Luke Short

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Not to be confused with Luke Short (writer).

Luke L. Short
Luke Short.jpg
Born (1854-01-22)January 22, 1854
Polk County, Arkansas
Died September 8, 1893(1893-09-08) (aged 39)
Geuda Springs, Kansas, United States
Cause of death Bright's disease
Nationality American
Occupation Gambler, saloon owner, gunfighter, Army scout, boxing promoter
Spouse(s) Hattie Buck
Parent(s) Josiah Washington Short and Hetty Brumley
Luke Short. Wearing an H tie pin, obviously honoring his wife Hattie

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. He was associated with three of the most famous saloons in the Old West: the Oriental in Tombstone, Arizona Territory; the Long Branch in Dodge City, Kansas; and the White Elephant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Early life[edit]

Luke Short was born in Polk County, Arkansas on January 22, 1854. He was the fifth child of Josiah Washington Short (February 2, 1812 – February 8, 1890) and his wife Hetty Brumley (February 2, 1826 – November 30, 1908).[1] Short had nine siblings. Martha Frances, John Pleasant, Josiah, Jr., Young P., Mary Catherine and Henry Jenkins Short were all born in Polk County, Arkansas. The family soon moved to Montague County, Texas.[2] Josiah and Hetty had three more children there: George Washington, Belle Nannie, and William B. Short.

In 1869, at age 15, Luke Short started work as a cowboy, which he continued in through 1875 and during which he made several trips to the Kansas railheads.[3] In an interview later in his life, Short told researcher George H. Morrison that he moved to the Black Hills in 1876 and the next year to to Ogallala, Nebraska.[4] Short was reported, possibly beginning in a 1907 magazine article by Bat Masterson,[5] to have killed six drunk Sioux Indians at various times. Later writers have relied on Masterson's story as truthful and added to it, but no documentation of these killings has been found.[citation needed]

In 1878, Short worked as a dispatch courier from Ogallala, Nebraska for Major Thomas Tipton Thornburgh from October 6 to 8. Short earned $30 (about $740 in 2014). He then served as a civilian scout for Thornburgh through October 20. He enlisted at Sidney, Nebraska to be paid $100 a month (around $2450 today). However, he only served for 12 days and was paid a total of $40.[6]

Luke moved to Leadville, Colorado in 1879 to take up gambling.[7] Bat Masterson later wrote that Short seriously wounded a man during a gambling dispute in Leadville.[5] He remained in Colorado and was in Buena Vista, Colorado—about 30 miles (48 km) from Leadville—until June, 1880,[8] when he moved to Kansas City.[7] Short only remained in Kansas City until late November, but was accused and jailed for swindling Texan John Jones "out of $280 on Three Card Monte", and Short was jailed[9] on October 5 for six days.[10] In late November 1880 Short moved to Tombstone, Arizona.

Deals Faro in Tombstone[edit]

Luke Short first met Wyatt Earp, William H. Harris and Bat Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Earp had lived in Tombstone for nearly a year when Short arrived in November 1880. William H. Harris arrived in Tombstone about a month after Short.[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.

Kills Charlie Storms[edit]

Luke Short was serving as the lookout, seated next to the dealer at a faro game in the Oriental when he became involved in what became a well-known gunfight on Friday, February 25, 1881. His opponent was Charlie Storms. Bat Masterson, who was in Tombstone at the time, described what happened in a magazine article he wrote in 1907:

Charlie Storms was one of the best-known gamblers in the entire West and had, on several occasions, successfully defended himself in pistol fights with Western 'gun-fighters'...

Charlie Storms and I were very close friends, as much as Short and I were, and for that reason I did not care to see him get into what I knew would be a very serious difficulty. Storms did not know Short and, like the bad man in Leadville, had sized him up as an insignificant-looking fellow, whom he could slap in the face without expecting a return. Both were about to pull their pistols when I jumped between them and grabbed Storms, at the same time requesting Luke not to shoot, a request I knew he would respect if it was possible without endangering his own life too much. I had no trouble in getting Storms out of the house, as he knew me to be his friend. When Storms and I reached the street, I advised him to go to his room and take a sleep, for I then learned for the first time that he had been up all night, and had been quarreling with other persons...

