John Joshua Webb - Lawman Turned
Serving most of his adult life as a
Joshua Webb (J.J.)
was also a hunter, teamster, surveyor, hired gun, and member of the
Dodge City Gang in
Born on February 14, 1847, in Keokuk
J.J. was the seventh of twelve children born to
William Webb, Jr. and Innocent Blue Brown Webb.
In 1862, the family moved to
Nebraska and then later, to Osage City,
Kansas. Webb traveled west in 1871,
buffalo hunter and then a surveyor in
Colorado. He then drifted from
Dodge City, Kansas.
Over the years, Webb would lead an adventurous
outlaw, meeting numerous characters along the way,
such as Wyatt
Bat Masterson, and more.
The 1875 census
of Ford County listed J.J. Webb as a 28 year-old
teamster. Later he would serve as a business owner, peace
officer, and a leader of Ford County’s mercenary force on the side of
the Atchison, Topeka and
Santa Fe railroad in their
battle against the Denver & Rio Grande railroad for right–of–way
through the Royal Gorge in
articles from the
Dodge City papers showed Webb to be a well–respected
member of the
there, he was deputized to ride in a number of posses. September, 1877 found him riding with
Ford County Sheriff
Charlie Bassett and
Under-sheriff Bat Masterson to Lakin,
in pursuit of
Sam Bass and his gang who had recently robbed a Union Pacific train of $60,000 at Big
Nebraska. Heading south
the posse assumed the gang would pass through southwest
Kansas. However, their search was unsuccessful and Bass continued to elude
lawmen for almost another year until he was finally killed on July 21,
1878 after an attempted bank robbery in Round Rock, Texas.
By January, 1878, Bat Masterson had been made the new Ford County Sheriff, and on January
29th, he deputized Webb along with two other men
by the names Kinch Riley and
Dave "Prairie Dog" Morrow, to help him track down six
who had robbed the westbound train at Kinsley,
two days earlier. Two of the gang members, Edgar West and
Dave" Rudabaugh, were caught within days by the posse. During the arrest, when
Rudabaugh went for his gun,
Webb stopped him and forced
him to surrender. The other four accomplices were arrested later. Rudabaugh then informed on his cohorts and promised to go
Rudabaugh's accomplices were sent to prison, but Dirty Dave was soon released, drifting to
and returning to thievery once again.
In September of 1878, southwest
settlers were fearful and restless as word came that
Chief Dull Knife and his band
had fled from their reservation in
and were headed to their home in the
reports of killing and thievery committed by the
on their journey began to be told in
Dodge City. The bulk of the soldiers at nearby
were sent out to corral the
Indians, leaving only about nineteen troops to protect the area.
Unnecessarily frightened for their lives,
citizens wired the governor requesting arms and ammunition.
weapons were received within days and Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Lewis,
the Fort Dodge Commander, selected J.J. Webb, A. J. Anthony,
Bill Tilghman, Robert Wright, and other experienced plainsmen, to scout the
area. The men soon brought back word that some 200 warriors were in
the area and the rumors of their acts continued to grow, with headlines
screaming "Not a child or a woman in
Nebraska is safe." However, Dull Knife's band only wanted to
get back to their ancestral home and soon removed themselves from the area
and things finally returned to normal.
in 1874, courtesy
It was in 1879 that
Webb worked with as a hired gun
for the Atchison, Topeka and
Santa Fe railroad
in their battle against the Denver & Rio Grande railroad for right–of–way
through the Royal Gorge in
Joshua Webb moved on to again to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Though J.J. Webb had been counted among the
leading citizens of Dodge City, in Las Vegas,
matters would take an entirely different turn. When he arrived many of his
acquaintances were there from Dodge including
David "Mysterious Dave" Mather,
and his old nemesis, Rudabaugh
his arrival to Las Vegas,
Webb partnered with
in operating a
spent most of his time gambling.
