Wild West Podcast

Courage and Conquests in the Wild West: Bat Masterson's Astonishing Transformation from Canadian Youngster to U.S. Frontier Legend

April 10, 2022 Michael King/Brad Smalley
Wild West Podcast
Courage and Conquests in the Wild West: Bat Masterson's Astonishing Transformation from Canadian Youngster to U.S. Frontier Legend
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
How did a young boy from Canada transform into an iconic symbol of the American West? We're about to take you on Bat Masterson's riveting journey - from hunting bison on the plains of Kansas to his daring escapades in Dodge City. We'll trace his migration from Canada to Illinois, and on to Sedgwick County, Kansas. You'll hear tales of courage, perseverance, and survival that shaped the man known as Bat Masterson, including how he and his brothers carved out a reputation in the burgeoning town of Wichita, and the incredible story of Bat acquiring his first gun.

Get ready for an adrenaline-pumping second part, as we traverse Bat Masterson's thrilling encounters in the wild. Can you imagine having your horse and guns stolen by an Indian band, while you're skinning a buffalo? That's precisely what happened to Bat, and we'll recount his audacious escape. You'll be engrossed by the saga of the Battle of Adobe Walls, and Bat's heroic actions that were pivotal in this fight. We also ponder over Bat's profound impact on Dodge City's development, arguably surpassing that of Wyatt Earp and Dodge Holiday. Join us for an unforgettable exploration of Bat Masterson's life, a tale which straddles humble beginnings and legendary fame.

This episode covers three phases of Bat Masterson's life, the early years when Bat was a boy growing up in Illinois, his teenage year's buffalo hunting on the Kansas plains, and Indian fighting at Adobe Walls. Order Book Buffalo Days & the Battle of Adobe Walls

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Speaker 1:

