Step right into the heart of the Wild West with us, as we recount the gritty tales of post-Civil War America. We're venturing into the untamed frontier, retracing the steps of the brave men who sought riches but ended up with nothing more than broken dreams. One such man, Raymond Ritter, led us on a fruitless railroad construction job, leaving us with empty pockets and a hunger for justice. As your hosts, we'll share our personal journey - one of us confronting Ritter, while the other opted for the safe route back home.
Our journey sweeps you along the intoxicating gambling highs and shattering lows of Tombstone, Arizona. We'll paint a vivid picture of the legendary Wyatt Earp, a lawman with a fierce reputation and a penchant for a gamble. From the icy landscape of Dodge City to the sun-drenched town of Tombstone, let us walk you through our encounters with Earp and the fascinating insights into his life. You'll almost taste the dust and feel the tension as Earp navigates the murky line between law and vice, his imposing stature a beacon amid the chaos.
But, our adventure doesn't stop at the tales of Earp and Ritter. As we journey through the Wild West, we'll introduce you to the rich history of Dodge City, Tombstone, and Pima County. And of course, we'll delve deeper into the life of Wyatt Earp, a man whose legacy continues to captivate. Our expedition offers a wealth of resources for you to immerse yourself further in this fascinating era. So, grab your hat and join us on this thrilling ride through the untamed Wild West!
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In the mid-1800s, the western frontier of the United States from the viewpoint of the civilized east was believed to be a distant land, untamed, largely unsettled and mostly unknown. Westward expansion through the latter half of the 19th century took place against a background of increasing lawlessness, created in part by the existing economic situation in the west. Riches in gold, silver and cattle were abundant for some, yet the wealth they sought proved unreachable for many of those attracted by mining or ranching. After placer mining of stream beds was finished, the remaining hard rock mining was formidable, arduous and required large heavy machinery and equipment investments. Similarly, ranching required substantial capital to buy land and cattle to make an initial start. Therefore, those without money became common laborers and joined the large-scale seasonal unemployment of miners, cowboys and others. They hoped for riches but gained only disillusionment, a situation that tempted many men into criminal behavior. After April 9, 1865, a large number of men were mustered out of the army. Following the Civil War, these men found themselves unemployed, so thousands of refugees from the conflict between the states moved to the west. Some came to escape the discretions of civilization in the east. Others had only known fighting and killing during the war and were left with no trade or profession at the end of the conflict, with legitimate settlers and men aspiring to a new life. These immigrating hordes included draft evaders, deserters and men with no future. This population was primarily young, male and had no roots. Many of them had lost their homes in the war and some had lost their families. As a result, many of them became settlers, farmers, itinerant cowboys, gamblers, prospectors, law enforcement officers and railroad construction workers. These postwar years became the age of saloon brawls, stagecoach robberies, vigilante raids and shootings in the saloons of the main streets of many western towns, gunfights, pitted lawmen against outlaw, cowboy against cowboy, cowboy against the gambler and cattle barons against the settlers and sheepherders. Wild West Podcast proudly presents Bat Masterson in Tombstone, part 1, western Union signed Wyatt Earp. At 8 o'clock am, friday, I rolled out of the station at Kansas City and starteda Southwestward excursion to Dodge City. A couple of hours out, breakfast was announced an event to a particular pleasure to experience what it was like to eat in a Pullman's on wheels. It was always a revelation to me to eat my first dinner of the day and today it was no exception. The service on the Santa Fe Railway never ceased in my admiration of the perfection of the arrangements and marvelous results achieved. The tables were covered with snowy linen and garnished with services of solid silver, the waiters flitting about in spotless white placed indeed, as if by magic, my menu. My choice was to be eggs, bacon, a delicious mountain-brook trout, a selection of fruits and berries and a sauce, tangy and un-purchasable, to augment my sweet-scented appetite. To the clear air of the prairies, I washed the bonafide dishes down with bumpers of sparkling krug while I sped along at the rate of 35 miles an hour. Agreed, it was the fastest travel I had ever experienced. Then back to my luxurious couch where I reminisced upon my younger