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    The Indian Depredation Case Files The Sworn Depositions Part XI

    The Deposition of William "BAT" Masterson

    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.

     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.

    Their sworn depositions contain interesting information regarding the actual battle of Adobe Walls and the immediate events afterward. Other individuals that provided sworn depositions either in support or contradicting previous testimony concerning the events at Adobe Walls were Andrew Johnson, William “Billy” Dixon and W.B. “Bat” Masterson.

    The men were questioned individually and gave formal depositions at various locations and dates. 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 the Deposition of William “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



    composed of Charles Rath, R.M.
    Wright, and James Langdon.


    No. 4593.



    On the 24th day of June, in the year eighteen hundred and ninety-three, at Denver, in said County and State, personally came William B. Masterson, the witness within named, upon call of the claimant, and after he was first sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, his statements contained in the within depositions were written down by me, in the presence of the witness, who then subscribed the deposition, for himself, in my presence. The within deposition is to be used in the trial of the above-entitled cause, now pending in the Court of Claims.

    The within deposition was taken by agreement of counsel for both parties, and with the consent of the claimant.

    The claimant appeared by T.D. Cobbey, Attorney, and the United States et al, by C.E. White, Assistant Attorney.

    Jimmie L. Frazier

    Commissioner of the Court of Claims.

    Charles Rath and Company a firm composed of Charles Rath, R.M. Wright and James Langdon vs. The United States and the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa and Comanche Indians.  No. 4593 William B. Masterson, being duly sworn, deposes as follows.

    Question by Commissioner:

    Q.    State your name, age, occupation and place of residence, and what interest direct or indirect in the subject of inquiry, and what relation, if any you are to the claimants in this case.

    A.    My name is William B. Masterson, age, 39 years, occupation, Liquor business, I reside in Denver, Arapahoe County, Colorado, I am not related to any of the claimants in this case, and am not interested in this claim in any way.

    Examined by T.D. Cobbey:

    Q.    Where were you during the months of June and July, 1874?

    A.    Part of the month of June and part of the month of July, 1874, I was at a place known as the Adobe Walls on the Canadian River, in the Pan Handle of Texas.

    Q.    Are you acquainted with Charles Rath, R.M. Wright and James Langdon, the claimants in this case?

    A.    Yes, I am.

    Q.    State when and where you became acquainted with them.

    A.    I have known R.M. Wright and Charles Rath, since 1871, and I have been acquainted with James Langdon since 1872, at Fort Dodge, Kansas.

    Q.    Did these claimants have a store at Adobe Walls, Texas, in 1874?

    A.    Yes, sir, they had one there and also at Dodge City, Kansas.

    Q.    While you were at Adobe Walls, Texas, was there a depredation committed against the property of claimants?

    A.    Yes, sir, there was.

    Q.    State all that you may know in reference to that matter, State fully.

    A.    On the morning of June 27th, 1874, about daylight, the Indians attacked us, and we fought around there nearly all that day, and it was long in the afternoon before we got them driven back into the hills. Adobe Walls consisted of two stores, Rath and Company, Meyers and Company, and a blacksmith shop, run by Tom O’Keef, and a saloon run by James Hanrahan. There was about 20 men at Adobe Walls at this time, and they were all sleeping distributed among the various buildings. About day break, on the 27th of June, 1874, the Indians were concealed in a clump of timber about a quarter of a mile from the buildings, and they charged from there up to the buildings, they were on horseback, they were in a solid phalanx about 400 strong, until they were within 20 yards of us, before we fired; the result of that fight was that four of our men were killed, William Olds shot and killed himself accidentally. I think there was 12 Indians and one negro killed. The negro was a deserter from the 4th Cavalry at Fort Sill, and was the bugler, and joined the Comanches. There were but very few depredations committed before the 27th of June, 1874. There was a sort of a general outbreak on the 27th of June in the country covered by those Indians. They broke out at Fort Sill, and along the Medicine Lodge river, and some other place too, and it all occurred at that time.

    Q.    What was the nature of this store as to the kind of goods they had on hand, owned by Charles Rath and Co. at Adobe Walls.

    A.    There was flour, bacon, coffee and sugar, corn and oats, and such a stock of wearing apparel as hunters usually use, such as blankets, overhauls, shirts, guns, ammunition. These goods were kept for sale; and this firm bought hides in exchange for goods, or cash; I believe that there was about 200 hunters scattered around, that drew their supplies from Adobe Walls. Rath and Company must have had close to 2,000 hides. These were buffalo hides. They were dried and piled in piles of 40 and fifty, already for shipment, piled up all around the store, from 30 to 100 feet.

