MYSTERIOUS DAVE MATHER
In his demeanor and behavior Mysterious Dave Mather greatly resembled Doc Holiday in his anti-social behavior. The first of three sons Dave was born on Aug 10, 1851 of Ulysses and Lydia Mather. With his younger brother, Josiah Wright Mather born 11 Oct, 1854, David Allen Mather made his way West. Josiah also became somewhat a noted figure but never achieved the notorious reputation of Mysterious Dave. Josiah died in 1933 in Grangeville, Idaho with his boots off. However the Mather brothers were know as tough costumers and Dave was a particularly hard case with few redeeming features.
According to biographer Jack DeMattos, Mather probably made his appearance in the west in post 1870 where it appears he had some association with a gang of outlaws in Arkansas before moving on to achieve notorious in a area as diverse as Texas to Missouri. The first mention comes from New Mexico Where he mixed gambling and other crooked activities in Las Vegas, a wide open wild and woolly area as ever lived in the west. Here he became acquainted with several Dodge City types prominently Doc Holliday (as you might recall from the Holliday chapter doc roared here until invited to leave). Also here he probably met Wyatt Earp with whom he engaged in the gold brick scheme (see the Wyatt Earp first chapter)
While in Las Vegas he became ambitious and applied for and secured a position as a Deputy U. S. Marshal. This while he was under suspicionof alleged stage coach hold ups. and other robberies. He was never charged with any of those crimes, instead he was busy perusing and arresting his alleges cronies.
However Mysterious Dave is best remembered for his tenure in Dodge City. He arrived in May 1883, at the time of the so called “Dodge City War” ( see the chapter on Luke Short). Dave did not get involved in this mess fortunately for him. On June 1, 1883, Dave became a assistant city marshal. He celebrated by having the only known photograph of himself taken. He is seen with his left arm resting on a colomon, his coat buttoned with the top two buttons as was the custom of the day and wearing his hat with a ribbion around the band proclaiming him as assistant city marshal. Mather’s is wearing the ever necessary droopy moustache, No firearm is in sight. He was also appointed as a deputy sheriff of Ford County. Not everyone was pleased by his appointment, One man even wrote the governor that the the police force was becoming a haven for thugs. If any action was taken it is not recorded and Dave stayed on the job. At the time the marshal , Jack Bridges was earning $100 a month and his assistant $75. that was good money and the council boosted the wage to $150 and $125 respectably. A editor wrote a coulomb stating Dodge City pays its Marshal $150 and his assistant $125 and addition allows them to kill a cowboy or two each season. Both lost their jobs with the next election when the new mayor a old time saloon owner replaced them with Willian (Bill) Tighman (see Cattle Anne and Little Britches) as marshal and a Tom Nixon as his assistant.
Dave retained his positionas a deputy sheriff, but became embroiled in politics, which were in turmoil, when he joined the democratic party. Kansas had introduced Prohibition to mixed reactions. Bad blood existed between Mysterious Dave and Tom Nixon since Nixon had taken his assistant marshal’s job. Added to this Nixon was in partnership with a Orlando Bond in a saloon-dance hall. Mather interred into a partnership with a Dave Black and wanted to open the Opera House as a dance-Hall. On May 22 the city council passed legislation which forestalled the Mather-Black Oprah House stating it was unlawfull to operate a dance hall where men and women could dance and carry on in any other way. However some how it did not apply to the Lady Gay owned in partnership with Nixon. Selling only liquor in the Oprah house was not profitable and was further complicated by pressure applied to local liquor dealers not to do business with the Opra House.
It soon became obvious to Mather-Black that Nixon was in the process of ruining them. And it was only a mater of time before trouble would come into the open. Tom Nixon had a shrouded past as a buffalo hunter. He had a small ranch outside of Dodge where he and his wife Cornelia were raising a small family. Rumor had it that the saloon dispute was a smoke screen and the real trouble was a affair between Mather and Cornelia Nixon (this has never been verified).
Tom Nixon made the first move on July 18, 1884. As Mather stood in the open doorway of the Oprah House , which was located in a upper story, Nixon crept to the bottom of the stairs and fired up at him. Mather’s was not hit, just powder burned and hit by flying splinters. Sheriff Pat Sughare ran up and disarmed Nixon and escorted him over to the jail. Mather said he was not armed and Nixon disagreed and claimed Mather had gone for his gun which is why he fired. Mather dismissed his wounds as superficial and would not press charges. Most people opined that the mater was not over. Nixon was bound over on $800 and was to appear in the next court term on charges of attempted murder.
A local merchant said that mysterious Dave Mather was a wicked man, a killer of killers. It is stated that Mather’s had more dead men to his credit than any other man in the west (I have seen this several times but never any evidence to support the claim). However On July 21, 1884 at 10 PM Dave added one more to his list. He shot and Killed Tom Nixon. In a newspaper article titled THE MURDER it states Dave Mather descended the stairs of his establishment and as the assistant marshal was on duty at the corner of Front and First Ave. he called out Nixon’s name and shot him four times as he turned around. Two shots hit him in the right side one on the left and one passing through his left nipple killing him instantly.
Mather’s was immediately placed under arrest and a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 30. There are lengthy testimony available, but I am not going to rehash it. Most felt Nixon was unaware of the danger until the shooting started. However after much wrangling the trial was moved from Ford county to Kinsley, Kansas on Dec 30 the Jury retired for 27 minutes and returned with a not guilty verdict. They felt Tom Nixon had got what he had coming to him.
Mysterious Dave Mather’s subsequent career was fraught with scrapes and his final disappearance lived up to his name, no one knows for sure what happened to him, he simply disappeared. A body found along the tracks of the Central Texas Railroad was thought to maybe be him as the general description fit, but the body was too badly damaged for true identification. His brother later said ” we do not know what happened to Dave, we wish we knew”
Like I say he was described as a deadly killer but no names or incidents are provided MYSTERIOUS TO THE END.
Well gonna straddle the old saddle and lope on out of here, till next time