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  Kansas Gunfighters, KS Outlaws and KS Lawmen

What's Inside

pair of Western guns] [photo:
Wyatt S. Earp]

Table of Contents

Hide Park Gunfight at Newton, Kansas
Gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona
Benjamin Cardozo Meets Gunslinger Bat Masterson
General Gunfighters History
Kansas Gunfighters Sources

|Sam Bass ||William Bonney--Billy the Kid ||William "Billy" L. Brooks || Henry Brown || Henderson Brumley ||William F. Cody || Dalton Gang || William "Bill" M. Doolin || Wyatt Earp || Patrick "Pat" Floyd Garrett || John Wesley Hardin || Wild Bill Hickok--James Butler Hickok ||John Henry "Doc" Holliday ||Tom Horn || Jesse James Gang ||William Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson ||George Newcomb ||Ed O'Kelley ||James "Jim" Riley ||Luke Short ||Ben Thompson ||Henry Clay White || Younger Gang|

The following article was made available through the courtesy of Stephen Chinn. It should not be quoted or retransmitted without a full citation to the author.

General Gunfighters History

The gunfighter era was an outgrowth of the Civil War. Some outlaws were spawned of the Civil War as were Quantrill's Raiders.

The average year of birth was 1853. The average year of death was 1895. About 1/3 of all gunmen died of "natural causes." Many gunmen did not die violently and lived a normal life span (70 years or so). Of those who did die violently (shot or executed), the average age of death was 35. The gunfighters-turned-lawmen lived longer lives than their persistently criminal counterparts.

Most professional gunfighters died in states or territories where the most shootings occurred: Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Missouri, and Colorado.

The "occupations" of the various gunmen were often those that used firearms in ordinary pursuits. They often carried firearms as a job requirement. There were 110 gunmen who were law officers, 75 who were cowboys, 54 as ranchers, 46 as farmers, 45 as rustlers, 35 as hired guns, but also men who had been soldiers, miners, scouts, teamsters, actors, butchers, bounty hunters, etc.

Gunfighting peaked in the 1870s: Six fights in TX and KS in 1870, 22 in 1871, 13 in 1872, 27 in 1873, 14 in 1874, 13 in 1875, 22 in 1876, 21 in 1877, 36 in 1878, 14 in 1879. In the 1880s: 25 in 1880, 27 in 1881, 15 in 1882, 9 in 1883, 17 in 1884, 7 each in 1885-6, 20 in 1887, 10 in 1888, and nine in 1889. 1895-96 were bad years, 19 fights in each, but then it began to taper off.

