by Jim Foreman
Joe couldn't remember the last time the vacancy sign had been hung in the window of the Ellis Hotel, so it was a very difficult decision to convert one of the rooms into a pair of bathrooms. He occupied the two largest and most desirable rooms at the front of the hotel and the loss of another would reduce the number of available rooms to only eleven. However, since Amarillo was to be a modern city, the residents of its only hotel should be able to enjoy the benefits of indoor plumbing.
By moving the existing door and adding another in one of the rooms nearest the middle of the building, it could be divided to make two bathrooms. The plumbers installed bathtubs, flush toilets and lavatories. A small, corner type wash basin was installed in each of the remaining rooms by running the drain pipes through exterior walls and along the outside of the building. Hot water, supplied by a steam boiler located in a room built on the back of the hotel, was piped into the kitchen and the bathrooms, however the wash basins in the rooms were plumbed for nothing but cold. Even so, this was a considerable step upward from the outdoor privy which served the Ellis Hotel when it was located in San Jacinto.
Joe had just finished a steaming hot bath and stepped into the hall to return to his room when he saw John Polk. Polk was having a great deal of difficulty in climbing the stairs due to his obviously drunken condition. He hadn't seen Joe come out of the bathroom because his back was turned toward him. When he finally stumbled to the top of the stairs, Joe could see that he was carrying a double barrel shotgun.
Polk staggered to Joe's office door and began to pound on it, shouting, "Come out of there you thieving sumbitch. You stole my land from me and I'm going to kill you."
Joe, who was wearing nothing but a bathrobe, knew the futility of trying to reason with a drunk man with a gun, so he went quietly down the back stairs and into the kitchen. "Mrs. Ellis, John Polk is up stairs with a gun," he told her. "He is drunk and threatening to kill me. Would you see if you can find one of the other deputies and get them to come down here and take care of him."
"Both Knox and Bates are drinking coffee in the dining room right now," said Mrs. Ellis. "I'll get them for you."
Just as the deputies stepped into the kitchen, two blasts of the shotgun were heard from the second floor. "That's John Polk shooting up the place up there," said Joe. "You'd better get him before he kills someone." A few minutes later, the two deputies came down the stairs, carrying the shotgun and supporting Polk between them.
"We'll take him home where he can sleep it off," said Knox. "When he sobers up from his toot, we will tell him that he ought to pay for the door to your office."
"Aren't you going to throw him in jail and charge him with something?" asked Joe. "After all, he came in here to kill me."
"Gee whiz, Mr. Armitage," said Knox. "I don't think he would have really shot you, that was just drunk-talk. Deputy Polk is a pretty nice sort of fellow when he's sober. It wouldn't look good for us to throw a fellow law officer in jail and, besides, Judge Brewster would just find him not guilty and turn him back out."
When Joe reached the top of the stairs, he found the door to his office was missing a huge chunk of wood where the knob and lock had been blown away. Papers and records were scattered from one end of the place to the other. After he dressed and cleaned up the mess in his office, he returned to the dining room for breakfast.
Just as he was finishing his meal, Roger Bates walked in and sat down across from him. "I probably shouldn't be telling you this," he said. "But last night Emmitt Knox, Lloyd and Warren Brewster were sitting with John Polk and buying him drinks in the Wild Horse Saloon. Polk was already pretty drunk and he was asking the judge what he could do to get the land back that he sold to you. I heard the judge tell him that the deeds were proper and there was nothing that could be legally done for him. Then Judge Brewster said that the only way that he was ever going to get even with you was to shoot you."
"Do you mean to tell me that a Judge actually suggested to a drunk man that he go out and shoot someone?" asked Joe.
"Not only did he tell him that," said Bates. "But the Judge also told John that he would be doing the town a favor if he killed you. Then the Judge said that if someone did shoot you, he would see to it that the person who did it would get off by pleading self defense. Then, he told Knox to give Polk a shotgun and then stick with him. He also told Knox to take a pistol along to put in your hand after Polk had shot you."
"Brewster is only a County Judge and he couldn`t hear a murder trial. Only a District Judge can do that."
"I know that, but John Polk didn't. As drunk as he was, he'd believe anything," replied Bates.
"Would you swear to what you just told me before a Grand Jury?" asked Joe.
"Joe, I don't like working for Mr. Brewster, but running his business and being a deputy are the best paying jobs that I've ever had, and if anyone should ever ask me about this conversation, I'll deny every word of it."
"I can appreciate your position, Mr. Bates, and I thank you for the information," said Joe. "You can rest assured that things are going to change around here and I won't forget what you have done for me."
