James H. "Dog" Kelley

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James H. "Dog" Kelley

Mayor of Dodge City
Ford County, Kansas
In office
Preceded by P. L. Beatty
Succeeded by Alonzo B. Webster

Born February 19, 1834
United States of America
Died September 8, 1912

(aged 78)
Kansas Soldiers' Home
in Fort Dodge

Resting place Fort Dodge Cemetery
in Ford County
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Missing
Children Irene (estranged; last name unknown)
Occupation United States Army scout


Military Service
Service/branch Army of the Confederate States of America

United States Army scout

Battles/wars American Civil War

James H. Kelley, also known as Jim Kelley or Dog Kelley (February 19, 1834 – September 8, 1912), was an American frontiersman and businessman who as the mayor of Dodge City, Kansas, briefly supervised the law-enforcement careers of such officers as the Earp and Masterson brothers: Wyatt and Morgan Earp and Bat, Ed, and James Masterson.[1]

Military, political, and business career

Kelley's place of birth is unknown. After fighting in the Army of the Confederate States of America, Kelley joined the United States Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment as a scout under Lieutenant Colonel and former General George Armstrong Custer. In 1872, the Seventh was stationed at the former Fort Dodge, Kansas. Because Kelley enjoyed hunting and greyhounds and had cared ably for Custer's own dogs, Custer gave him a parting gift from the Army: a dozen greyhounds. Hence his nickname became "Dog." Once in Dodge City, often called simply "Dodge" but not to be confused with "Fort Dodge" some five miles to the southeast, Kelley raced his dogs in the open gambling culture of the frontier.[1][2] Kelley also had a tame bear that he named "Paddy," which for a time became the town pet in Dodge City. As the animal grew larger and more rowdy, cowboys often tormented Paddy, and the creature was exterminated in 1883 and served as the main dish at the community Christmas dinner.[3]

In Dodge City, Kelley entered the restaurant business with Peter L. Beatty. Their Beatty & Kelley Restaurant adjoined the Alhambra Saloon, which they also co-owned. The original building had been moved to Dodge City from Hays in Ellis County, Kansas, where Kelley had apparently lived only for a few months.[4] In business at the time with a general store was Robert M. Wright, one of the founders of Dodge City and from 1875 to 1883 a state representative and a subsequent mayor.[5]

Peter Beatty became the acting mayor in 1875. Kelley, who first served on the Dodge City town council, followed his business partner as mayor for the term from 1877 to 1881,[1] when he was defeated for reelection[6] by Alonzo B. Webster, a former New Yorker and Union Army veteran. The government of Dodge City was then controlled by a clique of merchants, saloon operators, and gamblers known as "the Gang." This group favored opening the community to the cowboys from Texas who arrived in Dodge City at the end of their trail drives and brought heavy business to the town. In May 1877, the cowboys shot up the town so badly that Mayor Kelley wired Wyatt Earp, who was then Deadwood, South Dakota, to return to Dodge City to bring order to the municipality. Earp became the deputy town marshal along with his brother, Morgan Earp. He sought more severe sentences from the courts, barred certain troublemakers from Dodge City, and organized a citizens' committee to help guard the streets.[1]

On April 9, 1878, after only eleven days as city marshal, Edward J. Masterson was murdered by drunken cowboys. On December 15, Mayor Kelley appointed Charlie Bassett (1847-1896), while still the sheriff of Ford County, to replace Ed Masterson with the simultaneous title of sheriff and assistant marshal. Ed Masterson had been appointed by the city council to replace Lawrence "Larry" Deger, who had quarreled with Mayor Kelley and was himself later the mayor. After Bat Masterson became sheriff, he named Bassett his undersheriff. By the time Kelley's term as mayor ended, with the triumph of an anti-Gang reformist group,[6] Dodge City had largely settled down. He continued his restaurant partnership with Beatty until 1885. In 1886, he opened the Kelley Opera House, which he soon sold. For a total of twenty-six years, Kelley operated the Beatty & Kelley Restaurant, the Alhambra Saloon, and the opera house at the intersection of First Avenue and Front Street in Dodge City. He also invested heavily in local real estate.[1]

Reversal of fortunes

Kelley lost his holdings in financial reversals in the late 1880s. He spent his later years at the Kansas Soldiers' Home at Fort Dodge, now an unincorporated community in Ford County. There Kelley died of tuberculosis at the age of seventy-nine in September 1912. He had one known survivor, a daughter Irene, who did not attend his funeral, which was held in the Army chapel. Apparently, she no longer lived in the general area. It is not known when or if Kelley married; he is listed as "unmarried" at the age of forty in 1873.[7] Kelley is interred at Fort Dodge Cemetery.