On July 19, 1879, the two were seated at a card table when a bully and
former army scout by the name of Mike Gordon began to yell loudly at one
of the saloon girls. A former "girlfriend," she had rejected him while he
was trying to convince her to leave town with him. Furious, Gordon stormed
out of the saloon shouting obscenities. When Doc
followed the unruly man outside, a shot from Gordon's gun whizzed past
him. Calmly pulling his revolver, Doc shot
one time, leaving Gordon in the dusty street. Gordon died the next day and
when word spread that Doc
would be arrested for the killing, he fled to Dodge City.
Webb accepted the position of Las Vegas
City Marshal. In that
capacity, he soon joined the Dodge City Gang led by Justice of
Hyman Neill, known as "Hoodoo
Brown." The Dodge City Gang was firmly in
control of a criminal cartel bent on thumbing their noses at the law. For two years, the members of theDodge
City Gang participated in several stage coach and train
robberies, organized cattle rustling, and were said to have been
responsible for multiple murders and lynchings.
Dodge City Gang consisted of of men formerly from
including Justice of the Peace, Hyman
"Hoodoo Brown" Neill; City Marshal, Joe Carson, Deputy U. S. Marshal
Dave" Mather, police officer John Joshua (J.J.) Webb, and a number of
Dave" Rudabaugh, William P. "Slap Jack Bill" Nicholson, John "Bull
Shit Jack" Pierce, Selim K. "Frank" Cady, Jordan L. Webb (no relation to
J.J.), and a number of other hard
cases. While Rudabaugh, Jordan Webb, Cady,
Nicholson, Pierce, and the rest committed acts of thievery,
Carson, and J.J.
Webb, in their official capacities, helped to cover the outlaws'
On March 2, 1880, Justice
of the Peace,
Brown," learned that a freighter named Mike Kelliher was allegedly
carrying about $1900 and the unlawful Dodge City Gang was determined to relieve him of the cash.
The Ford County Globe of March 9, 1880, reprinted the report from Las
Vegas Daily Optic:
"About four o'clock this morning, Michael
Kelliher, in company with William Brickley and another man, entered
Goodlet [a member of the Dodge City Gang] & Roberts'
and called for drinks. Michael Kelliher appeared to be the leader of the
party and he, in violation of the law, had a pistol on his person. This
was noticed by the officers, who came through a rear door, and they
requested that Kelliher lay aside his revolver. But he refused to do so,
remarking, "I won't be disarmed – everything goes," immediately placing
his hand on his pistol, no doubt intending to shoot. But officer
Webb was too quick for him. The man was shot
before he had time to use his weapon. He was shot three times–once in each
breast and once in the head... Kelliher had $1,090 [$1,900] on his person
Regardless of his
status as a City Marshal, Webb was convicted of murder and sentenced to
hang. On April 30th, Rudabaugh, along with a man named John Allen burst through the
Sheriff's office to free
Webb. Though the jail break was unsuccessful, Rudabaugh murdered jailer Antonio Lino in the process.
Webb's sentence was appealed and commuted to
life in prison.
Rudabaugh soon fled Las Vegas along with another Dodge City
Gang member, hooking
up with Billy
the Kid and his gang. However, Rudabaugh, along with Billy the Kid was captured on December 23, 1880.
Dirty Dave's conviction, he found himself in jail with
J.J. Webb. Soon, the pair along with two
other men by the names of Thomas Duffy and H.S. Wilson tried
unsuccessfully to shoot their way out of jail on September 19, 1881. Duffy was mortally wounded and their attempt was unsuccessful. However,
Webb, facing life in prison, and Rudabaugh, the threat of hanging,
Two months later,
Rudabaugh, along with five other men, chipped a stone out of the jail
wall and escaped out of a 7"x19" hole.
Webb raced to
then to Mexico where
disappeared and Rudabaugh was later killed
shackled in the center of the photo, next to his jailers at the
Old Town Jail in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Webb returned to
Kansas, where he took the name "Samuel King," and worked as a
teamster. Somewhere along the line he moved on to Winslow,
Arkansas working for the railroad. In 1882
he died of smallpox in Arkansas.
John Joshua Webb never married.
of America, updated August, 2017.