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




14 Responses to “Gunslingers: MYSTERIOUS DAVE MATHER?”

  1. Charles Pace Says:

    I appreciate the OLD WEST Ramblings.. Have you ever Read or Heard the True Story of William W. Pace Trial and Shooting / Murder of William Gilson in Sweetwater TX about 1885 or 1886. Very interesting both the Murder and the Trial.. Politics was involved as well since Pace was a Travis Co Deputy Sheriff and Company B Frontier Battalion Ranger.

  2. ramblingbob Says:

    No Charles, I havnt heard about this event. I basicly have six books that I get most of my material from, and none of them mention it. I’ll try the internet to see what comes up. As you can tell I have a fasination with our countrys history mainly the old west and our own wars. Havn’t even really started on the wars. thanks for your visit and comments.
    PS I will have been doing this two years this April any your last visit helped push me over 13,000 hits. WOW who knew?? ramblingbob

  3. Bert Says:

    Dont know why, but for some reason I entered Dave Mathers name in Google search. Didnt expect much to change, in the way of “mysterious”.
    Always been a fan of the old west, lawmwen and gunslingers alike. Enjoyed the read on Dave, gonna mark your site in my fav’s and visit again, see what else ya got.

  4. ramblingbob Says:

    Well Bert thanks for stoping by, and thanks for comment, it is nice to know that somebody appreciates the rambels.

  5. rangerdoug Says:

    whoh, pardnuh, you need to get close to the technology of spell check on your computer!!! seriously tho, your opening statement in your article fascinated me…because i have always thought that mysterious dave was a dead ringer for doc holiday….compare pictures…they look like twins..hmmm

  6. ramblingbob Says:

    Rangerdoug: Boy were you right, I went through a period where my spell check would not work, and this must have been one of those times.
    also sometimes my eyes are so strained arter one of these sessions that I must have just given up and not even even proof read the ramble, thanks for calling my attention to it. Yes I just went to one of my books and on oposite pages there were The good doc and Dave almost facing each other. and other than dave wearing a that and his left sholder raised it looked like the same photograph. Only after close study can you see a slight diffrence in the nose. but both have the same brooding eyes and eye brows. thanks for the input. ramblingbob

  7. ramblingbob Says:

    Oh yeah rangerdough, you don’t happen to be the rangerdough of the “Riders In the Sky” bunch?

  8. Susan Fleming Says:


    My name is Susan Fleming. I’m Tom Nixon’s gggrand daughter. His and Cornelia’s son, Howard Tracy Nixon is my great grandfather, his daughter Buela Cornelia Nixon, my paternal grandmother.

    I would love to have access to any research that you have found that supplied you with the information to write this article. I have microfitch of the news clippings. But you brought up some other interesting tidbits.

    I have Tom Nixon’s pictures as well as Cornelia Houston, and Howard Tracy. They also had another child, Jessie.



  9. ramblingbob Says:

    Susan, I used several books combined , that I have I will have to go back and see which ones I used as soon as I can I will respond.

  10. Israel Says:

    I’m actually related to Mysterious Dave Mathers. He’s my ancestor from my mothers fathers side [: I’m one lucky girl.

  11. merchant compare Says:

    merchant compare…

    […]Gunslingers: MYSTERIOUS DAVE MATHER? « The life, times and adventures of Rambling Bob[…]…

  12. Cindy Says:

    I think the admin of this web site is genuinely working hard in favor
    of his web page, since here every stuff is quality based stuff.

  13. todd and sonja Says:

    Can anyone tell me what the NY connection to Dave matters as he once called New York Dave how and why I would like to know? Any answers would be appreciated.

  14. Wendi Says:

    This is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise information… Many thanks for sharing this
    one. A must read post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: