feature By: Leo Remiger | April, 18
Rath and Company (represented by Charles Rath, Robert M. Wright and James Langton), Myers and Leonard, and the Cator Brothers filed suit in the U.S. Court of Claims for the recovery of losses they suffered during and after the battle of Adobe Walls.
The men were questioned individually and gave formal depositions at various locations and dates. Rath, Wright, Johnson and James Cator had gotten together some days before they were to provide their sworn testimony to discuss the events and refresh their memories. What’s interesting is even though these men had gotten together to get their stories straight, there was disagreement about the facts in the sworn depositions they gave.
This is a fairly long series of articles, as some of the depositions were quite lengthy. The information provided about the circumstances surrounding the battle of Adobe Walls, the differences in memory and styles of testimony, along with the general history of the great buffalo hunt certainly make them interesting reading and worth repeating here. We hope you agree.
We continue this series with a short “hide-hunting” history, and later the depositions of William B. “Bat” Masterson.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CHAS. RATH & Co., Complainants
State of Kansas SS = V =
Sedgwick Co. The United States & the Cheyenne,
Kiowa & Comanche Indians
The Masterson Brothers; Edward, William “Bat”, and James
Alfred Henry Lewis mentions that Bat was surprised by five Cheyenne on the Medicine Lodge River. He was skinning a buffalo and when the Indians suddenly appeared. One of them picked up his Sharps rifle and another darted up to him and snatched his revolver from its scabbard. Bat was then felled with a blow on the head.
Naturally this story seems to be a fabrication. It is hard to believe that the Indians would have let Masterson live when they had
In the spring of 1874, Ed and Jim Masterson returned home to Sedgwick. Bat joined the party of 50 men who departed Dodge City in company with A.C. Myers to locate a trading post near the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle.
Billy Dixon provides the next segment of Bat Masterson’s career as buffalo hunter:
I do not believe it would have been possible to find a man who loved practical joking more than did Bat Masterson. He was in his glory at that sort of thing, and was forever pulling off something of the kind. Bat was one of the three that had gone to build the fire. He now came to camp, ready to pilot the hunters where they would “sure find a million turkeys” - and the camp-fire.
It was arranged that Bat should start out, with Fairchild close at his heels and Myers bringing up the rear. Bat cautioned Fairchild to keep both eyes wide open and to move softly, as the turkeys must not be frightened.
Rounding a bend of the creek, where the timber was dark and dense, the hunters suddenly found themselves slap-bang against a camp-fire in full blaze. Bat motioned to Fairchild to move back into the timber. The three then held a consultation to discover, if possible, who had built the fire. Bat was dead sure that it was an Indian camp; he had been dreaming about Indians two or three nights he said, and was now fearful that the worst was at hand. Myers tried to argue that Bat was mistaken and rattled, if not actually showing a streak of yellow; anyway, he was willing to bet that Fairchild could whip all the Indians in the Panhandle if given a fair show.
Bang-Bang-Bang! Half a dozen shots were fired in the direction of the hunters. The bullets whistled and ripped through the branches close above their heads. Myers took the lead back to camp yelling bloody murder at every step, to terrify Fairchild. Bat came last, gradually dropping behind and firing his six-shooter until Fairchild was confident that the most desperate fight with Indians imaginable was at hand.
“Run, Fairchild; run for your life!” shouted Masterson.
At a bound Fairchild had passed Myers, and tore into camp like a tornado coming through a forest. He was half a mile ahead of Bat and Myers. They had let him far enough away to give him a long, hard run.
Fairchild stumbled and fell exhausted on a pile of bedding, gasping for breath, his eyes distended and his teeth chattering. We crowded round, seemingly in great alarm, asking him a thousand questions about the cause of his fright. For several minutes he was unable to speak, and acted as if he was suffocating. Finally, he managed to say in a hoarse whisper:
“Oh, men, he must be shot,” exclaimed a mischievous hunter.
Thereupon, another joker seized a butcher knife and ripped Fairchild’s shirt down the back from collar to tail. Another, frantically calling for water, and finding none, emptied the contents of the camp coffee pot down Fairchild’s bare back, which alarmed Fairchild with the fear that he had been wounded.