I was just explaining to Luke that Storms was a very decent sort of man when, lo and behold! There he stood before us, without saying a word, he took hold of Luke's arm and pulled him off the sidewalk, where he had been standing, at the same time pulling his pistol, a Colt's cut-off, 45 calibre, single action; but like the Leadvillian, he was too slow, although he succeeded in getting his pistol out. Luke stuck the muzzle of his pistol against Storm's heart and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore the heart asunder and, as he was falling, Luke shot him again. Storms was dead when he hit the ground.[13][notes 1]

Storms' body was taken to the undertaker's where the coroner's jury was empaneled and testimony heard. They reached a verdict that Storms came to his death from three pistol wounds at the hands of Luke Short and that Short's actions were justifiable.[14][15] The court recorded a "Disposition of Cause" that stated any further action following the preliminary hearing had been "Ignored by Grand Jury." [16] Luke Short was free to go as there was no further legal action taken.

Five days after Storms died, the Leadville Democrat wrote about the shooting. It said that Storms approached Short and "catching him by the ear", demanded an apology. According to the account, Storms grabbed Short's ear with his left hand and his right hand contained pistol aimed at Short. Short drew his weapon and shot Storms, who returned fire but missed. Short then put two more bullets into "the sinking soul of Storms." [15]

Life in Dodge City[edit]

Main article: Dodge City War

Short left Tombstone in early 1881 soon after killing Storms. He briefly turned up in Deming, New Mexico before arriving in Dodge City during April 1881. He remained in Dodge City until the final months of 1883, although he made frequent trips to other places to pursue gambling opportunities. Short's friend William H. Harris had sold out his interest in the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone. He and his partner Chalk Beeson owned the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City and Harris gave Short a job as a Faro dealer. By this time Harris had become one of the wealthiest men in Kansas.[17]

Takes over Long Branch Saloon[edit]

Interior of the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas.
Chalk Beeson, co-owner with William Harris of the Long Branch Saloon.

During February 1883 Chalk Beeson sold his interest in the Long Branch to Short. The legal Dissolution Notice stated that "Mr. Beeson is selling his interest in the business to Luke Short who will continue the business with Mr. Harris."[18] In March, Harris was nominated to run for mayor of Dodge City. Within a few days, on March 19, 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.[19]

Long Branch prostitutes arrested[edit]

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.[20]

Forced out of town[edit]

On April 30, Short was again arrested (along with five other gamblers) and placed in jail. The following day Short and the five others were escorted to the train depot and given their choice of east or west-bound trains.[21] Short went east to Kansas City, Missouri where he looked up Charles E. Bassett at the Marble Hall Saloon. Bassett and Short 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.[22] 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.

Short and Bassett, along with William F. Petillon, began conceiving a plan to get Short back to Dodge City. Luke went to Topeka, the capital, on May 10, where he presented a petition to Governor George W. Glick. Short returned to Kansas City 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.[23]

The Dodge City Peace Commission on June 10, 1883. Standing (L-R): William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon. Seated (L-R): Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Michael Francis "Frank" McLean and Cornelius "Neil" Brown. Photo by Charles Conkling.[24]

Dodge City Peace Commission Formed[edit]

Deger's action came during the cattle season and promised ruin for the cowtown's seasonal boom, and it was economics rather than bloodshed that 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 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 was taken, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp departed on a westbound train for Colorado.[25]

The Long Branch Saloon had reopened, and the "Dodge City War" had ended without a shot being fired, but Short decided to move on. On November 19, 1883 Short and Harris sold the Long Branch to Roy Drake and Frank Warren. Short moved to San Antonio, Texas for a brief time before deciding to return to Fort Worth.[26]

Partnership in White Elephant Saloon[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 had a role in what later became three of the most well-known saloons in the American Wild West: the Oriental in Tombstone, the Long Branch Saloon 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, which was described as "the largest and most magnificent establishment in the state".[27] Several other investors also owned shares, including Sam Berliner and former Dodge City "peace commissioner" Michael Francis "Frank" McLean. The new partnership was announced in the Fort Worth Daily Gazette on December 16, 1884: "The White Elephant saloon has changed hands. Messrs. G. Burgower and Nath Bernstein selling out their interest to Messrs. Jake Johnson and Luke Short"[27]

Jake Johnson was one of the wealthiest men in Texas and his part ownership of the White Elephant was just one of his many business and real estate enterprises. As a part-owner, Short no longer dealt cards but had card dealers working for him.[28]

On May 9, 1885 in what became a routine element of doing business, Short, Jake Johnson, and M.F. "Frank" McLean and three others pleaded guilty and were each fined $25 for "gaming".[29] Late in 1885 or very early in 1886, Jake Johnson sold his share of the White Elephant to John L. Ward, and in May 1886, Alex Reddick sold his share to William H. Ward, John Ward's brother.[30]

