Nat Love, aka: Deadwood Dick - Greatest Black Cowboy in the Old West
Mounted on my favorite
horse, my ... lariat near my hand, and my trusty guns in my belt ... I
felt I could defy the world.
-- Nat Love in The Life
and Adventures of Nat Love, 1907
Born in June, 1854 as a slave on Robert
Love’s plantation in Davidson County Tennessee, Nat (pronounced Nate)
Love would grow up to be one of the most famous
Raised in a log
cabin, Nat’s father had become a slave foreman on the plantation and
his mother worked in the kitchen of the "big house.” He was looked
after primarily by an older sister when he was young, but she, like
her mother, had duties in the kitchen so Nat primarily looked after
himself. Though he had no formal education, with help from his father,
he learned to read and write.
After the Civil War, when the slaves were freed, Nat’s father worked a
small farm that he rented from his former master, Robert Love. But,
freedom was to be short-lived for the former slave, as he died just a
few years later.
Nat Love, also known as "Deadwood Dick."
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Nat then took various
jobs on area plantations to help support the family and found that he had
great skill in breaking horses.
In 1869, Love left his
family in an uncle's care and headed west with $50 in his pocket. When he
Kansas he ran into the crew of the
Duval Ranch. Having just brought a herd to the
were having breakfast when Nat joined them. The young man soon approached
the trail boss asking for a job. The boss agreed that Nat could join
them if he could break a horse named Good Eye. The wildest horse in
the outfit, Nat would later say it was the toughest ride he’d ever had. But ride he did and got the job with the Duval Ranch at $30 a month.
The 16 year-old quickly
adapted to the life of a
showing excellent skills as a ranch hand and practiced so often with a .45
revolver that his shooting skills also became very good. Earning a
reputation as one of the best all-around
in the Duval outfit, he soon became a buyer and their chief brand reader.
In this capacity, he was sent to Mexico on several occasion and soon
learned to speak fluent Spanish.
After three years with
the Duval Outfit, Love moved on to
1872, where he went to work for the Gallinger Ranch on the Gila River. There he traveled many of the major western trails, sometimes working in
dangerous situations in
battles and fighting off rustlers and bandits. During these years as
Nat was referred to as Red River Dick and claimed to have met many of
famous men of the West including
Bat Masterson and
Billy the Kid.
In the spring of 1876,
were sent to deliver a herd of three thousand steers to
South Dakota. When the crew arrived on July 3rd, the locals were busy preparing for a
4th of July celebration. One of the many organized events included a "cowboy”
contest with a $200 cash prize to the winner.
competed in roping bridling, saddling, and shooting. Winning every
competition, hands down, Nat walked away with the $200 prize and the
nickname of "Deadwood Dick."
Nat continued to work
cowboy in the southwest for another 15 years before he began to
settle down and got married in 1889.The next year he took a job in
Colorado as a Pullman porter on the Denver and Rio Grande
Railroad. As such, he worked on the routes west of Denver and
moved his family several times to
before finally settling down in southern
In 1907, Nat Love published his
autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in
the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick," a tale that tended to take
on the epic proportions more noted in the many "dime novels” of the
time. Though he boasts in the book that everything actually happened,
there is very little external verification, such as those famous
western men that Love allegedly met.
In other cases, there are
no records for the cattlemen that he said he worked with and for. As to
what portion of the book is fact, and what is fiction will never be known;
however, that didn’t stop the American public, hungry for tales of the
west, from avidly reading the book.
Love’s last job was
working as a courier for the General Securities Company in
of America, updated June 2015
Nat Love and his family.
and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as
"Deadwood Dick", by Himself (University of North Carolina at
West (Main Page)
American Cowboy (J.J. Nimmo 1886)
the American Frontier (Emerson Hough, 1918)
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