"I took an oath to uphold the law when I was sworn in as a deputy, and this is the only way that I can do so right now without placing myself in jeopardy."
Joe sat down at his desk and began to make a list of names. The first name on Joe's list was that of Roger Bates. Joe had looked into his background and found that he was born in Columbus, Ohio and lived in an orphanage from the time that he was five years of age. He had worked his way through the University of Ohio, where he received a degree in Business Administration. He married the daughter of a rancher who had a small spread over near Tascosa but had to go to work for Brewster because two families couldn't make a living on the small ranch and there simply were no other jobs around.
The second name on Joe's list was that of Edward Masterson. Ed was around thirty years of age and a cousin of the Bat Masterson of Dodge City fame. Ed had been a Deputy Texas Ranger for several years, but since they would call a Deputy Ranger up for a month or so when he was needed and then let him go until they needed him again forced him to look for something a little more stable. He signed on with the Pinkerton Agency but was discharged less than a year later because trains weren't being robbed as often any more. Ed was now trying to prove up a homesteader down in the breaks of the Canadian River and run a few cattle. He was a board member of the Panhandle Cattlemen's Association and received a small salary each month for serving as a Texas State Brand Inspector.
The last name on Joe's list was Clayton Edwards. Clayton was the son of Congressman Edwards, who had just been elected for his tenth term in Washington. Clayton, like Joe, was a graduate of the University of Texas and was now serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Dallas.
Joe was having dinner in the dining room of the Ellis Hotel a couple days later when Roger Bates walked in. Joe reached under the table with his foot and pushed a chair out in front of him. "Got time to sit and talk a minute?" he asked.
"Actually, I'm busy right now, Mr. Armitage, perhaps later?"
"I'll be riding out to the Masterson place on the river tomorrow and will probably stay the night," said Joe. "Any chance that you could ride along?"
"Ed is the State Brand Inspector and it just happens that I need to take some legal papers to him to be signed," said Roger. "I take it you will leave about daylight?"
"It might not look too good for us to be seen riding out of town together," said Joe. "First one to the gate onto the Lazy J Ranch will wait there for the other."
As they rode together across the rolling grassland the following morning, Joe asked him, "If I'm not being too personal, how much does Brewster pay you as his business manager?"
"Thirty a month," replied Bates.
"That's cowboy's pay," said Joe. "With your education and ability, you should be worth a lot more than that to him?"
"I certainly feel that I am. He was originally paying me forty until he made me a deputy," said Bates. "He said that since I would be spending some of my time being a deputy and getting twenty a month from the county, he would have to dock me ten dollars a month."
"I thought that deputies were paid thirty a month," said Joe.
"The county check is made out to me for thirty dollars, but I have to give ten of it back to Mr. Brewster for what he calls office expense. All the deputies have to pay it in order to keep their jobs," replied Bates.
"So, the total that you get from both jobs is fifty a month," said Joe.
"Not actually. Mr. Brewster holds out another five dollars a month from each deputy for keeping the horse that he rents to the county for use by the sheriff's department. To my knowledge, nobody except John Polk has ever ridden the county horse and that's only because he doesn't have one of his own. Also, I have to hand over another five dollars each month to his son, Warren."
"What are you having to pay Warren for?" asked Joe.
"Mr. Brewster said that the sheriff gets fifty a month, which isn't enough, considering the amount of responsibility associated with the position. He said that the deputies get paid too much for no more than they do, so each one of them has to kick back five dollars a month to even things out. He made it very plain that we would have to do it if we expected to keep our jobs."
"In other words, you get only forty dollars a month after you pay all the kickbacks?" asked Joe.
"Yes Sir, that's all that is left out of the seventy that I should be getting," replied Roger.
"How would you like quit both of those jobs, go to work for me and actually be paid seventy a month?" asked Joe.
"Doing what?" asked Roger.
"To start with, you will take over as sales manager for the Armitage Development Company," replied Joe.
"You have just hired yourself a man, Mr. Armitage," said Roger. "But what did you mean by saying, To start with?"
"I have bigger plans for you, as well as several other people," said Joe. "One of them is Ed Masterson, the man whom we are going to see."
They topped a small rise about a mile from the Masterson place, which was nothing more than a ten acre catch pasture with three horses in it, a half dugout soddy and a tent. The place was situated on a rocky point of land jutting out into the river bed.
The Canadian River ran water most of the year, but was known to dry up if there had been a particularly dry season at its headwaters in New Mexico. This was evidently the present situation because the river was bone dry. They could see Masterson, who was digging a well with a hand auger.
