|The information below comes from, "The Republican", a Denver, Colorado newspaper dated July 24, 1893 ( just 47 days before Luke's death).|
Luke Short, a man who ranks with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Middleton, Doc Holliday and other noted Western man killers, has been stopping in Denver for the past week. His present abode is 946 South Tenth Street. He came here by the advice of his physicians to get the benefit of the mild climate, as his health has been somewhat poor lately.
Nothing in Mr. Short's speech or personal appearance would indicate that he had taken eleven human lives. Outside of a certain sternly determined look in his eyes, his face wears an expression of kindly non-combativeness. His voice is soft and has a ring of refinement in it not usual to the ordinary border "terror". He is never loud toned and talks but little, being particularly reticent about his past history. He never refers in any way to the exploits he has performed with his revolver, and when questioned is loath to rehearsethem. From his dress and general make-up, Luke Short might be set down as a merchant or a bank clerk. He wears little jewelry, and dresses plainly in a grey suit, black derby hat and russet shoes. He is 5 feet 8 inches tall and carries his 160 pounds, weight in a body that is slim and symmetrically proportioned.
HIS EARLY SCHOOLING
In no outward particular does this man indicate the cowboy by birth and training, the gambler by choice and the slayer of men by force of circumstance. And yet Luke Short is all these.
He was born in Arkansas 39 years ago, and with his family moved to Texas when but a child. There his father settled on a ranch near Fort Worth, and in this way young Short became inured to the rough life of a cowboy and got his training in the use of the revolver and lariat. He grew up in the saddle, and when but a boy became noted as a quick and accurate shot with the revolver. Those were wild days around Fort Worth, and the shedding of human blood was looked upon lightly. Amid such surroundings, Short grew up to manhood.
In 1876, when the trouble between the United States troops and the Sioux Indians was on, Short entered the United States service as scout, attaching himself to General Crook's command. In this capacity, he went with Crook's expedition into the Black Hills country.
There his first famous feat of arms was performed, in which, single-handed, he killed five men with his rifle.
In carrying dispatches from headquarters to a distant outpost one day, Short was attacked by a band of fifteen Indians. They were ambushed among the crags in the foothills some distance from Short's destination.
DROPPED FIVE INDIANS
The first intimation he had of their presence as he rode by was to hear the crack, crack of their rifles and the singing of the bullets around his head.
Putting spurs to his horse he rode straight in the direction of the outpost, turning in his saddle to look for the redskins. Soon they appeared from behind the crags, all mounted on swift pponies and riding straight for him, sure of an easy capture. Short returned their fire and dropped the three foremost in quick succession with as many bullets. This checked their advance but did not stop their bullets. None of them hit the scout and he gained rapidly upon the Indians.
They urged their ponies and two better mounted and bolder than the others were closing up on him. Deliberately checking his horse's pace, Short turned in his saddle and taking quick aim dropped the two Indians one after the other. With five of their number dead, the other ten Indians became cautious and contented themselves with taking long distanceshots at the scout. He gave no more heed to them and was soon out of range and safe in the camp with his dispatches. He remained with General Crook's troops until Sitting Bull was captured and the war closed, and acquired an enviable reputation.
TWO MORE UNDER THE TABLE
In '77 and '78, Luke Short settled in Nebraska, living around Sidney and Ogallala. From there he moved around the neighboring territories and finally into Dakota. In a camp there one night he killed two noted desperadoes and horse thieves, making the fight against the pair single-handed.
He was dealing Spanish Monte in a gambling house, and the two horse thieves went against the game and dropped all they had. They then demanded the return of the money, and being refused pulled their guns. But Short was too quick for them, and when they were picked up from under the tables both men were dead with two of Short's 45-caliber bullets in their bodies. Neither one was given time to pull a trigger.
Later, in the same region, Short killed two other men of the same character, who tried to raid his gambling house, This made nine in all.
In the spring of '81, Luke Short was dealing faro at Lou Rickabaugh's saloon, at Fifth and Allen Streets, Tombstone, Arizona. There he got into the famous fight in which he shot and killed Charley Storms, a noted gambler and desperado, who had a record of killing three men.
MR. STORMS GETS IT
Storms had a grudge against Lou Rickabaugh and made up his mind that day to kill him. Early in the mornin, he began to load up on whiskey until he was fighting drunk. At 9 o'clock, he swaggered into Rickabaugh's place and began to abuse Rickabaugh. Seeing that Storms was bent on trouble and wishing to avoid it, Rickabaugh stepped out a side door and left the house.
Disppointed, Storms then began to abuse Short, who was left in charge, and the two went for their guns, when friends interfered and stopped the fight. Storms was induced to leave and did so. But his thirst for blood was unappeasable, and in two hours, he was seen again coming in the direction of Rickabaugh's place. Some one told Short that Storms was coming back and he stepped to the door, determined to have the trouble out on the sidewalk.
