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Top lawmen

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, June 19, 2011, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, June 19, 2011, at 9:55 a.m.

The Mastersons -- Ed, Bat and Jim

Three of the most famous lawmen of the Old West claimed Sedgwick County as their home.

The Masterson family came to Wichita from Illinois in 1870 and lived on 80 acres near Sunnydale, 14 miles northeast of Wichita. Three of Thomas and Catherine Masterson's sons — Ed, William "Bat" and Jim — became Old West legends.

William Masterson was almost always referred to as Bat. Some Western historians say he earned his nickname by using a cane. But Henry Raymond, a friend of the Masterson brothers, wrote in his journal that Bat's middle name was Bartholomew, shortened to "Bart" and then, "Bat."

All three brothers figured prominently as lawmen in Dodge City's cowtown days.

Ed was the city marshal until he was killed by a cowboy on April 9, 1878.

At the time, Bat was sheriff of Ford County and Jim was a deputy sheriff. One year later, Jim was city marshal of Dodge City.

Some of the Masterson family is buried in Wichita's Highland Cemetery at Ninth and Hillside.

Wyatt Earp

Hollywood may have billed Wyatt Earp as the fast-shooting, peace-loving lawman who tamed the Wild West, but his days in 1875 as a police officer in Wichita were spent rounding up stray dogs and picking up dead animals.

Earp was fired and moved on to Dodge City. In 1881, he and his two brothers, Virgil and Morgan, and John Henry "Doc" Holliday shot it out with Ike Clanton's gang in the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz.

Holiday, who had once defended Earp in a saloon against cowboys who aimed to kill Earp, made his living for about five years as a dentist. He was better known as a gambler and gunfighter.

Wild Bill Hickok

As a frontier lawman, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837-76) was famous for his deadly shooting skills.

He came to Kansas from Illinois and by 1859 was a teamster on the Santa Fe Trail. He worked as an Army scout who helped guide Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry as they searched for Indians in western Kansas.

He later was sheriff of Ellis County and then marshal of Abilene.

While in Abilene, it is said he spent his term in The Alamo, a bar with nude paintings and plenty of gambling devices to while away his time.

Hickok was shot from behind and killed while playing poker in a Deadwood saloon in the Dakota Territory in 1876.

Mike and John Meagher

During Wichita's roughest and rowdiest moments, Mike and his twin brother, John Meagher, offered the town its first chances at law and order.

When Mike Meagher became city marshal in 1871, one of his first acts was to nail up a sign at Wichita's city limits:

"All persons are hereby forbidden the carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons within the city limits of Wichita under penalty of fine and imprisonment."

John Meagher served as assistant marshal. He was elected sheriff in the fall of 1871.

Mike Meagher seldom drew his gun. Instead, he stared passers-by into surrendering their weapons, according to newspaper accounts of the day.

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