Early Day Men and a Diary

      HAMILTON B. BELL HAD THE BLUEST OF BLUE EYES AND BROWN hair, was spare of build but broad shouldered. He had a decided Roman nose and a very determined chin. He was born July 31, 1853, in Pleasant Valley, Maryland, and later lived at Hagerstown. He died April 4, 1947, almost ninety-four years of age.

      Mr. Bell lost his parents when he was very young and when he was a mere youth he came west to try his luck. His first stop was at Lawrence, Kansas, then Abilene, and Ellsworth, in the middle of the night. The following morning he hired a hack to take him to Great Bend, a distance of forty-five miles, and the driver charged him $45. in advance, giving as an excuse for the high rate of $1.00 a mile-his horses would have to wade a beautiful lake seen in the distance. The lake, of course, was a mirage. One doubts, if anyone ever got the best of the eastern youth after that expensive ride, in July, 1872.

      Ham Bell hunted buffalo awhile, then got a position with a Santa Fe agent whose office was a box-car, worked there until his appointment as assistant marshal under James Gainsford. Once, when someone said he would not shoot, that he was bluffing, Ham gained some fame of a sort by saying, as he looked the ruffian straight in the eye, "A kid will shoot quicker than a man."

      He came to Dodge City the first of September, 1874. Often asked why he did not go "back" to Maryland for a visit, he gave this excuse, "I was always afraid somebody would take Dodge City if I left." He hauled ties out of Granada for the Santa Fe in 1875, then engaged in farming and ranching around Dodge City.

      In all Ham Bell served 36 years as a peace officer, six years as sheriff of Ford County, twelve years as Deputy United States Marshal. He also served as mayor of the city. Besides all that, he had a hand in many businesses in the city, besides operating an ambulance and hearse for many years. He was deputy sheriff under Charlie Bassett and several other sheriffs. During these years, he made many trips into No Man's Land, alone, and brought out his man, but the remarkable thing was that in all


168 Early Ford County

returned with the most complete list of brands and owners in this southwest country. He published a brand book, and it is now a museum piece. Much more could be written of the things he did for others.

      Mr. Bell knew all the men of early days, Wyatt Earp, Doe Holliday, Bat Masterson and brothers, Luke Short, Chalk Beeson, Harris. He always had some good word for all.

      Mr. and Mrs. Karl Miller, Heinie Schmidt, and Mr. Bell, made a trip to Meade and on the way back Karl and Heinie talked of a pioneer picnic to be held once a year for all southwest Kansas people. The seed was sown and the plant grew rapidly; they named it the Ham Bell Pioneer picnic, and it has been held yearly ever since. A change was made in the name for a few years to Southwest Pioneer Picnic, but these later years it has been changed to the Ham Bell Picnic. It is a great gettogether for all southwest folks for they see and visit with folks they never see any other time.

      Governor A. J. Fitzgerald came west as a poor boy and in very poor health. He gained health and wealth, having one of the largest stock ranches in Kansas, large and commodious stock barns and a fine farm house. He was in the legislature twice and lieutenant governor two terms. He was a gifted orator.

      Pierce R. Hobble and family came from Ambia, Indiana, to Dodge City in 1879, and immediately became a prominent family in the community. One son, Frank A. Hobble became a local historian and writer, as well as a Santa Fe safety supervisor between Chicago and Denver. The elder Hobble ran a grocery store and bakery in the city.

      Eighteen year old, William Barclay Masterson, familiarly known as Bat, was grading on the Santa Fe near Dodge City in the spring of 1872. Robert Wright said, "He is a man of pleasant manners, good address, and mild disposition until aroused and then, for God's sake, look out!" In 1876 he was a candidate for sheriff for Ford County and elected.

      Edward J. Masterson, brother of Bat, came to Dodge City and in 1877, was appointed marshal of Dodge City, in which capacity he served well for about a year. He met his death in the performance of his duty, April 9, 1878, which shocked the entire town.

      William Barclay (Bat) Masterson arrived early in the city

Early Day Men and a Diary 169

and was a county sheriff and a city marshal. Many tales have been told of this man's fame as a law officer. His brother Edward J. Masterson came in 1877 and was appointed marshal. He was well qualified to fill the position. April 9, 1878, Ed Masterson was mortally wounded in an attempt to make an arrest of two desperate men, Jack Wagner and Alf Walker, who had committed some crime and were terrorizing the town. A very short time after being shot he died.

      William (Bill) Tilghman was city marshal, and later a celebrated U. S. Marshal in Oklahoma. He captured the noted Doolin gang and many other outlaws. He was killed in the performance of duty.