Sam Bass: (21 July 1851 - 21 July 1878)
Born near Mitchell, Indiana. After numerous 'money-making' ventures Sam had formed a partnership with Joel Collins and Jack Davis.  After driving a herd of cattle to Dodge City, then on to Ogallaha in the South Platte Valley, they decided to venture on to the Black Hills.  They tried unsuccessfully to establish a freighting outfit. Sam had pointed out that "It's pretty hard to quit our old trade and go into a business that don't pay any better than this." With this Sam and Collins began to form their gang; Tom Nixon, Bill Heffridge and Jim Berry.  Their first target was the Deadwood Stage, they held it up four times, from Jul To Aug 1877. With only seven peaches and less than $50 as their total loot, they agreed to try one more time when Collins had learned of a shipment of $150,000 in gold dust.
The holdup was a failure, which drove them the Union Pacific would be more profitable.   The gang's first train robbery was their most successful. At Big Springs, Nebraska, the loot was $60,000 dollars in shiny new twenty dollar gold coins from the San Francisco mint. The passengers of the train turned over an additional $400 cash and gold watches.
William H. Bonney - aka - Henry McCarty - aka - Billy the Kid: (1859-1881)
William Bonney was born in 1859. Billy the Kid was a lad with buck teeth who could do remarkable things with a .44-40 pistol. His career began in Silver City, New Mexico Territory. 14 Jul 1881 Billy the Kid was fatally shot by his old friend, Pat Garrett, in the bedroom of Pete Maxwell at Fort Sumner in New Mexico Territory. Billy the Kid died at age 21, having killed 21 men during his gunslinger career, a victim of circumstances, and many claim the dupe of the Lincoln County War.
William "Billy" L. Brooks: (Abt. 1849 - 1874)
By 1870 he already had the reputation as a tough character. He was also supposed to have been a noted buffalo hunter and was to have been dubbed 'Buffalo Bill' (which confuses him with William F. Cody, the best known, or William Mathewson, the original Kansas 'Buffalo Bill' who was known as "Buffalo Bill' as early as the 1860's). Brooks had appeared in Wichita in 1870, he was employed as a driver by the Southwestern Stage Company, the stage company switched routes to Newton,  Brooks found that in Newton the cattle trade was in full swing and was in bad need of law enforcement.  Early in 1870 Newton was incorporated as a third-class city, the city council wasted no time in appointing a police force.  Brooks' tough reputation led to his being appointed town marshal on 1 April, by the 14th of June Brooks had decided that the $75 wage wasn't nearly enough for laying his life on the line.  Much of Brooks' subsequent career is a mixture of hearsay, alleged gunfights and tall tales.  By 1874 Brooks had turned to outlawry and horse thievery. Following a siege near Caldwell, Kansas, Brooks, Charlie Smith and L. B. Hasbrouck were removed from jail by a large gang of silent men and taken to a large tree on the main road.  Despite pleas for mercy and a fair trial, the three were hung. Brooks reportedly begged for mercy.
Henry Newton Brown: (1857 - 30 April 1884)
Born at Cold Spring Twp, Missouri in 1857, had one sister. They were orphaned at an early age, and raised by an uncle on his farm near Rolla, Missouri.  Left home at seventeen, worked as a cowboy, buffalo hunter, became entangled in the Lincoln County cattle war, joined with Billy the Kid in some of the more bizarre incidents. Ended up in Caldwell Kansas where he was appointed as a deputy marshal, in about 1882 he was promoted to marshal, he also appointed Ben Robertson (aka Ben Wheeler) as his deputy.  They did such a good job, that Henry was presented a brand new Winchester rifle.  Married in 1884, most citizens regarded him as a solid officer and citizen.  On 30 April 1884, he and Wheeler and two cronies from the Oklahoma territory attempted to rob the bank at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, having convinced the mayor of Caldwell that they needed the time off to pursue a murderer headed into the Oklahoma Territory.  The robbery needless to say was a failure, they killed numerous citizens before being pursued and captured by the enraged townspeople of Medicine Lodge. Later that same evening, the four were dragged out of their jail cell, Brown tried to escape and was blasted to death with a shotgun. The other three were dragged to a tree and hung. 
Henderson Brumley:
A member of the Rube Burrow train robbing gang in TX for a short time.
William Frederick ('Buffalo Bill') Cody:
The most noted of all buffalo hunters, William F. Cody, later achieved even wider fame as a Wild West showman.
William "Bill" M. Doolin:
The train robbery occurred about half a mile west of Cimarron, Kansas, about half way between Dodge City and Garden City on the major east-west line of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. On May 26, 1893, one of his gang flagged down the westbound California Express. Before the train could come to a complete stop, Doolin and another outlaw had swung onto the locomotive from opposite sides and covered the engineer and fire fighter with revolvers. Three more outlaws joined the others as they tried to break into the express cars. Shots were fired, and the express car's messenger was wounded. Doolin and the others managed to break the door down, and they escaped with a few thousand dollars. Doolin formed his gang soon after Bob and Emmett Dalton had said they were tired of running and intended to settle down. Doolin's gang consisted of 'Bitter Creek' Newsome, Charlie Pierce, Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell. They were all hunted down by the four great lawmen of the frontier: Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen, Heck Thomas and Bud Ledbetter.
Between 1893 and early 1895, Doolin and his gang made their biggest hauls robbing banks, including those in Spearville and Cimarron, Kansas. According to the best estimates, Doolin and his gang stole about $175,000 in gold and currency during this period. What happened to the loot is the basis for this legend.

