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Mayor A.B. Webster, “Dodge City’s Fighting Mayor”

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Mayor A.B. Webster

Alonzo B. Webster was born in Pembroke, New York in 1845. As a young man he enlisted in the United State Army and served in the Civil War. Following the war he went in search of finding wealth west and settled in Fort Hays, Kansas. He went into business for himself and soon earned a reputation as being a “distinguished character against the lawless element of the town.” A group of ruffians once entered his dry goods store and confronted Webster and told him to leave town. Refusing to give in to their threats, Webster drew a revolver at the leader and shot him dead.
Webster and his wife Amanda, a true lady, moved to Dodge City in 1872. He soon set himself up as a businessman in the wild town on the prairie. His dry goods store was located at the intersection of 1st Avenue and Front Street. As a businessman Webster was active, enterprising and honorable. His integrity was unquestioned, and among those that knew him, his word was legal tender. Webster formed a great friendship and business partnership with O.A. “Brick” Bond. The two men first opened the Stock Exchange Saloon, and later they opened Palace Drug Store after prohibition began sweeping the country. The two men would be devoted to one another the rest of their lives. Webster was exploring business opportunities in Kansas City when he heard his friend Brick had taken ill with pneumonia. Webster immediately boarded a train to Dodge City, to help his ailing friend.
In 1881, Webster was elected to his first of four terms as Mayor of Dodge City. He made no fancy promises when he took oath of office, but word soon spread among the cattle trails that Dodge City had a mayor who knew how to use a sawed off shotgun and was an artist with a revolver. Soon after taking office Webster published a set of rules for Dodge City policemen, never seen before. City lawmen were from that point on, prohibited from outside employment required to wear their badge and could not be intoxicated while on duty. They also had to have the mayor’s permission to leave town.
Webster was said to have the manhood and the nerve to enforce the law. He was elected mayor believing he would enforce the law. Up to this point, Bat Masterson, a noted desperado, was running the city of Dodge City with a gang of ruffians he formed. They were all defying the law as they wished. This came to a head when there was a large disturbance in the middle of Front Street with Bat in the middle of the foray with his two pistols drawn. Mayor Webster did not call upon some timid police officer to enforce the law. Instead, Webster grabbed his sawed off shotgun, marched into the middle of the street and aimed his weapon right at Bat. He then said to him, “Damn you, throw up your hands or you are a dead man.” Bat dropped his two six guns, threw his hands up, and law was enforced that day in Dodge City.
During one of his four elections, there had been a reported “Bummer” about town spreading lies about Webster to try to deter him from being re-elected. Webster won the election, upon the win, the same man spreading the lies about town attempted to congratulate him on his victory. Webster raised his cane up and broke it in half over the man’s head. He said to him, “You can lie about me, but you must never dare speak to me, even to congratulate me over my election.”

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Funeral procession of Mayor A.B. Webster, April 1887. Corner of 2nd and Front Street, Dodge City.

Despite his bold ways of making Dodge City a safe place for its residents, Webster unfortunately suffered from rheumatism. He was elected to his last term of mayor on April 6, 1887, but passed away from his ailment on April 12, 1887. Even in his last hours and when irrational, his talk and hope and enthusiasm was of and for Dodge City and its prosperity. His last days, he kept asking about progress on the light plant for the city he had worked so hard for, as well as the drainage and sewer systems vital for the city to move into modern times. The entire city of Dodge City went into mourning upon his passing. His funeral and procession were like none ever seen in the town.

 

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Burial of Mayor A.B. Webster. Prairie Grove Cemetery, Dodge City, April 1887.

 

Webster and his friend Brick Bond agreed to be buried beside one another upon their passing. Webster was initially buried in Prairie Grove Cemetery, but was later moved to Maple Grove Cemetery. Upon Brick Bond’s passing in 1927, he was buried beside his old friend, and they remain in eternal rest together to this day. One Dodge City Editor wrote of Webster upon his death, “His faults were few, his enemies less. He was laid to rest with no recollection of either by the living.”

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