      A. Gluck was for a long time one of the leading jewelers in Western Kansas and many times mayor of the city. Honorable M. V. Sutton came to Dodge City in 1876 and shortly became the leading attorney of the whole southwest.

      Pat Sughrue, known as the fighting Irish soldier, was county sheriff and peace officer. John B. Madden, Jr., was marshal and sheriff and later a nationally known successful Federal Law Enforcement Officer.

      H. H. Raymond's diary tells of happenings and conditions on the plains from January 1, 1873 through the entire year and letters 1874-5. He had come from Illinois to Dodge City with the Masterson boys in 1872 and stayed until 1875. He helped build the Santa Fe railway into Dodge City. He spent three years in and out of town hunting buffalo and freighting. He says when on the Tom Nixon ranch he used to shoot at a dark spot on a telegraph pole with his Winchester rifle from a window in the stable where he cared for a race horse, Michigan Jim, owned by Nixon and Kelly. He and Levy Richardson built a corral of poles on the ranch, tying the posts together with strips of buffalo hide and laying poles between. He dug the first well he knew about at Dodge City, using three barrels with the ends knocked out to wall it. Folks used to have water hauled and put in barrels in front of their business houses. The place where he and Krauss worked at blacksmithing across the track was between Collar's store and a dance hall. They lived in a dugout someone had abandoned by the first bend in the river and it was in easy sight of the work going on for the toll bridge. In his later years, H. H. Raymond lived with his son on a ranch south of Liberal, on the edge of Oklahoma.

170 Early Ford County

      Excerpts from his diary; (used by permission of his daughter, Jessie Raymond Blake, 1328 West 20th St., Wichita, Kansas). Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1873 through Friday, Jan. 3. Abe, Ed, Jim, and me started for Dodge City, got lost on the prairie, made bed down in the snow. No fire, nor supper. Snowed and sleeted all day and part of the night. Got up this morning, found ourselves snowed under, and surrounded by wolves. I shot at them. Stopped at Mulberry and watered the horses. Got to Hunt's ranch, cooked supper on their stove. Crossed river to Dodge City. Couldn't sell meat. Drove to Nixon's ranch. Went down to dance hall. Heard nice music.

      Tuesday Feb. 18 (after trip to Sedgwick) Ed Masterson and me went to Newton on foot from Sedgwick. Got two pounds baloney and crackers, got on board car 5157 Engine 32 to Kinsley, beat our way to Dodge City. Started at 10: 20 p.m., arrived at Dodge about 12 M. Heard some splendid music, violin and bass viol, and harp played at station. Sun. Feb. 23. Stayed Nixon's ranch, also George and Jim. Got some poetry out of MacCauley's Magazine about death. On Monday an old man from Michigan came to ranch to learn news about his son who was lost supposed to be frozen to death.

      Tuesday Mar. 4. Beautiful day. Down in town. Bill Brooks got shot at with needle gun, the ball passing through two barrels of water, lodging in outside iron hoops. Jordan shot at him. Soldier got beat over the head with hoot owner had taken from him. Mar. 3. Saw Brooks and Jordan compromise today. Mar. 12. Last night the Vigilance Committee shot McGill, a buffalo hunter, for firing a pistol in a dance hall. I went down town and saw him. Mar. 13. Tom Sherman shot Burns last night.

      Tuesday Mar. 18 through Apr. 6. Salted meat and tongues for Rath in the forenoon. Helped bail and load hides for Rath all day. Bailed and loaded hides, piled some, loaded some bones, worked all day for Rath. Received $5.00 of Rath at dance house. Splendid music. Salted meat for Rath until noon, then went with Nixon outfit to the Sawlog. Drove back to horseshoe bend on Walker timber and cut some poles and camped. Finished cutting and loading poles and came back to Nixon's ranch. Sunday Mar. 30. Worked for Rath. Folded hides and unloaded carloads of oats. Folded hides for Rath all day, folded and piled. Unloaded and weighed corn and potatoes. Worked all day at unloading car and putting corn in back room. Worked

