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Sherman McMasters (1853 - 1892?) was an outlaw turned lawman, largely forgotten now, who was one of the six men involved in the Earp vendetta ride.

Early life

Sherman W. McMaster was born in 1853 in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Sylvester W. McMaster. Not much is known of his life before heading out west, but he was believed to have met Pony Diehl here. He soon moved to Texas, and became a Texas Ranger. He met Curly Bill Brocius here, who was a prisoner under McMaster's Ranger division. In 1878 Curly Bill escaped from prison, being (depending on whose story you believe) helped by McMasters. Soon after, along with Curly Bill, Johnny Barnes, and Pony Diehl, McMaster moved to Arizona where he was usually known as McMasterS.

Life as an outlaw and gunfighter

McMasters had started working for the Texas Rangers in 1878, the same year that he first met Brocius. By most accounts he was a good lawman, and was respected for his talents with a gun. However, by July of 1880 he was suspected of stealing US Army mules, and in the theft of two horses. He was also a suspect in a stagecoach robbery near Globe, Arizonamarker. Some accounts have since indicated he was possibly working undercover for the Rangers to break up the Cowboy Faction, but there is little evidence to support either way. By the time the clash between the Earps and the Cowboys came about, McMasters was clearly in allegiance with the Earps.

He played an important role in the vendetta. Once a member of the cowboy (outlaw gang) he later changed his views and sided with the Earps. He by all accounts had previously met and became friends with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Dodge City, Kansasmarker. He assisted Wyatt Earp in taking out his revenge on the outlaw gang for the death of Wyatt's brother, Morgan Earp, and the shooting of his other brother Virgil Earp, all following the Gunfight at the OK Corralmarker. Among the other participants in the Vendetta were Wyatt and his younger brother Warren Earp, John Henry "Doc" Holliday, Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, and Texas Jack Vermillion.

McMasters is one of the more mysterious figures associated with the Earps. Little is known about his life prior to the vendetta ride, other than he had worked on cattle drives, and was known by reputation as a gunfighter. His date or even year of birth is not known for certain. It is believed he killed a man in self-defense after a card game in Dodge City, prior to arriving in Tombstone.

Whether or not McMasters was an outlaw, or an undercover Wells Fargo agent, still remains a mystery.

Death

A letter written by Will McLaury indicates in a letter to his father, that McMasters had been killed in a shootout by the cowboys.

Wyatt Earp claimed in the Flood manuscript that McMasters had been killed in 1898 in the Philippinesmarker, while serving as a soldier in the Spanish American War. However, official records do not list him as a soldier. Wyatt's account of the death of Texas Jack Vermillion in this manuscript is known to be wildly erroneous and possibly a tall tale, so none of this information may be trustworthy.

The best source, however, was filed by his older sister, indicating his death in Colorado in 1892.

Trivia

He was portrayed by actor Michael Rooker in the film Tombstone (1993).

McMasters has been portrayed in almost every Earp film.

References

Allen Barra (1998). Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Lengends, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., ISBN 0803220588.


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