Patrick "Pat" Floyd Garrett: (1850-1908)
Patrick Floyd Garrett was born in 1850. Pat Garrett was a tall, rangy individual. He married Polinaria Guiterrez. They had seven children. 1880 Pat Garrett went to New Mexico Territory and was elected sheriff of Lincoln County. He was ordered by Governor Wallace (author of "Ben Hur") to bring Billy the Kid in. 1881 Pat Garrett shot and killed his old friend, Billy the Kid, in the bedroom of Pete Maxwell at Fort Sumner in New Mexico Territory. Pat Garrett was shot and killed by Wayne Brazil in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1908. Pat Garrett was buried in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Tom Horn: ( 21 November 1860 - November 1903)
He was hung in Cheyenne, Wyoming for a murder. His guilt/innocence is still controversial. Buried in Boulder, Colorado - in the old Olympia Pioneer Cemetery.
William Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson: (1856-1921)
1856 William B. Masterson was born in Canada. Bartholomew was his given middle-name, although he also used Barclay. Bat Masterson was a buffalo hunter on the great plains, circa 1871. Bat took part in the Battle of Adobe Walls in which 19 hunters were attacked by 1000 Indians. 1878 Bat ran for Sheriff of Ford County, KS which he won at the age of 22. 1879/1881 Bat Masterson journeyed by horseback to Tombstone, Arizona since Wyatt Earp had sent for him to work in his new Oriental Saloon venture. Abt 1881 Bat Masterson left Tombstone, Arizona for Trinidad, Colorado. When? Bat was sheriff of Creede, Colorado for a time when it was a wild woolly mining town. 1883 Bat became a Peace Commissioner of Dodge City. 12 Jan 1889 ...a few of Ingalls's (Kansas) finest citizens, including Bat Masterson, decided to go after some county records that were still being held in Cimarron. The men, armed with Winchesters and six-shooters, slipped into Cimarron at 10:00 in the morning. They rushed into the county building, seized the records, and placed them in a wagon, but by this time the Cimarron men had gathered, and shooting began between the two factions. One Cimarron man, J. W. English, was killed, and two others were seriously wounded. After the fight was over, the raiding party returned to Ingalls with the county records and three wounded men. When he heard of the incident, Governor John Martin ordered two companies of militia to Cimarron to keep the peace. When? He accepted post of U.S. Marshal in New York State. 1891 He was putting his literary talents into practice as a New York City newspaper (New York Morning Telegraph) sports reporter. 1921 Bat Masterson (age 65) had a heart attack at his desk and died.
George Newcomb:
The Kansas Heritage Server would like to thank Donald R. Newcomb for submitting this information.
George Newcomb (Alias: "The Slaughter Kid" or "Bitter Creek Newcomb") b. ca. 1860, d. 2 May 1895, Dunn Ranch, Cimmaron R., OK. Mr. Newcomb was a cow-hand turned bank & train robber in association with the Dalton & Doolin gangs. Wellman states that he "was the son of a respected family which lived near Ft. Scott, KS but had not been home for a long, long time." Resided near Guthrie, OK, when not robbing banks.
Ed O'Kelley (a.k.a. Ed O. Kelly): (? - January 1904)
Ed O'Kelley shot and killed Robert Ford 8 June 1892 with a shotgun in a saloon Ford owned in Creede, Colorado. When he was arrested in June 1892, O'Kelly gave his name as   "Ed O'Kelley" but the policeman wrote it down as "Ed O. Kelly" in what was to be the source of many errors in frontier histories.  O'Kelley, was also known as Red O'Kelley due to his bright red hair, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder in Canon City, CO. Released in 1902. Killed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 13 January 1904.
James "Jim" Riley: (1853 - ????)
The Kansas Heritage Server would like to thank Mark Smith ( for contributing this material.

On August 19, 1871, Riley is credited with the killing of four men (Patrick Lee, "Happy Jim" Martin, William "Billy" Garrett, Kearnes), and wounding three (Mr. Hickey, Hugh Anderson, Jim Wilkerson) during the "Newton's General Massacre" (also known as the Hyde Park Gunfight).

Riley waited until his opponents had emptied all the chambers in their caps-and-balls pistols, locked the door to the saloon, and went to work with his own Colt's caps-and-balls pistols. Unfortunately, he killed only one real enemy, Garrett. Martin was Riley's friend, and Lee was a bystander.

