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efforts at law enforcement, as this article in the Times, September
8, 1877, disclosed:



To Mr. William Brady, a gentleman from Texas, belongs the credit of
creating the most profound sensation of the week. Mr. Brady came to the
city last Sunday, and during that hour when our citizens were assembled to
worship at the church on Gospel Ridge, did carry strapped to his manly
person a navy revolver of a deadly character. William says he did not intend
to make a killing; he only carried the gun as an ornament; but a policeman
took him under his wing all the same and steered him to the dog house.
When Monday morning came, William, not being ready for trial, succeeded
in getting Jim Anderson to go his bail until 4 o'clock, placing his horse in
Anderson's stable for security. But while William was waiting for 4 o'clock
to come, he went against the boose joint to such an extent as to make
him feel like a giant among small men. He resolved and finally decided,
that no court or no officers or no town could hold him. He secured his
revolvers, went to Anderson's livery stable, and finding no one but old uncle
Huggins around, presented his revolvers to the old man in a hostitle attitude
and ordered him to saddle up the horse he had left there for security. Of
course the old man obeyed, and William was seen soon after riding recklessly
out of town. As soon as the police heard what had happened their wrath
was up and they decided to give chase. Assistant Marshal Masterson was
the first to get started, and Marshal Deger next, mounted on a horse about
half as large as himself. On his shoulder he carried a shot-gun, and blood
was in his eye. A few moments after the Marshal started, Jim Anderson
learned what had been done, and feeling himself interested, took out his
fastest horse, and said "we'll catch 'im."

The news had spread over town and the population could be counted by
hundreds on the tops of freight cars, on the roofs of buildings and other high
places. William crossed the river and started east on the run. He had a
good horse, and a hot race was expected, and a fight when the officers came
in contact with him. Anderson's horse soon passed Deger, whose pony
grunted at every jump under its heavy load, and afterwards passed Masterson,
and was gaining on the fugitive, whose courage seemed to have failed, inas-
much as he slackened his speed when he saw Anderson coming. Anderson
rode up to him and they both stopped. The lookers-on expected to see some
shooting at this stage of the game, but Anderson made no move to shoot,
and Brady only placed his hands on his revolver in a playful manner. Just
then Masterson came up, and before Brady saw him ordered him to throw up
his hands or be killed. Brady threw up his hands and Anderson took his
revolvers. Deger soon arrived, but was too late to use the shot gun. Brady
begged Anderson's pardon and said he would never have acted so had he
been sober. He was confined in the calaboose until the next day, when he
was brought before Judge Frost and fined $10 and costs, which he paid.

On October 2, 1877, the police force was reduced so that only
Marshal Deger and Assistant Marshal Ed Masterson remained. 3

Since Sheriff C. E. Bassett could not run for re-election in 1877,
due to a constitutional limitation, the office was sought by Deger,
George T. Hinkle, and Bat Masterson. Deger announced in the
Times of October 13, 1877, that he would run: "At the solicitation


of many of my friends I hereby announce myself as a candidate for
the office of Sheriff of Ford county. If elected I shall spare no effort
to fill the office honestly and faithfully." The editor of the Times
wrote: "The most of the voters of Ford county know 'Larry' better
than we do at least have known him longer. He has been City
Marshal of this city for a long time, and his ability to keep the
peace has been often tested. Give him a fair consideration. He is
a substantial, honest and upright man."

Toward the end of October Hinkle stepped out of the race and
declared in the October 27, 1877, issue of the Times that he would
support Deger.

The day Hinkle's announcement was made a "Peoples' Mass
Convention" assembled in the Lady Gay saloon to nominate candi-
dates for the November election. Both Deger and Bat Masterson
were suggested to the convention as the candidate for sheriff. After
seconding speeches by W. N. Morphy, who in two months would
cofound the Ford County Globe, in favor of Deger, and M. W.
Sutton, Dodge City attorney, in favor of Masterson a ballot was
taken in which Masterson received the majority of votes. Though
he had not been chosen by the convention, Deger stated that "I
am still in the field as a candidate for the office of Sheriff of Ford
County." 4

At the election held November 6, 1877, W. B. Masterson edged
out Deger with a three-vote majority, he having received 166 votes
to Deger's 163. 5

On November 10, 1877, the Times noted:

Two worthy birds, "Stock Yards Shorty" and a cow boy, participated in
a little slugology yesterday morning, in front of Jake Collar's store. After
exchanging a few slugs, Shorty knocked the cow boy through one of Mr.
Collar's large window lights. The cow boy in return drew a crimson stream
from Shorty's proboscis. Our worthy Marshal interfered in their innocent
amusement, and took them off to the lime kiln.

