Luke Short

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Not to be confused with Luke Short (writer).
Luke L. Short
Luke Short.jpg
Born January 22, 1854
Polk County, Arkansas
Died September 8, 1893
Geuda Springs, Kansas, United States
Cause of death
Bright's Disease
Nationality American
Occupation Sporting Man
Spouse(s) Hattie Buck
Children None
Parent(s) Josiah Washington Short and Hetty Brumley

Luke L. Short (January 22, 1854 – September 8, 1893) was an American Old West gunfighter, cowboy, U.S. Army scout, dispatch rider, gambler, boxing promoter and saloon owner. He was the last man standing in two of the Wild West's most well-known gunfights—against Charlie Storms in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and Jim Courtright in Fort Worth, Texas.

Early life[edit]

Luke L. Short was born in Polk County, Arkansas on January 22, 1854. He was the fifth child born to Josiah Washington Short (Feb. 2, 1812 - Feb. 8, 1890) and his wife Hetty Brumley (Feb. 2, 1826 - Nov. 30, 1908).

The other Short children born in Polk County, Arkansas were: Martha Frances Short (April 10, 1847 - August 16, 1929), John Pleasant Short (Sept. 5, 1848 - April 16, 1919), Josiah Short, Jr. (May 30, 1851 - July 25, 1935), Young P. Short (Nov. 1852 - Dec. 29, 1914), Mary Catherine Short (b. Feb. 19, 1856 - Feb. 20, 1933) and Henry Jenkins Short (Feb. 15, 1859 - Feb. 4, 1917). Henry was the last of the Short children born in Polk County, Arkansas. Shortly after his birth the Short family, now consisting of nine members moved to Montague County Texas. The family, including 6 year-old Luke, was recorded there on the 1860 Federal Census. The final three Short children were all born in Texas: George Washington Short ( March 8, 1863 - Oct. 30, 1935), Belle Nannie Short (b. March 24, 1864 - Oct. 20, 1947) and William B. Short (b. Oct. 21, 1867 - March 29, 1890). In 1869, at the age of fifteen, Luke began working as a cowboy. From 1869 until 1875 Luke was engaged in the cattle business and made several trips to the Kansas railheads. [1]

Late in his life, Luke Short told researcher George H. Morrison that he went to the Black Hills in 1876 and left the Black Hills the following year to go to Ogallala, Nebraska.[2] The much repeated story that Luke was a whiskey peddler in Nebraska appears to be fiction. According to the story, Short supposedly killed a half dozen inebriated Sioux natives on various occasions during this venture. There is no documentation for any of this, and the story appears to have originated with a 1907 magazine article by Bat Masterson.[3] Bat's story has been repeated and "improved " upon over the decades by numerous writers.

Between October 6 and October 8, 1878, Short was employed as a dispatch courier from Ogallala, Nebraska to Major Thomas Tipton Thornburgh who was in the field. Short was paid $30 for his service. From October 9 to October 20, 1878, Luke served as a civilian scout for Thornburgh. He enlisted at Sidney, Nebraska, at a rate of $100 a month. He served only twelve days and was paid $40 for his service.[4]

By his own account, in 1879 Short turned up in Leadville, Colorado where he gambled.[5] Bat Masterson later said that Luke seriously wounded a man during a gambling dispute in Leadville.[6] On June 1, 1880 Luke was enumerated on United States Census as a resident of Buena Vista, Colorado—about 30 miles (48 km) from Leadville. According to the 1886 interview he gave George H. Morrison, he left Colorado later that month and went to Kansas City.[7] Luke was only in Kansas City for a few months when he got into trouble. According to the local paper, a certain Texan named John Jones "was swindled out of $280 on Three Card Monte by one Luke Short, who is now in the calaboose."[8] Luke was released from jail on October 11, 1880 after being incarcerated for six days.[9] The outcome of the case is unknown, but by late November 1880 he had moved to Tombstone, Arizona.


The Dodge City Peace Commission: Standing ( left to right ): William H. Harris (1845-1895), Luke Short (1854-1893), William Barclay "Bat" Masterson (1853-1921), William. F. Petillon (1846-1917). Sitting ( left to right) Charles E. Bassett (1847-1896), Wyatt Earp (1848-1929), Michael Francis "Frank" McLean (1854-1902), Cornelius "Neil" Brown (1844-1926). Photo taken by Charles Abram Conkling (1856-1936) on June 10, 1883.[10]

Luke Short first met Wyatt Earp, William H. Harris and Bat Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Since Earp had lived in Tombstone for nearly a year when Luke arrived in November 1880, he likely met Luke first. William H. Harris arrived in Tombstone about a month after Luke.[11] Bat Masterson left Dodge City for Tombstone on February 8, 1881. On February 24 the Dodge City Times noted that "C.M. Beeson received a letter from W.H. Harris, which states that W.B. Masterson arrived in Tombstone, Arizona.".[12] William H. Harris was well acquainted with Wyatt Earp from Earp's time in Dodge City. Based on their previous friendship, Harris had no problem convincing his partners to engage Earp as a faro dealer at their Oriental Saloon in Tombstone. Faro was easily the most popular game in the Wild West and could be found in nearly every gambling hall. Luke Short was serving as the lookout, seated next to the dealer at a faro game in the Oriental when he became involved in his first celebrated gunfight on Friday, February 25, 1881.