As a boy, william Barkley Masterson had a great love for hunting, which, according to his good friend, alfred Henry Lewis, earned him his nickname Bat, after Bat-Ties Brown or Old Bat. When William became engaged in buffalo hunting in the early 70s, the name descended to him. William Barkley Masterson would now be known as Bat Masterson for the rest of his life. The following story about Bat Masterson's early life is recollected by Henry Hubert Raymond. Wild West podcast proudly presents the life and times of Bat Masterson, part 1, the Early Years. I'm going to start my story by telling you I was brought into this world on February 21, 1848. You're a small town named Carlinville in the great state of Illinois. Now, what I have to tell you beyond that is near the truth as I can make it. My father, Charles, and my mother, harriet, christened me Henry Hubert Raymond. At the time I was born, I already had three older brothers Seth L, theodore D and Charles. I also had a sister, harriet, but she died in childhood. During my early years I lived with my family on a small farm. My closest neighbors were the Mastersons. Now the Masterson family was from Canada. Thomas Masterson was born in 1827 and married Catherine McGurk of St John's in 1852. I was told that on September 23, 1852, the first of seven Masterson children were born and christened Edward John. Fourteen months later a second son was born and he was named Bartholomew. The Masterson family grew over time, from James in 1855, nellie in 1857, thomas Jr in 1857, and George Henry in 1860, and Emma, or many, as the family called her, in 1862. I can only say that sometime in 1861, thomas Masterson became bound to leave Canada and travel to the United States. Thomas became interested in owning some virgin farmland out on the American frontier, so Thomas Masterson left Canada and the entire family began a westward trek. This trek lasted for ten years, landing them on a nearby farm where my family had settled in Illinois While the Mastersons lived close to me. I embellished upon our time together as we falked along the creeks and hid behind the timber which outlined our farmland. These were the happiest days of my early life. The Mastersons, my brother Theodore and I spent many a day in the wooded brush country where we loved to hunt. One experience I remember well, when Bat was, but at the age of twelve he loved shooting and on many occasions would use my gun to bring down game. So one day when we were out in the woods. Bat told me he had felt deprived by not having a gun of his own. I agreed with him, for every youngster needed a gun. In those days Owning a gun was like having a certain independence. Not only did a gun give the feeling of self-confidence, but it helped build within you a certain conviction in the experience to shoot straight. Being a good shot might mean in later life the difference between food and starvation when one might be forced to forage his livelihood from the streams and woods. Now Bat came up with an idea on how he could muster up a rifle. He told me how his father had bargained a soldier out of an old, scarred up Civil War musket for a meal and a night's lodging. This musket hung on the mantle of the Masterson fireplace and was never used. So Bat told me he would ask his father if he could have it. Well, a few weeks following Bat showed up for a hunt and brought the old musket with him. He showed me the musket and had it loaded. Bat did not take long until he aimed and fired the musket at a tree limb. I could tell he was surprised by the power of the rifle and the recoil suffered to his shoulder. �maybe you might not fire it again�, I said. Bat agreed that the country we were in was rather closely settled and Bat knew that it would be dangerous to shoot the musket for a second time. �yes�, bat replied. �the lead slug went for a long distance. Plus, I do not think I can afford the powder it takes to load and shoot this thing. So the next day Bat went to visit Charles Count, a local Scottish blacksmith and an excellent friend of Bat, and asked to have his musket converted into a straight-bore gun for shot. This was agreed upon by the two. Charles performed with a Scotsman kind heart, a skill and precision to convert the rifle at no charge. Baton and I hunted many a day together with his converted musket all up until he told me his family was moving to Missouri. It saddened me when the Mastersons decided to pull up roots and head to St Louis. I was all but sixteen when they left Illinois, although we continued to ride up until the family settled on an eighty acre tract in Sedgwick County. After they settled at the Kansas farm, ed wrote to me and my brother Theodore In the letter. Ed asked me to come out and visit them and was excited about the goings on in an emerging Kansas cattle town called Wichita. He said that he and his brother had taken a few fourteen mile trips into this boom town which was northeast of their farm. This was in June of 1871. Ed Masterson described his new Kansas homestead in glowing terms in his second letter and my brother Theodore decided to have a look himself. In the early summer of 1871, my brother Theodore decided to pack up his belongings and move out west. Like a true friend that he was, he joined up with the Masterson brothers. Apparently, the land was to my brother's liking, for he filed in a quarter section in Sedgwick County near the Masterson place. My brother became an adventurer living on the edge of the frontier hunting buffalo. Now Theodore told me later that he did not think much about the buffalo business. He said that skinning buffalo was hard, dirty and stinky job. The only good thing about being a skinner was the evening whiskey drinking around the campfire and the money he could make selling the hides. It was mainly the selling of hides that he enjoyed most as he visited and became addicted to a town called Buffalo City, buffalo Hunting. In 1870, general George Crook estimated for the government that there were 50 million buffalo on the plains, 10 million of them grazing between Fort Dodge and Camp Supply. During the late 1860s and early 1870s, buffalo were slaughtered by white men for sport, warm winter robes and meat to feed the railroad gangs who pushed the steel of the Kansas, pacific and Santa Fe railroads across Kansas. According to Robert K de Arment, the hide hunters had taken their harvest only during the winter. When the bulls acquired their heavy coats In 1871, however, about the time the Masterson brothers set out for the Buffalo Ranges, word reached Kansas of a total market for the hides. Moreover, machine designers found that buffalo leather was quite serviceable as a power-belting. With the new demand for hides, hunting could continue year-round, and cows, calves and the superbly-robed bulls would become prey of the hunters. During this time, nineteen-year-old Ed Masterson and Bat, not yet eighteen, headed south from their father's farm to Stone's Store where the hide-hunters supplied. Here, where the free-wheeling town of Caldwell would stand a few years hence, they discovered how Buffalo were hunted on a lavish scale. Moreover, they found that the hide-hunter was a business man with employees who owned valuable equipment and skills in their craft. A typical hunter owned five four-horse wagons. His entourage included a driver, a stock-tender, a watchman and a cook. These men doubled as skinners when the hunter set up shop far out on the prairie. Bat and Ed and their friend Theodore Raymond found jobs as skinners and stock-tenders and moved west toward the Medicine Lodge River with a hunting party Already deep in Buffalo Country they saw thousands of the lumbering beasts and heard the banging of Buffalo guns from the other camps. However, the man who was bossing the Masterson's outfit pushed on towards hunting grounds he had picked out the previous spring. So they crossed the Medicine Lodge and continued on until they reached the Nesca Tunga, a tributary of the Salt Fork of the Arkanzas. The diary of Henry Hubert Raymond, 1848 to 1936, contains daily entries for one year during his trip from Calenville, illinois, to Kansas from November 11, 1872 to November 11, 1873. Topics in the diary discuss Henry's trip to Kansas to meet his brother Theodore, who he often refers to as the in his diary hunting bison buffalo with Theodore and his colleagues