Bat Masterson was a boxing enthusiast and had been trying to interest Short in the sport. At first Short 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.[31]

Just as Bat Masterson had transformed Short into a boxing enthusiast, Jake Johnson was responsible for making horse racing a major part of Short's sporting agenda. Johnson and two partners had opened the Fort Worth Driving Park in January 1885. Short 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. Short and "Tobe" came in dead last in a field of five.[32]

Showdown with Jim Courtright[edit]

1887 would be Short'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 event-filled year began with Short'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 Short'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 Short 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 Short'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." [33]

One historian [34] has suggested that this transaction was prompted by problems that Short 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.[35] It was further suggested that Short needed the money to start fresh in another town where he would not have to worry about Courtright, who had a reputation as an excellent gunman[36] who had killed several men in the line of duty. However, 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 Short's 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 Short needed help so Johnson agreed to buy Short's share.[37]

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, Short was the last man standing.[35][36] Here, in his own words, is 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."[38]

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.[35] Just nine days after buying out Short's one-third interest in the White Elephant, Jake Johnson sold it to William H. Ward.[39] Finally, Short was able to settle his legal problems with the court in Dallas. All of the cases against him were dismissed with no explanation.[40]

Marriage to Hattie Buck[edit]

Following the resolution of his legal problems, Short was now financially stable, so he decided to travel to Kansas and marry Hattie Buck in Oswego, Kansas on March 15, 1887.[41] Harriet Beatrice Buck was born in Coles County, Illinois on October 5, 1863. She was the fourth of eight children born between 1858 and 1878. Buck's family later moved to Emporia, Kansas, where her father died a few years prior to Harriet's marriage. Short and his wife went to Fort Worth, Texas shortly after their wedding but soon boarded a train "for a brief stay in Hot Springs."[42] A.G. Arkwright later recalled, "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."[43]

The couple remained in Hot Springs for two months and in May they returned to Fort Worth[44] for 11 days before leaving town again[45] for Kansas City, where they arrived on June 8. A local paper reported that Short "made his appearance in this city this morning."[46] On June 15, 1887 the Shorts attended the wedding of Luke's friend William H. Harris in New York. Harris and Short both had an interest in horse racing and may have attended the races at Monmouth Park near Long Branch, New Jersey. Short and Hattie then followed the racing circuit to Saratoga Springs, New York. A reporter from Albany described Short as "a quiet little man" whom he had met "at the Monmouth race track" a few days before. The reporter wrote that "Short is accompanied by his wife and is doing the racing circuit."[47]

Horse racing and the Palais 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.[48] By October 1888 Luke Short and Jake Johnson were back in Fort Worth. Short 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.[49] Short may have been part owner but remained a silent partner.


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. The Shorts always stayed at the Leland Hotel on Michigan Avenue. In July 1889, Short was among the party going from Chicago to New Orleans in a private railway car to attend a prize fight. Short 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." Short explained to the reporter that he would "go anywhere in the world for Bat." [50]

Short and Masterson 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 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." [51] Short'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, along with an ambition to become a boxing promoter.

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.[52] On January 11, 1890 Short decided to make the match more attractive by writing Richard K. Fox, the editor and publisher of the National Police Gazette, at that time the sporting man's "Bible." Short 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." [53] In spite of Short's eagerness for success in the promotion endeavor, events beyond his control continued to occur in his life. On February 8, 1890, Short's father, Josiah Washington Short. died in San Angelo, Texas "at the ripe age of 78 years",[54] although Short only learned of his father's death after the burial. Soon thereafter, Short's youngest brother William B. Short was killed at the age of twenty-two "by a herd of stampeding cattle on the Tankersly ranch." [55] There is some confusion over the date of Will Short's death. A Fort Worth paper stated that he was killed on March 31,[56] yet the Texas Death Records, as well as his tombstone, give the date as March 29, 1890.

The racing circuit[edit]

The Shorts were on the move during most of what remained of 1890. On April 24 Short was at the Belle Meade sale of thoroughbred race horses in Nashville, Tennessee with Jake 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." [57] 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, Short and Johnson left Nashville and went to Memphis to watch the races. Also in Memphis was a gambler named Charles M. Wright, who would be involved in a gunfight with Short 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, reported as "thousands of dollars" 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 the entire amount. 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." [58]

Following the racing circuit occupied much of Short'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.[59] 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.