Fairchild was recovering by the time Myers and Masterson and the men who had been at the campfire bounded in, panting for breath, and began upbraiding Fairchild for abandoning them to the mercy of the Indians. We had asked Fairchild what had become of Bat and Myers, and he feebly replied:
“Killed, I guess.”
“How many Indians were there, and did you see them?”
He answered that he did not know how may there were, because of the way they shot, but he was sure that the timber was full of them. Once he heard something whiz past his head which he knew was not a bullet, but an arrow.
Masterson now stepped forward and declared that the whole turkey roost country was alive with Indians. Instantly, there was rushing to and fro in preparation for defense. Serious, perhaps fatal trouble for everybody, was at hand; the devil was to pay and no pitch hot. All kinds of suggestions were offered as to what was best to do. Some of the boys were in favor of starting at once for Dodge City, as the Indians would be unable to follow our trail at night, and we might get far enough away by daylight to escape. Fairchild was firmly committed to the Dodge City plan.
More resolute men were in favor of fighting it out, if every man bit the dust, and proposed that a strong guard be thrown round the camp, and that the men take turns standing guard until morning.
This plan was adopted, and the guards were stationed at regular intervals everywhere round camp, save on the river side, where a high bank offered protection against sudden surprise.
Fairchild was placed on guard nearest the river, and warned to maintain a vigilant lookout along the edge of the bank, as the Indians might swim up the river and plug him when he wasn’t looking, after which they would kill everybody in camp. As a matter of fact, it would have been impossible for the enemy to approach in this manner, because of the swiftness of the water, and the banks were too high and steep to be scaled.
By this time Fairchild was ready to believe anything he heard and was so badly rattled that he failed to see that we had left our camp-fire burning, something that we would never have done had we actually felt that Indians were in the vicinity, as fires would have exposed us to a broadside from the darkness. Fairchild was in no frame of mind to think of trifles, and obeyed all orders without asking why.
The guards were stationed, and shortly afterward, one by one, they came in, all save Fairchild, who stood at his post. There was much noisy laughter over the trick we had played on him. When Fairchild failed to meet the next guard, he became suspicious, and drew near camp, where he overheard what we were saying. Then he came in, with blood in his eyes. I have often thought that he was the angriest man I ever saw in my life. We were too many for him, or else he would have crippled somebody. He refused to eat breakfast, and sulked for several days. This cured him, however, of wanting to kill an Indian, and ever afterwards he was a good hunter and a good fellow.
A campsite was established on East Adobe Walls Creek, approximately a mile and a half from the original Adobe Walls. By May the trading post was operational, most of the buildings and corrals were finished or in their final stages of construction.
Everyone was making preparations for the buffalo herds to arrive on their northern migration. In late May, they arrived and the hunters left for the killing ground. By the middle of June, news reached the “Walls” of the murder of Dave Dudley and Tommy Wallace on Chicken Creek. Indian trouble was in the air. Then came the news of Anderson Moore’s two men being killed, John Thompson Jones, variously known as “Cheyenne Jack” or “Antelope Jack” and another young German named W. Muhler, known on the range as “Blue Billy.” Pretty soon other men began having encounters with hostiles including the Mooar brothers, “Brick” Bond, and the Dubb’s outfit.
Accounts vary on just who Masterson was working for at Adobe Walls. Andrew Johnson remembered that he was working for Billy Dixon, Fred Leonard noted that he was an employee of Myers and Leonard. At any rate, Masterson and Fred Leonard were sleeping in their bedrolls inside the Myers and Leonard corral when the initial Indian charge was made on Adobe Walls the morning of June 27, 1874. Masterson jumped up and ran for the saloon while Leonard reached for his cartridge belt and six-shooter. After securing these, he grabbed his boots and made a dash for the back door of his store. Based on this evidence, it would seem prudent to surmise that Masterson worked for Hanrahan, otherwise he would have ran to the Myers and Leonard store.
Not much is said about Masterson during the actual fight except that he was fighting from the saloon. During a lull in the fighting he made a dash for Myers and Leonard’s store to secure ammunition and there saw his young friend Billy Tyler die. Some accounts say Tyler died in Masterson’s arms.
