atm-logoWhat happened to Old West gunman “Mysterious” Dave Mather?

Johnny “Arizona” Crawley
Salem, Oregon

Well, that is a mystery.

Dave Mather was born in Connecticut in 1851. When he was in his teens, he ran away to sea, but decided he was better on dry land. He made his way to Dodge City, Kansas, in the early 1870s. Over the next decade or so, he ran cattle, hunted buffalo, gambled, pulled off some robberies and played hired gun to powerful interests. He ran with the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, Ben Thompson and Dave Rudabaugh. Mather also wore a badge as a deputy town marshal in Dodge City for a short time, in 1883, during the bloodless Dodge City War.

When Mather disappeared, the stories began. One had him going to Canada, joining the North-West Mounted Police and living into the 1920s. Another has him shot to death in Dallas, Texas, in 1886. That’s unlikely, as he was reportedly in Long Pine, Nebraska, in 1887. Afterwards, he dropped off the map.

Even his brother Josiah lost track of him. It was much easier to get lost back in 19th-century America than it is today.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.
If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

Related Articles

  • Dave-Mather

    Dave Mather was a man of mystery—not only in life, but also in death. “Mysterious…

  • james-crutchfield

    A Tennessean by birth, James A. Crutchfield (Jim to his friends) says he became a…

  • Native is the first book in Mike J. Sparrow’s projected “Manifest Destiny” series portraying the…