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a prisoner.

About three o'clock in the afternoon Mr. Sowers and myself were sitting by
a table in this office, when Wm. Dibbs entered the room accompanied by an
armed ex-policeman. Dibbs came up to the table, and in a threatening, angry
and excited manner demanded to know "who put that piece in the paper?"
when I answered that I did. Dibbs then said, "The man that put that in is a
liar," (this was emphasized by three loud and well-rounded oaths,) after
which he received my undivided attention for a few moments; but seeing his
confederate, [Sam] Burns, who stood in the background eyeing me closely,
place his hand on his hip as if ready to draw his revolver, I quite naturally
watched the latter while dealing with Dibbs. When Dibbs called me a liar, I
hurried around the railing in front of the table towards him, and, just as I got
outside the railing, he struck at me. I warded off the blow and struck him a
very slight blow while looking at Burris. Dibbs then struck again when I
dodged to one side, the blow merely grazing my hair on the left side of my
head, and knocking off my hat. I then ordered him out of the office, when he
and Burris both left the room. He then hurried to the police office anxious
to plead guilty to fighting and having whipped me. Right here I wish it
understood that he did not do this in fact, neither of us were hurt in the
least. But his cowardice may be known by the fact of his coming to my
office, not alone like a man, but with an armed man to back him; and this
action only confirms to me what he has previously shown himself to be, a
villainous coward. Besides this, Wm. Dibbs, though a weak man generally,
has proven himself an able-bodied liar. He stated in the police court that
Burris had no revolver, and that Burris walked from the BEACON office down
town on the east side of Main street with him, when in fact, Burris crossed
Main street directly opposite this office, and went down the street on the
west side. This we can prove by Mr. Kramer, and one other gentleman, whose
reputation for truth and veracity will certainly have more weight in this com-
munity than that of Wm. Dibbs or Sam. Burris. Again, Sam. Burris has
perjured himself. He swore positively in the police court that he had no
revolver on his person, when two of the employes in this office saw it, and,
it was also seen by Mr. James Davidson and a boy at Hills & Kramers store,
just as he started up the stairway leading to this office.

Late Wednesday evening I remarked to Burris, "All your actions plainly
indicated to me that you came there to aid Dibbs." "Yes," said he, "I intended
to see him through." This needs no comment. As to Dibbs striking McGrath
in the manner as given by me in Wednesday's article, I can only reiterate that,
and, in fact, everything concerning Dibbs as to what occurred afterwards.
This matter is narrowed down to a question of veracity between Wm. Dibbs
on the one side, and myself and quite a number of our best citizens on the
other, and if he undertakes to "clean out" everyone who asserts the facts as we



gave them, he will certainly find it extremely laborious to entirely complete
his work.

With regard to the conduct of Samuel Botts (who was in no way con-
nected with Wednesday's affair), it is claimed by him that he did not strike
McGrath, yet he admits that he "chucked him about roughly," and says that
under the excitement coming up as he did after the shooting had begun,
and while McGrath was shooting at Dibbs the second time thinking that
Dibbs was fatally wounded, &c., and, in his over-zealous efforts to save him,
etc. etc., he treated McGrath more roughly than he intended to, and, under the
excitement, and what he considers aggravating circumstances, more so than he
otherwise would have done, and thinks that should at least partially excuse
the rough treatment, which we characterized brutality, and of which we made
mention in Wednesday's article. This may in a measure palliate the offense,
but it shows inefficiency, and even this I think will not justify the mistreatment
of a prisoner disarmed, and on the way to the calaboose, and I will not alter
my judgment on this matter as heretofore expressed. I gave the facts as they
came under my own observation, together with the evidence of others, the
truth of which can be substantiated by sworn statements of at least seven

I do not seek difficulties; on the other hand try to avoid them. But the
affair of Wednesday was thrust upon me. I regret exceedingly to have had
any connection with the difficulty, and, if my friends will forgive me, I
promise that such a thing shall not occur again, at least until another villainous
fiend, hungry for trouble, presents himself in the same manner. I would not
willfully wrong or injure any one, but I have a duty to perform as a public
journalist, and that I purpose doing let come what may.


