1881 Bat Masterson’s last shootout On the streets of Dodge City, famous western lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson fights the last gun battle of his life. Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson had made a living with his gun from a young age. In his early 20s, Masterson worked as a buffalo hunter, operating out of the wild Kansas cattle town of Dodge City. For several years, he also found employment as an army scout in the Plains Indian Wars. Masterson had his first shootout in 1876 in the town of Sweetwater (later Mobeetie), Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded. Found to have been acting in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his rough ways and become an officer of the law. For the next five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a tough and reliable lawman. However, Masterson’s critics claimed that he spent too much as sheriff, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1879. For several years, Masterson drifted around the West. Early in 1881, news that his younger brother, Jim, was in trouble back in Dodge City reached Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Jim’s dispute with a business partner and an employee, A.J. Peacock and Al Updegraff respectively, had led to an exchange of gunfire. Though no one had yet been hurt, Jim feared for his life. Masterson immediately took a train to Dodge City. When his train pulled into Dodge City on this morning in 1881, Masterson wasted no time. He quickly spotted Peacock and Updegraff and aggressively shouldered his way through the crowded street to confront them. “I have come over a thousand miles to settle this,” Masterson reportedly shouted. “I know you are heeled [armed]-now fight!” All three men immediately drew their guns. Masterson took cover behind the railway bed, while Peacock and Updegraff darted around the corner of the city jail. Several other men joined in the gunplay. One bullet meant for Masterson ricocheted and wounded a bystander. Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung. The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns to stop the battle when a brief lull settled over the scene. Updegraff and the wounded bystander were taken to the doctor and both eventually recovered. In fact, no one was mortally injured in the melee, and since the shootout had been fought fairly by the Dodge City standards of the day, no serious charges were imposed against Masterson. He paid an $8 fine and took the train out of Dodge City that evening. Masterson never again fought a gun battle in his life, but the story of the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson’s lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City. 1947 Fertilizer explosion kills 581 in Texas A giant explosion occurs during the loading of fertilizer onto the freighter Grandcamp at a pier in Texas City, Texas, on this day in 1947. Nearly 600 people lost their lives and thousands were injured when the ship was literally blown to bits. Ammonium nitrate was used as an explosive by the U.S. Army in World War IIand, after the war ended, production of the chemical continued as its use as a fertilizer became accepted. However, the precautions used in its transport became far more lax in the post-war years. On April 16, the Grandcamp was being loaded with ammonium nitrate as well as tobacco and government-owned ammunition. Cigarette smoking, although officially banned, was a common practice by longshoremen on the docks. Just two days prior to the explosion, a cigarette had caused a fire on the docks. On the morning of April 16, smoke was spotted deep within one of the Grandcamp‘s holds. Some water and an extinguisher were used to fight the fire, but hoses were not employed for fear of ruining the cargo; there were already 2,300 tons loaded on the ship. While the ammunition was removed from the ship, the crew attempted to restrict oxygen to the hold in hopes of putting out the fire. Apparently they did not realize that because of ammonium nitrate’s chemical composition, it does not require oxygen in order to burn. By 9 a.m., flames had erupted from the hold and within minutes it exploded. The blast was heard 150 miles away and was so powerful that the ship’s 1.5- ton anchor was found two miles away. The force of the explosion lifted another ship right out of the water. People working at the docks were killed instantly. Pieces of flaming debris damaged the oil refineries in the area. A nearby Monsanto chemical storage facility also exploded, killing 234 of the 574 workers there. Nearly all of the survivors were seriously injured. A residential area of 500 homes was also leveled by the blast. Another ship, the High Flyer, which was carrying similar cargo, was pushed completely across the harbor. The crew fled when it came to rest, failing to notice that a fire had started and the next day their ship also exploded. Two people died. In all, 581 people died and 3,500 were injured. The explosion caused $100 million in damages. A long-disputed court case over the cause of the blast was resolved when Congress granted compensation to 1,394 victims. They received a total of $17 million in 1955. The port was rebuilt to handle oil products only.