The Luke Short - Charlie Storms gunfight[edit]

A gambler named Charlie Storms, was nearly sixty—old enough to have been Luke's father—but age didn't make him less dangerous. Storms had been born in New Orleans and was a pioneer who arrived in California in 1849. For years he had been a "sporting man " in locations that included Virginia City, Nevada; Deadwood, South Dakota; and Leadville, Colorado.[13] Leadville was a town that both Luke Short and Charlie Storms knew well. Leadville, for its part, knew Storms far better than it wanted to. Five days after the killing of Storms by Luke Short, the Leadville Democrat provided what remains the most authoritative account of the killing. According to that account, the "favorite diversion" of Storms "was the handling of a six-shooter with humanity as a target." [[14]]. According to this report it was Storms who was enraged by what he considered an insult from Short. On the morning of February 25 Storms approached Short and "catching him by the ear " demanded an apology. The account stated that Storms was holding Short's ear with his left hand—while his right hand contained a pistol pointed at Short. Luke Short drew his weapon and fired, causing Storms to release his grip on the ear. Storms managed to fire back at Luke, but missed. Short then put two more bullets into "the sinking soul of Storms." [15] A coroner's jury reached the verdict that Storms came to his death from three pistol wounds at the hands of Luke Short, and that the killing was justifiable.[16]

Dodge City War[edit]

Main article: Dodge City War

Luke Short left Tombstone soon after the Storms killing. He briefly turned up in Deming, New Mexico before arriving in Dodge City during April 1881. Dodge City would be his home base until the final months of 1883, although he made frequent trips to other places to pursue gambling opportunities during those years. Luke's friend William H. Harris had sold out his interest in the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone and provided Luke with employment as a faro dealer at the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City.The Long Branch was owned by Harris and his partner Chalk Beeson. By this time Harris had become a very wealthy man—one of the wealthiest in Kansas. During February 1883 Chalk Beeson sold his interest in the Long Branch. The "Dissolution Notice " stated that "Mr. Beeson is selling his interest in the business to Luke Short who will continue the business with Mr. Harris. "[17]

The month after Short and Harris formed their partnership, Harris was nominated to run for mayor of Dodge City. On March 19, 1883 a "law and order " group nominated Lawrence E. Deger to run against Harris. Deger defeated Harris by a vote of 214 to 143 in the election of April 3. All five of the city council candidates running with Deger were also elected. On April 23 the Dodge City Council posted two ordinances that were immediately approved by Mayor Deger. Ordinance No. 70 was "An Ordinance for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality Within the City of Dodge City. " Ordinance No. 71 was "An Ordinance to Define and Punish Vagrancy. " On April 28, 1883 three prostitutes employed at the Long Branch were arrested by City Marshal Jack Bridges and policeman Louis C. Hartman. Soon afterward Short and Hartman exchanged gunfire. Neither man was hurt. Short was quickly arrested and released on $2000 bond. His preliminary examination was set for May 2.[18]

On April 30 Luke Short was again arrested (along with five other gamblers) and placed in the "city calaboose." The following day Short and the five others were escorted to the train depot and given their choice of east or west-bound trains. Short went east to Kansas City, Missouri where he looked up Charles E. Bassett at the Marble Hall Saloon. Bassett and Luke had a lot in common, not the least of which was that both had, at different times, owned an interest in the Long Branch Saloon. Bassett had served as the first sheriff of Ford County, as well as city marshal of Dodge City. Both Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson had, at various times, served under Bassett as deputies. Together, Short and Bassett, along with William F. Petillon, began laying the groundwork for Luke's reinstatement in Dodge. Luke went to Topeka on May 10, where he presented a petition to Governor George W. Glick. Short returned to Topeka and was joined there by Bat Masterson. Things started to heat up when Wyatt Earp arrived in Dodge City, along with several gunfighters, on May 31. Short, Earp and Petillon met in Kinsley, Kansas on June 3, 1883 and took the afternoon train to Dodge City. Deger issued a proclamation the following day ordering the closing of all gambling places in Dodge City.[19]

Dodge City Peace Commission[edit]