Masterson left this description of the fight:
The red devils charged right down to the doors and portholes of the stockade but were met with a withering fire from the brave and cool men inside and had to retire time and time again. So close would they come that we planted our guns in their faces and against their bodies through the portholes, while they were raining their arrows and bullets down on us. For two terrible hours they made successive charges upon the walls, displaying a bravery and daring unsurpassed in any Indian battle known to history. So sure of victory were they, having been told by their medicine man they would win, they rode up in squads of three abreast and when at the doors whirled their horses around and tried to break down the doors by backing the horses against them. We had to support the doors with boxes of groceries, merchandise and everything we could get hold of. Sometimes the doors would be pushed partly open by the weight of the horses and at such times other Indians would shoot through the narrow openings as they dashed by. At times they drew off for a short spell to council and then come back with renewed determination it seemed to us. At one of these lulls in the fight a young warrior mounted on a magnificent pony decorated with a gaudy war bonnet and brilliant trappings made a dash for the walls alone. He rode with the speed of an eagle and with the swiftness of an arrow came on against that side of the walls where the portholes were most numerous and danger to him greatest. He succeeded in getting near the walls and, jumping from his saddle, ran to one of the portholes and, sticking his revolver through the opening, emptied it in the room but fortunately did no more than fill it with smoke. When he attempted to retreat he was shot from his horse which went galloping away across the prairie. He staggered to his feet but was again shot down and then while lying wounded he pulled another pistol from his belt and deliberately blew out his brains. I have never seen a bolder deed.
The young man was later identified as Stone Teeth, son of Stone Calf, one of the leaders of the Southern Cheyenne.
Bat Masterson also recalled:
We had in the building I was in (Hanrahan’s saloon), two men who had served in the United States Army, and understood all the bugle calls. The first call blown was a rally, which our men instantly understood. The next was a charge, and that also was understood, and immediately the Indians come rushing forward to a fresh attack. Every bugle call he blew was understood by the ex-soldiers and was carried out to the letter by the Indians, showing that the bugler had the Indians thoroughly drilled.
The bugler was killed late in the afternoon of the first day’s fighting as he was running away from a wagon owned by the Shadler brothers, both of whom were killed in this same wagon. The bugler had his bugle with him at the time he was shot by Harry Armitage. Also he was carrying a tin can filled with sugar and another filled with ground coffee, one under each arm. Armitage shot him through the back with a .50 caliber Sharp’s rifle, as he was making his escape.
After the first day of fighting, hunters began arriving at the Walls. Among them was Frank J. Brown’s outfit, Orlando “Brick” Bond’s outfit, George Bellfield’s outfit, and William Tilghman’s outfit to name just a few. “Dutch Henry” Born was at the Walls and upon the arrival of Tilghman’s outfit he greeted them. Tilghman was known as a crack shot and Dutch Henry introduced him to Bat Masterson saying:
Here’s Bill Tilghman, Bat, and I bet he can beat you shooting.
The story goes that Masterson eyed Tilghman, extended his hand and said:
After the fight an incident occurred on the eve of Hanrahan’s departure for Dodge City that came close to claiming Masterson’s life. After the fight, William Olds was killed accidentally. Masterson had borrowed the Sharps rifle from Hannah Olds. Everyone thought it a good idea that Masterson use this rifle. On July 12, when Mrs. Olds found out that Masterson planned to leave with the Hanrahan party for Dodge City, she sent a message to Fred Leonard and asked him to retrieve the gun from Masterson.
After we arrived at the Adobe Walls, a party of Indians was seen from the look-out on Rath’s store. Just as the alarm was given Olds was climbing down the ladder with this gun and in the excitement it accidentally went off and killed him. The whole top of his head was blowed off. This was a terrible shock for his wife, who was the only woman at the Adobe Walls. And she saw the accident.
After Mr. Olds was killed, Bat in some way got possession of this good gun. He was a good shot and perhaps it was thought he could use it to good purpose in case of another attack. Anyway he had it and when Mrs. Olds asked him for it he put her off by saying he would be responsible for it.