And on December 1, 1877, the Times reported:


While the excitement caused by the burning of the Great Bend City Jail
was attracting everybody to that part of the city, one day last week, a thief
quietly unhitched a farmer's team from a post in front of one of the Great
Bend stores, seated himself in the wagon and drove westward. He reached
this city this week and camped out in the adjacent hills. The proprietor of
the team got track of the thief and followed him to Dodge City. Learning
that his thief was somewhere near around he informed Marshal Deger of
his errand and straightway search was instituted. The Marshal soon suc-
ceeded in finding and recovering the team, but the thieves made a hasty


flight. Great was the joy of the farmer when he recovered his stolen property,
and he even went so far as to give his horses a fond embrace.

The city council of Dodge City, at its meeting of December 4,
1877, relieved Deger from the marshalship and the mayor appointed
Ed Masterson in his place. The editor of the Times wrote on De-
cember 8, 1877:

City Marshal Edward Masterson receives the congratulations of his many
friends without a show of exhultation. Notwithstanding the fact that con-
siderable feeling was manifested against the removal of Mr. Deger, no one
accuses Mr. Masterson of seeking the position. In fact he preferred to retain
his old position as Assistant, which gave him the same salary and engendered
less responsibilities. As an officer his reputation is made, and it is a good one.

In justice to Mr. Deger we will say that no charge of misconduct was
brought against him. He has been an excellent officer, and retires with no
stain upon his official character. The powers that be saw fit to make the
change, and it was made. It was made on the principal that "there are just
as good men in the party as out of it."

Deger had filed a contest of election suit against Bat Masterson
which he withdrew in January, 1878. On January 15 the Ford
County Globe printed his explanation:


DODGE CITY, Jan. 11, 1878.

EDITOR GLOBE. As considerable inquiry and comment has been made
respecting the withdrawal of my contest for the Sheriff's office, to satisfy my
friends and the public generally, I submit the following: Not wishing to
involve my friends in trouble or expense, politically or financially when nothing
could be accomplished thereby, I concluded when the appointment of Judges
had been made by the Probate Court that it would be folly to proceed when
I was sure of getting the worst of it. When I filed my papers of contest I
expected to get a square deal from the Probate Court. One of the judges
selected to try the contest had previously voted in the city council for my
removal from the office of City Marshal because I would not withdraw the
contest. As I understand the position of both parties in the contest, and
know that it was convenient for this councilman to vote as he did, I have
nothing to say except that a much fairer selection of judges could have been

Aside from the glaring injustice done me in the appointment of judges I
wish further to say to the City Council, that, as the contest was a county affair
and could not interfere with the discharge of my duties as City Marshal.
I cannot understand why they should have taken upon themselves to establish
an arbitrary precedent which will work no good to them or the men who
advised it. The sympathy of such men who degrade their official positions I
scorn. I always endeavored to perform my duty as an officer, impartially,
friends and foes I treated alike my conduct, good, bad, and indifferent have
approved. I ask no favors from anyone other than what common decency
would dictate. L. E. DEGER.


The Dodge City Times, January 12, 1878, said of the withdrawal:

The contest suit of Larry E. Deger vs. W. B. Masterson, for the office of
Sheriff of Ford county, has been withdrawn, and thus the agony is over.
Contest suits are prolific endless sources of bad blood, and rarely end in
success to the contestor.

It is true the election was a close one, but an opening of the ballots would
only tend to make hostility more bitter and to open wounds that would be
running sores in future election contests.

Mr. Deger's efficiency and popularity will secure him confidence for a future
race before the people, which he cannot forego for the sake of a fruitless and
prolonged contest suit, which could be carried to the end of the term for
which he sought. Mr. Masterson will make a capable and energetic officer,
and we trust will receive the support of every one in the execution of his
official duties.

