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William Barclay "Bat" Masterson

Bat MastersonPeace officer, gambler, sports writer.  Born: November 26, 1853, Quebec.  Died: October 25, 1921, New York City.

The Canadian family that settled on an 80-acre farm some 14 miles northeast of Wichita about 1871 was no different than any of the thousands of others who came to this new land to improve their lot in life. But before three decades had passed it had left a mark on the history of the land that marvel thousands of people the world over.

All five sons of this family served as peace officers in Kansas and Oklahoma frontier towns and the single daughter who survived married one of Wichita's finest chiefs of police. Though each child carved a niche in history, the record left by one of the sons was outstanding.

Before he was 21, this son hunted buffalo on the plains south of Kansas and helped construct the Santa Fe railroad to the Colorado line. He was one of the buffalo hunters trapped at the Battle of Adobe Walls in 1874 and the next year served as an army scout during the Indian Territory campaign. He killed his first man--over a girl--in 1877. Just days before his 24th birthday he was elected sheriff of Ford County (by three votes) in which Dodge City is located and served during that town's most violent year. His brother was city marshal at the same time but was killed in the line of duty within a few months.

The new sheriff had earlier served as both deputy and under sheriff and later as policeman of Dodge City. He loved to play practical jokes, dress in the latest fashions, and hated to ride long distances in a saddle. Gambling and sports were his great weaknesses and as he grew older he devoted more and more time to both, finally moving to New York where, among other things including being a deputy United States marshal, he wound up as a sports writer on the Daily Telegraph. By now his health was not good, he was diabetic and overweight and what hair he had left was pure white. Just a month before his 68th birthday, he died at his desk while scribbling out the next day's sports column.

His name was William Barclay "Bat" Masterson, one of frontier America's outstanding figures.

Entry: Masterson, William Barclay "Bat"

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: April 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.