    Q.    Were these hides injured by the Indians at the time of this raid, if so, how?

    A.    Yes, by having them scattered over the ground and being subjected to a heavy rain that came along and rotted them. This rain came on shortly, the next day or so after the fight; the Indians were still around, and it was dangerous to go around in daylight and whatever communications we had with each other, had to be made after night. Because the Indians were so dangerous that they would fire on us whenever they would see us in daylight. They were around for a couple of weeks. I don’t think any of the hides were saved. The piles of hides were all torn down and scattered in every way by the Indians, and this rain storm coming on immediately after the fight, entirely ruined the hides. The hides were piled up in such away as to protect them from rain, and had they not been disturbed, they would not have been injured by rain.

    Q.    Do you know whether a courier was sent from Adobe Walls, after the fight to Dodge City for assistance?

    A.    Yes, we sent two after the fight.

    Q.    How soon did they return, or some one as a result of that trip?

    A.    I left there on July 12th and no one had returned up to that time.

    Q.    Were you acquainted with the value of buffalo hides at Adobe Walls, at the time of this loss?

    A.    Yes, I was.

    Q.    What was the value of these hides that were lost by Rath and Company?

    A.    They would average about $2.50 a hide.

    Q.    Had the settlers there at Adobe Walls, given the Indians any cause or provocation to the Indians to commit a depredation against them so far as you know?

    A.    No, they had not.

    Q.    What buildings did the firm of Charles Rath and Company have at Adobe Walls, and what was their value if you know?

    A.    They had one large store building, which probably cost them $1,000.00 to put up.

    Q.    What livestock, if any, did they have?

    A.    They had one team, a mule and a horse, which was killed by the Indians.

    Q.    Were you at Adobe Walls after the 12th of July, 1874?

    A.    Yes, I was there several times; the first time was along about the middle of August, 1874, and we had another fight with the Indians there that morning, and I was there again in September, or possibly October, of that year, it was in the fall.

    Q.    What did you discover when you returned?

    A.    The last time I was there in October, 1874, everything was destroyed, all the buildings etc. at Adobe Walls, and all the stockades had been burned down.

    Q.    Was Adobe Walls abandoned by all the settlers soon after this fight which occurred on the 27th of June?

    A.    Adobe Walls was abandoned by all the settlers about the middle of August, on account of the Indian hostilities. The Indians killed one of our men in the fight we had with them again in August, 1874.

    Q.    What Indians was it that committed this depredation?

    A.    The Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanche Indians.

    Q.    How do you know?

    A.    I learned it subsequently at the Agency through their Interpreter, and those who knew the Indians who participated in that fight. My information as to the tribes participating in this fight was obtained from Ben Clark and Amos Chapman who were the Government Interpreters and scouts for the Government at that time. Another way I obtained knowledge was by those Indians who were found dead on the ground, that I personally identify as being Kiowas and Cheyennes.

    Q.    You may state who was present at the time of this raid on the 27th of June, 1874?

    A.    James Langdon, and Andrew Johnson, William Olds, James Hanrahan, William Dickson, Shepard, I forget his first name, Fred Leonard, myself, and several others whose names I have forgotten.


    Q.    Were you employed by Charles Rath and Company at the time this depredation was committed about which you have testified?

    A.    No, sir, I was not.

    Q.    Have you been employed by them since that time?

    A.    No, sir, I never have.

    Q.    Have you an Indian Depredation case of your own?

    A.    No, sir.

    Q.    Were you sufficiently acquainted with the different tribes of Indians at the time of the fight at Adobe Walls, for you yourself to distinguish to what tribe they belonged?

    A.    I was sufficiently acquainted with the Kiowas and Cheyennes and could identify them as being present from the dead bodies of the Indians we found afterwards.

    Q.    Do you of your own personal knowledge know that any other tribes were engaged in that fight there at that time?

    A.    No, only what I was told about the other two.

    Q.    How many buffalo hides were there on the ground at the time that this fight occurred, belonging to Rath and Company?

    A.    I think there was about 2,000 hides, if my memory serves me right.

    Q.    Do you state that there were 2,000 hides from what you have been told by others, or from your observation of the amount of hides piled up there?

    A.    From my own knowledge of the number of hides that were there.

    Q.    Do you know positively that there were no hides that were preserved and sold after the hides had been damaged by the rain?

    A.    I don’t believe that there was any hides taken away from there. I was at Dodge City, when the ox train which were sent after the things, returned.

    Q.    Might they not have hauled off these hides at some other time?

    A.    No, there was no other place but Dodge City to take them to, if they didn’t take them to Dodge City, they didn’t take them anywhere.

