Bat Masterson – Gunfighter

Bat Masterson - GunfighterI find Bat Masterson one of the more intriguing men of the Old West.  He is known as a gunfighter, but he was in very few gun fights.

The last gunfight he was in took place on this day back in 1881.  It was to help out his brother Jim.  Jim owned a business in Dodge City and was having trouble with Al Updegraff, a business partner.  It had even involved gunfire.

I don’t know if Jim actually said the words, “I going to get my big brother and he’ll beat you up,” but Bat, in Tombstone at the time, heard about the conflict and jumped on a train to Dodge City.

Not a man to mince words, Bat immediately spotted Updegraff and brother-in-law Peacock and said, “I have come over a thousand miles to settle this.  I know you are heeled, now fight!”  All three men immediately drew their guns.

In the fracas Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung.  The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns and stopped the shooting.  No one was mortally injured in the shooting, and in accordance with Old West standards, the gunfight was fought fairly.  So Masterson was fined $8.  He paid the fine and took the next train out of Dodge City.

As an aside, had Bat not left Tombstone to help his brother, the chances are excellent he would have been around to help his friend Wyatt Earp in another gunfight…The one that took place at the OK Corral.

Robert Leroy Parker – We Know Him as Butch Cassidy

Butch CassidyBack in 1866 Robert Leroy Parker was born in Beaver, Utah Territory. But we know him as Butch Cassidy.

Supposedly, he picked up the name “Butch” from the short period of time he worked in a Rock Springs, Wyoming butcher shop. The last name came from a minor criminal mentor by the name of Mike Cassidy…I also suspect he didn’t want to bring shame on his strict Mormon family by using Parker.

Although Butch’s organizational skills and personality were probably suited more for a legitimate business life, he assembled a group of ruffians known as the “wild bunch.” Even though they could be considered misfits, Butch was able to meld them into a sophisticated criminal operation.

By the 1900’s the wild days of the West were fading and law enforcement was becoming more effective. So Butch, The Sundance Kid and Etta place fled to Argentina.

Here’s where legend and fact get blurry. Some say Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed by Bolivian troops. However members of his family maintain Butch came back to the United States and died of old age under another name.

Just as an aside. There are more than a dozen Old West outlaws, including Billy the Kid, who were supposedly not really killed, and they lived a long life under an alias. Sometimes I wonder if any Old West outlaw was ever killed.

Pearl Hart and the Wild Old West

Pearl Hart and the Wild Old WestJust when everyone thought the wild Old West was gone, in 1899 a small slight woman by the name of Pearl Hart and her boyfriend held up a stagecoach in the Florence, Arizona area.

Their take was a little over $400. But they weren’t able to spend it, because in a short time they were captured and jailed.

Shortly afterward, with the help of some men, Pearl escaped. But, because of her fame, she was recognized and returned to jail.

Pearl and her boyfriend were tried and convicted. The boyfriend got 30 years and Pearl got 5.

Pearl’s life after she got out of jail is surrounded in myth. Some say she became “The Arizona Bandit” with Buffalo Bill and in vaudeville. Others say she married a Calvin Bywater and settled down to a life of domestic bliss.

Whichever one it was, Pearl never got crosswise with the law again.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Dies

Antonio Lopez de Santa AnnaIn 1876 Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna died. I know of no other Old West character whose life was more of a roller coaster.

Born to middle-class parents in Mexico, as a teenager he joined the army. In 1821 he gained national prominence as a military leader in Mexico’s fight for independence against Spain.

This resulted in his being elected the President of Mexico in 1833. And just two years later he proclaimed himself the dictator of Mexico.

During this time the Anglos in the area that is now Texas were agitating for independence.

Determined not to let this happen, Santa Anna took command of the army and invaded Texas. As we all know Santa

Anna was captured and Texas became an independent republic.

While he was a captive of Texas, he was deposed. Eleven times over the next two decades, Santa Anna regained and lost his dictatorship. The last time was in 1855.

The once mighty Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna died embittered and impoverished.

William Quantrill Dies

William Quantrill DiesOn June 6, 1865 William Quantrill dies of wounds encountered in a skirmish with Union Soldiers.

At one time I referred to Quantrill as a man without any redeeming qualities. I was promptly told not to go into the Deep South and say that. I may not return under my own steam.

William Quantrill was Frank and Jesse James’ mentor. He was born in Ohio and after getting into trouble in Utah and Kansas he fled to Missouri where he became a strong supporter of slavery, even getting into violent conflicts with neighbors.

When the Civil War broke out…It’s also referred to by some as “the war of Northern aggression”…he formed a group of gorilla irregulars. As indicated earlier, Frank and Jesse James were members of Quantrill’s Raiders.

Quantrill not only attacked Union forces, he would attack unguarded pro-Union towns; most notably Lawrence, Kansas where the raiders shot every man and boy they could find. After killing 150 civilians, they left the town ablaze.

Incidentally, since Quantrill’s guerillas weren’t considered legitimate soldiers, they were never given amnesty after the conclusion of the war.

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