Deger's action came during the cattle season and promised ruin for the cowtown's seasonal boom. So it was that economics - rather than bloodshed - resolved the "Dodge City War." Additional pressure to resolve the issue had come from the Governor as well as the Santa Fe Railroad, which did considerable business in Dodge. The gambling halls, dance halls and saloons were then ordered reopened - including the Long Branch. On June 9 both sides met in a dance hall that opened that night and resolved their differences. The following day - June 10, 1883 - eight men gathered and posed for what has become one of the most reproduced Wild West history photos. The group was immediately dubbed the Dodge City Peace Commission. The men in the historic photo were William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon, Charles E. Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Michael Francis "Frank" McLean and Cornelius "Neil" Brown. Shortly after the photo, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp departed on a west bound train for Colorado.[20]

The Long Branch Saloon had reopened, and the "Dodge City War " had ended without a shot being fired, but the time had come for Luke to move on. On November 19, 1883 Short and Harris sold the Long Branch to Drake and Warren. Short then moved to San Antonio for a brief time, before deciding to locate in Fort Worth.

Fort Worth and the White Elephant[edit]

Timothy Isaiah "Jim" Courtright was killed in a gunfight with Luke Short on February 8, 1887. This photograph was made sometime between April 6, 1876, and April 1, 1879 when Courtright was serving as city marshal of Fort Worth.

Luke Short's name will always be associated with three of the most celebrated saloons in Wild West history: the Oriental in Tombstone, the Long Branch in Dodge City, and the White Elephant in Fort Worth. Jacob Christopher "Jake" Johnson, Luke Short and James A. "Alex" Reddick became the new owners of the White Elephant in December 1884, along with several other investors who owned shares in the business. Some of the others included Sam Berliner and former Dodge City "peace commissioner" Michael Francis "Frank" McLean. The smaller shares in the White Elephant were constantly changing hands, so it is difficult to determine who these mainly silent partners were on a given date. The announcement of the new partnership was publicized: "The White Elephant saloon has changed hands. Messrs. G. Burgower and Nath Bernstein selling out their interest to Messrs. Jake Johnson and Luke Short"[21]

Jake Johnson would, with the White Elephant, take Short to heights he never dreamed of. Jake Johnson was one of the wealthiest of all Texans. The White Elephant was just one of his many business and real estate enterprises. The White Elephant was described as "the largest and most magnificent establishment in the state" [21] While he might occasionally sit in on a card game, Luke Short's days as a house dealer were now over. From this point on, the dealers in whatever establishment he was associated with would work for him.

On May 9, 1885 it was reported that Jake Johnson, Luke Short, M.F. "Frank" McLean and three others each plead guilty and were each fined $25 for "gaming."[22] This was just one of many items concerning Short paying fines that would appear, on a regular basis, for the remainder of his life. Paying these routine gambling fines was considered a cost of doing business by Luke and the other sporting men of Fort Worth. Bat Masterson was a boxing enthusiast and had been trying to interest Luke in the sport. At first Luke was indifferent - but by June 28, 1885 he actually found himself being the "third man in the ring" when he was called upon to referee a match, fought near Weatherford, Texas, between "Kid Bridges," who stood 6'2" and the "St. Joe Kid," who stood 5'8". The decision of referee Short was that the "St. Joe Kid" won on a foul.

Trying to keep track of Luke's partners in the White Elephant has proven to be a challenge for historians. In all fairness to them, the ownership of the White Elephant changed hands several times during Luke's association with the business. Adding to the confusion were the small share holders, such as Michael Francis "Frank" McLean, who were listed in the newspapers as being among the "proprietors." The chronology, as far as Short is concerned, began during December 1884 when Jake Johnson, Luke Short, and James A. Alex Reddick became the principal owners. Late in 1885 or very early in 1886, Jake Johnson sold his share of the White Elephant to John L. Ward. Then during May 1886 Alex Reddick sold his share to William H. Ward, the brother of John L. Ward. That latest change in ownership was announced in a special "Dissolution Notice" published on May 15, 1886: "The partnership existing between Ward, Short & Reddick has this day been dissolved by the sale of J.A. Reddick's interest in the business to W.H. Ward. The new firm name will be Ward Bros. and Short."[23]

Just as Bat Masterson had transformed Luke into a boxing enthusiast, Jack Johnson was responsible for making horse racing a major part of Luke's sporting agenda. Johnson and two partners had opened the Fort Worth Driving Park in January 1885. Luke had bought his own race horse named "Tobe," along with some jockey silks for himself, and drove his two-wheeled sulky in a race held on November 13, 1886. Luke and "Tobe" came in dead last in a field of five.[24]

Showdown with Jim Courtright[edit]