from the Atchison to Peac and Santa Fe Railroad and musical events he attended. The following is his next herb from the Henry Hubert Raymond story describing his brother Theodore's move to Kansas. Now, one day in the spring of 1872, while Theodore and the Masterson boys were in Buffalo City, they met up with a man by the name of Raymond Ritter. At the time the Atchison to Peac and Santa Fe Railroad was building towards the present location of Dodge City. The government land grant giving the railroad a right-of-way through the state stipulated that the line had to be completed to Colorado by 1873. Delay after delay had held up construction until now. Only a prodigious effort would make it possible to meet the deadline. The company needed help badly and was willing to pay well to get it. Ritter was from Lawrence, kansas, who was given a subcontract by Wiley and Cutter, a major contractor out of Topeka. At the time. Certain portions of the roadbed grading efforts were sublet to Mitre contractors and private individuals with horses and equipment. This Ritterfeller employed two of the Masterson brothers on a profit-sharing basis to assist him in filling his contract with Wiley and Cutter. The Masterson boys saw this as an excellent opportunity to make money away from the Buffalo Fields. So they traveled to the Sedgwick Homestead where my brother contributed an old wagon and a team, and they all headed for Fort Dodge to find work on the railroad. Before the boys would receive their wages from Ritter they were to complete a five-mile section between Fort Dodge and Buffalo City. Buffalo City was a small settlement on the Arkansis River, soon to become known as Dodge City. When they arrived at the work site they found 500 men and 50 pairs of mules working on grading the track to Fort Dodge. Theodore wrote me saying that he had met a Swedish man named Carl Hendricks who hired on to haul ties from the railroad car to the railroad bed. Carl had been working with the railroad for about a month. He warned my brother to keep a close watch on his team of mules. Carl told Theodore how a bunch of Indians stole his last mule team along with all the others. He said he'd got a new team from Charles Rath and named the mules Old Tom and Dick. Carl said that Tom and Dex sometimes had mind of their own and because of the heat they would head straight to the Arkansas River to cool off. Carl said it did not matter to the mules for they took him and his wagonload of ties right into the river bottom. Theodore reported that Ed and Bat had never worked so hard as when he had grating track for the railroad. Theodore, in his second letter sent to me in July of 1872, reported that he and the Masters and Boys had reached Buffalo City, a new town he called it. He said it was a glorious time for them, for they not only had completed their work but witnessed AA Robinson, chief engineer for the Santa Fe, lay out the streets for the new town of Buffalo City. The steel rails followed the grating crews and on September 12, 1872, the first work train rolled into town. To help celebrate the arrival of the first work train, schooner wagons from Hayes City started arriving. These wagons were full of gamblers and prostitutes. He wrote that this arrival caused quite the stir on Front Street as onlookers of Ruffians blaze their guns into the air. Afterward a tremendous amount of drinking, dancing and fighting broke out during the evening hours and into sunrise. My brother wrote that this was the time they were to be paid for their work. Theodore said that Ritter, the subcontractor, gave Ed and Bat a small amount of money, a partial payment. He then departed for Pointe East saying he had to get the balance some $300 from Wiley and Cutter. He promised to return immediately, but days passed into weeks with no sign of Ritter. Ritter proved to be a fly by the night and my brother and the two Masters and Boys were left stranded in Dodge, edward and my brother decided to return to Wichita for a short time, he said Bat hired out to a group of buffalo hunters who were planning a big hunt to the Southwest Winter of 1873. During one of the buffalo hunts in the winter of 1873, when the herds were significantly thinned out, bat started north of the Arkansas River with his brother, ed, and several other hunters. They used the Santa Fe Trail track and struck out over the Stimmer on Crossing and found a small migration of buffalo, so small that Bat went out on his own to scout for a larger herd. Bat left camp with Ed and the other hunters attending to the business of skinning. Bat was on a scouting expedition to find a large herd. He knew it was not wise for a hunter to set out alone, especially in the middle of December. He was unaware that his search for a buffalo brought him near the camp of a Cheyenne band led by Bear Shield. Bat was happy to have found a stray herd of buffalo and he killed one. But as he was skinning the animal he was surrounded by five warriors. Before Bat could move, one Cheyenne lifted his sharps rifle off the ground, another yanked his pistol out of the holster, and when Bat turned to try to grab it back, the first Indian bashed him with the rifle barrel. Blood flowed from a gash in his head. Bat fought to remain conscious, afraid that if he collapsed the Indians might choose to do to him what he'd been doing to the buffalo. He concluded from their gestures that the Cheyenne wanted him to leave the dead buffalo to them and go away. Bat, unwillingly and under distress, decided to flee on foot, without his horse and guns. Bat had no choice but to make tracks. Somehow he managed to find his camp where other hunters stitched up his wound. He was glad to be alive, but furious at being robbed of everything except the clothes on his back. Putting him in an even worse mood was the decision by the hunters to set out for Dodge City rather than face any of Bear Shield's warriors, whether there be five or fifty. After arriving in Dodge City, bat borrowed a couple of guns and persuaded his good friend Jim Harvey to search for Bear Shields' camp. They found the unguarded camp on Christmas night and as the warriors slept, bat and Harvey made off for the few dozen of the band's horses. Bat and Harvey pushed the stolen horses hard and made it to Dodge City before the enraged Bear Shields' warriors could chase them down. Later a hunter told Bat that he had seen 40 Cheyenne hurrying in the same direction. He and Harvey had just traveled. However, providential snowstorm slowed them down and as they drew closer to Dodge City without spotting their prey, the warriors accepted that they were out a herd of horses. Bat and Harvey sold the horses for $1,200. On June 5th of 1874, masterson Dixon and a group of fellow hunters wondered in search of the buffalo in the Texas Panhandle. It was in those days Bat gained his reputation as a marksman and practical joker. Dixon commented that Bat became so proficient with the rifle that the men who knew him said that his marksmanship far surpassed his skill with a six-gun. Even in later years he hastened to say that his excellent talent with the old Colt peacemaker was equal to his rifle aim. An incident occurred in the early morning of June 27th 1874. That was to make William Barkley Masterson a man in the eyes of the rough and ready frontier people. So that the buffalo hunters would not have to return to Dodge City for provisions during the buffalo season, the merchants of Dodge had built and stocked a small settlement near the old ruins called Adobe Walls, the Adobe Walls settlement, consisting of two buildings, a saloon and an outfitting store, which was 150 miles from Dodge City, stocked with supplies to sell to the hunters. However, the Indians felt that the hunters had poached on their land, set out a war party of 300 and made an attack on Adobe Walls in the morning of June 27th 1874. With considerable danger to themselves, the handful of hunters at the settlement, including Masterson and Dixon, barricaded themselves against the attack and held off the Indians until the cavalry arrived on the fifth day. The estimates on how many Indians the hunters killed range from 70 to 90. Billy Dixon, who fought alongside Batt at the Adobe Wall Settlement, had this to say about Masterson's performance Batt Masterson should be remembered for valor that marked his conduct. He was a good shot and not afraid.