Early Day Men and a Diary 171

for Rath. Haly and me bailed hides. George Mitchel and Bat and the Swede (Andy Johnson) hauled and put in the car in the afternoon. Kelly got head put on him last night and Jim Redman today. Halt' Andrew and me bailed hides today. George and Bat hauled. Sunday Apr. 6. Windy and cold, rained some during the night; rained some in the morning and snowed. Covered up hides and helped haul four loads of bails to cars until Bat and George came, when all worked, cold and windy all day. George and I worked until noon for Rath. Rath went east, also Nixon. Wednesday Apr. 9 through Monday Aug. 25. Drove out to Sawlog with Barker, Riney, Dudley and Butterfield. Got breakfast at Rath's and went to work for Rath in the afternoon. About five o'clock there came a terrible wind and continued until late in the night, had to quit working. Wind still blowing and very cold today. Bailed for Rath after finishing large load of hides began to be very windy all day and cold. Emigrant train camped in town tonight. At ranch all day, cold and snowing. Emigrant train of thirteen wagons passed going to Colorado. Emigrant train passed, 14 wagons. Mrs. Bridges came here today. Her man going with 55 soldiers to take horse thieves. Nice till noon, then came a most terrible wind and rain storm, blew our hides a half mile away and blew my bunk down. I loaded Dudley up with 44 or 50 hides. He started to Dodge. Some of the freighting outfit here. Drove to old winter camp on Kiowa. Found Masterson boys camped here. Dudley killed two buffalo.

      Tuesday Sept. 9 through Saturday Dec. 14. Went to work for Nixon in shop. Began at noon, made linch pins and nails. Made some locks for coupling rods to bull trains. Made some staples for Walls. Worked on bull train most all day. Fixed neckyoke and single-tree for Walls. Settled board bill at Kelly's and began board at Peters. Done work on hack for Italian Frank. Made bar to go across store door at Rath's. Made clevis and two corks. Frank brought us a big melon. Jim White and Decker started to Texas to buy O'Brian's outfit. Done little work on Nixon's bull train and also on Levy's. Tom Nixon started for Supply. Went to Col. Young's, got mule for Nixon. Came back, glued fiddle together, went down and saw them working on the bridge. Went to Indian camp to trade, Bat, Abe, Ed, Jim, Rigny and me. Saw Indians eating lice.

      June 28, 1874, letter to Sadie Armstrong, not then his wife,

172 Early Ford County

by H. H. Raymond from his home in Sedgwick, Kansas. "I see an account in the Eagle of a very dear friend of mine being murdered by the Indians. He was my partner all last summer, a man of good moral principle and one who no one could know and not like. I could not feel much worse to hear of a brother's death. His name was Dudley and there are others of my acquaintance have been killed. I was uneasy at first about your brothers, was afraid they had met the same fate. But I guess they are all right yet but I do hope they will be sharp enough to look out for their safety. I wish the government would offer some inducement to the settlers to go out and help destroy them. I would be glad to go out and help stay the red devils."

      December 18, 1874, from H. H. Raymond to his wife Sadie. "There were 50 six-mule teams belonging to the government pulled out this evening with freight for Supply. The mules are some that General Custer had out on his expedition in the Black Hills. They were shipped here not long since. Dodge is stacked with gamblers of the highest grade, awaiting the return of the soldiers that are out on the expedition. They are not likely to return before spring and perhaps not then. There will be hot times here when they do come in. One of the saloons here in town are decorated with all kinds of Indian plumes and fancy trinkets of all descriptions that were captured at the fight at Adobe Walls. (Andy Johnson collection) They are worth looking at. I hear that Bat has got a job at Camp Supply, of counting mules night and morning."

      Dodge City, Feb. 18, 1875, H. H. Raymond to wife. "I hear shooting in town, expect some one will be killed tonight. Someone has been wounded every night now for nearly a week. It is growing worse every day. Terrible exciting times. Four or five scouts are here and lots of Texas boys. I will go over in town and see what the excitement is."

      Feb. 15, 1875. Sadie to her husband, H. H. Raymond. "You may tell Ed (Masterson) that his folks are having just the hardest kind of times. If he makes $30. per month, he ought to send $25. of it home. Mr. Masterson was here the other day. I felt sorry for him. If his people can't get feed, they can't do anything in the spring." H. H. Raymond's reply dated Feb. 20, 1875. "I told Ed what you said, though if I had thought I wouldn't have told him anything about it. He seemed to take it so hard. He sends them nearly all he makes. I expect they

Early Day Men and a Diary 173

spend it for fine clothes and extras for the policeman. He will probably give his father fits for putting up a pitiful mouth in your presence. They have such a great amount of pride, it may create a little hard feeling in some way." There were many small operators in the hide business and H. H. Raymond was one of them, but their output of buffalo hides helped to swell the immense number brought into Dodge City. I. D. Gonsor, who operated a tannery in Dodge City in the 1870's says he tanned 1,500 buffalo hides as' late as 1878 and that was the last year any buffalo hides were tanned in the city. Not many of the hides in the old shipments were tanned, old timers recall, for they were usually shipped green. Figures kept during the period when the hides were coming in show that more than 5,000,000 buffalo hides and two and a half million dollars worth of buffalo bones were shipped from Dodge City alone.

Go to the previous chapter      Return to the Early Ford County Index       Go to next chapter

Dodge City History