1887 would be Luke's crowded year. It would be the year that included the gunfight he is best remembered for, as well as the year he married the love of his life. The event-filled year began with Luke's younger brother, Henry Jenkins Short, killing a man named Charles T. Schuyler at San Angelo, Texas on January 23, 1887. San Angelo was the town where Luke's parents and other family members lived. It was a thriving community over 200 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Initial reports indicated that Schuyler was shot twice, the bullets entering his back and coming out the front, either one of which would have been fatal. Henry fled to Fort Worth before he could be arrested to enlist the aid ( and funds) that his brother Luke could provide for his defense. Luke and Henry returned to San Angelo on January 29 and Henry voluntarily surrendered to the sheriff and gave bond for his appearance in the district court. The money that would be needed to defend Henry Short would have to be provided by Luke, who had already put up the money for Henry's bond. In addition, Luke then had some unrelated - but very expensive - legal problems of his own looming in the Dallas court. The amount that would be needed to handle all of these legal issues was more than Luke had on hand. In order to raise the needed funds, Johnson agreed to purchase Luke's one-third interest in the White Elephant on February 7, 1887. The press informed the public that Luke had no intention of leaving town "but will continue to call Fort Worth home." [25]

One historian [26] has suggested that this transaction was prompted by problems that Luke was then having with Timothy Isaiah "Jim" Courtright, a former marshal of Fort Worth, who reportedly ran a protection racket in which he offered his "protection " to saloon and gambling house owners. Short would not be intimidated and refused, saying that he would personally provide any protection that his saloon needed. This irritated Courtright, who felt that it was necessary to make an example of Short as to what could happen if his services were declined.[27] It was further suggested that Short needed the money to start fresh in another town where he wouldn't have to worry about Courtright, who had a reputation as an excellent gunman[28] who had killed several men in the line of duty. It was finally suggested that there may have been a presentiment, on Luke's part, that he was about to be killed in a gunfight between himself and Courtright. None of these latter-day musings have any basis in fact. Jim Courtright was almost certainly the last person on Luke's mind at this point in time. Raising the money that would be needed for his brother's legal defense, as well as the funds needed for his own legal problems in Dallas, were his top priority. Jake Johnson was an assured source for the kind of cash he needed. For his part, Jake Johnson had absolutely no interest in again being a partner in the White Elephant, but Luke needed help so he agreed to buy Luke's share.

On the night of February 8, 1887, Courtright and Short were facing each other on a sidewalk outside of the White Elephant. In the celebrated gunfight that followed, Luke was the last man standing.[27][28] Here, in his own words, is Luke Short's description of what happened:

"Early in the evening I was getting my shoes blackened at the White Elephant, when a friend of mine asked me if there was any trouble between Courtright and myself, and I told him there was nothing. A few minutes later I was at the bar with a couple of friends when some one called me. I went out into the vestibule and saw Jim Courtright and Jake Johnson. Jake and I had talked for a little while that evening on a subject in which Jim's name was mentioned, but no idea of a difficulty was entertained. I walked out with them upon the sidewalk, and we had some quiet talk on private affairs. I reminded him of some past transactions, not in an abusive or reproachful manner, to which he assented, but not in a very cordial way. I was standing with my thumbs in the armholes of vest and had dropped them in front of me to adjust my clothing, when he remarked 'Well, you needn't reach for your gun,' and immediately put his hand in his hip-pocket and pulled his. When I saw him do that, I pulled my pistol and began shooting, for I knew that his action meant death. He must have misconstrued my intention in dropping my hands before me. I was merely adjusting my clothing, and never carry a pistol in that part of my dress."[29]

The gunfight became well known due to the notoriety of both men. Courtright's funeral was attended by hundreds of Ft. Worth residents. Short was arrested for the shooting, but he was never actually brought to trial for the killing of Courtright.[27] Likewise his brother, Henry Jenkins Short, seems to have avoided prosecution in the January 23, 1887 killing of Charles Schuyler, although the details remain unclear. Just nine days after buying out Luke's one-third interest in the White Elephant, Jake Johnson sold it to William H. Ward.[30] Finally, Luke was able to settle his legal problems with the court in Dallas. All of the cases against Luke Short were dismissed, with no explanation.[31] Luke was now in great shape financially, so he decided to travel to Kansas and marry the love of his life.

