Table of Contents
|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 ||
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.
The gunfighter era was an outgrowth of the Civil
War. Some outlaws were spawned of the Civil War as were Quantrill's
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.
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.
H. Bonney - aka - Henry McCarty - aka - Billy the Kid:
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.
"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.
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.
A member of the Rube Burrow train robbing gang
in TX for a short time.
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
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
"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,
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.
Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson:
1856 William B. Masterson was born in
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.
The Kansas Heritage Server would like to thank
Donald R. Newcomb for submitting this
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.
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.
"Jim" Riley: (1853 - ????)
The Kansas Heritage Server would like to thank
Mark Smith (email@example.com) 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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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