Dodge City – Newspaper, Letters, and Book Excerpts

May 23, 1883 – Letter to the Daily Kansas State Journal by Luke Short

“They speak of Mr. Harris being a man without character and that he is living in an open state of adultery with a prostitute, which is an infamous lie, and I will venture to say that there is not a man in Kansas who knows Mr. Harris but will say that he is an honest and an honorable man, and a good citizen, and can buy and sell every man whose name appears on that official list. As to his living with a prostitute, I consider that a rather broad assertion to make and consider such things his own private affairs and no body’s business. I can say however that if the accusation is true it is nothing more than what Sutton, Webster, Diger, Chipman, Hartman, and others of that outfit have done in the past, and are doing at present. Webster abandoned his family for a prostitute, Nixon did the same, and there are only those who cannot get a prostitute to live with, who have not got them, and it is a conceded fact by all who have any knowledge of Dodge, that all the thieves, thugs and prostitutes who have been in the town in the past two years have been directly and indirectly connected with the city government. These assertions I am prepared to prove in any court of justice in the world.

They go further on and state that I am a desperate character, and that not long since I murdered an old grey haired man in Arizona and that I have been run out of nearly every country I have lived in. Which is as infamous as it is false, as there is not a civilized country under the face of the sun that I can not go to with perfect safety, excepting Dodge City, and there is no law to prevent me from living there, nothing but a band of cut throats and midnight assassins, who have banded together for the purpose of keeping all those out of the place who are liable to oppose them at the polls, or offer them opposition in their business.

As to my murdering an old grey haired man in Arizona I was tried in a court of justice for any offence I committed there, and the records will show that it was a fair and impartial trial, and that I was honorably acquitted. The delegation who came here to see the governor, and who claim to represent the moral element of the town, was principally composed of tramps, who do not own a single foot of ground in the country, and never have.”

June 5, 1883 Topeka Daily Commonwealth

“Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and all the sports in the country, held a meeting at Silverton and decided to take Dodge City by storm. Short is at Caldwell but will meet the party at Cimarron, 18 miles west of Dodge, perhaps Sunday night or soon after. Horses will be taken at Cimarron and the whole party will rendezvous at Mr. Oliver’s, two miles west of Dodge. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp are now secretly in Dodge City, watching matters. When the time for action comes a telegram will reach them worded as follows: “Your tools will be there at ____,” giving the time agreed upon. The plan is to drive all of Short’s enemies out of Dodge at the mouth of the revolvers.”

June 7, 1883 – Kansas City Evening Star

“The much talked of band of noted killers who were to congregate here and accompany Luke Short, the exile, back to Dodge City, Kansas are in part at least, at that place now. Advices from there state that Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Charley Bassett and Doc Holliday at present hold the fort and that trouble is liable to ensue at any moment. Mr. Bassett was here for quite a time and with Colonel Ricketts at the Marble Hall. He is a man of undoubted nerve and has been tried and not found wanting when it comes to a personal encounter. But Masterson and Doc Holliday are too well known to need comment or biography. A notice has been posted up at Dodge ordering them out and, as they are fully armed and determined to stay, there may be hot work there tonight.”

June 9, 1883 – Bat Masterson when interviewed by the Daily Kansas State Journal

Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

“I arrived here yesterday and was met at the train by a delegation of friends who escorted me without molestation to the business house of Harris & Short. I think the inflammatory reports published about Dodge City and its inhabitants have been greatly exaggerated and if at any time they did ‘don the war paint,’ it was completely washed off before I reached here. I never met a more gracious lot of people in my life. They all seemed favorably disposed, and hailed the return of Short and his friends with exultant joy. I have been unable as yet to find a single individual who participated with the crowd that forced him to leave here at first. I have conversed with a great many and they are unanimous in their expression of love for Short, both as a man and a good citizen. They say that he is gentlemanly, courteous and unostentatious – ‘in fact a perfect ladies’ man.’ Wyatt Earp, Charley Bassett, McClain and others too numerous to mention are among the late arrivals, and are making the ‘Long Branch’ saloon their headquarters. All the gambling is closed in obedience to a proclamation issued by the mayor, but how long it will remain so I am unable to say at present. Not long I hope. The closing of this legitimate calling has caused a general depression in business of every description, and I am under the impression that the more liberal and thinking class will prevail upon the mayor to rescind the proclamation in a day or two.”

June 12, 1883 – Ford County Globe

“Our city trouble is about over and things in general will be conducted as of old. All parties that were run out have returned and no further effort will be made to drive them away. Gambling houses, we understand, are again to be opened, but with screen doors (probably ornate oriental type door shields designed to obscure the view from one room to another rather than fly screens) in front of their place of business. A new dance house was opened Saturday night where all the warriors met and settled their past differences and everything was made lovely and serene. All opposing factions, both saloon men and gamblers met and agreed to stand by each other for the good of their trade. Not an unlocked for result.

