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Hyde Park Gunfight in Newton
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On August 20, 1871, one of the largest
gunfights to ever take place in the
West was fought in Newton,
Kansas. Known as the Hyde Park
Gunfight or the Newton Massacre, the shootout claimed more lives than many
gunfights such as
Dalton Gang Gunfight at
Kansas or the
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in
When the Santa Fe Railroad extended its line to
in 1871, this new frontier town succeeded Abilene as the terminus of the
Chisholm Trail. Like other
Newton quickly filled up with
gambling parlors, brothels, and inevitably -- lawless and violent men.
The whole affair began when two local lawmen by the names of
Mike McCluskie argued over local politics on August 11th in the
Irishman from Ohio and a rough man by anyone's standards, had made his way
Kansas via his employment with the Santa Fe Railroad as a Night
Shortly after his arrival, he
befriended an 18 year-old man named James
Riley, who was dying of tuberculosis. This is relevant because Riley would
soon play a major role in the famous
gunfight that was to come.
Bailey was a
cowboy who had probably wound up in
Newton after one of
the long cattle drives.
Both men had been hired by
Newton authorities as Special Policemen to
keep order in the city during the heated August elections. At that time,
the fledgling city was trying to form a new county and who would lead
these efforts was a major debate among the locals. Though working in
Bailey had a personality conflict from the start.
Constantly arguing, the two men were in the Red Front
Saloon on August
11th and their dispute soon led to violence. Starting out as a fistfight,
Bailey was knocked out of the
saloon and into the dusty street.
followed, drew his pistol, and fired two shots at
Bailey, hitting him in
the chest. The wounded man died the next day.
McCluskie immediately fled town to avoid arrest, but returned just a
few days later, after he heard that the shooting would most likely be
deemed self defense. Though
Bailey never produced a weapon,
claimed he feared for his life, because
Bailey had been in three previous
gunfights, in which he had killed two men.
In the meantime, several of
cowboy friends from
about his death and vowed to take revenge against his killer. Late on the
evening of August 19, 1871,
McCluskie strode into Tuttle's Dance Hall,
located in an area of town called
Hyde Park. Accompanied by a friend named
Jim Martin, a
cowboy, the two sat down to play faro. Already in the
McCluskie's "shadow," James Riley.
After midnight, three of
cowboy friends by the names of
Billy Garrett, Henry Kearnes, and Jim Wilkerson, also entered the dance
hall. All were armed and Billy Garrett had a history of at least two prior
gunfights, where he had been successful in killing two men. The three
mingled in the
saloon, waiting and watching
McCluskie gamble. Soon,
Hugh Anderson, the son of a wealthy Bell
Texas cattle rancher also entered the dancehall, walking directly
McCluskie and yelling, "You are a cowardly son-of-a-bitch! I will
blow the top of your head off!"
Though Jim Martin jumped up and attempted to stop any violence,
Anderson ignored him and shot
McCluskie in the neck.
McCluskie in the
meantime, tried to return the shot, but his pistol misfired, and he fell
to the floor. Anderson, now standing over him, pumped several more bullets
into his back.
In the meantime,
cowboys, Kearns, Garrett, and Wilkerson also
began firing, perhaps to keep the crowd back. James Riley,
friend, then pulled his two Colt revolvers and opened fire on the Texans.
Though Riley had never been in a
gunfight before and probably couldn't see
in the smoke filled room, he unloaded his guns into melee, hitting seven
Hit were would-be peacemaker, Jim Martin, who took a shot in the neck
before stumbling out of the
saloon and dying across the dusty street on
the steps of Krum's dance hall.
cowboy, Billy Garrett, was shot in the
shoulder and chest and died a few hours later. His friend Henry Kearnes
also took a mortal wound, but hung on for a week before he died.
Others, who had no part in the squabble, also took some of Riley's wild
bullets including a Santa Fe Railroad brakeman named Patrick Lee who was
shot in the stomach and died two days later. Another Santa Fe employee
named Hickey was also shot in the calf, but the wound was not serious and
The other two
cowboys, Jim Wilkerson, and the first shooter,
Hugh Anderson were also wounded. Wilkerson was shot in the nose and the leg,
but recovered from his wounds. Anderson took two shots in the leg and also
With seven men lying on the floor, young James Riley, who previous to
this time had never been in trouble, simply walked out of the smoke filled
saloon and was never seen again.
Later that day, a warrant was issued for the arrest of
However, his father and friend's smuggled him aboard a train to Kansas
City. Later he made his way back to
Texas and was never brought to trial
However, the whole affair was not yet over. Now, Arthur McCluskie,
Mike's brother, wanted revenge against
Hugh Anderson. For two years,
Arthur and his friends kept a lookout for Anderson, who was safely hiding
Texas. But Anderson made the mistake of returning to
Kansas in 1873,
where Arthur tracked him down in Medicine Lodge. Working at Harding's
Trading Post as a bartender, Arthur sent a man in on July 4, 1873 to
invite Anderson to a duel -- giving him a choice weapons -- either guns or
knives. Anderson chose pistols and soon emerged from the trading post.
After both men emptied their guns into each other, they then resorted
to knives and in the end, both were dead.
Hyde Park Gunfight received much publicity at the time, it
has received little historical attention, despite producing a higher body
count than many more famous
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral or the
Shootout. Perhaps this is because there were no "famous" people
involved in shoot-out.
of America, updated October, 2010
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