Dibbs apparently was relieved from the force because of the
McGrath affair but on September 2, 1874, the city paid him $3 for
"Disbursing Money Cleaning Calaboose/' 3 and on January 5, 1876,
he was paid $4 for two days' duty as special policeman at Wichita's
December 17, 1875, fire. 4

1. "Proceedings of the Governing Body," Records of the City of Wichita, Journal A,
pp. 287, 288; Wichita City Eagle, April 17, 1873. 2. "Proceedings of the Governing
Body," Records of the City of Wichita, Journal A, p. 371; Wichita City Eagle, April 23,
1874. 3. "Proceedings of the Governing Body," Records of the City of Wichita, Journal
B, p. 15. 4. Ibid., p. 85.


Deputy Sheriff William Duffey first appeared in the Dodge City
newspapers as a law officer on August 17, 1878, when the Dodge
City Times reported:

Sheriff W. B. Masterson and Deputy Sheriff Wm. Duffy, are indefatigable
in their efforts to ferret out and arrest persons charged with crimes. Scarcely
a night or day passes without a reward for their vigilance and promptness.
We do not record all these happenings, because evil doing is of such common
occurrence. There is a pleasant contemplation in the fact that we have officers


who are determined to rid the community of a horde that is a blight upon
the well being of this over ridden section.

On the next page the Times noted that "Sheriff W. B. Masterson
and Deputy Duffy Monday night, arrested one James Smith, three
and a half miles from town, on a charge of horse stealing. The
prisoner is bound over for ten days to await trial and identification
by parties in Ellis county/'

In September, 1878, Duffey was responsible for the escape of
two county prisoners. The articles reporting this may be found
in the section on Bat Masterson.

Duffey, in October, 1878, was a member of the posse which cap-
tured James Kennedy, the supposed murderer of Dora Hand. The
report of this, too, may be found in the section on Masterson.

The Ford County Globe, October 29, 1878, reported that "Deputy
Sheriff Duffy had an unruly prisoner last week who undertook to
purloin the six-shooter worn by his keeper, who was giving him
a promenade in the hallway, but was unsuccessful."

On December 6, 1878, four prisoners escaped from the county
jail. On December 17 the Globe reported the unsuccessful pursuit
of one of the escapees:

Deputy Sheriff Duffey, in company with Archie Keach left here a week
ago yesterday, in search of the missing prisoner Brown, who, it is supposed,
stole [C. S.] Hungerford's fine grey mare and made good his escape. After a
fruitless search for nearly a week they return to Dodge, Keach arriving here
Saturday and Duffey Sunday. They report a very rough trip. 1

Duffey shared in the praise given the Ford county officers (men-
tioned earlier in the section on C. E. Bassett) by the Dodge City
Times, January 11, 1879. These men, the paper said, had "earned
the high praise accorded to them for their vigilance and prompt
action in the arrest of offenders of the law."

In March, 1879, Duffey and Bat Masterson participated in the
struggle between the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe and the
Denver and Rio Grande Western railroads for the right of way
through the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas the Royal Gorge.
The Dodge City phase of this fight may be found in the section on

Deputy Sheriff Duffey, on April 5, 1879, disarmed Levi Richard-
son, the loser of a duel fought with Frank Loving in the Long
Branch saloon. This was reported in the section on Charles E.

Later in April Duffey accompanied Mike Sutton to Garden City
after a prisoner. Sequoyah (Finney) county, in which Garden City


was located, was one of 13 unorganized counties attached to Ford
county for judicial purposes. The Times, April 26, 1879, reported:

County Attorney Sutton and officer Wm. Duffy went up to Garden City
Thursday. They caused the arrest of L. T. Walker, who stabbed D. R. Menke.
Both are citizens of Garden City. The cause of the stabbing grew out of some
words over a business transaction. Mr. Menke was stabbed in the abdomen,
and is in a dangerous condition. Walker was brought to this city and placed
in jail.