Who Riley was, or what ever happened to him, is still a mystery. After the gunfight, he left town and was never seen again. There are many written accounts of the gunfight, and Riley is mentioned in all of them. Here's what we do know:

He was 18 years-old at the time of the gunfight. He had advanced tuberculosis. Descriptions of Riley include the words "Emaciated", "Scarecrow", "Ragged", and "Guant". He was known as a quiet young man who spent most of his waking hours with Mike McCluskie, who was the cause of, and the first victim of the gunfight. It is thought that it was the sight of McCluskie being gunned down by the Texans that pushed Riley from being a quiet man to a killer of men.

James Riley Sources

Rosa, Joseph G. "The Gunfighter - Man or Myth", Copyright 1969 by the University of Oklahoma Press, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-31378.

Drago, Harry Sinclair "Wild, Woolly & Wicked" Copyright 1960 by Harry Sinclair Drago. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 60-14428.

Miller, Nyle H. and Snell, Joseph W. "Great Gunfighters Of The Kansas Cowtowns 1867 - 1886" Copyright 1963 by Nyle H. Miller and Joseph W. Snell. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 63-63480.

Luke Short: (1854-1893)
1854 Luke Short was born in Texas. Started out as a trader with the Sioux Indians up around Nebraska Country. 1879/1881 Luke Short journeyed by horseback down to Tombstone, Arizona, since Wyatt Earp had sent for him to work as a dealer in his new Oriental Saloon venture. He went to Dodge City in the 1880's and bought an interest in the Long Branch Saloon. Peace Commissioners of Dodge City in 1883. Luke Short went on to Texas and bought out the White Elephant gambling hall. Shortly after he sold the White Elephant, he became desperately sick and died in bed in 1893 in Kansas City at age 39.
Ben Thompson: (1843-1884)
Ben Thompson was born in 1843 at Knottingley, England. Ben and Billy Thompson were two of the greatest gamblers and faro-bank fiends, also two of the most desperate men and sure shots. It is said that Ben and Billy Thompson shot down 25 men. Every year, without fail, they came to Dodge to meet the Texas drive. Bill Thompson killed Sheriff C. B. Whitney with a shotgun in the plaza at Ellsworth the first year of the cattle drive to that place. While Bill escaped, Ben Thompson stood off the town as he waved that double-barreled shotgun at the mayor and several deputies who were hiding out of sight behind buildings, doors and in halls. Wyatt Earp told Ben to either throw down the shotgun or he'd kill him. Ben Thompson later told Bat Masterson that he had a hunch that Wyatt meant to kill him, and so he did throw down the shotgun. Ben Thompson was fined $25.00 for disturbing the peace. Bill Thompson was acquitted when tried. Ben Thompson got the job as marshal for the city of Austin, but he killed one too many men and was let out. At San Antonio Ben shot down saloon owner Jack Harris. Ben was 41 years of age when he was cut down and had killed over 40 (?) men.
Henry Clay WHITE: (? - ?)
Henry Clay WHITE disappeared from Wayne County, Missouri in the 1870's after being accused of murdering a man. He reportedly went out west to the Tombstone, Arizona area. The story was that he redeemed himself for the Missouri murder through some heroic deed in Tombstone, Arizona. He later went to Salt Lake City after contracting tuberculosis. He was brought back to Arkansas, where his other relatives had settled, around 1900 and died shortly thereafter. Source: Barrett Bryant.

Kansas Gunfighters Sources

Breihan, Carl. "Lawmen and Robbers"

Dary, David. "More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas." University Press of Kansas. 1984.

Ensminger, Richard provided information about William Quantrill and Jesse James.

Horan, James D., "The Authentic Wild West - The Gunfighters." Crown Publishers, Inc. New York. 1976

Horan, James D., "The Authentic Wild West - The Outlaws." Crown Publishers, Inc. New York. 1977

McCarty, Lea Franklin. "The Gunfighters" Oakland: Mike Roberts Color Productions. 1988

O'Neal, Bill. "The Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters"

Preece, Harold. "The Dalton Gang." New York: New American Library of World Literature, Inc. 1964

Rosa, Joseph G. "The Taming of the West - Age of the Gunfighter" Smithmark Publishers , Inc. New York. 1993

Time-Life Books. "The Old West Series - The Gunfighters." Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia. 1974

Authors: Stephen Chinn, Kenneth Thomas and Kansas Heritage contributors

Page created 25 Mar 1994
Updated: 08 May 2010.

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