Mrs. Olds heard he was leaving for Dodge City the next day and became alarmed lest he get off with her gun.
She appealed to Myers’ and Leonard’s Store, where I always hung out, being good friends with Fred Leonard. I never drank, so, consequently, I was not counted a good fellow by the crowd who hung around Hanrahan’s Saloon.
Mrs. Olds wrote a note to Leonard’s asking them to get her gun for her. We all talked it over in the store and decided that the poor widow hadn’t much else; and she should at least have her husband’s gun to protect herself with.
We knew who had the gun and Leonard wanted me to go with him to get it. I didn’t want to go and said:
“I haven’t got any business in Hanrahan’s Saloon.”
But they all insisted that the widow didn’t have anybody to look out for her; and that I ought to go with Leonard and help him get her gun. So, against my will, I went with Leonard early the next morning.
Bat was leaning on the bar in Hanrahan’s Saloon. We went up to him and Leonard handed him Mrs. Olds’ note and said:
“We came to get the widow’s gun for her.”
Bat read the note, then says to Leonard:
“I have charge of this gun. You go on and attend to your own business and I’ll attend to mine.”
Then I, not really knowing very much about the situation, butted in and says:
“Well, Bat, by what right do you claim the gun?”
He flew into a rage and struck at me saying:
“It’s none of your business either, you dam_____ Swede. See how you like this.”
And he hit me on the jaw. I knocked him down and was getting the best of him when Hanrahan interfered and two of Bat’s friends got stools and commenced lamming us with them. When they had broken the legs off the first stools, they got new ones.
They knocked Len out the door and down a steep embankment. They had me in a corner punching me in the ribs with the stool legs. I moved along the wall until I came to a window; and Hanrahan hit me on the chin and knocked me out the window. The window was about two and one half feet from the ground; but sacks of dirt had been piled all around the room as high as the window for protection against the Indians.
As I fell out the window, Will Thornhill and Art Abecombe stuck a six-shooter in each of my hands. My Irish fighting blood was up and I started back in. I jumped up and put one leg over the windowsill with the guns in my hands. While in this ludicrous position, someone from inside held a buffalo gun to my head and said:
“What do you want in here?”
I answered very meekly:
“I want my hat.”
They took away both my guns and knocked me back out; but they threw me my hat.
By this time the men had all gathered around and taken sides.
Bat’s crowd, which was the smaller, on the inside of the saloon, and ours on the outside. It looked as though we had only defended ourselves against the Indians, to kill each other in a common brawl.
My crowd stationed ourselves around the saloon and every time anyone of Bat’s crowd stuck his head out we’d shoot.
We stayed there about a couple of hours and they got tired of the confinement and tied a white rag to a gun barrel and held it out the window. We stopped shooting and two of the men brought Mrs. Olds’ gun out to us; and we gave it to her.
She was very grateful to us for risking our lives for her gun.
Before he left Bat and his pardners came to me and said:
“Well, Brown, how shall we settle this? With guns or with an apology from you for insinuating that I intended to steal that gun.”
“We’ll settle it the way it began, with our fists, or you’ll apologize for the dirty name you called me.”
He knew, without interference, I could give him a good thrashing, so he apologized.”
Billy Dixon recalls the event a little differently:
A serious row was barely averted the night before we pulled out for Dodge. Guns were scarce, and after the death of Olds, Bat Masterson had borrowed the Olds gun, a better gun that the one used by Masterson, who had lent his gun to another man. When it was learned that we were going to Dodge, Mrs. Olds sent for her husband’s gun. Bat sent back word that he wanted to keep the gun until morning, promising that he would promptly return it at that time. This was not agreeable to Mrs. Olds, and she sent a man named Brown to Hanrahan’s to get the gun without further talk, as she feared that she might lose it.
Brown made a few mistakes in his language in discussing the matter with Hanrahan, the latter having said several times that he would be personally responsible for the gun and would guarantee that it was returned to Mrs. Olds. Brown crowded matters until Hanrahan grabbed him by the nape of the neck and the seat of the trousers, shook him as a bulldog would a kitten, and then threw Brown out of the saloon saying,
“Get out of my building, you ____________, _____ _____” !
