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Conkling Studio,Dodge City, June 1883
























                                                The Famous Dodge City Peace Commission

Front Row: Charlie E. Bassett, Wyatt Earp, M. F. McLain, Neal Brown.
Back Row: William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W. F. Petillon.

I found that
Jay Robert Nash,  in his book, Encyclopedia of Western Lawman & Outlaws shows the Peace Commission photo on page 434 and indicates that the man seated front row, third from left is M. C. Clark. A check of the 1880 Federal census reveals an M. C. Clark, age 23, living Blue Rapids, Marshall, Kansas with parents and sibling. So is it Frank McLain or M. C. Clark ?

January 6, 2015 - Attention / Author Jack DeMattos just informed me that his new book about Luke Short will be released late May/2015. 

 

At the time, many lawmen were also active gamblers, like Wyatt Earp, who used to play poker  and even worked as a Faro dealer and  Poker dealer.  This wasn't uncommon back in the old west, and is interesting to note that gambling was one of the common practices shared both by lawmen and by outlaws.

Well, I have found a second source that reports that the man seated between Wyatt Earp and Neal Brown, in the famous Dodge City Peace Commission photo, is M. C. Clark.

James D. Horan and Paul Sann, in their book, " Pictorial History of the Wild West", pg. 105 presents the photo and caption. On page 247, Picture Credits, they indicate the photo came from the Kansas State Historical Society. That is not to say that the Historical Society provided the names, just the photo.

 

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Compliments of Phil Gessert

Other members of the Peace Commission who chose not to be photographed include: Milsap (Johnny Millsap), Shotgun (John) Collins, Shoot-your-eye-out Jack (Jack Vermillion ), Crooked-mouth(Johnny) Green, Rowdy Joe Lowe, W. J. Mason and some say Doc Holliday. It has also been written that Petillion was not a member of the Peace Commission but just wanted to be photographed with this group of men.

The Dodge City Times reported that there was an influx of noted men in town including: Black Jack Bill, Cold Chuck Johnny, Dynamite Sam, Dark Alley Jim, Dirty Sock Jim, Six-Toed Pete and Three Finger Dave. Lawman Bill Tilghman also appears in one of the photos. Lastly, it should also be noted that Constable, Prairie Dog Dave ( Dave Morrow ), had sworn in all members of the Commission making it possible for them to carry guns.

An article from
Wild West Magazine reported that four men were with Wyatt when he stepped off the train. They were:

Dan Tipton, Johnny Green, Texas Jack Vermillion and Johnny Millsap.

The Daily Kansas City Journal,May 13, 1883 reported the presents of :

Masterson, precedes by twenty-four hours a few other pleasant gentlemen who are on their way to the tea party at Dodge. One of them is Wyatt Earp, the famous marshal of Dodge, another is Joe Lowe, otherwise known as "Rowdy Joe;" and still another is "Shotgun" Collins; but worse than all is another ex-citizen and officer of Dodge, the famous Doc Halliday.

Front Street, Dodge City, Kansas 1874
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All Rights Reserved, F.C.H.S.

The LaPlata Miner, June 23, 1883 reported that, "There were forty men with a record of having killed over one, and it is a wonder to all that no killing occurred."

The Dodge City Peace Commission was formed as a direct result of the actions taken by the Powers-To-Be, namely former Mayor Alonzo Webster and his 300 pound whipping boy newly elected Mayor Larry Deger. Webster, owner of the Old House Saloon, wasn't able to attract the business Luke Short was because of Luke's Texas roots. Webster devised a plan whereby Deger would have Luke's girls arrested but Webster's girls were left alone. Luke took exception to this and went looking for those responsible.
 
Louis Hartman, City Court Clerk and special Policeman saw Luke coming in his direction and knew it meant trouble. Hartman decided to get off the first shot so he took aim and let go a round missing Luke. Now think about this for a minute. Luke was not a criminal. He was not wanted for anything. Yet here is a policeman shooting at him because he knew Luke had been wronged.   Just imagine such a scene taking place in a casino in Vegas or on the streets of modern day Dodge City.  Well  Luke wasn't going to put up with that type of treatment. Luke returned fire as Hartman was in full retreat. As Luke fired Hartman stumbled and fell. Luke, believing he had just killed Hartman headed for the Long Branch.

The next day Luke learned he had not killed Hartman and submitted to arrest. Webster and his cronnies decided to run Luke out of town instead of allowing the legal process to run its course. So much for the Law and Order platform Deger ran on when elected. Luke was put on an eastbound train which stopped at Larned, Kansas. Luke got off and telegraphed Bat Masterson.

This was the beginning of the Dodge City Wars. A war in which a shot was never fired.

 

Update Feb 2015: Regarding the question about M.F. McLain / M.C. Clark (the person sitting to Wyatt's left). I received an email from John Trabert of the Ellis Co. Historical Society. He has spent considerable time researching my question and offered the following: My name is John Trabert, I work at the Ellis
County Historical Society and would like to share with you some of my research concerning the person in question seated between Wyatt Earp and Neal Brown in the "Dodge City Peace Commission" photo.  Your website lists some information received by the former archivist of the Ellis County Historical Society linking the Hays City "Frank E. McLain" to the person in the Peace Commission photograph.
After much research I have found that they are not the same person.  Although there was a Frank E. McLain who served as Sheriff and Judge in Ellis County, at the time of the Dodge City War he was busy with preparations for a G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) celebration in Hays. I believe the person in the Peace Commission photograph to be M.F. McLean, and my research coincides with an article written by Jack DeMattos for the April 2013 edition of the Wild West History Association Journal entitled "The Dodge City Peace Commission."

Photographs of the Hays' Frank E. McLain also do 
not match the person in the Peace Commission photograph. Jack DeMattos gives a good personal biography of M.F. McLean, however I would like to share with you the evidence I have found that is not included in DeMattos' article.

 1.) An article about an antelope hunt around Dodge City years prior to the Dodge City War, M.F. McLean is listed as a participant along with Mayor Kelly and Neal
Brown. ( Dodge City times. (Dodge City, Kan.) 1876-1892, January 11, 1879,

2.) An article linking M.F. McLean's name with Luke Short's, as both are listed
as having illegally gambled in Texas. ( The Dallas daily herald. (Dallas, Tex.) 1873-1887, November 19,1886.

3.) An article describing M.F. McLean as being part owner of the Wigwam saloon in El Paso and was in charge of gambling. ( El Paso Herald. (El Paso, Tex.) 1901-1931, September 14, 1912, Fall Fashion Edition, COMIC SECTION, Page 8.

4.) An article describing M.F. McLean disarming an outlaw in Texas: El Paso
Herald. (El Paso, Tex.) 1901-1931, January 27, 1917, HOME
EDITION, Page 6.

I hope this information clarifies the mystery concerning the person in the Dodge
City Peace Commission photograph.  The confusion between the person in the photograph and the Frank E. McLain in Hays are probably due to misspellings and the similarities between not only the names but the occupations and places where they lived.

John Trabert, Ellis County Historical Society 

 



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