From High Noon
Continuing to look at the wildest town in the wild west, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the wildest bunch of outlaws the frontier ever saw, The Dodge City Gang...
J. J. Webb was born on February 14, 1847, in Keokuk County, Iowa. For most of his adult life he was a lawman but for a while he was part of the Dodge City Gang. It proved to be his undoing.
In 1862, his family moved to Nebraska and then later to Osage City, Kansas. Webb traveled west in 1871. He was a buffalo hunter and then a surveyor in Colorado. He then drifted from Deadwood, South Dakota to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Dodge City,
By 1875 he was a teamster in Ford County, Kansas/Dodge City. He later became a business owner and peace officer. He was also a leader of the mercenary force on the side of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad in their battle against the Denver & Rio Grande railroad for right–of–way through the Royal Gorge in Colorado.
Webb was well–respected in Dodge City and was deputized to ride in a number of posses. In September, 1877 he rode with Ford County Sheriff Charlie Bassett and Under-sheriff Bat Masterson to Lakin, Kansas in pursuit of Sam Bass and his gang who had recently robbed a Union Pacific train of $60,000 at Big Springs, Nebraska. Their
By January, 1878, Bat Masterson had been made the new Ford County Sheriff, and he deputized Webb along with two other men by the names Kinch Riley and Dave "Prairie Dog" Morrow, to help him track down six outlaws who had robbed the westbound train at Kinsley, Kansas, two days earlier, including "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh. They were caught within days. During the arrest, when Rudabaugh went for his gun, Webb stopped him and forced him to surrender. The other four accomplices were arrested later. Rudabaugh then informed on his cohorts and promised to go “straight.” Rudabaugh's accomplices were sent to prison, but Dirty Dave was soon released, drifting to New Mexico and returning to thievery once again.
In September of 1878, Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife and his band fled their reservation in Oklahoma for their home in the Black Hills. Exaggerated reports of killing and thievery committed by the Cheyenne on their journey began to be told in Dodge City. Most of the soldiers at nearby Fort Dodge were sent out to corral the Indians, leaving only about nineteen troops to protect the area. Dodge City citizens wired the governor requesting arms and ammunition.
The weapons were received within days and Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Lewis, the Fort Dodge Commander, chose Webb and a few others to scout the area. The men soon brought back word that some 200 warriors were nearing and the rumors of their acts continued to grow. It was all smoke and mirrors, however, and things ultimately returned to normal.
Webb moved on to Las Vegas, New Mexico and found many of his aquaintances from Dodge City there, including Henry "Doc" Holliday, David "Mysterious Dave" Mather, Wyatt Earp, and his old nemisis, Dave Rudabaugh. Soon after his arrival in Vegas, Webb partnered with Doc Holliday in a saloon, where Doc spent most of his time gambling.
On July 19, 1879, the two were seated at a card table when a former army scout, Mike Gordon, began to yell at one of the saloon girls who he'd been involved with in the past. He'd tried to convince her to leave town with him and she'd refused. Gordon stormed out of the saloon shouting obscenities. Doc followed him outside and Gordon shot at him. Doc shot once. Gordon died the next day. Doc fled back to Dodge when he heard he'd be arrested for the killing.
In 1880, Webb became Marshal of Las Vegas, joining the Dodge City Gang, a criminal cartel bent on thumbing their noses at the law. For two years, the members of the Dodge City Gang participated in several stage coach and train robberies, organized cattle rustling, and were said to have been responsible for multiple murders and lynchings.
The Dodge City Gang consisted of of men formerly from Dodge City including Justice of the Peace, Hyman "Hoodoo Brown" Neill; City Marshal, Joe Carson, Deputy U. S. Marshal "Mysterious Dave" Mather, police officer John Joshua (J.J.) Webb, and a number of gunfighters and outlaws including "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh, William P. "Slap Jack Bill" Nicholson, John "Bull Shit Jack" Pierce, Selim K. "Frank" Cady, Jordan L. Webb (no relation to J.J.), and a number of other hard cases. While Rudabaugh, Jordan Webb, Cady, Nicholson, Pierce, and the rest committed acts of thievery, Neill, Mather, Carson, and J.J. Webb, helped to cover the outlaws' tracks.
On March 2, 1880, the Dodge City Gang were responsible for the murder and robbery of a freighter named Mike Kelliher. The Ford County Globe of March 9, 1880, reprinted the report from Las Vegas Daily Optic:
"About four o'clock this morning, Michael Kelliher, in company with William Brickley and another man, entered Goodlet [a member of the Dodge City Gang] & Roberts' Saloon and called for drinks. Michael Kelliher appeared to be the leader of the party and he, in violation of the law, had a pistol on his person. This was noticed by the officers, who came through a rear door, and they requested that Kelliher lay aside his revolver.
"But he refused to do so, remarking, "I won't be disarmed – everything goes," immediately placing his hand on his pistol, no doubt intending to shoot. But officer Webb was too quick for him. The man was shot before he had time to use his weapon. He was shot three times–once in each breast and once in the head... Kelliher had $1,090 [$1,900] on his person when killed."
Webb was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. On April 30th, Rudabaugh and a man named John Allen burst through the Sheriff's office to free him. The jail break was unsuccessful and Rudabaugh murdered jailer Antonio Lino in the attempt. Webb's sentence was appealed and commuted to life in prison.
It's been speculated that he was set up by Hoodoo and Dutchy, another member of the gang who left with Hoodoo soon after the incident. It's assumed the pair were motivated by both greed and a desire to get back at Webb for some undercover activities. Webb insisted at the time that he'd been given the impression that Kelliher wanted to kill him/it was a kill or be killed situation. The amount of money that Kelliher had on him had also been misrepresented to Webb, and Hoodoo made off with the bulk of it. The local press and townspeople seem to have had a hard time believing Webb guilty at the time.
After Dirty Dave’s conviction, he found himself in jail with Webb. Soon, the pair along with two other men tried unsuccessfully to shoot their way out of jail on September 19, 1881. One of the men was mortally wounded and the attempt was unsuccessful.
Two months later, Webb and Rudabaugh, along with five other men, chipped a stone out of the jail wall and escaped out of a 7"x19" hole. Rudabaugh and Webb raced to Texas and then to Mexico where Webb disappeared and Rudabaugh was later killed
Later Webb returned to Kansas, where he took the name "Samuel King," and worked as a teamster. Somewhere along the line he moved on to Winslow, Arkansas working for the railroad. In 1882 he died of smallpox in Arkansas. He never married.