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 Short's pistol shattered Wright's right wrist. In describing Short'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." [60] Reports of the shooting, along with updates on Short'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." [61] Short would remain bedridden for months. In 1891 a Chicago newspaper published a lengthy profile of Short. 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." [62] 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.[63] 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, Short 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.[64] 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 Short 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 Short was gone, an actor named William F. Hoey (1854–1897) walked into the hotel lobby. The actor turned out to resemble closely the lawyer Short 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.[65]

On March 1, 1892 a decision was reached in the State v Luke Short. Short was found guilty of aggravated assault against Charles Wright and a fine of $150 was assessed against him.[66] 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. Masterson and Short had placed their bets on Corbett, while "Bassett bet his money on Sullivan." [67] This gathering at the Sullivan-Corbett fight was almost certainly the last time the trio got together.


By the start of 1893 it had become apparent that something was seriously wrong with Short'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 or chronic nephritis. Short's symptoms would have included high blood pressure and urine of a dark or bloody color. Edema, then 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. Short was in Fort Worth when a Kansas newspaper reported that he was "lying at death's door." [68] 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." [69] It did not have the desired effect.

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." [70] Just two days before Short'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." [71] 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 found herself a widow at 29 years old.[72]

The funeral of Luke Short took place in Fort Worth on September 10, 1893. Short's body lay in state until 2:30 that afternoon. At 3 o'clock a line of carriages more than a mile long followed Short's body to Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth. His grave marker is a simple upright stone including the inscription: "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[73] 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 (1917–1995) played the role of James H. "Dog " Kelley, the mayor of Dodge City.[74]

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.[75]

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 (1922–1999).[76]


  1. ^ The original magazine article on Luke, along with Bat's Human Life articles on other gunfighters are very rare. The entire series was compiled in book form as The 75th Anniversary Edition of Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier by W.B. (Bat) Masterson. Annotated and Illustrated by Jack DeMattos. Monroe, WA: Weatherford Press, 1982. ISBN 0-9604078-1-2


