As this is what we had based our narrative around, I wanted to have a look into some of the old Western Saloon fights that helped shape America for what it is today.
Long Branch Saloon Gun Fight
Dodge City, Kansas was home to one of the most notorious saloons, Long Branch Saloon. It was popular, notable figures like the legendary gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and Levi Richardson.
Richardson had trouble with another casual at the saloon, Frank Loving, given accusations he hit on Loving’s wife. The two had minor altercations (including March 1879 were they got into a fistfight). This lead up to the events that unfolded on the 5th April, 1879.
Richardson entered the Long Branch Saloon searching for Loving, who wasn’t there. He settled into a game of poker, Loving walking in and copying the man, playing at a table opposite. Richardson got up, moving beside Loving. The two talk in hushed tones, before pulling guns and firing on each other.
Witnesses say 5 shots were fired; Richardson receiving three of these, whereas Loving was only grazed by a bullet. Loving was arrested, but was released on the grounds of self defense.
The Jenkins Saloon Fight
Occurred on the 21st March, 1886 in Hogtown. The saloon (or baile) was a gathering place for cowboys for a dance. After midnight, four cowboys from the LS ranch, Ed King, Frank Valley (Vallé), Fred Chilton and John Lang let the red light district to travel to Upper Tascosa to collect King’s girlfriend Sally Emory. Kings headed to the corner of Spring and Main Streets while Valley, Chilton and Lang secured their horses at the Equity Bar.
As king dismounts he is shot in the face outside the Dunn and Jenkins Saloon. Len Woodruff, the saloon’s bartender, under the orders of Jesse Jenkins and Emory’s paramour before King, shoots again. King is shot in the neck and dies instantly.
As King’s girlfriend flees down the street, Lang calls his two LS buddies out of the Equity Bar; they rush to Dunn & Jenkins. Seeing no one out front, they run to the back just as Woodruff, Louis Bousman, Charlie and Tom Emory, and John “Catfish Kid” Gough exit the back door of the saloon.
Gunfire erupts, with Woodruff and Charlie Emory the first to be hit. Valley runs to an adobe shack and, as he opens the door, he is fatally struck in the eye by a bullet. Chilton shoots restaurant owner Jesse Sheets in the face; the innocent bystander falls dead.
Chilton is shot down himself, in the chest, by someone hiding behind a woodpile outside the saloon. Dying, Chilton hands his pistol to Lang who, caught alone in a cross fire, retreats up Spring Street, firing as he goes. Although bullets are whizzing past him and churning up the dirt at his feet, he makes it back to the Equity Bar, as more of his friends are departing.
The LS cowboy is joined by James East and his deputy, Charlie Pierce. They all head to the Dunn & Jenkins Saloon, where they shoot at a shadowy figure running out from the woodpile. The Catfish Kid goes down, groaning and choking.
As the men search the area for more shooters, Catfish Kid crawls off unhurt. He has faked the hit. The fight finished as quickly as it started.
Bull’s Head -Abilene, Kansas
This saloon had several notable events take place in its facility while in operation. The owner, Phil Coe, outraged townspeople by painting a bull, complete with a puzzle (erect penis) on the outside tavern wall. The marshal, Wild Bill Hickok, threatened to burn the establishment down if the painting was not removed, angering Coe. The two developed a feud, which later resulted in Hickok killing Coe.
A professional lawman, gunfighter and gambler, known as Wild Bill, was later killed on the 2nd August 1876 by Jack McCall. McCall shot him in the back of the head in Saloon No. 10 in Deathwood, South Dakota, during a game of cards. His hand—aces and eights, according to tradition—has become known as the “dead man’s hand”.
Wyatt Earp’s Saloons
Former lawman, faro dealer, and gambler Wyatt Earp worked in or owned several saloons during his lifetime, outright or in partnership with others. He and two of his brothers arrived in Tombstone, Arizona on December 1, 1879 and during January 1881, Oriental Saloon owner Lou Rickabaugh gave Wyatt Earp a one-quarter interest in the faro concession at the Oriental Saloon in exchange for his services as a manager and enforcer.:41 Wyatt invited his friend, lawman and gambler Bat Masterson, to Tombstone to help him run the faro tables in the Oriental Saloon. In 1884, after leaving Tombstone, Wyatt and his wife Josie, Warren, James and Bessie Earp went to Eagle City, Idaho, another boom town. Wyatt was looking for gold in the Murray-Eagle mining district. They opened a saloon called The White Elephant in a circus tent. An advertisement in a local newspaper suggested gentlemen “come and see the elephant“.
In 1885, Earp and Josie moved to San Diego where the railroad was about to arrive and a real estate boom was underway. They stayed for about four years. Earp speculated in San Diego’s booming real estate market. Between 1887 and around 1896 he bought three saloons and gambling halls, one on Fourth Street and the other two near Sixth and E, all in the “respectable” part of town. They offered twenty-one games including faro, blackjack, poker, keno, and other Victorian games of chance like pedro and monte. At the height of the boom, he made up to $1,000 a night in profit. Wyatt particularly favored and may have run the Oyster Bar located in the Louis Bank of Commerce on Fifth Avenue.:71
In the fall of 1897, Earp and Josie joined in the Alaska Gold Rush and headed for Nome, Alaska. He operated a canteen during the summer of 1899 and in September, Earp and partner Charles Ellsworth Hoxie built the Dexter Saloon in Nome, Alaska, the city’s first two story wooden building and its largest and most luxurious saloon. The building was used for a variety of purposes because it was so large: 70 by 30 feet (21.3 m × 9.1 m) with 12 feet (3.7 m) ceilings.
Wyatt and Josie returned to California in 1901 with an estimated $80,000. In February 1902, they arrived in Tonopah, Nevada, where gold had been discovered and a boom was under way. He opened the Northern Saloon in Tonopah, Nevada and served as a deputy U.S. Marshal under Marshal J.F. Emmitt. His saloon, gambling and mining interests were profitable for a period.
Buckhorn Exchange- Denver-Colorado
Founded in 1893 the Buckhorn Exchange was opened by Henry Zietz, a former scout for Colonel Buffalo Bill Cody and a former rider for the Pony Express. Zietz opened it to serve the rail work workers in the station across the street. The place was popular with local Indian Tribes, many of which Zietz had befriended long before the bar opening.
Zietz was also an avid big hame hunter, the saloon’s decor was covered in taxidermies from his previous hunting years. In fact, Zietz was often the guide for Teddy Roosevelt during his hunts in Colorado, and accompanied him to Africa on his safaris.
Crystal Palace- Tombstone Arizona
Built originally in 1882 the Crystal Palace replaced the burnt down Golden Eagle Brewery. It was known for its fancy furnishings and opulence- having banquet quality menus with teams including oysters.
Its famous clientele were also the talk of the town- including Doc Holiday and the Earps. In fact Virgil Earp had his office upstairs in the now missing second floor.