Mrs. Luke Short[edit]

It hasn't been determined exactly where or when Hattie Buck and Luke Short first met, but it can be stated with certainty that they were married in Oswego, Labette County, Kansas on March 15, 1887.[32] While the marriage record contains errors, there is do doubt the subjects are Luke Short and Hattie Buck. The groom's father was identified as "J.W. Short," which was correct and his mother identified incorrectly as "Bumby" instead of Brumley. Hattie's father was listed only as "Buck" while her mother was identified only as "Allen." Both surnames were correct. Hattie's father was Oscar Buck and her mother was Cynthia Allen. They married in Coles County, Illinois on July 23, 1857.[33] Her full name was Harriet Beatrice Buck - but she was always called "Hattie" even on census records and other documents, including her marriage certificate. Hattie Buck was born in Coles County, Illinois on October 5, 1863. She was the fourth of eight children born between 1858 and 1878. Hattie's family eventually settled in Emporia, Kansas, where her father died a few years prior to her marriage. Luke and Hattie went to Fort Worth shortly after their wedding but didn't remain there long. Luke and Hattie boarded a train in Fort Worth "for a brief stay in Hot Springs."[34] The arrival of Luke and Hattie was recalled, years later, by A.G. Arkwright who recalled that "Luke Short came there, to the hotel where I was staying, with his wife, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of an Emporia banker, whom he married under romantic circumstances."[35]

Luke and Hattie remained in Hot Springs for nearly two months. By May the couple was back in Fort Worth.[36] Luke and Hattie were only in Fort Worth for eleven days before leaving town again.[37] Luke and Hattie were in Kansas City, where a local paper reported that Luke Short "made his appearance in this city this morning."[38] A week later, on June 15, 1887 Luke and Hattie were in New York to attend the wedding of Luke's friend William H. Harris,who had left Dodge City and was involved, like Luke, in thoroughbred horse racing. Based on later reports, it seems likely that Short, Harris and their wives went to take in the races at Monmouth Park, located in the fashionable seaside resort of Long Branch, New Jersey. From New Jersey, Luke and Hattie followed the racing circuit to the enormously popular resort of Saratoga Springs, New York. While there, Luke was interviewed by a reporter from Albany who described Luke as "a quiet little man" who he had met "at the Monmouth race track" a few days before. The report noted that "Short is accompanied by his wife and is doing the racing circuit."[39]

The Sport of Kings and a Palace Royal[edit]

"Doing the racing circuit" was a large part of Luke's career as a sporting man. Luke and his friend Jake Johnson, along with their wives, attended the inaugural running of the Futurity Stakes on Labor Day 1888. That event was held in New York at the Sheepshead Bay racetrack on Coney Island. According to the New York Times, one -quarter of those in attendance were women. Two of those women were Mrs. Jake Johnson and Mrs. Luke Short.[40] By October 1888 Luke Short and Jake Johnson were back in Fort Worth. Luke was no longer connected with the White Elephant, and Jake had decided to open what the local paper headlined as a "super resort" called the Palais Royal, which was designed to rival the White Elephant.[41] Luke undoubtedly owned a piece the action, but remained a silent partner. Luke was now ready for new adventures in new locales. Most of these would happen far from Texas. His odyssey began in what would, in the years that followed, become his home away from home - Chicago.


Luke Short would spend part of each year, from 1889 until 1893 in Chicago. He usually went there during the summer months to get relief from the Texas heat as well as to attend thoroughbred horse races. Hattie always went with him on these extended visits that often lasted weeks and sometimes months. Hattie and Luke always stayed at the Leland Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Hattie loved everything about Chicago and had the ability to turn heads in a metropolis with no shortage of beautiful women. In July 1889 Luke was among the party going from Chicago to New Orleans, in a private railway car, to attend a prize fight. Luke was described by a reporter as "the noted sporting man of Fort Worth," who was "not interested in the fight ... but will go because his friend 'Bat' Masterson insists on his doing so." Luke explained to the reporter that he would "go anywhere in the world for Bat." [42]

Luke and Bat went from New Orleans to Richburg, Mississippi where they were ringside at the John L. Sullivan - Jake Kilrain championship fight on July 8, 1889. Bat Masterson was not there at ringside merely to observe the action. He was the designated timekeeper for Kilrain. Reportedly Luke Short, Johnny Murphy, and "twelve other good men were scattered around the ring side where they would do the most good in case of an emergency." [43] Luke's return to Chicago on July 12, 1889 was noted by several newspapers in the city. He had returned from Richburg with a new enthusiasm for boxing and a new ambition for himself. He now wanted to be a boxing promoter, and he wanted to pursue that dream in Fort Worth.

Deaths in the family[edit]

By the end of 1889 Chicago was well aware of who Luke Short was. The Daily Inter Ocean reported that Short, "who is numbered as one of the prominent figures of the Richburg battle" had cabled Charles E. "Parson" Davies offering $20,000 to have John L. Sullivan defend his title in a championship fight at Fort Worth.[44] On January 11, 1890 Luke decided to up the ante by writing Richard K. Fox, the editor and publisher of the National Police Gazette, at that time the sporting man's "Bible." Luke stated in this letter, which was quoted in a newspaper, that he was ready to give both Sullivan and his challenger $20,000, but added: "I am still ready to give them $20,000. If you [ Fox ] think $25,000 or $30,000 is a sufficient inducement, the bank will authorize me to give it." [45] In spite of Luke's eagerness for success in the promotion endeavor, events beyond his control continued to occur in his life. On February 8, 1890, Luke's father, Josiah Washington Short. died in San Angelo, Texas "at the ripe age of 78 years." [46] With all the work involved in trying to arrange the championship fight Luke may have forgotten about his family. There is little evidence that he often made an effort to visit family members. He leaned of his father's passing after the burial, and now his brother, William B. Short passed, by accident, not through gunfire. William B. Short was the youngest of the ten Short siblings. He was only twenty-two when he was "killed by a herd of stampeding cattle on the Tankersly ranch." [47] There is some confusion over the date of Will Short's death. A Fort Worth paper stated that he was killed on March 31,[48] yet the Texas Death Records, as well as his tombstone, give the date as March 29, 1890.