On August 30, 1879, the Times noticed that "Officer Duffey ar-
rested a man Thursday on a telegram from Colorado/' and on
September 9, 1879, the Globe recorded this episode:

For some time past the Bohemian named Szinek, confined in the county
jail awaiting his trial in the district court on the charge of attempting to steal
Mr. Cotton's horses, has been acting queer. In fact he has been acting very
queer, cutting various kinds of pranks, and even going so far as to try to
but[t] his brains out against the sides of the prison wall. He said he wanted
to die, and when Mr. Duffey kindly offered to shoot him he was perfectly
willing and even anxious for the shooting to commense, but Mr. Duffey was
compelled by a feeling of delicacy to politely decline the honor. On Saturday
he was taken before Probate Judge Klaine, who impaneled a jury and gave
him an examination. He was adjudged insane and will be sent to the asylum.
The cause of his lunacy is undoubtedly an abominable crime against nature
which he has practiced.

The Ford County Globe, November 18, 1879, again mentioned
an adventure of Duffey's:


Our tenacious Deputy Sheriff Mr. William Duffey, had a novel experience
last week with a gentleman of color whom he wished to "see" in regard to
bad intentions. It was night, and as Mr. Duffey rapped at the front door of
his victim's pallatial residence and announced his errand, there was a slight
rustle of bed clothing and then all was still. Mr. Duffey effected a forcible
entrance and was shocked to find that his bird had flown through the back

Duffey apparently left his public office at the end of the Bat
Masterson administration. On October 13, 1881, the Dodge City
Times, quoting a colorful story in the Las Vegas (N. M.) Optic, re-
ported that he was fighting Apaches with Col. Ranald Mackenzie's
4th cavalry:

"Duffey," the veteran scout, is with MacKensey's outfit and will prove a
valuable acquisition to his forces. Duff is an old-timer and will be remem-
bered by all the boys of Dodge City and other western Kansas towns. It is
said of him that once upon the frontier of Texas a company of buffalo soldiers
was sent to arrest him for some trivial offense, and before they were aware
of what was ahead of them he had sent the entire outfit to the happy hunting


grounds. He was for a long time the deputy and trusted henchman of the
somewhat famous Bat Masterson, in Ford county, Kansas, and shared with him
the dangers of holding down the hardest town on the continent. He is an
experienced Indian fighter, and will, if given a chance, adorn his wigwam
with many an Apache's scalp before winter. If the Government would employ
a number of such men and leave the cadets at home to court their girls, the
Indian war would progress more satisfactorily. [Las Vegas Optic.
1. See, also, Dodge City Times, December 21, 1878.



In spite of Wyatt Earp's own statement, recorded by a biographer
over 50 years after the event, that he had been the one who dis-
armed Ben Thompson after the fatal shooting of Sheriff Chauncey
B. Whitney in Ellsworth that August day in 1873, no contemporary
record is known to exist which places Earp in the town at that time.

Similarly, though Earp, through his biographer, stated that he
arrived in Wichita in May, 1874, and was soon hired as deputy
marshal, no evidence of his official police employment could be
found in the Wichita city records or in either of the town's news-
papers until April, 1875.

In May, 1874, the police force consisted of Marshal William Smith,
Assistant Marshal Daniel Parks, and Policeman James Cairns, Joe
Hooker, John Behrens, and William Dibbs. In June Sam Botts
was added as policeman. During the summer several others, but
apparently not Earp, served as special policemen for short periods.

The first known Wichita mention of Wyatt Earp appeared in the
Wichita City Eagle, October 29, 1874. Though the article referred
to him as an "officer," it did not state whether he was a city, county,
federal, or private officer. It is not likely that as a city police officer
he would have made the collection described so far from the limits
of the town, yet his partner, John Behrens, was probably still on the
city force at the time. It would seem more likely that Behrens and
Earp were hired as private officers to collect an unpaid private debt.
The article is presented here for the reader's own interpretation:

The Higgenbottom outfit, who attempted to jump the country at an expense
of twenty or thirty thousand dollars to Wichita, it appears had, among other
games, stuck M. R. Moser for a new wagon, who instead of putting himself
in communication, by telegraph, with the outside world just got two officers,
John Behrens and Wiatt Erp, to light out upon the trail. These boys fear
nothing and fear nobody. They made about seventy-five miles from sun to
sun, across trackless prairies, striking the property and the thieves near the
Indian line. To make a long and exciting story short, they just levelled a
shotgun and six-shooter upon the scalawags as they lay concealed in some



brush, and told them to "dough over," which they did, to the amount of $146,
one of them remarking that he was not going to die for the price of a wagon.
It is amusing to hear Moser tell how slick the boys did the work.