    Q.    How large was the store building that was occupied by Rath and Company at Adobe Walls, and how was it built?

    A.    I should judge it was about 25 feet wide by 100 feet long, it was constructed principally out of adobe, although there were joints and beams; the roof was made out of logs and cottonwood logs, and sod.

    Q.    Did you see the mule and horse team at the time they were killed?

    A.    I saw them after they were killed, lying on the ground.

    Q.    How do you know that this team was destroyed by the Indians?

    A.    I presumed they were, we found them there dead; all the animals that were killed that day by white men were Indian horses.    

    Q.    When you first returned to Adobe Walls, after the fight on the 27th of June, were the buildings and improvements belonging to Rath and Company still standing?

    A.    Yes, sir.

    Q.    Then to your personal knowledge the buildings were not destroyed until October of that year?

    A.    I don’t know just when they were destroyed. I didn’t visit them again until in October, and at that time they were destroyed.

    Q.    Were the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Kiowa Indians at peace or at war with the United States at the time of the fight in June, 1874?

    A.    They were at war with everybody.


    Q.    What do you know, if anything, about these Indians drawing supplies from the Government immediately before that?

    A.    The winter preceding this fight, I knew that they had been drawing their annuities from the Government, at Cheyenne Agency then, and now Fort Reno.

    Q.    What do you know as to James Langdon and Charles Rath being native born, or foreign born?

    A.    I believe them both to be native born citizens.

    Question by Commissioner:

    Q.    Do you know anything else material to this case? If so, state it.

    A.    I believe not.

                                 William B. Masterson

                                 Subscribed and sworn to before me
                                 this 24th day of June, 1874.

                                 Jimmie L. Frazier

                                 Commissioner of the Court of Claims.

    Numerous men, of various careers, have left us vivid descriptions of Bat Masterson during his hide hunting days:

    Billy Dixon:

    The youngest of our party was “Bat” Masterson, who was to win a reputation not only as a member of this expedition, but, later on, as gunman and journalist. It seems remarkable that finally Masterson should wander as far east as New York City and become a newspaper writer. He was a chunk of steel, and anything that struck him in those days always drew fire. In age, I was perhaps next to Masterson, being now in my twenty-fourth year...

    “Bat” Masterson should be remembered for the valor that marked is conduct. He was a good shot, and not afraid.

    William Tilghman in 1874:

    A handsome young fellow with a reckless devil may care look. He was already an experienced plainsman and a noted shot.

    Robert DeArment described him as he appeared 1876:

    He sported a heavy black moustache now. His face, darkened by sun and wind, offset the blue clarity of his eyes. He was heavier, and his neck, shoulders, and arms, especially, were overlaid with thick, hard bands of muscle.

    Eddie Foy in 1878:

    A trim, good-looking young man with a pleasant face and carefully barbered mustache, well-tailored clothes, hat with a rakish tilt and two big silver-mounted, ivory handled pistols in a heavy belt.

    A Kansas City Newspaper Man:

    W.B. Masterson, of Dodge City - known, by those whom he has not shot, as “Bat” Masterson, a medium sized man, weighing perhaps 150 pounds, and reaching five feet, nine inches in height. His hair brown, his rather small mustache of the same tint, and his smooth shaven cheeks plump and rosy. His eyes are blue and gentle in expression, his attire modest but neat, and withal he is about as far removed in appearance from the Bowery frontiersman as one could well imagine.

    Of the three buffalo hunting Mastersons, only Bat lived to old age:

    Ed Masterson was killed in the line of duty on April 9, 1878. He was grappling with Jack Wagner when Wagner’s gun discharged. The wounded Masterson drew his gun, fired four shots, one hit Wagner in the stomach and the other three hit A.M. Walker. Wagner died while Walker recovered. The incident took place in John Webb’s Lady Gay saloon in Dodge City.

    James Masterson was city marshal of Dodge City from November, 1879 until April, 1881. He moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1889, and died on March 31, 1895 of tuberculosis.

    Bat Masterson died October 25, 1921, while writing his newspaper column, which would appear in the “Telegraph” the following thursday.1


    1. McGinnis, Edith B., “THE PROMISED LAND,” (Texas: Toepperwein Publishing Co., 1947) 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: 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: 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: 115, 125-127, 160, 163, 178, 188, 192.

    Tilghman, Zoe, “MARSHAL OF THE LAST FRONTIER,” A.H. Clark Company, Glendale, Ca., 1949

    U.S. Court of Claims, Indian Depredation Case Files. Case 4593, Charles Rath and Company Claimants. Record Group 123, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

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