days. These were the days when I was a railroad worker laying track for the Atchison and Santa Fe In 1872, my brother, ed and I met a man named Raymond Ritter. At that time, ritter was looking for man he could subcontract with for grading the railroad. Right of way, he told us that certain portions of the roadbed grading were sublet to minor contractors and private individuals with horses and equipment. Ritter asked my brother and me if we would assist him in filling his contract with Wiley and Cutter. I was 17 when I managed to persuade Ed, who was a year older, to venture forth on this new venture of grading track for the railroad. These were hard times for Ed and me when we decided to engage in the dangerous, sweaty, back-breaking, brawling work of building the railway. It was summer. In the heat wave we lived in the early hours and long into the eventide, and under the summer sun I felt the warmth of the brilliant rays At the peak of our labors. The work crews laid two to five miles of track a day. We filled ravines as the track layers ran spidery trestles across the valleys and the plains. The flat cars carried rails to within a mile of the railhead In. A light car drawn by a single horse galloped up to the front with its load of rails. Two men seized the end of a rail and started forward. The rest of the gang took hold by twos. Until the rail was clear of the car, the man would come forward at a run. Then, at the command of the foreman, the rail was dropped in its place right side up. Less than 30 seconds to a rail for each gang, and so four rails go down in a minute. When Ed and I finished the backbreaking job, we found that Mr Ritter took advantage of our youth and it skipped out on us. In addition, ritter neglected to pay the three hundred dollars promised for the grading. We were both heartbroken and pursebroken. It was then we both considered our next move. I think I'll go home and see Ma and the kids. Ed told me I've been mighty homesick, billy, and I can't hide it anymore, so you better come with me. That's better than starving and being swindled out here. No, by God, I said I'm going to stay here and lay for Ritter. He owes us three hundred dollars and he's going to pay up or I'll put a slug into him. I'll just wait here for a while. Ed Ritter's going to be passing through here one of these days. The railroad will be pushing on for Granada across the Colorado line and he's got contracts to fill up ahead. So Ed went home and I went to work, driving the team for a local tycoon named Tom Nixon, no longer an independent subcontractor but a mere hireling, like a swarm of Orientals and Irishers working on the railroad. Not long afterward, however, a friend came to me with news that Ritter was coming through on tomorrow's train and had a roll of three thousand dollars on his hip. At the time I had bought a six-shooter with my wages as a teamster. I was waiting when the Westbound train rolled in the next day. I boarded it and found Ritter sitting in one of the cars. I hauled my debtor, ritter, out of the platform at gunpoint. A crowd of loafers had gathered about to watch the fun. You owe me three hundred dollars, I told the spluttering Ritter. And damn it all, if you don't pay up you won't get back in that car alive. I'll never forget his eyes, how my rage burnt him to ash. I sensed Ritter's fears that evaporated like water under an early summer sun. I glared into his eyes. He was weakening under my threats. This is robbery. Ritter whelped as if he was appealing to the crowd Somebody run to get the Marshal. I'm being robbed in broad daylight, ritter yelled. I jammed the gun in Ritter's ribs. I told Ritter I'm only collecting what you owe me and everybody here knows it for a fact. I tried to run out on Ed and me, but you're going to pay off on the barrelhead. Ritter shrugged, pulled out a roll of bills tied with a buckskin thong and peeled off three hundred dollars. I heard the loafers and roundabouts cheer. The sounds of the crowd became part of the happy center of my brain. Reaching in and pulling out the joy. There was a feeling of jubilation in the gathering. As I was elated, I jumped off the train. The group and I all headed for the nearest saloon. The drinks, of course, were on me. I was at home in this crowd, for we sang and celebrated together. These thoughts about the early days working for the railroad made me tired and weary. There on my couch I fell asleep. I slept asleep with a just and only awoke to the sound of the whistle at six o'clock to find myself at the crossing in the Arkansas River, three hundred and thirty-five miles from Kansas City. Ten hours and eight minutes out, I arrived in Dodge City on December 10th 1880, and found the Dodge City Times again reporting my progress about town. The headline of the Times read WB Masterson, former sheriff of Ford County, spent several days here. He lives in Kansas City. That was welcomed by a host of friends. As I walked down Front Street in Dodge City, I began