  1. ^ The National Police Gazette published a profile of Luke in their issue of March 15, 1890. This article was published while Short was still alive, and was based upon information provided to the publication by Luke Short himself.
  2. ^
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Morrison, "Luke Short Dictation," March 19, 1886. Hubert Howe Bancroft Texas Dictations, Manuscript P-033, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
  5. ^ a b Masterson, W.B. "Bat". "Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier: Luke Short." Human Life Magazine, April 1907
  6. ^ "Reports of Persons and Articles Employed and Hired at Sidney Barracks, Nebraska During the Month of October, 1878." Old Military Records Division, National Archives
  7. ^ a b Morrison, "Luke Short Dictation, March 19, 1886"
  8. ^
  9. ^ Kansas City Star—October 7, 1880
  10. ^ Kansas City Star—October 11, 1880
  11. ^ Dodge City Times—January 1, 1881
  12. ^ Dodge City Times February 24, 1881
  13. ^ Masterson, W.B. "Bat." "Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier: Luke Short, Human Life Magazine (Vol. 5, No 1) April 1907
  14. ^ Arizona Weekly Citizen (Tucson), February 27, 1881
  15. ^ a b Leadville Democrat, March 2, 1881
  16. ^ Criminal Register of Arizona. The Territory of Arizona vs. Luke Short for Murder. T.J. Drum for the Territory, W.J. Hunsaker for the Defendant. Papers filed from Justice's Court on May 2, 1881. "Discharged from custody of Examination for Murder. Ignored by Grand Jury."
  17. ^ During June 1882 William H. Harris became one of the five founders of the Bank of Dodge City and served as Vice President of the bank. On August 17, 1882 The Dodge City Times reported that "W.H. Harris purchased of J. Collar, the latter's interest in the C.O.D. brand of cattle, paying about $20,000. The firm of Beeson & Harris now owns the C.O.D. brand."
  18. ^ Ford County Globe, Dodge City—February 6, 1883
  19. ^ Dodge City Times, April 5, 1883.
  20. ^ Ford County Globe May 1, 1883
  21. ^ Dodge City Times, May 3, 1883.
  22. ^ Charles E. Bassett and Alfred J. Peacock opened the Long Branch Saloon in late 1872.
  23. ^ Leavenworth Times June 5, 1883
  24. ^ Luke Short in Dodge City Peace Commission; 1883; original photograph; Ford County Historical Society; retrieved October 2014
  25. ^ Dodge City Times June 14, 1883
  26. ^ Ford County Globe (Dodge City), January 1, 1884.
  27. ^ a b Fort Worth Daily Gazette December 16, 1884
  28. ^ The White Elephant was described in The Fort Worth Daily Gazette of December 12, 1884 as the "Pride of the city" and "the largest and most magnificent establishment in the state." The paper detailed the various games of chance, in the "club rooms" that Luke was in charge of. That large gambling section, controlled by Luke, also included a dozen billiard tables. Short maintained an office at the White Elephant and greeted customers, but never dealt cards there.
  29. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette May 9, 1885
  30. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette May 15, 1886
  31. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette, June 29, 1885.
  32. ^ Dallas Morning News November 14, 1886
  33. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette February 8, 1887
  34. ^ Richard F. Selcer, Hell's Half Acre, 185-86, Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1991 ISBN 978-0-87565-088-3
  35. ^ a b c Tarrant County Historical Journal—Edition 01 Jim Buel
  36. ^ a b Tarrant County Historical Journal—Bad Blood
  37. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette, February 8, 1887.
  38. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette February 9, 1887
  39. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette February 17, 1887
  40. ^ Dallas Morning News February 26, 1887
  41. ^ 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
  42. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette March 25, 1887
  43. ^ New York Sun July 25, 1897
  44. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette May 21, 1887
  45. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette June 2, 1887
  46. ^ Kansas City Times June 8, 1887
  47. ^ Albany Evening Journal July 26, 1887
  48. ^ New York Times September 4, 1888
  49. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette October 21, 1888
  50. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune July 3, 1889
  51. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer July 13, 1889
  52. ^ Chicago Daily Inter Ocean December 18, 1889
  53. ^ Pittsburgh Dispatch January 15, 1890
  54. ^ Dallas Morning News February 11, 1890
  55. ^ Dallas Morning News April 4, 1890
  56. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette April 2, 1890
  57. ^ Anaconda Standard ( Montana) – May 3, 1890
  58. ^ Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal December 30, 1890
  59. ^ Daily Saratogan June 17, 1890
  60. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette December 24, 1890
  61. ^ Hutchinson News January 7, 1891
  62. ^ Chicago Daily Inter Ocean September 7, 1891
  63. ^ Dallas Morning News February 1, 1891
  64. ^ Fort Worth Gazette May 22, 1891
  65. ^ Chicago Tribune October 29, 1891 and Chicago Inter Ocean October 29, 1891
  66. ^ Dallas Morning News March 1, 1892
  67. ^ Dodge City Globe-Republican September 9, 1892
  68. ^ Wichita Daily Eagle August 4, 1893
  69. ^ Fort Worth Gazette August 23, 1893
  70. ^ Geuda Springs Herald September 8, 1893
  71. ^ Dodge City Globe-Republican September 22, 1893
  72. ^ Hattie Short was born on October 5, 1863 and was just 27 days shy of turning 30 when her husband, Luke Short, died on September 8, 1893. Luke Short was 39 years old at the time of his death.
  73. ^ (Season 2, Episode 10 – "Jim Courtright ")
  74. ^ ""Wyatt Fights ", The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, February 25, 1958". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  75. ^ IMDb: Bat Masterson TV series "The Pied Piper of Dodge City." Broadcast on January 7, 1960, NBC Television network. 30 minutes. ZIV Television Productions.
  76. ^ "The Texan". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 


  • Cox, William R. Luke Short and His Era: A Biography of One of the Old West's Most Famous Gamblers, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1961.
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Gunfighters of the Real West: Luke Short," Real West, December 1982.
  • DeMattos, Jack. "The Dodge City Peace Commission Revealed," Wild West History Association Journal, (Vol. VI, No. 2), April 2013.
  • 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
  • Masterson, W.B. (Bat). "Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier: Luke Short," Human Life Magazine (Vol. 5, No. 1), April 1907.
  • Masterson, W.B. (Bat) The 75th Anniversary Edition of Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier (Annotated and Illustrated by Jack DeMattos), Monroe, WA: Weatherford Press, 1982 ISBN 0-9604078-1-2
  • Miller, Nyle H., and Snell, Joseph W. Why the West Was Wild. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1963.
  • Ryall, William. "The Luck of Luke," True Western Adventures, April 1961.
  • Short, Wayne. Luke Short: A Biography of one of the Old West's Most Colorful Gamblers and Gunfighters, Tombstone, AZ: Devil's Thumb Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9644980-7-3
  • Walker, Wayne T. "Killer in Fancy Pants," True West, October 1956.