Hanrahan drew his own gun and had Brown covered, ready to pull the trigger, which I believe he would have done, if several of us had not disarmed him, and then reasoned with him not to go any further, because if shooting began there was no telling what might happen, as both men had friends. Next morning Bat returned the gun to Mrs. Olds.
The row spread ill feeling among a number of the men, and though blood had been spilt in fighting for each other was scarcely dry on the ground, yet some were now ready to begin fighting each other.....
Whatever the actual story, Masterson, Hanrahan, Brown, and three of Brown’s men, Arthur Abercrombie, Wil Thornhill and Josh Fredericks, all traveled together to Dodge City during the evacuation of Adobe Walls by the first large party to leave. They arrived in July and a list of 30 names was printed in the Leavenworth Daily Commercial of July 26, 1874.
On August 6th, Bat Masterson joined Lt. Frank Dwight Baldwin’s scouts and returned to Adobe Walls where they arrived on 18 August, 1874. Masterson and Billy Dixon rode ahead to tell the hunters who were still at the Walls that the troopers were coming in. In a few hours, Masterson witnessed the death of George Huffman, as Huffman and four other men tried to escape 15 mounted Indians. Three men in a wagon and Tobe Robinson made it to the safety of the trading post while Huffman was lanced from his horse and scalped before the soldiers could mount and get in pursuit of the hostiles.
Masterson continued with the scouts until terminated on October 12, 1874. He was then engaged as a teamster at Camp Supply, Indian Territory. The military had decided to establish a military cantonment on Sweetwater Creek, south of the Canadian River, near Adobe Walls. 106 teams and wagons would haul 1,000,000 pounds of grain and 650,000 pounds of goods to the new outpost. In February, 1876, the cantonment was named Fort Elliott. Charles Rath joined with Lee & Reynolds and put up a hide-buying and supply store five miles from the post. Bat Masterson returned to the buffalo range during the season of 1875-76. But he was now spending more and more of his time with the gambling fraternity.
It was on January 24, 1876, that Masterson and Corporal Melvin A. King, Company H., Fourth U.S. Cavalry had their altercation. There are numerous accounts of this famous gun battle at the Lady Gay. Included here is an account by George Curry, published in 1958, and is the only account of a person who was in Sweetwater at the time:
During one of the “dance nights” in January 1876, I was called from bed and told to ride to Fort Elliott to report to Major Hatch, Fourth U.S. Cavalry, that a soldier named King and one of the dance hall girls had been killed and two soldiers wounded in a gunfight between Bat Masterson and several buffalo hunters on one side, and the soldier, King, and several of his buddies on the other.
George Curry’s narrative gives a different picture of the events than most accounts of the incident. Regardless, it was this
Masterson traveled to the Black Hills gold rush, remained in Cheyenne, Wyoming for several months and returned to Dodge City in the Fall. He was approached by William Tilghman and Neal Brown to go on a buffalo hunt in the fall of 1876. A youngster, Fred Sutton, was brought along by Tilghman. Fred Sutton detailed his experiences in a book published in 1958. The hunters returned from this hunt which ended Masterson’s career of buffalo hunter, but he was associated with incidents involving buffalo hunters for the rest of the time he remained in Kansas.
Masterson next entered into partnership with Ben Springer and operated the Lone Star Dancehall. One of the largest dancehalls on the south side of the tracks, the Lone Star made a pitch for the Texas cattlemen’s trade. On 3 July, 1877, Charles Siringo met Bat Masterson and Jim White:
We arrived on the third of July. I drew my pay and quit the job to celebrate the glorious Fourth of July in the toughest cattle town on earth. That celebration came near to costing me my life in a free-for-all in the Lone Star Dancehall, in charge of noted Bat Masterson. The hall was jammed full of free and easy girls, long-haired buffalo-hunters, and the wild and woolly cowboys.
In the mixup my cowboy chum, Wess Adams, was severely stabbed by a buffalo-hunter. Adams had started the fight to show the long-haired buffalo hunters they were not in the cowboy class..... I promised Adams to stay with him until Hades froze up solid. After mounting our ponies, Joe Mason, a town marshal, tried to arrest us, but we ran him to cover in an alley, then went out of town yelling and shooting off our pistols.