to think back to the early days, a time when the town started its preparations for the cattle trade and the Texas Cowboys. In a way, dodge City owes its fame to a tiny tick, bufillus Microplus. The tick and the disease it carried were endemic amongst the herds of the Texas Longhorns. In 1876, the demarcation line was moved to the one hundredth meridian, making Dodge City the new queen of the cattle towns. I looked down First Street towards the Dodge House, deacon Cox's famous hotel, which was two blocks east of Second Avenue. Then, unexpectedly, a wintery wind swept across the street with bold honesty, a rawness that brings one soul into the gentle cloud-filtered rays Before me. The snow made these familiar streets a canvas for dreams. I saw each sculpted flake with eyes at rest, the chaotic dance of billions uniting over the town. These daydreams became my hearthfire, bringing the hint of a newborn smile, one that lifts every part of what I am and how I arrived at this destination. I asked the icy wind to bring me to higher senses, to wake within me that which rested once upon these streets. Once again, I reflected back to 1878, when Ben Springer's Theater, to the cavernous Comeek used to be, was at the corner of Front and Bridge Street. The theater was divided between a bar and gambling parlor in front and a variety theater in the back. In July of 1878, the Comeek featured an entire vaudeville show, headlined by that unequaled and splendidly matched Eddie Foy and Jimmy Thompson team. But unfortunately, those were the days of prominent performers, gone now, along with its tragic killing of Dora Hand. Even though the town still prospered from gambling halls, prostitution and whiskey sales, a reform movement was taking place. Dodge City was changing and I was no longer a part of this place but thought it still to be an adventurous place. I could do some gambling here and visit with some of my brother and some friends. Soon after the start of the new year, while in Dodge City, I received a telegram from Wyatt Earp in Tombstone. The telegram read Western Union, february 2, 1881. To William Masterson, sirius, trouble brewing in Tombstone. I need your help. Did you arrange to come to the new mining camp? A job awaits you. Signed Wyatt Earp, deputy Sheriff, tombstone District. February 8, 1881 was a cold day when I boarded the West Bowden train out of Dodge City to Trinidad, colorado. The snow danced in the light, a choreographed ballet conducted by gentle wind. The streets of Dodge City had become tired, old-page, but the trip to Tombstone, arizona, a more sunny forecast awaited me. From warmest lungs came a clear blue sky, a humble gift to myself. That is simply heaven-bound. And today's gift is the beauty of the cold winter day to show me the way that I would otherwise never have witnessed, as the old steam engine churned the iron wheels below I took a seat, pulling forward and then backward, clinging and clanking to the metal rails below me. The engine whistle blew in three short successions, signaling a crossing. As I pulled from the inside pocket of my topcoat the telegram I received from Wyatt Earp, I once again read with interest the telegram sent from Tombstone. I remembered Wyatt when he was a rambling man of certain unrighteous conscious, the wayfaring Wyatt Earp spent some of his time in and out of Dodge City between 1876 and 1879. He served as an active, rugged and respected enforcer against Texas Cowboys. Wyatt, like me, held the position of policeman and assistant marshal in Dodge. Unfortunately, in Dodge City he and I, along with others, took part in becoming gunhands. Lamentably for Wyatt, one of these gunfights ended with fatal results for a young cowboy. The killing occurred when a group of Texas Cowboys galloped down the street and fired multiple shots into the Kameke Theater. As the Texans headed out of town, earp, my brother Jim Masterson and others ran outside and opened up with gunfire. When the smoke cleared, young Texan George Hoy lay on the ground, mortally wounded in his arm. He died of his wounds a month later. Nobody knows who fired the fatal shot, but Wyatt is woeful. Upon George Hoy's death I sat back in my seat and looked out my window watching the landscape of the prairie roll out before me, recollecting back on the many conversations Wyatt and I had about life. I remembered how Wyatt became a professional gambler, a skill he pursued as a pastime or into an occupation. In the 1870s, when not in Dodge City. Wyatt ranged widely over the Great Plains, often gambling assiduously, from the Black Hills far north in Dakota Territory, to Mobeady, down in the Texas Panhandle and on to turbulent Las Vegas, new Mexico. Wyatt would sometimes revert to shady practices as a scam artist or confidence man in these levels, apparently sidelined activities by his persistent card playing and gambling. Finally, in December 1879, wyatt, james and Virgil Erp moved into Tombstone's wondrous new mining town. Up to this