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Published: September 13th 2014
CIMARRON COURTHOUSEAUGUST 23, 2014
The county records were stored on the second floor of the courthouse to the left side of the building. The stairwell where the shots were fired into the ceiling was in the center of the building. A new courthouse was built in 1927 and the old court house became a meeting place for the Freemasons. Eventually the upstairs was converted to apartments, but nowadays it is vacant,
This will be a day of rest. Long days in the vehicle sometimes bring on a wee touch of sciatica. This morning was rung in bright and shiny as a new penny. I drove over to Cimarron. My friend Jim Monacle was raised in that little town and still has family thereabouts. Cimmaron is 16 miles west of Dodge City and is famous as the site of the Gray County Court House War. Folks in Cimarron are a friendly and pleasant sort. They were having a farmer’s market on the shady side of the sidewalk and one of the locals pointed out the original courthouse where the gun battle occurred. He said it was converted over to an apartment building and there were still bullet holes in the ceiling. Fella also mentioned that the drug store on the corner operated an old fashioned soda counter. Six miles west of Cimarron rests the community of Ingalls; which was the other town involved in the court house war. Ingalls has a museum of sorts. I spent an hour or so swapping stories with the museum lady. One of her stories was about a cattleman named Doc Barton, and how
The museum lady says the Ingalls Court House was in the second story of a hotel that once stood on the south side of the railroad tracks and the west side of the street before it burned down in a fire. It would perhaps have been about where the brick building now stands.
his wife tamed a passle of surly Cheyenne with a pan of fresh baked cookies. I went there to get a photo of the court house in Ingalls, but it is long gone. The museum lady pointed out where it was and I got a picture of that general area of town. By the time I got back to Cimarron it was about 1130 and time for a strawberry soda in the drug store. I got to talking to the owner while finishing off the soda. His name was Matt and he was a pharmacist freshly out college with a wife and an infant baby. They had just purchased the drug store. Turns out that Matt is Jim Monacle’s nephew. The strawberry soda was outstanding. Dodge City is a horrendous tourist trap. I bought a book at the Boot Hill gift shop. Had a cold beer at Montana Mike’s and came back to the motel to read before supper. THE GRAY COUNTY COURT HOUSE WAR
Ingalls, KS was the county seat of Gray County until 1887. By then the upstart community of Cimarron, 6 miles to the east, had outgrown Ingalls. Cimarron had more population and
This is a locomotive in Dodge City. It is a much bigger engine than the one that pulled Bat into town for his celebrated gunfight with Peacock and Updegraff. By the Updegraff was shot there were several participants in the shootout. It is not likely that Bat had a clear shot at him. It might have been Jim Masterson or Charlie Ronan who shot him. In any event Bat payed a small fine for shooting inside the town limits and then he, his brother Jim, and Charlie were cordially invited to leave town that same day.
a higher tax base and wanted the county seat for their own convenience. During the fall elections they had placed an initiative on the ballot to move the county seat from Ingalls to Cimarron and because they had more voters the initiative passed. Folks in Ingalls wanted to retain the county seat because it produced an important revenue stream for them and they thought that folks in Cimarron had stolen the election with high-handed political chicanery. Ingalls appealed through the court system to have the election overturned but the wheels of justice moved slowly back then just as they do now. In the meantime Cimarron had built a fine new court house and the county records were housed there. On January 14, 1889 an armed posse was sent to recover the records and restore them to Ingalls until the Kansas Supreme Court ruling was handed down. The Ingalls posse consisted of Dodge City gunmen Bill Tilghman, Jim Masterson, Fred Singer, Neil Brown, Billy Ainsworth, Ed Brooks, and Ben Daniels. They were accompanied by a teamster, the county sheriff and N. F. Watson, the newly elected county clerk all three of whom were from Ingalls. About noon the posse arrived in
TOP OF ROYAL GORGE
This photo was taken from a vantage point where the railroad, the river, and the canyon all intersect with a highway. I am not certain just where the actual point was where control of the route through the canyon was met by the D. & R. G. but this is a likely spot for the picture.
Cimarron and Masterson, Singer, Ainsworth and Watson entered the court house and began loading the records onto the wagon while the others stood guard outside. The Cimarron men quickly armed themselves and in a sharp gunfight the posse waiting outside was forced to take the wagon and flee for their lives. The teamster was hit in the leg, Bill Tilghman sprained an ankle, and Ed Brooks was seriously wounded. Those inside, Masterson, Singer, Ainsworth, and the new clerk, Watson, were trapped on the second floor along with the outgoing clerk, A. T. Riley and were put under siege. They were allowed to surrender the following morning to the county sheriff. The sheriff was an Ingalls man and allowed them to skedaddle back to Dodge City soon as they left town. In due course the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the election and the court house remained in Cimarron, but it came at a bloody cost. During the fight J.W. English was shot through the head and killed, Jack Bliss took a shotgun blast, Lee Fairhurst was shot in the chest, and a man named Harrington was shot in the hand. The bullet holes in the ceiling on the second floor of
This is Doc's home in Ingalls. It was first built closer to Cimarron and then moved to this location at some time before the railroad was completed. Otherwise he could have hauled lumber in for a new house with more convenience than moving the old one. Lumber was scarce in these parts. Plans are to make it into a bed and Breakfast place soon.
the old court house bear grim testimony that there is nothing new about high-handed political chicanery.