The Racing Circuit[edit]

Luke and Hattie were on the move during most of what remained of 1890. On April 24 Luke was at the Belle Meade sale of thoroughbred race horses in Nashville, Tennessee with Jack Johnson.It was reported that "Jake Johnson ' who laid out about $20,000 for yearlings in the Belle Meade sale is ambitious to shine on the turf." [49] It is not known if Luke Short bought a yearling at the Belle Meade sale, but in less than a year he would have horses running on tracks in Chicago and New York. Following the Belle Meade sale, Luke and Jake left Nashville and went to Memphis to take in the races. Also in Memphis was a gambler named Charles M. Wright, who would be involved in a gunfight with Luke before the year was over. Short, Johnson , Wright, along with other sporting men were partners in some Memphis faro games. The partners won significant amounts of cash, what reported as "thousands of dollars," which was entrusted to Wright. He was designated as the banker for the group and was supposed to place the winnings in a hotel safe where the group stayed. For some reason, Wright decided to keep the cash in his hotel room and was robbed of every cent. Wright wanted Luke Short and his other partners to bear an equal share of the loss but they refused, and turned the matter over to the authorities. who decided against Wright. According to a later report, Wright was never satisfied with that decision and had "hard words with several of his ex-partners on the subject since that time, particularly with Short." [50]

Following the racing circuit occupied much of Luke's time during the late spring and early summer of 1890. The presence of Luke and Hattie at Saratoga Springs, New York was reported in the local press.[51] While he had enormous success at racetracks across the country, boxing promotion remained an unattainable goal for Luke Short. He was destined to be remembered for gunfights, rather than prize fights. As the year 1890 drew to a close, the age of the gunfighter was considered by many to be a thing of the past. You couldn't prove it by Luke Short, however, as he was about to experience yet another gunfight.

The Last Gunfight[edit]

The long simmering feud between Luke Short and Charles Wright finally reached the boiling point in Fort Worth on December 23, 1890. The gunfight took place at the Bank Saloon and gambling house on Main Street. A shotgun blast from Wright wounded Short in his left hip and leg as well as injuring his left hand. The bullet from Luke's pistol shattered Wright's right wrist. In describing Luke's leg wound, the local paper said "the full charge of buckshot passed through the flesh, making a tunnel, the muscles on the outside were torn out." The wound on his left hand resulted in his thumb being "taken off at the joint." [52] Reports of the shooting, along with updates on Luke's condition, were published in newspapers in several states. A paper in Hutchinson, Kansas observed that "his wounds are enough to kill a common man but Luke may get well." [53] Luke would remain bedridden for months. In 1891 a Chicago newspaper published a lengthy profile of Luke. When discussing the gunfight with Wright, the paper reported: "It was supposed at the time that Short was fatally wounded, and his recovery was wholly due to the careful nursing of his wife,who for three months hardly left his bed side." [54] Both Short and Wright were indicted and charged with assault with intent to murder. Both men made bonds without trouble in the sum of $1,000.[55] The trial date would be changed more than once and a final decision would not be arrived at until March 1, 1892.

Nearly Killing a Man by Mistake in Chicago[edit]

While awaiting his trial date, Luke was free to come and go as he pleased. He was feeling well enough by May 21, 1891 to board a train for Chicago with Jake Johnson. This was going to be an extensive stay, as Hattie accompanied Luke on the trip.[56] The racing season was about to begin and Johnson and Short both owned a string of horses that would be running at Washington Park in Chicago. During his several visit to Chicago Luke and Hattie always stayed the Leland Hotel. Luke was accosted in the lobby of the Leland by a drunken attorney named James J. Singleton during late October 1891. According to the report Short did not have his pistol, but managed to give Singleton a few kicks which knocked him down, and then Short picked him up, and pushed him out "into the frosty night air." Short then went upstairs for his gun in case Singleton decided to return. While Luke was gone, an actor named William F. Hoey (1854-1897) walked into the hotel lobby. The actor turned out to be a dead ringer for the lawyer Luke had just kicked out. Short saw Hoey, thought he was Singleton and charged at him with his pistol. A quick thinking hotel clerk named Ed Kennedy jumped between the two men and prevented a homicide. When Short realized his mistake, he apologized to the actor and treated him to drinks and a late supper.[57]

