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Luke Short - Page 3

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Dodge City, Kansas, 1876Forced to Leave the Town


Luke was notified, and came hurriedly down to the saloon. He learned the facts of the arrest and went out to hunt up the officer who was in charge of the squad in order that he might furnish bail for the musicians and have them released. But, he could not find him or any other person who was considered competent to accept a bail bond. All the time Luke was trying to get his employees out of the calaboose, the music in the mayor's place was in full swing. This, as can well be imagined, did not tend to help matters in the least.


About the time Luke had made up his mind that nothing could be done that night towards the release of the prisoners, he saw the officer whom he had been looking for standing some little distance away. Luke started towards him.


The officer, who was standing on the sidewalk, which was a foot or so above the street, saw Luke coming, and instantly pulled his pistol and fired point blank at him. The shot missed and Luke returned the fire; but just as he pulled the trigger the officer started to run, and in leaving the sidewalk for the dark street, he fell. Luke, thinking he had hit him, went then to his place of business, secured a shot gun and stood off the town until morning. He accomplished this by refusing to submit to arrest that night.


The next morning he was prevailed upon to lay aside his weapons, go over to the police court, plead guilty to creating a disturbance, pay a fine and have the whole thing ended. That was what had been promised him if he would take off his arms and surrender to the officers. He accordingly gave up his pistols and started for the police court with the officers. But, instead of them taking him to the police court as they promised, they took him to the city jail and kept him locked up until the noon trains arrived. The passenger trains going East and West passed each other at Dodge, and Luke was marched to the depot by an escort armed with shotguns and told to choose which train he would take. There was nothing left for him to do. They had him, and were only waiting an excuse to riddle him with buckshot if he offered the least resistance.


He took the East-bound train and landed in Kansas City.


Long Branch Saloon Dodge City, KansasLining Up for a Big Fight

I was in Denver at the time, and he wired me to come to Kansas City at once, which I did. We talked the matter over when we met, and concluded to go up to Topeka and place the matter before the Governor. The next day we did so. The Governor denounced the conduct of the Dodge City authorities, but said that he could do nothing, as the local authorities at Dodge had informed him that they were amply able to preserve the peace and did not desire state interference. We stated to the Governor that we believed we were able to rehabilitate ourselves in Dodge, but did not care to run afoul state authorities, in case we concluded to do so. The Governor told us to go ahead and re-establish ourselves, if we could; that he would keep off, and wished us luck. Immediately I started for Silverton, Colorado, where Wyatt Earp was located at the time, and enlisted him in our cause. Luke went to Caldwell, Kansas, where he had a couple of staunch friends, who were willing to take the bit in their mouths and go to the front and fight his battles whenever called upon.

Inside of a week from the time Luke and I separated in Kansas City, we had our forces organized and were on the way to Dodge. It was decided that if a fight was all that would satisfy the mayor of Dodge, -- a fight he would have.




Wyatt was selected to land in Dodge first. With him, but unknown to the Dodge authorities, were several desperate men. Several more dropped into town unobserved by the enemy. It finally became whispered about that Wyatt Earp had a strong force of desperate men already domiciled in town in the interest of Luke Short. The mayor called a hasty meeting of his friends, and after they had all assembled in the council chamber of the city hall, informed them solemnly of what he had heard about the Earp invasion. Anyone who was present at that meeting could easily have seen that anything but a fight was what the mayor and his friends were looking for, now that such a thing was not altogether improbable. Someone present suggested that Wyatt be invited to attend the meeting and state, if he would, his position in the matter. The suggestion met with the instant approval of all present, and the mayor proceeded to forthwith appoint a committee to call upon Earp and inform him of its action. Wyatt was soon found, and told of the wishes of the assembled patriots.


Wyatt EarpA Conference with the Enemy

"It will afford me great pleasure to attend your meeting," was the laconic reply of the noble Warwick, and he was soon the central figure of as fine a collection of cutthroats as ever scuttled ship.

The mayor, addressing Wyatt, made inquiry as to the truth of the report that he and numerous other desperate men were in the city for the purpose of reinstating Short in Dodge.

"Mr. Mayor, and gentlemen of the meeting," said Wyatt; "I guess the report is true. I came here some days ago," said he; "and, thinking that perhaps something might happen where I would need assistance, brought along some other gentlemen who signified a willingness to join in whatever festivities might arise."


"Moreover," continued Wyatt, "Luke and Bat will each arrive at noon tomorrow, and on their arrival we expect to open up hostilities." 


"Now, look here, Wyatt," said the mayor, "you have no better friends anywhere than we are, and we don't want any more fighting in this town. There has already been enough shooting and killing in Dodge to do for a while. Now, why can't this thing be fixed up before it goes any farther?"


"It can," said Wyatt, "if you are willing to allow Luke to return and conduct his business unmolested as heretofore.


"I am perfectly willing to agree to that," said Webster. "And so are we," sung out the meeting in a chorus.


"All right, gentlemen," replied the phlegmatic Mr. Earp, "there shall be no conflict. I will proceed to inform both Mr. Short and Mr. Masterson of your decision in the case, and I will guarantee that if you keep your part of the agreement there shall be no bloodshed.


Wyatt immediately notified Short and I by wire of the complete back down of the enemy, and when we reached the city next day we were cordially received by our friends. The enemy, not being sure that Wyatt could control the situation, kept in the background until he had received assurances from both Short and I that the peace terms made by Earp would be faithfully lived up to by us.


As soon as things quieted down a little, Short sent for the mayor and sheriff to meet him and some of his friends at his place of business for the purpose of talking over the situation and arriving at a better understanding. The mayor and sheriff came and with them, the city attorney and the prosecuting attorney of the county. Short's party consisted of himself, his two partners, Beeson and Harris, Wyatt Earp and myself.


Humiliating His Honor the Mayor


Luke addressed the mayor something after this fashion, after we had all settled down in our chairs:


"Mr. Webster, you have on the police force of this city two men who, without any reason known to me, showed themselves during the late trouble to be bitter enemies of mine. I want them removed from the force."


The mayor assured Luke that he need not give himself any further concern on that score, as both men complained of had already handed in their resignations and left town.


"Very well," said Luke. "There is, however, another thing I wish to call to your notice. You had an ordinance passed by the city council prohibiting music in saloons. I want that ordinance repealed."




Continued Next Page


Also See:


Dodge City War Historical Accounts

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