William Barclay Masterson was born up in near Quebec in 1853. His folks were farmers but farming was not a trade that Bat cared much for. By 1867 he and his brothers had sought work with the railroad in Kansas, but that did not suit them much either. It was a good deal more loathsome than even farming was. The next thing they tried was hunting buffalo. It was more fun for the shooter than it ever was for the skinners. In July of 1874 Bat found himself among a small group of other hide men surrounded by hundreds of angry Comanche and Kiowa at a place called Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle. They would all surely have been killed had it not been for an absurdly lucky shot fired by Billy Dixon that toppled the shaman, Isa Tai, off his horse at half a mile distance. The warriors decided that their medicine had gone sour and abandoned the siege. Bat tried his hand next at being an army scout and that led him to carousing through thegamblinghells, brothels, and gin mills around Mobeetie, TX. He and a soldier named King got into a row over the affections of a girl named Mollie Brennan and a gunfight ensued. Somewhere in the fray a stray bullet took the life of Mollie, but King was also killed and Bat was wounded. The shooting of King prompted Bat to rejoin his brothers in Kansas where he became a lawman in Dodge City and eventually won election as Sheriff of Ford County. Those were exciting times. He led the pursuit, as sheriff, into Texas of a miscreant named James Kenedy who murdered a popular saloon girl named Dora Hand. The posse brought Kenedy back to face the bar of justice but Kenedy was the scion of an influential Texas rancher and he managed to escaped conviction. The Kenedy episode kind of soured Bat on law enforcement and he left Dodge City in the spring of 1879 to take sides in a railroad conflict gathering steam in Colorado. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe on one side and the Denver and Rio Grande on the other were both building in a headlong frenzy to connect with the Southern Pacific mainline at Mesilla. The problem was that the route passed through Royal Gorge and there was only room for one track bed. Whoever got there first would get the connection. As the race began to heat up one railroad would sabotage the other by disrupting the workers or stealing supplies. The other railroad would then retaliate in like manner. Before long both lines began hiring gunmen to protect their interests. Bat and his friends went to work for the A. T. & S.F., but the D. & R.G. won the race. By 1881 Bat had pretty much become a fulltime gambler and in February joined his old pal Wyatt Earp in Tombstone to help run the faro layout in the Oriental Saloon. In April Bat received a terse message by telegraph that enemies were all set to kill his brother, Jim in Dodge City. Jim was in a business partnership in the Lady Gay Saloon with a rooster named A. J. Peacock who had hired a bartender named Al Updegraff. Most bartenders are expected to discreetly steal a certain amount of the proceeds from the house. Updegraff was blatantly a thief and thought he could get away with it because Peacock was a brother in law. Jim was livid about that arrangement and on April 9 he got into a heated argument with the other two that quickly degenerated into gunplay. Others hopped in and ended the fight before anyone was hurt, but it prompted Jim to send for his brother. Bat stepped off the train in Dodge City on April 16 and immediately encountered both Peacock and Updegraff who were there waiting for his arrival. Another gunfight opened up in which Updegraff was shot in the chest. Bat, Jim, and a friend named Charlie Ronan all got back on the train and headed for Colorado. Bat had gained a certain amount of influence with the Governor of Colorado which he used in 1882 to help Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday avoid extradition back to Arizona on charges of murder in the killing of Frank Stillwell. Bat stayed around Denver for several years as a gambler, and boxing promoter. He got married in 1891 and eventually moved to New York City where he got a job as a newspaper sports writer. In 1921 he fell over dead at his desk in the newsroom. It was an amusing life he lived. DOC BARTON
Among Texas cattlemen in the 1870s Shanghai Pearce touted himself as “Webster, by God, on cattle”. In Western Kansas the King of the Cattlemen was Doc Barton. In the summer of 1872, when hostile tribesmen were lurking behind every tree and bush between the Gulf of Mexico and Canada Doc drove a herd of three thousand longhorns from Burnett County, Texas into Kansas. He was looking for a site to build a ranch on and knew that the high prairie in Kansas had plenty of water and fine grazing land. To avoid the hostile Indians he came up the Colorado and Concho River drainages then followed the Pecos River to Horsehead Crossing and continued up the Pecos and through Raton Pass and then eastward along the Arkansas River to near the Cimarron Crossing of the Santa Fe Trail. As settlement increased the little towns of Ingalls and Cimarron sprang up around him. His ranching operation flourished and in 1877 he returned to Louisiana for more cattle, fell in love and got married. His new bride insisted on joining him on the drive north. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. She rode along on the chuck wagon with the cook and helped with the meals. One day in Oklahoma they had fallen behind the herd and were stuck with the wagon in a mud bog. A sassy band of Indians approached and everyone thought the new bride, the cook, and the chuck wagon and team were done for. Doc saw the Indians and raced back to the rescue but knew he would never make it in time. His bride in the meantime smiled at the warriors and offered them a pan of freshly baked cookies. They ate the cookies, smiled back at her, dismounted and by the time Doc rode up had pulled the wagon out of the mud. The drive had no further trouble with Indians. Doc brought in more cattle in 1882, but the brutal winter of 1886 -87 reduced his herd from twelve thousand to five hundred. When the Gray County Court House War took place he scarcely noticed. Doc passed away at the age of 96 in February of 1946.
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