Upon his death, the The Dodge City Daily Globe described Kelley as:

open-hearted and generous, optimistic and friendly. Whatever he had that a friend needed that friend always received. His generosity kept him from wealth, and [an economic] panic finally robbed him of his property. His help aided through the hard times many ... who are now substantial businessmen in the western country. He had been a scout under Custer, serving several years on the frontier. It was that service that secured him a home at Fort Dodge, a special bill being introduced several years ago to reward the frontiersmen for his service as scout. ...

Kelley was a great lover of sports. In his day it was popular for every man to have a bunch of hounds, and Kelly had some Russian hounds that he had imported that were winners at all the coursing meets which took the place of horse races in those days. Attired in a suit of white corduroy and mounted on his big white horse he was a figure not soon to be forgotten."[8]

Television depiction

The bearded actor Paul Brinegar (1917-1995), a native of Tucumcari, New Mexico, played Kelley in thirty-three episodes from 1956 to 1958 of the ABC/Desilu western television series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O'Brian (1925-2016) in the title role. In the second and third episodes of the second season, set in Dodge City, entitled "Dodge City Gets a New Marshal" (September 4, 1956)[9] and "Fight or Run" (September 11, 1956), Kelley is the hold-out vote on the city council to Earp's plan to require gun owners to check in their weapons upon entering town. In reality, Kelley was already the mayor when Earp arrived in Dodge City from Deadwood. In the series, the Big T cattle company, angry with Earp for trying to clean up Dodge City, enlists Kelley's help in a planned ambush of Earp. Kelley is depicted as a reluctant "good guy"/"bad guy" split personality in many of the episodes.[10] Brinegar left The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp when the locale shifted to Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and he switched to the CBS western, Rawhide in the role of the cantankerous trail cook Wishbone.

In the episode "The Double Life of Dora Hand" (September 18, 1956), Kelley is depicted as a suitor of the glamorous dance hall singer Dora Hand, played by actress Margaret Haye (1916-1977). Dora calls on Earp for help when railroad workers and buffalo hunters clash in her saloon. Meanwhile, she raises money for the church and sings in its choir.[11] There were two subsequent episodes featuring Dora Hand: "The Reformation of Jim Kelley" (October 30, 1956), about the romance of Kelley and Dora,[12] and "So Long, Dora, So Long" (November 13, 1956), a dramatization of the shooting death of Dora at the hands of a Texas cowboy, James W. "Spike" Kenedy (1855-1884), son of Mifflin Kenedy and called Jim Rellance in this episode and played by Joe Turkel (born 1927). Rellance has his own interest in the older Dora and sets out to kill rival suitor Jim Kelley but instead ambushes and shoots Dora to death in a cabin. Rellance believes, however, that he is shooting Kelley.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 James H. "Dog" Kelley. findagrave.com. Retrieved on March 20, 2021.
  2. Chapter Seventeen: Dodge City a Sporting Town. skyways.org. Retrieved on March 25, 2014; information no longer accessible on-line.
  3. Kathie Bell, "Dodge City's Own James "Dog" Kelley," Dodge City Daily Globe, March 14, 2007.
  4. Beatty & Kelley Restaurant. Old West Festival. Retrieved on March 25, 2014; material no longer accessible on-line.
  5. George Laughead (September 23, 2009). Robert M. Wright (1840-1915), Dodge City, Kansas: Town President, founder, pioneer. kansashistory.us. Retrieved on March 20, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bill O'Neal, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), p. 217.
  7. 30 - Early Ford County. skyways.org. Retrieved on March 26, 2014; information no longer accessible on-line.
  8. Oddly, the Dodge City Globe in his obituary misspelled Kelley's name as "Kelly," when few other sources had made that mistake.
  9. "Dodge City Gets a New Marshal", September 4, 1956. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on March 0, 2021.
  10. "Fight or Run", September 11, 1956. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on March 20, 2021.
  11. The Double Life of Dora Hand. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on March 20, 2021.
  12. The Reformation of Jim Kelley. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on March 20, 2021.
  13. "So Long, Dora, So Long. Internet Movie Database (November 13, 1956). Retrieved on March 20, 2021.