One of the long-haired buffalo hunters was Jim White, who ended up the fight with a fractured skull. Wess Adams required some serious stitching by candlelight before he could resume the cowboy business. Masterson was appointed under-sheriff of Ford County in July, 1877.
On September 17, 1877, three men, claiming to be buffalo hunters, approached Robert M. Wright and purchased a buffalo gun and supplies. Wright loaded their wagon and the three men refused to pay their bill. They offered a gold watch to Wright and slipped out of town. Wright contacted Masterson who immediately set out in pursuit and soon overtook them. According to the Times:
Masterson overtook them, and in his amiable manner bulldozed them out of all the money they had, amounting to $25.00.
The watch and chain were worth $75 and together with the $25 almost covered Wright’s bill. Masterson thought of taking the buffalo gun, but that would have deprived the men of their means of hunting.
Before long, Edwards County Sheriff Bob McCanse with two deputies rode into Dodge City trailing the very same three men. They had stolen the watch a short time before in Edwards County and the sheriff was tracking them. The three men were captured and returned to Edwards County.
In July, 1877, Ed Masterson was appointed assistant marshal of Dodge City. On November 6, 1877, Bat Masterson was elected Sheriff of Ford County. 9,500 square miles fell under their jurisdiction. In times of need they usually deputized former buffalo hunters, men like John Joshua Webb, “Prairie Dog Dave” Morrow, Kinch Riley, William Tilghman, Wyatt Earp, and James Masterson. As often as not, Masterson saw his old buffalo hunting friends on the wrong side of the law, or even die before his eyes:
February 1, 1878
William Tilghman was arrested as an accomplice to the Kingsley train robbery.
William Tilghman was arrested as an accomplice to horse theft from four men on Walnut Creek.
January 1, 1879
“Dutch Henry” Born was arrested in Trinidad, Colorado, Masterson appeared before the magistrate to extradite Born to Ford County. They arrived on January 7.
April 5, 1879
Levi Richardson died in his gunfight with “Cockeyed” Frank Loving.
John Webb was arrested and charged with complicity in the robbery and murder of a prominent cattleman. Masterson contributed $20 to aid his old friend in pursuing justice.
July 21, 1884
Thomas Nixon was killed by “Mysterious Dave” Mather.
In 1878, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and William Tilghman went buffalo hunting for sport. They rode 100 miles west of Dodge City, then south into Oklahoma to the Cimarron River - what had been considered the best buffalo country in the world. Not one buffalo was seen!
In 1893, the government sent out a proclamation that all parties who had suffered at the hands of Indian depredations could file for a claim against the government. Charles Rath & Co. attempted to reclaim some of the loss they suffered at Adobe Walls and they asked Bat Masterson to provide a deposition.1
We continue the story of Bat Masterson with his deposition in the next issue.
1. McGinnis, Edith B., “THE PROMISED LAND,” (Texas: Toepperwein Publishing Co., 1947) pp. 21-155.
Joseph W. Snell, “DIARY OF A DODGE CITY BUFFALO HUNTER, 1872 -1873,” The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Volume XXXI, Winter, 1965, No. 4, pp. 345-395, H.H. Raymond, NOTES ON DIARY OF H.H. RAYMOND OF 1873, pp. 1-53.
DeArment, Robert K., “BAT MASTERSON, THE MAN AND THE LEGEND,” Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1979: pp. 1-441.
Baker, T. Lindsay and Billy R. Harrison, “ADOBE WALLS, THE HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGY OF THE 1874 TRADING POST,”, Texas: A&M University Press, College Station, 1986: pp. 27, 55, 65, 68-69, 72, 75, 83-84, 102-103, 105-106, 109, 140.
Dixon, Olive K., “LIFE OF BILLY DIXON,” Texas: State House Press, 1987: pp. 115, 125-127, 160, 163, 178, 188, 192.
Tilghman, Zoe, “MARSHAL OF THE LAST FRONTIER,” A.H. Clark Company, Glendale, California, 1949