time, wyatt had shown two faces to the world. One was a challenging but respected lawman. The other was a thorough rounder gambler, accused horse thief, prostitutes, companion saloon habituate, bunco artist and confidence man. Late in his Dodge City days there had been a glimmering of a respectable Republican, for in Dodge City Wyatt took a wife by the name of Maddie Blalock and was commended for his honorable Christian virtues. Maddie was working in a brothel when she met Wyatt and led a fleeting life, learning all there was to know about the management of brothels under the watchful eye of Bessie Erp, the wife of Wyatt's brother James, and becoming addicted to opium and whiskey. After leaving Wichita, wyatt and Maddie spent time in Dodge City for three summers. They were part of the sporting scene, with Wyatt hiring out his gun to the law enforcement agency. Then, like all gamblers in cow towns, wyatt spent the winters in Texas and New Mexico, where Wyatt gambled and Maddie kept busy. I arrived in Trinidad during the evening hours. I remembered Trinidad well and always thought the township would be a good place to settle down. In 1876, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reached El Morro, just a few miles away, and two years later the Atchison-Tapica and Santa Fe Railroad connected to Trinidad. The railroads made the city a vital distribution point for traffic between the Plains and the Southwest. When the Atchison-Tapica and Santa Fe Railway reached Santa Fe, new Mexico, in 1880, the weekly New Mexican printed and the old Santa Fe Trail passes into Oblivion. So I took a carriage to the main and commercial streets intersection and checked in at the Grand Union Hotel. The three-story Grand Union Hotel built in 1879, of brick and trimmed in stone, was my kind of place, with its terrazzo floor lobby leading into a Rococo ballroom. In addition, the hotel housed a gaming room, saloon and smoking parlor. I thought to myself tonight would be a night to remember. My mind craved a higher buzz, where a chance is involved instead of certainty such as if the one you love will say yes or not. There are natural gambles when a child sets out to catch a butterfly or a frog. Yet what happens when the healthy ways to gamble are no longer enough to cover up an absence of steady and dependable love and childhood? Well, that's when you become a gambler. That's when you become vulnerable to the prey of every empathy-deficient swindler and mobster out to whatever money they can get at your expense. The gambling hall is where the week become legally robbed and the criminals live large on their gains. I was ready to play, I had become a gambler and the game of chance rang loudly in my brain. The next morning I headed back to the depot and boarded a construction train bound for New Mexico. I could only smile at my earnings from the night before. As luck for now, was with me, it would be a day's ride to Santa Fe before I changed trains on the new Santa Fe line to head south in New Mexico. Unfortunately, the ride to New Mexico would be a less pleasurable experience with only third class accommodations, for I was forced to take the journey into Caboose attached to the construction train. However, it came upon me from my experience that people do not realize how primitive the construction trains are, especially on a perilous journey across the southwestern plains, when traveling within the confines of the ordinary Caboose. For many, the dangers of a journey southwest from the terminus of the Santa Fe Railroad were frightful and, unless urged by imperative reasons, such journeys were abandoned. The accounts of daily scalpings by Indians are a little too realistic, even for the most hardened seekers after adventure. That is why, on these journeys, I permanently mounted these railcars with my Winchester rifle and two sidearms with plenty of ammunition to take on routiness. Making my way through the Caboose, I found a small band of determined looking men, each man armed to the fullest extent, saved one fine-looking gentleman who wore a silk-top hat whose only weapon was a silk umbrella. I moved my way through the crowd to where there was an open seat. One man sitting on the edge of the wooden seat placed a glare at me. I tipped my hat to him in a greeting way. It was like he wanted to establish me as a foe. I smiled at his rebuked to avoid a fight or further confrontation. The man sitting next to him whispered that's him, bat Masterson. This statement conveyed a realness to the man's hateful emotion, with great defectiveness and clarity. As I pulled my coat back, the glare became a smile, revealing my holstered cold-45. Do you mind me taking up the space across from you, I asked. Not at all. The man responded. Next, another gentleman joined us who seemed excited to introduce himself. My name is George T Buffum, and the man who sits in front of you is the honorable William H Stillwell, exclaimed Buffum. Now, mr Stillwell, here is a recently