Charlie Bassett was born on October 30, 1847.
As a lawman, he served as the first sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, as well as the city marshal of Dodge City.
Early Life and Civil War
Charlie Bassett was the fourth of six children born to his parents, Benjamin Bassett and Julie Norton. His mother birthed him on October 30, 1847, in Bedford, Massachusetts.
He lived in Massachusetts with his siblings until his parents separated, and he elected to live with his father in Philadelphia.
By the time the Civil War broke out, Charlie was too young to fight, but as the war dragged on, he would become eligible to enlist in 1865.
He enlisted in the Union Army at Frankford, Pennsylvania, where he received a $100 bounty for signing on for a one-year tour as a private in Company I of the 213th Pennsylvania Infantry.
However, Bassett would not serve long. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in April of 1865, and the war that once raged throughout the country began to come to an end.
He was mustered out of his regiment in Washington, D.C., on November 18, 1865, due to an Army cutback after Lee's surrender.
Heading West and Dodge City
After the Civil War, Charlie Bassett moved west. From the years 1865 - 1873, he worked various jobs such as miner, bartender, and buffalo hunter. The West offered more open opportunities than the East.
In 1872, Bassett was a resident of Dodge City. Late in the year, he and a partner, Alfred J. Peacock, opened the original Long Branch Saloon.
Over the next few years, the saloon would change hands often until Luke Short became one of the owners. Short's partnership in the Long Branch Saloon would become a successful one for Bassett.
Becoming a Lawman
The citizens of Ford County, Kansas, elected Charlie Bassett as their first sheriff on June 5, 1873. He had his headquarters in Dodge City.
He was re-elected twice, serving until 1878.
During his term as sheriff, there were some significant events that occurred. On September 18, 1877, Sam Bass and his gang robbed a Union Pacific train of $60,000 at Big Springs, Nebraska. Sheriff Bassett organized a posse, which included Bat Masterson and John Joshua Webb, to pursue the gang. They were unsuccessful in catching the criminals.
According to Kansas law, Charlie Bassett could not run for re-election. Bat Masterson was elected sheriff of Ford County and quickly appointed Bassett as his under-sheriff.
In addition to serving as Bat Masterson's under-sheriff, Bassett was also serving as assistant city marshal under Bat's brother, City Marshal Edward J. Masterson. He was still serving as sheriff when he got the appointment in December 1877.
The Dodge City Times reported, "Sheriff Bassett has been appointed by Mayor James H. Kelley to assist Marshal Edward J. Masterson in preserving order and decorum in the city. Mr. Bassett has had thorough training and is a good man for the place."
On January 27, 1878, Dave Rudabaugh and four others attempted to hold up a train at Kinsley, Kansas. On February 1, a posse led by Sheriff Bat Masterson captured two of the robbers - Dave Rudabaugh and Edgar West.
Charlie Basset assisted his two bosses, Sheriff Bat Masterson and Marshal Ed Masterson, in the capture of two more of the train robbers right in Dodge City.
In 1878, Marshal Ed Masterson was murdered by two Texans named Jack Wagner and Alfred Walker on April 9.
Soon after his murder, the Dodge City Council appointed Charlie Bassett as city marshal and Wyatt Earp was appointed as Bassett's assistant marshal.
On July 29, 1878, James Spike Kenedy attempted to shoot Mayor James H. Kelley and was caught by Marshal Bassett. The young Texan left town only to return and be caught again by the Marshal for disorderly conduct. After paying his fine, Marshal Bassett looked at Kenedy and delivered a famous line that would become a cliche in American culture.
He said, "Get Out of Dodge and stay out!"
At 4:00 in the morning of October 4, 1878, Kenedy was back in Dodge and fired two shots through the front door of a small frame house usually occupied by Mayor Kelley. One of Kenedy's bullets killed a 34-year-old woman named Dora Hand.
The Dodge City Times noted that "the pistol shot was intended for the male occupant of the bed ... who had been absent for several days. The bed, however, was occupied by the female lodger at the time of the shooting."
A posse left Dodge City at 2:00 on the afternoon of October 4. Its members were Marshal Charles E. Bassett, Assistant Marshal Wyatt Earp, Bill Tilghman, Sheriff Bat Masterson, and Deputy Sheriff William Duffey. At 4:00 on the afternoon of October 5, the posse caught up with Kenedy at a location some 35 miles from Dodge.
The posse turned and shot a volley at Kenedy. Three shots slammed into Kenedy's horse, while another shot, supposedly from a .50 caliber Sharp's, shattered Kenedy's left arm.
Three weeks after the killing of Dora Hand, Kenedy was released for a supposed lack of incriminating evidence.
Spike Kenedy returned to Texas to manage his father's 390,000-acre LaParra Ranch. He died from typhoid fever in December 1884.
Leaving Dodge City
On November 4, 1879, the Dodge City Council appointed James Masterson as city marshal to replace Charlie Bassett, who had resigned. According to the local paper:
Ex-Sheriff Chas. E. Bassett, accompanied by Mysterious Dave [Mather] and two other prospectors, started out last week in search of 'greener fields and pastures new.' They went in a two-horse wagon after the style in the days of 49.
After unsuccessfully panning for gold in Colorado, Bassett and Mather drifted successively to New Mexico and Texas. Both men were in San Antonio during the early part of 1881. Mather remained in Texas for the next two years, but Bassett had grown homesick for Dodge City. His return to Dodge was noted by a local paper, which reported,
Charles E. Bassett, ex-sheriff of Ford County and formerly city marshal of Dodge City - one of the old-timers - arrived in the city last Tuesday after an absence of a year and a half. Charley looks as natural as life, wears good clothes, and says Texas is suffering from the dry weather.
Bassett did not remain in Dodge City for long. He moved on to Kansas City, Missouri, where he became manager of Webster and Hughes Marble Hall Saloon. The Kansas City Journal reported his arrival by noting,
Hon. C.E. Bassett, a well-known cattleman of Kansas and Texas, returned to this city yesterday after a brief stay in Dodge City. He will remain here for some time.
On April 28, 1883, the celebrated "Dodge City War" broke out. Luke Short had been run out of Dodge and headed straight for Kansas City, where he looked up Charlie Bassett at the Marble Hall Saloon. Bassett quickly proceeded to re-establish Short in Dodge City. Quick to respond were Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, along with several others.
The Dodge City War ended with both sides reaching an agreement in early June 1883. The war was settled peacefully without any bloodshed. A shaky truce was made, and the Dodge City Peace Commission was formed.
Bassett returned to Kansas City, where he opened the Senate Saloon and was given the nickname "Senator." Unfortunately, the saloon failed, and Bassett went to work as a bartender in someone else's saloon.
Bassett suffered from inflammatory rheumatism during his final years. He went to Hot Springs, Arkansas, with the hope that the water would benefit his health, but he died there at age 48 on January 5, 1896