On March 1, 1892 a decision was reached in the State v Luke Short. Luke was found guilty of aggravated assault against Charles Wright and a fine of $150 was assessed against him.[58] On September 7, 1892 the Heavyweight Championship fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett was held at the Olympic Club in New Orleans. Luke Short and his friend Charles E. Bassett were at ringside. Also there was their mutual friend Bat Masterson, who was acting as timekeeper for Corbett. Bat and Short had placed their bets on Corbett, while "Bassett bet his money on Sullivan." [59] This gathering at the Sullivan-Corbett fight was almost certainly the last time the trio got together. Luke had just one more year and a day to live when the fight was held.

Game over[edit]

By the start of 1893 it had become apparent that something was seriously wrong with Luke's health. Doctors determined that he was suffering from one of the kidney diseases that then went under the now obsolete classification of Bright's Disease. These diseases would be described in modern medicine as acute of chronic nephritis. Luke's symptoms would have included high blood pressure and urine of a dark or bloody color. Edema, the called "Dropsy,' would have contributed to a slight puffiness in his face, as well as the accumulation of fluids in his lower legs that would have made it difficult for Luke to stand for prolonged periods of time. Luke was in Fort Worth when a Kansas newspaper reported that he was "lying at death's door." [60] Luke Short and a number of friends, and with Hattie beside him, took the north-bound Santa Fe train for Geuda Springs, Kansas. The place offered a change of climate as well as the "medicinal qualities of the famous waters, which, it was hoped, would "prolong his life." [61] - August 23, 1893 It didn't.

Luke Short died at the Gilbert House in Geuda Springs,on September 8, 1893. The local paper reported that: "Luke Short died at the Gilbert this morning of dropsy. The remains were embalmed by W.A. Repp today and will be shipped this evening to Ft. Worth, Tex. The remains will accompanied by the wife and two brothers of the deceased." [62] Just two days before Luke's death, while Hattie sat at his bedside in Kansas, word arrived that her mother had died in Fort Worth. A Dodge City newspaper belatedly printed a September 8, 1893 dispatch from Fort Worth which stated that "two days ago his mother-in-law died and the two funerals will take place here at the same time." [63] Death had already claimed two of Hattie's sisters and her father, Now her mother and her husband had died just forty-eight hours apart. She had suffered an unusual amount of early death in her family, and now found herself a widow at the age of twenty-nine.

The funeral of Luke Short took place in Fort Worth on September 10, 1893. Luke's body lay in state until 2:30 that afternoon. At 3 o'clock a line of carriages more than a mile long followed the body of Luke Short to his final resting place. Luke L. Short's grave is in Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth. His grave marker is as unaffected as the man was himself. It is a simple upright stone, containing the simplest of inscriptions: L. L. SHORT 1854 - 1893

In popular culture[edit]

On February 22, 1955 Luke Short was played by actor Wally Cassell (1912-2015) in an episode of the syndicated western TV series Stories of the Century[64] The part of Jim Courtright was portrayed by actor Robert Knapp (1924-2001). Wally Cassell, the actor who portrayed Luke Short, died in Palm Desert, California on April 2, 2015 at the age of 103.

On February 25, 1958, Grant Richards ( 1911-1963) played Short in the episode "Wyatt Fights " of the ABC/Desilu western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. In the story line, deputy Wyatt Earp (Hugh O'Brian) is caught in the middle when two saloon owners want to take over a third establishment, the Long Branch Saloon. Paul Brinegar plays the role of James H. "Dog " Kelley, the mayor of Dodge City.[65]

On January 7, 1960 an episode called "The Pied Piper of Dodge City " (Season 2, episode 13) was broadcast on the Bat Masterson TV series which starred Gene Barry (1919-2009) as Masterson. In that episode an actor named Donald "Red " Barry (1912-1980), who was no relation to Gene Barry, portrayed Luke Short. That episode concluded with Gene Barry, Don Barry, and other actors posing for the television version of the Dodge City Peace Commission photo. [66]

On January 25, 1960, Bob Steele (1907-1988) played Short in the episode "The Terrified Town " of the CBS western television series The Texan, starring Rory Calhoun.[67]