Storms stopped in front of the door, and addressing an insulting remark to Short, pulled his gun. Just as he pulled the trigger, Short fired and kept on firing. His bullet entered Storm's breast, and Storms staggered out on the sidewalk and fell.
The first bullet, which as fatal, entered his heart and carried with it a portion of a pocket-handkerchief that hung from the left breast pocket of Storms' coat. A small piece of the handkerchief was found in the dead man's heart. The second entered his abdomen.
While the shooting was going on, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and others stood around, but none of them interfered.
Short was arrested on a charge of murder, but was acquitted, as the evidence showed the killing to be done in self-defense.
HIS NEXT ENCOUNTER
On February 7, 1877 (note: this is an error. Luke killed Courtright on Feb. 8, 1887) Short killed Jim Courtright at Fort Worth, Texas. Short was at that time proprietor of the White Elephant gambling house on the main street of the town. Courtright was a "terror" by profession, and had a record of five killings. He had been special officer in Short's place, but when the big strike occurred on the Miwssouri Pacific Railway he left to take charge of a body of deputies who were hired to protect the company's property from the strikers.
In a street fight with the strikers, Courtright and his deputies used their rifles and killed four of the strikers. Popular opinion pronounced this murder, and Courtright, who gave the order to fire, was held responsible for the bloodshed. When the strike ended, he tried to get back his job in the White Elephant, but Short would have no more to do with him. He then gave it out around town that he would run Short out of Fort Worth, and began a war on the gambling house as a preliminary.
His efforts in this direction met with no success, so he made an attempt to compromise with Short, but it failed. The nervy gambler neither feared nor cared for anything Courtright could do to injure him. This embittered Courtright and he concluded to kill Short.
IT DIDN'T WORK
To this end, he adopted a ruse. On February 7, he called at the White Elephant and, meeting Jake Johnson, Sort's partner, at the door, said that he wanted to make up with Short. Stepping inside, Johnson told this to Short. The later sized the matter up in its true light, and when he went out his gun was loosened and he was ready for Courtright's game.
"Let us shake, Luke," said Courtright raising his right hand from his hip, where it had been resting. In the hand, he held his revolver, and as he pulled the trigger Short shot , the bullet taking off Courtright's right thumb and entering his side. Courtright's bullet went through the window of the gambling house.
Taking no chance Short continued to pump led into Courtright's body until he fell dead in the doorway of a shooting gallery next door to the White Elephant.
RUN OUT OF TOWN
In May '83 a rival gambler named A.B. Webster aided by the city government, compelled Luke Short leave Dodge City where he was at that time running the Long Branch house in partnership with W.H. Harris. Webster had a pull with the authorities and wishing to be rid of a successful rival, he used it to get Short out of town. He got a law passed through the council placing certain restrictions on gambling. But it was enforced against no one but Short.
Seeing that he would get the worst of it, Short closed his house, and made a trip to Kansas City where he told his story to a number of friends. In a few weeks, he returned to Dodge City with a strong following of armed cowboys. He opened his saloon that day, ran it as he pleased and defied the authorities. Fear of his friends' Winchesters deterred the officers from interfering and during the time, he remained in Dodge City after that Luke Short owned the place.
AT A SPRINTING MATCH
Another instance of his determination occurred in Salida, Colorado, in the spring of 1882. A foot race had been arranged between M.K. Kettleman, the famous sprinter, and Harry Campbell of Leadville. The local sports backed the Leadville man to ein, while Short laid thousands upon Kerrleman, knowing his ability. Kettleman was "fixed" to lose by the crowd that backed Campbell and came in four feet behind.
Short saw that the race was crooked and wasn't going to lose his money that way. An old-time sprinter was referee and when Campbell crossed the tape he was announced the winner.
"What's that you say?" asked Short quietly stepping up to him. The referee turned, to look down the barrel of a big six-shooter. "Oh, yes," he stammered. "I mean, your man has won by a foot." An attempt was made by the backers of Campbell to get possession of the bets on the race, but Short and his friends were to soon for them and were allowed to leave the town unmolested.
Short's last shooting adventure was in Fort Worth, in January 1891. He had trouble with a man named Wright, and one night Wright pushed the barrel of a shotgun between the folding doors of Short's gambling-house and took a shot at Short, who stood inside. The charge of buckshot passed through Short's left thigh, inflicting a number of flesh wounds, and took away the tips of his left hand, thumb and two fingers. Short turned quickly and shot at Wright through the glass door, hitting him in the arm. Wright hasn't been seen in Fort Worth since.
Luke Short's present home is in Fort Worth, where he owns a gambling-house. For the past ten years, he has followed horseracing, making books on the Eastern and Southern circuits. The remainder of his time he spends in Fort Worth. Among those who know him all over the country, Short is voted a good fellow and a square sport.
Note: This newspaper article was contributed by Kenny Vail, thank you Kenny.