Speaker 2:

This episode covered three phases of Batt Masterson's life the early years when Batt was a boy growing up in Illinois, his teenage years, buffalo hunting on the Kansas Blains and Indian fighting at Adobe Walls, brad. Through these early experiences, what was the most significant event that formed Batt Masterson's character?

Speaker 1:

Oh, that's kind of a difficult question to answer a little bit. I would say that maybe the Adobe Walls incident is probably the easiest answer for that and maybe even the most obvious. But I would even go back a little bit earlier to the confrontation with Raymond Redder, their former boss. I think that when Ed and Batt and Raymond were stiffed on their fee by the man that they were working for, the subcontractor for the railroad, I think they had plenty of time to stew over that, decide what they were going to do about it. And when Push came to shove and they received word that Redder actually was about to show his face back in Died City, I would assume, hopefully hoping that the Masterson boys would be gone by then that's just pure speculation on my part, but Batt and Ed had waited him out. And when they got news that Redder was coming back on the train and Batt went in there and confronted Redder and walked out with his money and Redder was never seen enter around Dodge City again after that. I think that's when not only Batt knew that he had the sand to do what he needed to do in that walk of life, but more importantly than that, everybody else who knew him knew that Batt Masterson was not a man to be trifled with.

Speaker 2:

Brad. Another idea that comes to my mind about Batt Masterson and his role as being heroes, when he went out the window at the Battle of Adobe Walls to help his good friend Billy Tyler, which is part of our story that we write about in Buffalo Days. So if you're interested in the Battle of Adobe Walls you can purchase our book on Buffalo Days. His character was formed on that day, I think, as a hero. Give us some kind of idea about Billy Tyler and what happened at Adobe Walls that portrayed him as a hero.