  1. ^ DeMattos, Jack and Parsons, Chuck. The Notorious Luke Short: Sporting Man of the Wild West. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-57441 594-0
  2. ^ Morrison, "Luke Short Dictation," March 19, 1886. Hubert Howe Bancroft Texas Dictations, Manuscript P-033, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
  3. ^ Masterson, W.B. "Bat". "Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier: Luke Short." Human Life Magazine, April 1907
  4. ^ "Reports of Persons and Articles Employed and Hired at Sidney Barracks, Nebraska During the Month of October, 1878. " Old Military Records Division, National Archives
  5. ^ Morrison,"Luke Short Dictation, March 19, 1886"
  6. ^ Masterson,"Luke Short," Human Life Magazine, April 1907
  7. ^ Morrison,"Luke Short Dictation", March 19, 1886
  8. ^ Kansas City Star—October 7, 1880
  9. ^ Kansas City Star—October 11, 1880
  10. ^ Luke Short in Dodge City Peace Commission; 1883; original photograph; Ford County Historical Society; retrieved October 2014
  11. ^ Dodge City Times—January 1, 1881
  12. ^ Dodge City Times - February 24, 1881
  13. ^ Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, February 27, 1881
  14. ^ Leadville Democrat - March 2, 1881
  15. ^ Leadville Democrat - March 2, 1881
  16. ^ Leadville Democrat—March 2, 1881
  17. ^ Ford County Globe, Dodge City—February 6, 1883
  18. ^ Ford County Globe - May 1, 1883
  19. ^ Leavenworth Times - June 5, 1883
  20. ^ Dodge City Times - June 14, 1883
  21. ^ a b Fort Worth Daily Gazette - December 16, 1884
  22. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - May 9, 1885
  23. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - May 15, 1886
  24. ^ Dallas Morning News - November 14, 1886
  25. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - February 8, 1887
  26. ^ Richard F. Selcer, Hell's Half Acre, 185-86, Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1991 ISBN 978-0-87565-088-3
  27. ^ a b c Tarrant County Historical Journal—Edition 01 Jim Buel
  28. ^ a b Tarrant County Historical Journal—Bad Blood
  29. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - February 9, 1887
  30. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - February 17, 1887
  31. ^ Dallas Morning News - February 26, 1887
  32. ^ Kansas Marriages 1840-1935. "Lee [sic] Short and Hattie Buck 15 March 1887." Indexing batch # M73625-8. GS Film # 1433395. The Church of Latter Day Saints
  33. ^ Illinois Marriages 1851-1900, Coles County Court Records, Microfilm # 1301516
  34. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - March 25, 1887
  35. ^ New York Sun - July 25, 1897
  36. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - May 21, 1887
  37. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - June 2, 1887
  38. ^ Kansas City Times - June 8, 1887
  39. ^ Albany Evening Journal - July 26, 1887
  40. ^ New York Times - September 4, 1888
  41. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - October 21, 1888
  42. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune - July 3, 1889
  43. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer - July 13, 1889
  44. ^ Chicago Daily Inter Ocean - December 18, 1889
  45. ^ Pittsburgh Dispatch - January 15, 1890
  46. ^ Dallas Morning News - February 11, 1890
  47. ^ Dallas Morning News - April 4, 1890
  48. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - April 2, 1890
  49. ^ Anaconda Standard ( Montana) - May 3, 1890
  50. ^ Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal - December 30, 1890
  51. ^ Daily Saratogan - June 17, 1890
  52. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette - December 24, 1890
  53. ^ Hutchinson News - January 7, 1891
  54. ^ Chicago Daily Inter Ocean - September 7, 1891
  55. ^ Dallas Morning News - February 1, 1891
  56. ^ Fort Worth Gazette - May 22, 1891
  57. ^ Chicago Tribune - October 29, 1891 and Chicago Inter Ocean - October 29, 1891
  58. ^ Dallas Morning News - March 1, 1892
  59. ^ Dodge City Globe-Republican - September 9, 1892
  60. ^ Wichita Daily Eagle - August 4, 1893
  61. ^ Fort Worth Gazette
  62. ^ Geuda Springs Herald - September 8, 1893
  63. ^ Dodge City Globe-Republican - September 22, 1893
  64. ^ (Season 2, Episode 10 - "Jim Courtright ")
  65. ^ ""Wyatt Fights ", The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, February 25, 1958". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  66. ^ IMDb: Bat Masterson TV series "The Pied Piper of Dodge City." Broadcast on January 7, 1960, NBC Television network. 30 minutes. ZIV Television Productions.
  67. ^ "The Texan". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier: Luke Short by W.B. (Bat) Masterson. Human Life Magazine, April 1907.
  • Luke Short and His Era: A biography of one of the Old West's most famous gamblers, by William R. Cox. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1961.
  • Luke Short: A Biography of one of the Old West's Most Colorful Gamblers and Gunfighters, by Wayne Short (Luke Short's great-nephew). Tombstone, AZ: Devil's Thumb Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9644980-7-3
  • The Notorious Luke Short: Sporting Man of the Wild West by Jack DeMattos and Chuck Parsons. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2015 ISBN 978-1-57441 594-0