appointed associate judge for the territory of Arizona and is on his way to his new official duties. Is that so, I said, pleased to meet the both of you? I am—I know who you are, mr Masterson, interrupted Buffum. Most everyone here knows who you are. I'm glad to have such a redoubtable companion on our journey. Well, thank you, I replied. Now, what about you, mr Stillwell? I'm most interested in your official duties in the Arizona Territory, for I am headed to Tombstone. In short, I'm from New York", replied Stillwell. I was first appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona in January of this year. After that I moved to Prescott, arizona, to take my place on the bench and as a trial judge of the Third Judicial District. The territorial legislature then reassigned me to the First Judicial District and the Southern part of the Arizona Territory. I'm also headed to Tombstone to oversee some mining claim disputes. Stillwell paused and leaned forward as if he wanted to ask me a question. May I ask what will be your business in Tombstone, mr Masterson? I will be joining a few friends in a gambling enterprise" I replied. That would not be the Erp Brothers. Stillwell asked. I hear they have stirred the pot in Tombstone. What I understand, wyatt and Morgan are working as shotgun messengers on the treasure-bearing coaches that plied the trail between the Silver Camp and the railroad. From what Wyatt told me, he wanted to establish a stage line between the Boom Camp and Benson. I said yes, that is true" replied Stillwell, but their master plan was spoiled when they arrived to sign off on the contracts. Two lines were already operating. Wells Fargo had already contracted to mail and shipping goods. From what I understand, wyatt accepted Pima County Sheriff Shibble's appointment as a deputy sheriff for the Tombstone District. A Virgil is the appointed deputy United States Marshal and had been city Marshal of Tombstone for over five months. The Third Brother, morgan, is still riding shotgun for Wells Fargo. So they are back in the old business. I thought to myself. They are running the law on one side of the street in a gambling house on the other side. So what came of the Oriental Saloon, I asked. Well, sir, that seems to be the problem. The saloon, that is, replied Stillwell. Wyatt has acquired a financial interest in the Oriental. The Oriental is one of Tombstone's largest and most prosperous saloons and gambling houses. Its plush gaming rooms are jointly operated by three of the best gamblers in the West. These noted gamblers are Lou Rickaball, dick Clark and Bill Harris. But from what I understand, other gambling house managers are jealous of the Oriental's popularity, so they have detailed gang of referends to hurrah the place nightly in an effort to scare away patrons. I know all three of these partners. I replied they were sportsmen in Dodge City. So how is it that Wyatt got involved? Well, it seems as though, since Wyatt was now wearing a badge, the partners offered Wyatt a quarter interest in the gambling concession, stated Stillwell. It looks as if much of Wyatt's reputation from Dodge has followed him to Tombstone. The hope might be that his fighting stature would daunt the hell-raising intruders. I am thinking, mr Masterson, that is where you come into play to assist him in keeping the Oriental quiet. At the end of the Santa Fe Steel, members of our party transferred from the construction train to an overland coach. The overland would carry us to Deming, new Mexico and the Southern Pacific through a patchy country. The reinsmen looked down on me from the box of the coach. Why don't you ride shotgun? He said, up here with me. That rifle you're carrying will be a swell of a defense against any intruders, so why don't you just hop up here, board this carry-all and help your friend join us in the dickey? Say, mr Masterson, how about a loan for one of your six shooters, asked the judge before boarding the coach. Sure, judge, I replied. By common consent I was given the seat beside the reinsmen. The judge bordered the coach's interior and Mr Buffham and I climbed on top, with Buffham taking the seat above the reinsmen. The driver yelled at his horses, cracked his whip and steered the stagecoach skillfully through the gate. We were off. It was a glorious February morning and all the landscape was brilliant, with sunshine. There was a freshness and breeziness in the air. I felt an exhilarating sense of emancipation from all sorts of cares and responsibilities. We were reeling along through New Mexico. Just here, the land was rolling a grand sweep of regular elevations and depressions as far as the eye could reach, like the stately heave and surge of the ocean's core after a windstorm. I thought about how I welcomed this journey and the love of fresh air from following the ever-onward road, the jolts of the wagon wheels sliding along the ruts in bold jerks, feeling a sense of pride in each one. And this journey is not about a