The attorneys in this matter were fully prepared for the tug of war, but
their legal swords have been turned into tuning forks, ?.nd the Russian harp
is made to discourse its sweet delightful strains a la Brokhisstiffnek.

On January 22, 1878, the Globe printed this exchange, which im-
plied that Deger was incapable of composing the January 11 letter:


Jan. 21st., 78. }

The following inuendo appeared in the "Dodge City times," Jan. 19th.:


"Will the wise man who wrote the communication for Deger, please inform
an inquiring public, if a City Marshall degrades his official position, by stand-
ing in with (so called) show case game for ten per cent of the games."


In reply I have but this to say: I wrote the communication refered to,
myself. And although I don't pretend to much wisdom, I try to live honestly
and tell the truth. I consider that the City Marshall, who would take any
per cent, of any show case game, or other game of like character, not only
degrades his official position, but becomes a scoundrel. Sign your name next
time. L. E. DEGER.

For a while it was believed by some that Deger had been a mem-
ber of the gang which attempted to rob a Santa Fe train at Kinsley
on January 27, 1878. The Globe, February 5, 1878, reported:

One of the most laughable things connected with the late train robbery,
was, a detective shaddowed Lary Deger for two days, supposing him to be
the big fellow who put the pistol to the engineers head. Another is that a
stranger in Kinsley, while eating supper at the hotel, supposing our respected
townsman, A. B. Webster, to be [William M.] Tilgman, one of the arrested
parties, extended his sympathy to Web. assuring him that he didn't believe
he was guilty. Web. promptly assured him that he was innocent, and didn't
believe that the prosecution could convict him.


On June 2, 1880, Deger was listed by the United States census
as being a resident of Dodge township, a laborer, and 35 years old.

In April, 1883, Deger defeated W. H. Harris for mayor of Dodge
City by a vote of 214 to 143. 6 "The true city issue was whisky vs.
whisky or Indian fight Indian, in which the GLOBE had no particular
interest, but could quietly stand by and watch the result, which
was sure to prove beneficial to the best interests of this city. The
more fight among the Indians the less Indians," said the Ford
County Globe, April 3, 1883.

Within a month of Deger's election the so-called "Dodge City
War" erupted. Lawrence E. Deger, not A. B. Webster as so many
sources state, was the Dodge City mayor who had Luke Short
arrested and subsequently run out of town for having female
"entertainers'* in his saloon in violation of city ordinance. The story
of the "war" will be presented in the section on Luke Short.

On July 26, 1883, a disgruntled Globe reader accused Deger of
misconduct in 1876, when he was city marshal. The letter, which
was printed in the Ford County Globe, July 31, may be found in
the section on C. E. Chipman. The matter to which the letter re-
ferred was tried as a civil case before the June, 1877, term of the
Ford county district court and was reported in the Dodge City
Times, June 30, 1877:


. . . By far the most important case, however, was the case of John
Blake vs. Dodge City. The allegations of the complaint were that Blake was
incarcerated by a judgment of the Police Court in a 10 x 12 cell, that against
his remonstrance there were confined with him three desperadoes (two of
whom were afterwards hung,) that these three men were allowed to have in
their possession a knife and pistol, that they assaulted Blake and shot out his
left eye, and otherwise injured him, for which he claimed damages in $5,000.
The suit was brought by Messrs. [M. W.] Sutton and [Harry E.] Gryden, and
came up on a demurrer to the reply. Mr. [E. F.] Colborn, for the city, cited a
number of authorities, making a strong case of non-liability for the city. Mr.
Gryden followed. He argued that where there is a wrong committed, there
must be a remedy, that the age of the Seal Chambers of Venice and the Black
Hole of Calcutta were past, that if the city could confine an old man in a den
of murderers, who had vowed to kill him, they could also incarcerate the
maiden with the raving maniac, or employ the thumbscrews and the iron
boots of the inquisition as their agents. Mr. Gry den's argument occupied
about one hour, and was spoken of by the bar with flattering encomiums.
Captain [J. G.] Waters closed the argument for the city, showing by a long
list of authorities that a city occupied the position of a State in the regulating
of her municipal affairs, that if a liability existed, it was against the agents
of the city. That she could be no more liable in this case than would the


Warden of the Penitentiary be responsible for the killing of one convict of
another. Strong and able arguments were, of course, expected from City
Attorney Colborn and Captain Waters, and they were in this case fully realized.
The court sustained the demurrer, and rendered judgment for costs against
Blake, to which plaintiff excepted, and gave notice of appeal to the Supreme

No record was found of a subsequent hearing before the supreme
court in the case of Blake vs. Dodge City.

