Jack L. Bridges – Kansas Lawman

Jack L. Bridges

Jack L. Bridges

Jack L. Bridges was a long-time lawman in Kansas and a U.S. Deputy Marshal.

Born in Maine in 1833, Bridges moved westward when he grew up and landed in Kansas City. There he served as a lawman for 15 years before becoming a  U.S. Deputy Marshal in 1869. Working under U.S. Marshals Dana Houston and William S. Tough out of the Wichita, Kansas Court, he was first assigned to Hays City, Kansas.

Since Bridges worked in the western part of Kansas, he was often called to work with the Cavalry at Fort Supply, Oklahoma, curtailing Indian attacks on white settlers and arresting Indians who had violated laws. In this capacity, he often worked with the famed frontier marshal, U.S. Deputy Ben Williams, who was respected among the Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes.

A few years later, he was sent to Wichita, where he became involved in one of the most serious altercations of his life. On February 28, 1871, Bridges got the opportunity to arrest an infamous train robber, a horse thief, and a murderer by the name of J.E. Ledford. The U.S. Marshal harbored a deep resentment against Ledford for having pistol-whipped him some months earlier and looked forward to taking his “revenge.” Taking no chances, Bridges rounded up some 25 soldiers of the Sixth United States Cavalry to accompany him on the arrest. The men approached the Harris House Hotel, where Ledford was the proprietor but were told he was not on the premises. They then scouted the area, seeing a man run into an outhouse behind the hotel. Bridges, a cavalry scout named Lew Stewart, and Lieutenant Hargis were approaching the outhouse when Ledford came charging out with his pistol blazing. He shot Bridges, but the men emptied their guns into him, hitting him four times. Ledford died a few hours later.

Severely wounded, Bridges returned to his birthplace in Maine to recuperate from his wounds. Once he was healed, he headed west again, first to Colorado and then back to Kansas, where he settled in Dodge City. On July 8, 1882, he became the city marshal, and a few days later, the Dodge City Times commented on his appointment:

“Jack Bridges was installed as City Marshal on Saturday last. Marshal Bridges was for a number of years Deputy U. S. Marshal in Western Kansas. He is a cool, brave, and determined officer and will make an excellent city marshal. Jack’s friends speak highly of him and of his integrity and bravery. He has done some fine service for the government and upon every occasion, has acquitted himself with honor. He is a pleasant man socially and has courage for any occasion.”

Dodge City Peace Commission

Dodge City Peace Commission

In the wicked little town of Dodge City, Bridges had several altercations with hard case cowboys, and in the spring of 1883, he found himself caught in the middle of the “Dodge City War.” As city marshal, he was directly responsible to Mayor L. E. Deger who was one of the protagonists in the affair. However, Bridges declared that he was “as much the marshal for one party as the other” and though he did his duty as city marshal, he did not take sides in the bloodless battle between the Dodge City Peace Commission and City Administrators.

When Bill Tilghman replaced Bridges as marshal of Dodge City in 1884, Bridges left town. He was later known to have lived in Blasedell, Arizona, where his son was shot dead. He then moved on to Texas. He died in 1915 and was buried in Briggs Estate in Barstow, Texas.


© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Dodge City, Kansas – A Wicked Little Town

Lawmen of the Old West

Old West Photo Galleries