destination nor a rival point. This journey is about the adventure, the traveling companions and the reason for the noble struggle. Friends come, friends go. Often I set out alone. Yet I have met many enemies along the trails. Each of them has their story. I have my compass, I have my path and I have my quest. I do genuinely love my adventurous west. Our coach ride was an imposing cradle on wheels, a great swinging and swaying rostrum of the grandest description. Six stunning horses drew us and I sat by the side of the reinsman, the legitimate captain of the craft, for it was his business to take charge and care of the males, baggage, express matter and passengers. We three were the only passengers on this trip. I looked down into the coach as the judge sat in the back seat inside. Hey judge, how's that ride? I asked. Plenty a jolt for me, replied the judge in a convulsed manner. All about the rest of the coach was full of mailbags, for we had a few days of delayed mail with us. The cargo about us touched our knees. A vertical wall of mail rose up to the roof and wobbled forcefully all around the judge. There was a great pile of it strapped on top of the stage and both the fore and hind boots were full. But as it turned out, there was no use for the weapons. So the coach continued unmolested by apaches to Deming, seven miles east. Deming was the terminus of the southern Pacific which was building east toward El Paso, texas. It consisted of several saloons and a boxcar used by the construction gangs as an eating place. Although the car provided the only available dining facilities for stagecoach passengers, the railroad men seemed to resent the intrusion of travelers into what they considered their private dining room. I watched Judge Stillwell manage to squeeze himself into a vacant seat at a rough plank table. Just before a group of gandy dancers shouldered their way into the car On, one of the newcomers jabbed a grimy finger in the direction of his honor. See that long lank cuss, fresh from New York, just filling himself as though he'd been through a famine. While we railroad boys have to wait, he roared. The room was suddenly quiet and Stillwell's face turned scarlet. Then I, who had been waiting patiently with the rest, cut loose with a burst of colorful, dodged city whorehouse abuse directed at the railroaders. This argument grew from nowhere into a tornado In my rage. I became blinded to the delicate petals of heart and soul. I assumed I was right when I had no real reason to vent. The words I spoke in such well-intentioned piousness triggered something in me that came from a rage of discontent. The muster of terms came about me in great wrath and with resounding oaths. I resented this insult to my friend and ended with Buffam you just take the first vacant seat and let these sons of the borough wait. The railroad men glanced at one another, looked at me, glimpsed at my sharps rifle and my two Colt revolvers, and they saw my determined face as I scowled at them. At that point in the conversation the railroad men's appetites fled before my terrible presence. Not a man moved and when the first chair was vacated, buffam seated himself next to the judge. When Judge Stillwell had finished eating, he pushed his plate back, stood up and said politely I'm sorry, gentlemen, to have kept you waiting, but I was famished. Then, before the construction workers could recover from their surprise, I strode forward. No disrespect to you, judge, I said, but I will take your chair myself. The gandied answers waited fuming but silent. Stillwell, buffam and I traveled west on a Southern Pacific work train. As a courtesy to the new Judge. The railroad management hitched an old passenger car to the train. In it, my two companions and I journeyed as far as Benson, arizona. The town of Benson was born from the Union of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the mining regions of the San Pedro Valley. The Southern Pacific came overland from California and chose Benson as the location to cross the San Pedro River. The railroad found it necessary to establish a junction point to obtain ore and ship freight to the mines at Tombstone, fairbank, contention and Bisbee. Copper and silver ore was brought and covered wagons to Benson and then shipped out on the railroad. At Benson. I said goodbye to my two road friends and swung down to catch the stage to Tombstone. That's it for now. Remember to check out our Wild West Podcast shows on iTunes Podcast or at Wild West Podcast Buzzsproutcom. You can also catch us on Facebook at wwwfacebookcom, or on our YouTube channel at Whiskey Westerns on Wednesday. Thanks for listening to our podcast. Join us next time as we take you back to the Dodge City Variety Show of 1878 and beyond. You can learn more about the legends of Dodge City by visiting our website at worldfamousgunfightersweeblycom. If you would like to purchase one of our books, you can go to worldfamousgunfightersweeblycom. Slash bookshtml.