As a postscript to the spring "war," the Dodge City council
passed an ordinance on August 31, 1883, making it illegal for music
of any type to be played publicly except for purposes "literary or
scientific/' This, of course, was aimed at the female "entertainers"
of the local saloons and dance halls. Mayor Deger, having borne
the responsibility for most of the actions of and reactions to the
"Dodge City War," wrote to William A. Johnston, Kansas' at-
torney general, for legal opinion on the validity of the ordinance:

Office of the Mayor of

I enclose you a coppey of an Ordnece the Validity of wich I would most
respectfile ask your Oppinion. I order the dance Halls closed under this
Ordnece and have Stoped the Musick and free & Easeys in the Salons Some
of our aterneys here claim that they can Beat the Ordnece in the Dis Court
as the Ordnece is to sweaping in its nattur and the parties thretin to open
and see if they could beat it. but I inform them if the did I would have
complint made in the Dis Court and try them under the Statute wich had
the desierd affect, but I if I am Sertin that the Ordnece is good would
rather have them brought in the City Courts I would Respectfully as these

ISt. upon the face of this Ordnice is it within the Power of the Mayor &
Council to Pas and Inforse it.

2nd Can the Police Court take Judicl Knolage of the Vices & Evels this
Ordnece atemts to Surpress

3rd If Vallid will the Intenton of the Mayor and Councel be the Gide for
the Courts.

4th Will an Ordince Passed by the Mayor & Councl prohibiting the Sale of
Liquor Eexcept on phormacy licence under the Licens Sistem Still remain
Vallid and in force or must the M. & C. pass a new ordnece under the new
order of things. Yours L E DEGER Mayor Dodge City

In answer, Attorney General Johnston informed Mayor Deger
that the ordinance was too general to be valid, that the disturbances
it was designed to suppress were already taken care of by powers
granted to cities by state statute and that moreover there were


"uses of music other than for literary and scientific purposes which
would not be vicious, immoral or disorderly." 7

After serving only one term as mayor of Dodge City, Lawrence
E. Deger retired to private life. In September, 1885, he moved
to Kiowa in Barber county. 8

1. Dodge City Times, April 7, May 6, June 9, July 7, August 11, September 8,
October 6, November 10, December 8, 1877. 2. Ibid., May 6, 1877. 3. Ibid., October
6, 1877. 4. Ibid., November 3, 1877. 5. Ibid., November 10, 1877. 6. Ibid., April
5, 1883. 7. "Correspondence of the Attorneys General," archives division, Kansas State
Historical Society. 8. The Globe Live Stock Journal, September 8, 1885.


(1850?- )

William Dibbs was appointed policeman on the Wichita force,
April 15, 1873; Mike Meagher was renamed city marshal for the third
consecutive year and Daniel Parks became assistant marshal. 1

On April 15, 1874, Mike Meagher was replaced by William Smith.
Dan Parks and William Dibbs were reappointed to their respective
positions and James Cairns became the fourth member of the force. 2
Other policemen were added as the season progressed.

In July Dibbs' treatment of a prisoner caused the captive to disarm
and tree the policeman. The Wichita Weekly Beacon, July 29, 1874,


Last Friday afternoon a shooting affray occurred on Second street, between
the BEACON office and the Occidental hotel, which happily resulted in nothing
more than frightening a policeman, and arousing the indignation of all who
witnessed the affair, at his brutality and cowardice. The particulars of the
affair are as follows:

