Dutch Henry Born: Wild West legend

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
I don’t know if those pistols wielded by Pagosa pioneers were loaded. On the left is Fil Byrne, Archuleta County’s first school teacher and superintendent of schools. On the right is cattleman and frontiersman Henry Gordon. In truth, these men were friends and helped each other build our county.

Dutch Henry Born of Pagosa Springs pioneer history spent a good part of his nefarious life dodging the law in Dodge City, Kan.
While lounging in Trinidad, Colo., Dutch Henry, as the old country western song says, “fought the law and the law won.”
The report on this event is recorded in “Great Gunfighters of the Kansas Cowtowns 1867-1886,” published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1967.
Anybody who likes to kick off his shoes, plop down on the couch and cradle a bowl of popcorn while watching Wild West heroes on TV knows who Bat Masterson was. The unvarnished truth is, Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Bill Tighlman and a whole passel of Dodge City history makers were acquaintances of Dutch Henry. I’ll let the readers judge the moral uptitude or downtitude of Dutch’s environment.
Starting on page 242 of the book cited above, we read as quoted from the hometown newspaper, “The first masquerade ball of this season was given on Christmas night by the Dodge City Social Club. The grotesque masquers assembled at the Dodge House, where the ball was given, and participated in the amusements laid out for them unknown to each other, until 12 o’clock, when the order was given to ‘show up’ which occasioned a considerable amusement, as many had so disguised themselves that even their most intimate friends failed to recognize them. This was one of the most real enjoyable dances given for a long time, and was attended by a very harmonious class of our society. Messrs. Webster, Marshall, Conner and Willett were the committee on management and the music was under the superintendence of Mr. Geo. Hinkle, Messrs. Cox and Boyd. The proprietors of the Dodge House made themselves particularly agreeable and their guests correspondingly comfortable. Champagne and wine flowed freely, but not to excess, and a merrier Christmas night was never enjoyed in Dodge. As near as our reporter could distinguish the following is a list of those who were present and participated: … W.B. Masterson and Miss Brown …
“As far as Sheriff Masterson was concerned, the year 1879 started off auspiciously. On New Year’s Day he journeyed to Trinidad, Colo., after one of the West’s most wanted men, Dutch Henry.
“This man was considered to be one of the most successful horse thieves, escape artists and all around outlaws in the West. His fame approached that of Jesse James and the Younger brothers back East. Naturally the capture of such a character would be quite a feather in any lawman’s hat.”
Next week: Dutch Henry under the gun of Bat Masterson — what happened?

This story was posted on January 6, 2019.