William Barclay Masterson Page.

William Barclay Masterson.

William Barclay "Bat" Masterson (November 26, 1853 - October 25, 1921) was a figure of the American Old West. His adventurous life included stints as a buffalo hunter, U. S. Army Scout, avid fisherman, gambler, frontier lawman U. S. Marshal, and sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. He was the brother of lawmen James Masterson and Ed Masterson, and, although his marriage was childless, there are claims that he was the great-grandfather of Robert Ballard, the marine scientist who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985.


William was born in Henryville in Quebec and baptised as Bartholomew Masterson, but he later used the name "William Barclay Masterson".

His father, Thomas Masterson (or Mastersan), was born in Canada of an Irish family; and his mother, Catherine McGurk (or McGureth), was born in Ireland. He was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters. They were raised of farms in Quebec, New York, and Illinois, until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas. In his late teens, he and two of his brothers, Ed Masterson and Jim Masterson, left their family's farm to become buffalo hunters. While traveling without his brothers, William took part in the battle of Adobe Walls in Texas, fighting against an overwhelming number of Comanche Indians. He then spent time as a U. S. Army scout in a campaign against the Kiowa and Comanche Indians.

His first gunfight took place in Sweetwater, Texas (later Mobeetie), in 1876 when he was attacked by a man Sargeant King in a fight, allegedly because of a girl Molly Brennan. The other man died of his wounds. Masterson was shot in the pelvis but recovered. The story that he needed to carry a cane for the rest of his life is a legend perpetuated by TV series.

Well the story is Sargeant king kicked open the hotel room door saw William Masterson being intimate with his lady friend Molly, pulled his revolver and fired as William is trying to move to get his gun killing Molly instantly. William fires second and misses (unusual for William) Sargeant King fires third stricking William in the pelvis, William fires forth kiling Sargeant King. The hotel folks rush upstairs to see what had happened only to find William bleeding and Molly dead. They quickly take William downstairs into another room and fetch the doctor. While William is recovering the doctor says to William that he will need to walk with a cane as his injuries are permanent. William does not want the town folks to know that he is down on his duties so, he decides to hang out by the saloon doors because that is usually where trouble starts. Sure enough, later, trouble started and some Texans come running out the saloon doors shooting up the place and William used the hook of his cane to catch them by their feet, would trip them to the ground, hit them up side the head, then arrest them. Now the town folks saw him swinging his cane like a baseball bat so soon they started calling him "Bat Masterson".

In 1877, he joined his brothers in Dodge City, Kansas. Jim was the partner of Ed who was an assistant marshal. Soon after his arrival, Masterson came into conflict with the local marshal over the treatment of man being arrested. He was jailed and fined, although his fine was later returned by the city council. He served as a sheriff's deputy alongside Wyatt Earp, and within a few months he was elelcted county sheriff of Ford County, Kansas. As sheriff, Bat won plaudits for capturing four members of the Mike Roark gang who had unsuccessfully held up a train at nearby Kinsley. He also led the posse which captured Jim Kennedy who had inadvertently killed a woman in Dodge; Bat eventually brought down Kennedy with a shot through the shoulder.

Fighting in Colorado on the Sante Fe side of its war against the Rio Grande railroad, Masterson continued as Ford County sheriff until he was voted out of office in 1879. During this same period his brother Ed was Marshal of Dodge City and was killed in the line of duty April 9, 1878. Ed was shot by cowboy Jack Wagner. As Ed stumbled away from the scene, Bat Masterson responded from across the street, firing on both Wagner and Wagner's Boss, Alf Walker. Wagner died the next day but Walker was taken back to Texas and recovered. The local newspaper were ambiguous about who shot Wagner and Walker and this led some later historians to question whether Bat was involved. However, the recent location of two court cases in which Bat testified under oath that he had shot both means that most now accept that Bat avenged his brother.

For the next several years, he made a living as a gambler moving through several of the legendary towns of the Old West. He visited Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, leaving shortly before the famous "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." He spent a year as marshal of Trinidad, Colorado.

In 1883, he participated in a bloodless conflict and gunfighter gathering later called the Dodge City War. By 1889, he was living in Denver, Colorado, where he was involved with Soapy Smith in the infamous election ballot stuffing scandal. He purchased the Palace Variety Theater and married actress Emma Walters, on November 21, 1891. In 1892, he managed the Denver Exchanged Club in Creede, Colorado, and continued to travel around the boomtowns of the West, gambling and promoting prize fights. He began writing a weekly sports column for George's Weekly, a Denver newspaper, and opened the Olympic Athletic Club to promote the sport of boxing. Later Masterson left the west and went to New York City by 1902, where he was arrested for illegal gambling.

President Theodore Roosevelt, on the recommendation of mutual friend Alfred Henry Lewis, appointed Masterson to the position of deputy to U. S. Marshal for the Southern district of New York, under William Henkel. Roosevelt had met Masterson on several occasions and had become friendly with him. Masterson split his time between his writing and keeping the peace in the grand jury room whenever the U. S. Attorney in New York held session. He performed this service for about $2,000 per year from early 1908 until 1912 when President William Howard Taft removed Masterson from the position during Taft's purge of Roosevelt supporters from government positions.

Bat Masterson worked as a sports writer and editor; and a columnist. His career as a writer started around 1883 and ended at his death in New York City in 1921.

Bat Masterson died at age 67 on October 25, 1921, while living and working in New York City. He collapsed at his desk from a heart attack after penning his final column for the New York Morning Telegraph. His body was taken to Campbell's Funeral Parlor and later buried after a simple service in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. His full name William Barclay Masterson appears above his epitaph on the large granite grave marker in Woodlawn. His epitaph states that he was "Loved by Everyone."

Bats Quotes:

"Every dog, we are told, has his day, unless there are more dogs than days."

"New York is the biggest boobtown there is. They will buy any damned thing here."

"If you want to hit a man in the chest, aim for his groin."

"When a man is at the racetrack he roars longer and louder over the twenty-five cents he loses through the hole in the bottom of his pocket than he does over the $25 he loses through the hole in the top of his pocket."

"There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I'll swear I can't see it that way." (this last quotation was also Masterson's last words; it was the bit of column found on the typewriter Masterson was using before he died while typing)

Bat Masterson died at age 68.

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