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Masterson family collection

Date: 1878-1979

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: Manuscripts Collection 436

Unit ID: 40436

Biographical sketch: William Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson was born in Quebec, Canada in 1853. His family, including brothers Edward and James, moved to the United States and farmed in New York and Illinois before moving to Sedgwick, Sedgwick County, Kansas in 1871. Thereafter the family became associated with the "Wild West" idea of Kansas the western United States in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Ed Masterson, marshal of Dodge City, was killed in a gunfight in 1878 when attempting to keep order. Bat Masterson was a close friend of Wyatt Earp's, served as sheriff and in other law enforcement capacities in Dodge City, Kansas, Trinidad, Colorado, and throughout other parts of the West, as well as earning his living hunting buffalo, gambling, backing boxing contests, and in other such jobs before moving to New York City in 1902 and eventually becoming a writer for the newspaper the Morning Telegraph. Bat died in New York in 1921. In 1891 he married Emma Walters, an actress, in Denver. Their sister Nellie married James Cairns, another Kansas law enforcement officer of the era. Jim Masterson was a saloonkeeper and assistant marshal in Dodge City before shooting Al Updegraff in a gunfight and being ordered to leave the city. He spent time in various law enforcement capacities in Colorado and New Mexico before settling in Oklahoma and eventually becoming a U.S. Deputy Marshal. He died in 1895 of consumption.

Abstract: The collection consists of copies and originals of materials related to the Masterson family, collected from a variety of sources. It includes correspondence to and from "Bat" Masterson, such as when he was sheriff of Ford County, Kan., or when he opened the Olympic Athletic Club in Denver, as well as after he moved to New York; court documents and related records regarding James Masterson's involvement with Jerome Fitzgerald in an 1889 assault against a W. M. Gardner in Guthrie, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma); numerous newspaper clippings regarding the lives and deaths of the various Masterson brothers, as well as legal records regarding Bat's death in New York; correspondence to and from Bat's newphew C. B. Masterson particularly regarding the creation of the Dodge City-Boot Hill Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame; banking receipts and other records, including for James Cairns; and other such materials.

Space Required/Quantity: .25 cubic feet (1 box); oversize material

Title (Main title): Masterson family collection

Scope and Content

Specific Contents Identified:

Headings or descriptors assigned to subsections of the material, for example labels on a particular box or group of boxes.

  • Dodge City Times, 13 April 1878
  • Folder 8: reference copy of Dodge City Times from 13 April 1878
  • Originals
  • Reference copies

Index Terms


    Masterson, James P., 1855-1895
    West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century
    Cairns, James, 1851-1934
    Masterson, Bat, 1853-1921
    Masterson, Edward J., 1852-1878
    Law enforcement -- West (U.S.)
    Peace officers -- West (U.S.)
    Wild West in American history

Additional Information for Researchers

Use and reproduction: Please use reference copies.