Sughrue Brothers – Courageous Kansas Lawmen

Dodge City Kansas 1875

Dodge City, circa 1875

Michael and Patrick Henry Sughrue were twin brothers who hailed from Ireland but became courageous lawmen in Kansas when they grew up.

The Sughrue brothers were born in County Kerry, Ireland, to Humphrey and Mary Sughrue on February 17, 1844. When the boys were just three years old, their mother died, and when they were ten, they immigrated with their father and sister to the United States. After living in Illinois for a time, the family moved to Kansas in about 1858.

Michael Sughrue joined the 7th Kansas Cavalry when the Civil War erupted and served until 1865. A decade later, he married Anna Walters in Ashland, Kansas, and the pair would eventually have ten children. Later, he moved to Dodge City, Kansas, where he worked as a deputy under twin brother Patrick. In 1884, he was sent to Ashland, Kansas, about 50 miles southeast of Dodge City, to arrest two wild cowboys who were terrorizing the town by riding up and down the streets shooting off their pistols, and had killed two men and wounded a woman. When Sughrue arrived in Ashland, he captured one of the cowboys named Joe Mitchell, but the other, Nels Mathews, fled. After placing Mitchell under a strong guard, he pursued Mathews, and while the deputy was gone, vigilantes hanged Joe Mitchell. Though Sughrue could not track down the other wild cowboy, the citizens of Ashland were so pleased with his performance that they named him the town marshal in December 1884. The following year, he became the first sheriff of Clark County, a position he held until 1890 and again from 1899 until he died in 1901. 

Looking east on Dodge City's Front Street, 1878.

Looking east on Dodge City’s Front Street, 1878.

Patrick Henry Sughrue worked as a blacksmith in Leavenworth, Kansas, before becoming a policeman in Dodge City, Kansas, in March 1877. The following year, he was elected town constable in November 1878. In 1884, he was elected Ford County sheriff and was in office during the final days of the cattle era. When an epidemic of splenic fever among the Texas longhorns caused the Kansas borders to be closed to Texas cowboys and their herds, Sughrue was tasked with the difficult job of turning back the trail-hardened drovers.

In July 1884, Sughrue arrested Mysterious Dave Mather, who, the year before, had worked for him as a deputy. Charged with killing assistant marshal Thomas Nixon, Mather was later acquitted. The following year, in May 1885, Mather was arrested for killing another man but never came to trial as he was soon run out of town by Marshal Bill Tilghman. During his years as a Dodge City lawman, Patrick traveled as far as New York and Fort Worth, Texas, to pick up prisoners, becoming known as one of the best lawmen in the west.

After Dodge City finally settled down, Sughrue served many years as the postmaster near Fort Dodge. In 1906, he met an untimely death when he fell down an open elevator shaft in the Copeland Hotel in Topeka, Kansas, while attending a political convention.

The Sughrue brothers were seen as two of the most courageous lawmen in the west.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated March 2023.

Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Cowtowns of Kansas

Lawmen of the Old West

Lawmen & Gunfighters Photo Gallery