When Masterson saw riders approaching, he went to the tent and returned a few seconds later, wearing his pistol and carrying a Winchester. His wife scurried from the tent to the soddy and disappeared down the steps, pulling the door closed behind her. Facing toward the approaching men, Ed continued to turn the auger.
When the riders came close enough for him to recognize who they were, he stopped work on the well, waved and yelled to them, "Howdy Mr. Armitage, and good to see you too, deputy. What brings you two fellows way out here?"
"Roger has some legal papers for you to sign, and since I hadn't seen you in a couple months, I thought that I'd ride along," replied Joe. "How are things going with you and the misses?"
"Been a mighty rough year, Joe. River quit running a month back. There are still a few holes with enough water for my cattle but they won't last much longer. I've been trying to dig a well, but every time I get down about twenty feet, I hit rock and have to move and start all over again."
"You got a tough row to hoe here," said Joe. "Just you and the wife with no kids to help out."
"You're sure right about that. If it wasn't for that ten dollar check from the state each month for being the brand inspector, we couldn't keep beans on the table. Get down and sit a spell."
His wife had returned from the soddy and he said to her, "Maudie, think that you could put something together for supper for these fellows tonight?"
She looked at him with a pained expression and said, "I have a pot of beans cooking on the fire and I can make some cornbread. Ain't got no meat less you can shoot a deer or something down by one of the water holes."
"Mrs. Masterson," said Joe. "I figured that you might not have been to town for a while, so I brought a few things along for you." He opened his saddle bags and handed her some packages wrapped in white paper and tied with twine. "Here's bacon, lard, flour, sugar, coffee and a few other things that I thought you might be needing."
Her eyes glistened as she reached for the packages but stepped back without taking them. "I'm much obliged to you for bringing this out to us, Mr. Armitage, but we can't take it. We ain't got no money to pay you for it," she replied.
"Go ahead and take it," said Joe. "We will just call it an advance."
"Advance on what?" asked Ed. "What have I got that you could need?"
"Your gun, Ed. Due to certain circumstances, I feel that I need someone like yourself to be around in case you are needed. I want you to move to Amarillo and go to work for me."
"I ain't no hired gun, Joe. I'll never strap on a gun for pay unless it is a legal job."
"I assure you that it is a legal office, Ed. You will be the Amarillo City Marshal, which pays fifty a month, the same as what the Potter County Sheriff gets. You can also keep your job as brand inspector if you like," said Joe. "But as the Marshal, I would expect you would to step in if one man was going after another with a gun."
"You could depend on that," said Ed. "Who do I see about this job?"
"You've already seen him. I'm the Mayor of Amarillo and you have just been hired. Your pay starts as of today and I'd like to see you in Amarillo as soon as possible."
"Ed, you and I both got new jobs today and I think that this calls for a celebration," said Roger as he got to his feet and walked to his horse. He reached into his saddle bag and returned with a bottle.
After a supper of bacon and beans, along with big flaky biscuits and lots of gravy, they sat around a bull fire that Ed built several yards away from the cook fire in front of the tent. As they sipped from the bottle, Joe outlined his plans for the city of Amarillo.
"The following morning, as Joe and Roger saddled their horses to leave, Ed and Maude were gathering their belongings in preparation for the move to Amarillo. "See you in Amarillo in about three days," shouted Ed as they rode away.
"I'll have a place for you to live as soon as you get there," replied Joe.
Roger went by the court house to turn in his badge and tell the sheriff that he was resigning as a deputy. Judge Brewster, who had heard the conversation, came into the office and said, "Well, Bates, so you are quitting as a deputy. That will give you more time to do your job for me. If you work hard, I might give you a raise back to forty a month."
"Not really, Mr. Brewster. I'm quitting that job too," he replied.
"Life around here too tough for you and you leaving Texas?" he asked.
"No sir, I'm not leaving. I'm going to work for Mr. Armitage," replied Roger.
"You're going to do what?" shouted Brewster. "You had better stick with the good job that you have, because I can promise you that Armitage ain't going to be around here much longer."
"I suppose that is just a chance that I'll have to take," replied Roger as he walked out the door.
Two weeks had passed since Roger had changed jobs when Joe told him, "Roger, I'm catching the train to Dallas tomorrow and will be gone for about a week. You have your feet on the ground pretty well, so take charge of things until I return. If any real problems come up, get Ed Masterson to give you a hand."