Speaker 1:

Well, again, it's always back to Adobe Walls in Batch's early life and I do think that that is probably one of the most significant character forming events that really happened to any Westerner ever. Not just specifically Batt Masterson, but that was there purely on business. He was there with a group of Buffalo Hunters. He was out to make money. But that was one of those guys who in some ways reminds me of old Davy Crockett's motto be sure you're right and go ahead. And that had a long career of doing what he thought was right. I think he was a lot more impetuous and quick tempered than Crockett might have been, but he always felt that he was in the right and to do the right thing. And the incident where Billy Tyler was was injured and Batt went out and they were surrounded by Indians for several days and it's by all accounts. There was no real reason that any of them should have survived at that point. But when Batt went out taking water to do what he could for for young Mr Tyler, who he had developed a relationship with during those days at great extreme risk to his own life, that really showed what kind of man that he was, was willing to put himself at risk for just to help out his fellow man, and there are several examples of that throughout his his later career, whether it be on on selfish grounds for him for his own self, or altruistic reasons like in the Tyler incident. But Batt Batt tried to do what the right thing was, at least to him, wherever he could. In that moment, being a hero was right thing to do.

Speaker 2:

I have another question for you, and this really kind of comes up from the author, tom Clavin, and we'll talk about that just in a little bit. How vital was Bat Masterson's role in helping Dodge City become what it is today?

Speaker 1:

Oh, absolutely. You can't hardly tell the story of Dodge City without Bat Masterson. It just can't be done. He was one of the few who was there in and out throughout Dodge City's entire formation, from day one before it even was Dodge City. He was there when there was nothing but tents and buffalo hides, and the things that he saw did help build the city's reputation and, by building the city's reputation, continued to help build his own. Bat Masterson is hardwired into the DNA of Dodge City and you can't escape that.

Speaker 2:

Very good. One last question Bat Masterson was an influential person in the early days of Dodge City, as we have noted before, and some feel more important than Wyatt Earp Dodge Holiday. Do you think this way and why?

Speaker 1:

If you're talking specifically Dodge City, then yes, absolutely. Like I said, you can tell the story of Dodge City without Wyatt Earp and Dodge Holiday. It's not as interesting of a story, but you can do it. The same cannot be said for Bat Masterson. You cannot tell the story of Dodge City without including him. Wyatt was a cop, one of many that we had throughout Dodge, one of the few that did move on and continue his own reputation. Dodge in many ways made Wyatt Earp into the man that he later became and now the pop culture icon, and Dodge Holiday very much the same way. Dodge was well known in certain circles in his own right, but after his relationship with Wyatt Earp we now, in the modern era, you can't really tell the story of Dodge Holiday without telling it through the lens of Wyatt Earp. So they are very much inseparable, even though they did lead separate lives for many years on their own. But again, bat Masterson is so hardwired into the DNA of Dodge City that it is impossible to tell the story of one without the other.

Speaker 2:

Well, that brings us to the announcement I'd like for you to make about what's going to happen this June as part of the Dodge City 150 year celebration.

Speaker 1:

Well, the author, tom Clavin, who wrote the book Dodge City, includes information about Bat Masterson and is known for bringing to our attention that there was no statue of Bat Masterson anywhere in the United States and wondered why this question spurred the Ford County Historical Society to get a statue in Dodge City, where he is known, said that for years. Why is there no statue of Bat in Dodge City? The unveiling of the Bat Masters in statue will be on Sunday, june 19th at 2pm at the Mueller-Schmidt House, which is affectionately known as the Home of Stone and is located at 112 East Vine Street in Dodge City. The statue was designed and sculpted by Carson Norton and Charles Norton and will be the first statue in the United States honoring William Bartholomew Bat Masterson. So place it on your calendar for this historical event of June 19th 2022 at 2pm. Members of our team, wild West Podcast and many others plan to attend. That's it for now. Remember to check out our Wild West Podcast shows on iTunes Podcast or at WildWestPodcastBuzzsproutcom. You can also catch us on Facebook, at facebookcom, or on our YouTube channel at Whiskey and Westerns on Wednesday. Thanks for listening to our podcast. Join us next time as we take you back to Gunfighters and Guns in the Old West. 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.

Bat Masterson's Early Years and Hunting
Batt Masterson's Formative Experiences
Bat Masterson's Role in Dodge City