The mayor stood firm on his gambling proclamation, but as his most ardent supporters have gone over to his enemies, it will stand without that moral support he had calculated upon to help him in enforcing it. We have all along held that our mayor was over advised in the action he has taken and had he followed his own better judgment, and not the advice of schemers and tricksters who had selfish interests at stake, and not the best interests of this community, he would have fared much better. No one knows this now any better than himself. He has freed himself from that cropped-winged moral element and stands on the side of the business interests of Dodge.”

June, 1883 – Charles D. Ulmer, Sterling Bulletin

“On Friday, the party visited Dodge City, the rip-roaring burg of the West. As we glided into the depot, we looked anxiously along the street, expecting to see many squads of festive cowboys, rigged out with arms enough to equip a regiment, and ready to pop a shot at any plug hat that might be in the crowd, but nothing of the kind was to be observed; instead, there was a busy, hustling little city, like many others in Kansas, with, perhaps, a few extra saloons thrown in for variety. Dodge City was a surprise to us. It is beautifully located — the residence portion on the hills which command a magnificent view of the country, east, west, and south. The business portion is on the level bottom at the foot of the hills. The railroad track is a little close to the main business street for convenience.

“The party, on landing, instead of being received by a howling lot of cowboys, with six-shooters and Winchester rifles rampant, were received by a delegation of as gentlemanly and courteous men as can be found in the state. During our stay in Dodge, we had the pleasure of meeting most of the men who have been so prominently mentioned in the late trouble at that place. Instead of low-browed ruffians and cut-throats, we found them to be cultivated gentlemen, but evidently possessing plenty of nerve for any emergency. Among those we met and conversed with was Luke Short, his partner, Mr. Harris, who is vice-president of the Dodge City bank, and Mr. Webster. The late trouble originated in differences between Messrs. Short and Webster, and, we believe, after both sides get together it could and should have been settled without the hubbub made, and interference of the state authorities. Mr. Short, Mr. Harris, and others assured us that their side, at all times, was ready and willing to submit their differences to the decision of the courts. The trouble has been amicably adjusted, and no further trouble is anticipated on the old score.”

July 5, 1885 – Letter from Jeremiah Strang to John Martin, Kansas Governor

“The Texas cattle quarantine law passed last winter is quietly working out the salvation of Dodge City. The festive cowboy is already becoming conspicuous by his absence in Dodge, and ere long he will be seen & heard there, in his glory, no more forever. The cowboy gone the gamblers and prostitutes will find their occupations gone, and, from necessity, must follow. The bulk of the saloons will then die out because there will be no sufficient support left, and the temperance people can close the rest as easily as they could in any other city in Kansas.”

November 5, 1885 – Letter from Governor John Martin to Dodge City Mayor, Robert Wright

“The fact is the condition of affairs in Dodge, instead of improving, as I had hoped, seems to be growing worse. I hear, every now and then, of robberies committed on innocent strangers, who have come to Kansas to seek homes. Visitors inform me that the saloons are increasing, not only in numbers, but in depravity; and that thieves, desperadoes, gamblers and criminals generally, are multiplying. It is also alleged that these lawless characters dominate in the city; that they have terrorized all the better elements of society; that they openly and defiantly flaunt their viciousness and depravity; and that they appear to think there is no power or authority that can reach or punish them.”

November 9, 1885 – Letter from Dodge City Mayor, Robert Wright to Governor John Martin

“You must recollect that our situation is different from that of other towns in the Eastern part of the State, which have always enjoyed the benefits of churches, schools & other civilizing influences. We have always been a frontier Town, where the wild & reckless sons of the Plains have congregated, their influences are still felt here, but we are rapidly overcoming them, let us alone & we will work out our own salvation in due season. I flatter myself that I know how to handle the boys, they cannot be driven. Please do not borrow trouble Governor about the conduct or management of Dodge City.”

January 14, 1931 – Dodge City Daily Globe

Ham Bell says the idea that he never drew a gun on a man when he was sheriff here in the early days is all wrong. He never shot a man, he says, and that was mainly because he was always careful to draw his gun in plenty of time before the other man drew his. ‘If I’d never drawn a gun,’ he says, ‘I wouldn’t have lived a week.'”

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2017.

Note: These are not always exact quotes, some spelling errors have been corrected.

Dodge City Boot Hill Museum, May 2004 Kathy Weiser.

Also See:

The Beginnings of Dodge City

Dodge City — A Wicked Little Town

Fort Dodge History and Hauntings

Long Branch Saloon Shootout

Wyatt Earp – Frontier Lawman of the American West

Luke Short – A Dandy Gunfighter

Bat Masterson – Loyalty in Lawlessness

Historical Accounts of American History


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