The official Kansas state census, 1875, purportedly showing the
occupation and ages of all individuals, reported as follows on three
Earps who were living in Wichita:

The name of every



Where from

whose place of abode on




Occupation of


the first day of




1875, was in this


Bessie Earp




Sporting New York


[page 23,

line 4.]

Jas. Earp






W. S. Earp






[page 32, lines

24 and 25.]

Though the census was supposed to have been taken as of
March 1, 1875, there is strong evidence to indicate that the Wichita
portion, at least, was prepared between April 6 and April 21. Since
all the known policemen of Wichita were so indicated in the occupa-
tion columns of the census, the compilers of this sketch feel that
had Earp been on the force prior to April 21, 1875, his occupation
would have been listed similarly.

On April 21, 1875, Wyatt Earp was appointed policeman on the
Wichita force, and the appointment entered on the records of the
city. This was, by the way, the first time that Earp's name appeared
in the city's official records. Wichita's police force now consisted
of Marshal Mike Meagher, Assistant Marshal John Behrens, and
Policemen James Cairns and Earp. 1 The marshal's salary was
$91.66, Behrens earned $75.00, and Cairns and Earp each were paid
$60.00 a month. 2

Wyatt's first recorded Wichita arrest was reported in the Weekly
Beacon, May 12, 1875:


On Tuesday evening of last week, policeman Erp, in his rounds ran across
a chap whose general appearance and get up answered to a description given
of one W. W. Compton, who was said to have stolen two horses and a mule
from the vicinity of Le Roy, in Coffey county. Erp took him in tow, and in-
quired his name. He gave it as "J nes ." This didn't satisfy the officer, who
took Mr. Jones into the Gold Room, on Douglass avenue, in order that he
might fully examine him by lamp light. Mr. Jones not liking the looks of
things, lit out, running to the rear of Denison's stables. Erp fired one shot
across his poop deck to bring him to, to use a naughty-cal phrase, and just as
he did so, the man cast anchor near a clothes line, hauled down his colors and


surrendered without firing a gun. The officer laid hold of him before he
could recover his feet for another run, and taking him to the jail placed him
in the keeping of the sheriff. On the way "Jones" acknowledged that he was
the man wanted. The fact of the arrest was telegraphed to the sheriff of
Coffey county, who came down on Thursday night and removed Compton
to the jail of that county. A black horse and a buggy was found at one of the
feed stables, where Compton had left them. After stealing the stock from
Coffey county, he went to Independence, where he traded them for a buggy,
stole the black horse and came to this place. He will probably have an op-
portunity to do the state some service for a number of years, only to come
out and go to horse stealing again, until a piece of twisted hemp or a stray
bullet puts an end to his hankering after horse flesh.

The Wichita City Eagle, May 6, 1875, merely stated: "Behrens
and Earp picked up a horse thief by the name of Compton from
Coffey County, yesterday, with the property in his possession."

A ruckus loving young cowboy successfully eluded the Wichita
police on May 23. The Eagle, May 27, 1875, reported:

The three shots that were fired on Main street between the Occidental and
Empire last Sunday night, were showered into the innocent air by a hilarious
party of the name of Higinbotham, who was a horse back, and heavily armed
for the sport. The police chased him to the corporate limits, but could go no
further. 3

About August 4, 1875, Cairns and John Martin, who had been
appointed in April, were dropped from the force, leaving only the
marshal, Assistant Behrens, and Policeman Earp. 4

On November 10, 1875, the Beacon reported an arrest by Marshal
Meagher and Earp:


Last Friday, being hangman's day and generally regarded by the super-
stitious as the twenty-four hours in all the week, for all time, which the devil
has reserved for himself against the holy Sabbath, appropriated by his enemies,
it befell three turbulent twirllers of the long lash, stimulators of the patient
ox, to be wooed into ways that are dark and tricks that proved vain, and
on the devil's own day. A bull train, consisting of two large waggons and eight
yoke of oxen, had arrived at West Wichita, corralled and went into camp
early that morning. There was nothing very remarkable in this fact, being
of daily, almost hourly occurrence, but in the sequel, in the reproof of chance
lay the proof of crime, with an apology, if it so please you, for spoiling one
of Williams best and most quoted. Marshal Meagher, as the wires and mails
would so have it, had a description of this identical outfit in his pocket, with
the names of the parties to it. The intelligence conveyed to him was that one
Bill Potts, assisted by two gentlemen of color, had actually stolen these oxen
and wagons, and stranger yet, under the very nose of their owner, and as
slow as oxen travel, had most miraculously succeeded in eluding pursuit,
evading highways and coming through the long prairie grass, reached Wichita,


from Fort Sill, where this wholesale theft was committed. If nothing of repu-
tation is left this little crowd of depredators, one thing will ever remain tena-
ciously with their names, that they made the best bull time on record and are
therefore entitled to the name of being the champion bull whackers of the
Sill. We expect to see a dime edition out soon, with some such title and the
usual daredevil wood cut, emblazoning in red, yellow and magenta this identi-
cal trio, whipping, goading and spurring amain the frantic longhorns.

Be that as it may, Mike Meagher soon spotted good M. Potts, the only
white man in the crowd, who was threading his way through the busy throng
on lower Main street making with all possible speed and with a business-like
air, towards the individual whom he had put up to be the innocent purchaser.
He sought out several buyers. In the meantime, Marshal Meagher, having
business always near by. At last Mr. Potts betook himself to Davidson's
stables and securing a horse for himself, had old Mr. Davidson to mount
another and together they crossed the long bridge, Mr. Davidson going to
look at the cattle and make up his mind whether to buy or not. Mike Meagher
with Policeman Erp, also took an airing on horseback about the same time
clattering the bridge with the music of their horses' hoofs in beautiful quartette
with those that bore Mr. Potts and his victim, and so, until all the parties halted
in the marauders' camp, when good Mr. Potts and his too sable assistants were
compelled to surrender at the point of the six shooter and were, when we
saw them, marching up the center of Main street, three abreast, with the two
mounted officers in the rear, herding them to jail. There they now are, wait-
ing the certainty of that hour that will bring them to face offended law, and
to go hence and be forgot, at least for a term of years. That is to say, and it
is written with this express understanding, if they do not break jail.

The Eagle, November 11, 1875, said the arrest was made by
Meagher and Behrens:

Wm. Potts and two colored men were arrested here last Friday by city
Marshal Mike Meagher and Assistant John Behrens, charged with stealing eight
yoke of cattle and two wagons at Fort Sill, which property was found in their
possession. The parties were lodged in jail.

Realizing it had erred, the Beacon corrected itself on November
17, 1875:

While we are not aware that Deputy Marshal Behrens cares a fig for official
honors, yet when he is justly entitled to credit it is due him to have the
same. Far be it from us to withhold from so efficient an officer what belongs
to him, much less give the praise to others. We say this much without the
knowledge of Mr. Behrens, in order to set ourselves right in the matter of several
arrests made last week; one of them Ed Hays, the other Bill Potts and his two
associates. Deputy Marshal Behrens spotted all these parties, arrested Hays,
himself; and traced the others to their lair, assisting Mike Meagher in the

On December 15, 1875, the Beacon again mentioned Wyatt Earp:

On last Wednesday, Policeman Erp found a stranger lying near the bridge

in a drunken stupor. He took him to the "cooler" and on searching him found

in the neighborhood of $500 on his person. He was taken next morning before


his honor, the police judge, paid his fine for his fun like a little man and
went on his way rejoicing. He may congratulate himself that his lines, while
he was drunk, were cast in such a pleasant place as Wichita as there are but
few other places where that $500 roll would ever been heard from. The
integrity of our police force has never been seriously questioned.

In April, 1876, the tables were turned and Policeman Earp found
himself on the receiving end of law enforcement. The trouble
was recorded in the Wichita Weekly Beacon, April 5, as follows:

On last Sunday night a difficulty occurred between Policeman Erp and
Wm. Smith, candidate for city marshal. Erp was arrested for violation of
the peace and order of the city and was fined on Monday afternoon by his
honor Judge Atwood, $30 and cost, and was relieved from the police force.
Occurring on the eve of the city election, and having its origin in the canvass,
it aroused general partisan interest throughout the city. The rumors, freely

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 36 of 59)