A young man, said to be a gambler, by the name of Thomas McGrath, had
been arrested on a charge of vagrancy and fined. Unable to pay the amount, he
and another were put at work on the streets, under charge of policeman Wm.
Dibbs. While they were at work Dibbs, for some cause, threatened to put a
ball and chain upon McGrath, when the latter started to run away. Dibbs
pursued, pistol in hand, and overtaking the fleeing man on Main street, struck
and pulled him around as if he was a dog. Coming back with his prisoner,
Dibbs heaped upon him a volley of oaths and threats, which were replied to by
McGrath in much the same style of language. Turning the corner of Main and
second streets, Dibbs, in an angry and excited tone said he could put a ball and
chain on McGrath if he wished, and could kill him if he wanted to. In reply to
McGrath's denial of his assertions, Dibbs ordered him to shut up. This, Mc-
Grath said he would not do, when, without warning and to the astonishment of
those who had been attracted to the scene, Dibbs with his left fist dealt the
prisoner a blow in the face, and followed it up by another with his right.
McGrath attempted to ward off the blows, when the parties clinched, and in


the struggle McGrath managed to get possession of one of Dibbs' pistols, and
at once prepared for defense and attack.

So soon as Dibbs saw the revolver in the hands of McGrath, a deadly
pallor o'er spread his face and he turned and fled, his ashen lips crying, "Hold
on, hold on! Don't shoot." In his flight Dibbs ran towards the rear of the
BEACON office, but before he reached the sidewalk McGrath managed to fire
one shot at him, which only served to increase his speed. McGrath in turn
became the pursuer, and followed Dibbs, who ran, like a scared wolf, behind
the buildings. In the flight Dibbs managed to fire one shot from his remain-
ing revolver, while his pursuer fired twice. None of the shots took effect.
McGrath finally overhauled Dibbs as he reached the rear of Dr. Gray's house,
where he attempted to wrest the other pistol from the city guardian. In the
struggle Dibbs' pistol was discharged, the ball striking McGrath on the lower
part of the left hand, inflicting a slight wound.

About this time Mr. Newman came up and separated the parties, and al-
most simultaneously policemen [Samuel] Botts and [John] Behrens came up
and seized McGrath, while Dibbs limped off with the assistance of two
gentlemen, fully impressed with the idea that he was fatally shot. He was
taken to the office of the police judge for attention. Arriving there, an ex-
amination disclosed the fact that he was only frightened, not hurt. Then his
courage returned, and seizing his revolvers he thrust them into his belt; then
taking the triangle he rushed to the door and rang an alarm which brought
together a large number of armed citizens.

McGrath, meantime, was being taken to the calaboose by Botts and
Behrens. We are informed that while on the way, and after arriving at the
calaboose, Botts showed his brutality by beating the prisoner over the head,
and was only prevented from further fiendishness by the efforts of the other

The above is a plain statement of the affair, without attempt at coloring or
giving the minute particulars. It requires no comment. We could not make
it appear worse for Dibbs were we so disposed. If a full investigation and a
thorough overhauling of the police force fails to result from it, then a total
disregard of the people's wishes will be shown, and lack of a sense of justice
exhibited we are loth to attribute to our Mayor and Councilmen.

The Wichita City Eagle, July 30, 1874, in reporting the affair said:

We hope the incident will prove of value to incautious and over
brave officers, if we have any more upon the force. No ordinary sized police-
man with only two revolvers should attempt to handle one of these small red-
whiskered fellows single handed. Seriously we think that whenever it comes
to the pitch that vagrants or others defy our authorities and on the pretense of
the disgrace resist and threaten officers it is well for the mayor to shut down
most vigorously. As to the police force, it will be remembered that we asked
for a re-organization this spring. All the people desire is such men upon that
force as are respectable and as will command the respect of good citizens and
be dreaded by rogues. We have some good men on the police, but there are
others who, however brave, should never be officers of the law. . . .

Immediately after the Beacon reached the streets, Dibbs stormed
into the office of Milton Gabel, the editor. Gabel described the re-
sulting scene in the August 5, 1874, issue:




To THE CITIZENS OF WICHITA: As many false rumors are afloat respecting
a little difficulty which occurred in this office last Wednesday afternoon, I
desire to give the facts in the case, in order to correct the erroneous impres-
sions concerning the affair. It grew out of an article, which appeared in
Wednesday's BEACON, criticising the action of policeman Dibbs for mistreating

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 35 of 59)