As soon as Joe arrived in Dallas, he went directly to see Clayton Edwards. "You have been wanting to get into private practice and I have an ideal opportunity for you," he told him. "There`s not a single lawyer in all of Potter County and only three in the entire Panhandle. One is the judge over in Oldham County and the other two are down in Childress where all of the felony cases are tried. One is the District Attorney and the other defends people who are brought to trial. Open a law office in Amarillo and within a month, you`ll have more work than you can handle. In fact, as a starter, I'll give you a retainer and promise you enough title work to keep you going until you build your practice."
They talked for a while and Edwards agreed to come to Amarillo and open a law office. After that was settled, Joe asked him, "Know of any doctors who would like to move there too?"
"Not right off hand, but with all the new doctors coming out of school here, it shouldn't be too hard to find one," replied Edwards.
"Would you take care of finding a doctor who would be willing to move to Amarillo?" asked Joe. "I still have a few more people to see before I return."
When Joe boarded the train for Amarillo a week later, he had not only recruited Edwards to come to Amarillo, but he was bringing another young lawyer with him. He had also found both a doctor and a dentist who would arrive within the month.
The one thing that Joe had wanted most to bring to Amarillo was a newspaper, but getting one which was already established in a large town to move was all but impossible. The next best thing to do is hire away their best man and open your own. This is exactly what Joe did. He went over to see Buck Henry, who was the City Editor for the Dallas Morning News, and made him an offer. "I'll put up the money for publishing a newspaper in Amarillo and you will be the editor. You will be paid the same amount of money that you are getting here plus a share of the profit."
Buck was not only a good editor, but he was also a good businessman and recognized the potential of such an offer. he accepted on the spot and began to arrange to buy a press, linotype machine and other equipment. "The first edition of the Amarillo Times will be published within the month."
The final, and by far the best piece of news that Joe was bringing with him, was that a group of Dallas businessmen had agreed to fund and open a new bank in Amarillo. Eldon Farris, Vice President of the First State Bank of Dallas, would move to Amarillo as president and major stockholder in the new bank.
When Joe walked into his office, Roger also had some news for him. He turned the map of the city around for Joe to see. There had been at least ten new residential lots sold while he was gone, but the big news was that five different business establishments had bought property either on Polk or Filmore Streets. There was a hardware store, a large grocery store, a barber shop and a bakery.
Roger saved the best news for last. "See this whole block marked off here," he said as he pointed to an area just south of the Ellis Hotel. "In our safe is a certified check for $24,000 dollars for those eight lots, and I'll give you three guesses who it is from."
"I'm not much for guessing games," replied Joe. "Who is it?"
"None other than the Foxworth and Galbraith Lumber Company. Not only that, they have taken a one year option to buy the other half block across the alley behind them."
The Foxworth and Galbraith Company was the largest and most conservative lumber company in the world. When they decided to open a lumber yard in a town, it was a definite vote of confidence in that city's future.
"It just happens that I also have some news," said Joe as he picked up a pen and wrote "Amarillo Bank" across the two vacant lots on the corner directly across the street from the space reserved for the Santa Fe Building. "They will begin construction on a three story building within a month."
"It appears that Amarillo is off and running," said Roger as he surveyed the map.
"Any other news that I should know about?" asked Joe.
"One thing, but I can't see any logical reason why he did it," said Roger. "The day after you left, Old Man Brewster built a fence along the entire two miles where his property joins yours. There is a big gate across the road and he put armed guards on the gate and every quarter mile up and down the fence. They refused to let anyone who lives in Amarillo go through the gate."
"I can't understand what he is trying to prove," said Joe.
"Well, he seems that he thought that he could close the whole town of Amarillo down if we couldn't get to the court house and post office which are on his land."
"That would pose a problem, but I don't think that he can get away with it, legally speaking," said Joe.
"He hasn't really gotten away with it completely," said Roger. "The day after Brewster closed the road, Walter Scott loaded all the post office equipment into a wagon and brought around the end of the fence to get here. He rented space in the back of the grocery store for a temporary office until the postal officials can get here and arrange for a permanent location. I already have plans for a new post office building. We will own the building and lease it to them. Scott says that he is sure that they will take our offer."
"I hadn't really thought about us building and leasing a building to the government, but it sounds like a good idea."
"The only problem remaining is how are people going to file deeds on land that they buy from us if Brewster has cut off access to the court house?" asked Roger.
"Pass the word that we will open an orphan clerk's office in Amarillo and file papers free for anyone needing to do so until this situation is settled," said Joe. "The next thing that must be done is to circulate petitions to hold a general election to pick new county officials. Once a Board of Commissioners has been elected, they can do whatever is necessary to gain access to the court house and its records. Clayton Edwards will be here within a week and can advise us on how to go about it."