This Day in History: April 16, 1881
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Today's bat is a legend. In fact, a man named 'Bat'. Bat Masterson. Whoa! Wait a minute! BAT? Why would anyone name a child 'Bat'? Of course, this is not a given name but an earned nickname as will be discovered later.
|Bat Masterson in 1879|
Meet William Barclay "Bat" Masterson, baptized as Bartholomew Masterson, who was a prominent lawman, gunfighter, gambler, saloon keeper and sports writer of the American West. He was a good friend and associate of the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp and definitely known as a ladies man.
Examining Masterson's full name brings to light his parents did not name him "Bat" after all. It was simply a shortened version of a really long name! Of course, that is one possibility. Another stems from a gunshot wound that left Masterson with a limp, thus the necessity for a cane used later for adornment and a weapon (a "bat').
"It was as a hunter, he won his name of "Bat," which descended to him as it were from Baptiste Brown, or "Old Bat," whose fame as a mighty Nimrod was flung all across, from the Missouri River to the Spanish Peaks, and filled with admiration, that generation of plainsmen which immediately preceded Mr. Masterson upon the Western stage."
Source: Old West Legends
Masterson didn't begin his career as the famed lawman he became. In 1873, he worked as a buffalo hunter and Indian scout in Dodge City, Kansas. Over the next decade, he mainly made his living as a saloon keeper and gambler but also worked intermittently as the Ford County sheriff (1877-79) and a deputy U.S. marshal (1879).
What about this day in history?
Bat arrived in Dodge City at 11:50 am on April 16, 1881. Stepping off the train, he spotted the two men who were bothering his brother and started yelling at them. Within minutes, there were five people shooting at each other. When they paused to reload, the mayor and the new Sheriff of Dodge City appeared brandishing shotguns and put an end to the action. One of the troublemakers was wounded and they took him to the doctor's office. Bat paid a small fine for his participation in the shoot-out and then boarded the evening train out of town headed west. He was 27 years old and had just had his last gunfight.He literally "got the hell outta Dodge", as they say. Masterson subsequently moved to New York where he became a newspaperman. He is remembered today as a fierce Old West gunfighter. While it has been said he killed some two dozen men, Masterson himself said his exploits as lawman were not as violent as many pulp writers claimed.
Teeny Tidbit of Trivia
While in New York City, Masterson wrote a series of sketches about his adventures which were published in the magazine, Human Life (c. 1907–1908). It was during this time that Masterson sold his famous sixgun—"the gun that tamed the West"—because he "needed the money." Some reports state Masterson bought old guns at pawnshops, carved notches into the handles and sold them at inflated prices.
Each time he claimed the gun was the one he used during his career as a lawman.
The legend lives on...
Bat Masterson has been the 'star' of TV and motion pictures. The TV series features reruns on a fairly regular basis on Western channels. Just one question stands out in my mind...What happened to the mustache?
Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson
Bat Masterson Biography
Welcome to the Wild West
Old West Legends