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Gunfight at Hyde Park

Updated on September 2, 2015

What began as a difference of opinion over local politics in the Red Front Saloon of Newton, Kansas, boiled over to become perhaps the biggest gunfight in Wild West history. The date was August 11, 1871 and incidents of that day would lead to a battle which would later become known as the Hyde Park Gunfight. It would be a day the town wouldn’t soon forget.

Although it never became as famous as shootouts like the one at the OK Corral, maybe it should have since there was more blood spilled and lives lost.

Ironically, the two who started the incident were local peace officers, Mike McCluskie and Billy Bailey. Both had been hired to keep the peace during upcoming elections. McCluskie was an Irishman from Ohio with a quick temper and Bailey, who had came from Texas on a cattle drive, didn’t like McCluskie from the moment the two met.

Citizens of Newton rarely saw the two together when they weren’t arguing over something. August 11th was no different. The two quarrelsome men were in the Red Front Saloon when once again they became embroiled in a heated dispute and ham handed McCluskie’s Irish temper flared.

Old West Faro Game

He swung at Bailey and connected with a powerful blow which knocked him out into the street. As Bailey was picking himself up out of the dust, he saw McCluskie had followed him out and had drawn his pistol. Still dazed, Bailey wasn’t quick enough to draw his own gun before he was struck twice in the chest. Bailey died the next day and McCluskie left town fearing he would be arrested.

However, he returned shortly afterwards claiming he had killed Bailey in self defense. He said he had feared for his life since Bailey was a known gunslinger who had already killed two men in several other gunfights. The authorities bought the defense and McCluskie remained in town. That would shortly prove to be a big mistake. Bailey had friends in Texas and when they heard about what had happened they vowed to avenge his death.

Had McCluskie known, he probably never would have gone into Tuttle's Dance Hall located in an area of town called Hyde Park on the evening of August 19th. He and a friend, a Texas cowboy named Jim martin, had planned a quiet evening playing Faro. The two sat down at the table of another friend, 18 year old James Riley.

It was after midnight when three of Bailey’s friends, Billy Garrett, Henry Kearnes and Jim Wilkerson strode in and took up a position to watch McCluskie and waited. Garrett was a gunfighter who had already put two notches on his pistol grip. Not long after another Texan, Hugh Anderson, entered. Anderson spotted McCluskie and wasted no time getting directly down to business. He walked straight up to McCluskie and hollered "You are a cowardly son-of-a-bitch! I will blow the top of your head off!"

Without another word he drew his gun and shot the dumfounded McCluskie in the neck. Wounded, McCluskie drew and tried to fire. However, his pistol misfired and as he slumped to the floor Anderson finished the job by shooting him in the back several more times.

When the gunplay began the other three Texans also began shooting as Riley had leapt to his feet, pulled his revolvers and started wildly spraying lead. Gun smoke made it hard to see who he was shooting at but surprisingly he hit seven men before his guns were empty. It was surprising because Riley had never been in a gun fight before.

In the meantime peaceful patrons in the establishment had toppled tables and chairs as they hastily dove for cover, but not before Riley hit two Santa Fe Railroad employees. One was shot in the abdomen and died several days later, the other was wounded in the thigh but made a full recovery. Perhaps that’s why Riley later disappeared and was never heard from again.

Martin was shot through the neck and he staggered out across the dusty street where he died on the steps of Krum's Dance Hall. Garrett, was shot in the shoulder and chest and died a few hours later. Kearnes was mortally wounded. Wilkerson and Anderson were also injured. Wilkerson was shot in the leg and nose while Anderson took two bullets in one of his legs.

Shortly after, a warrant for Anderson’s arrest was issued, but somehow he managed to board a train bound for Kansas City and escaped justice. He eventually made his way back to Texas but was never brought to trial for murdering McCluskie.

One would think that would’ve put an end to the issue, but it didn’t. Mike McCluskie’s brother, Arthur, had gotten wind of what had happened in Newton and was outraged at Anderson. Arthur was bound and determined to kill Anderson no matter how long it took.

Anderson was safe as long as he was hiding in Texas, but then he made the mistake of returning to Kansas in 1873. When Arthur found out he tracked his quarry down in Medicine Lodge where Anderson was working as a bartender at Harding's Trading Post.

On the 4th of July Arthur challenged Anderson to a dual giving him a choice of guns or knives. Anderson chose guns and came out to confront his opponent. Standing face to face both men drew and pumped bullets into each other until their chambers were empty. Amazingly both were still standing. They then went at each other with knives until both lay dead in the dirt.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      An even better idea would be to not go in one to start with.

    • WesternHistory profile image

      WesternHistory 5 years ago from California

      Another interesting post Thanks. There seems to have been many people who unfortunately returned to the area where their misdeeds originally took place. Probably not a good idea. It's been said that Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead in Deadwood by someone seeking revenge for the supposed killing of his brother by Hickok. Don't think that was ever proven however it was probably good advice to say away from armed people in old west saloons and also a good idea to sit facing the door.

    • profile image

      femmeflashpoint 5 years ago


      I never make threats, lol.


    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Femme, Is that a threat? LOL

    • profile image

      femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

      Wow! What a mess!

      I understand why people feel they must seek revenge. Not saying it's a good thing, but I understand it. I don't understand though, why they draw innocent people into the situation who had nothing to do with what's upset them in the first place.

      I'm not pro gun control, but I AM pro slective aiming.