books. truckredford(AT)gmail(dot)com

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    1. You're entered, Eliza. One interesting tidbit about the photo of Bat with Wyatt Earp: The thing on Earp's shirt front is a fabric scroll that was his badge at that time. And we thought they were always tin stars!

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  15. This was a great post. I have read some of your books and loved them. Thank you for a chance to win a copy of another one.
    Very interesting about the badge on your comment above.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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  16. Thank you, Susan. There's always something new to learn, isn't there?

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  17. Thanks, Susan, for this post about Bat. I didn't know much about him before.
    Campbellamyd at Gmail dot com

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  18. You're welcome, Amy. I had fun with this one.

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  19. Winners for this post are: Angela Holland and aerykah (Crazy Book Lover). Congratulations, and thank you everybody for your fun comments.

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