Relive the Old West Legend of Dodge City Through Exhibits, Education and Entertainment.

Tom Nixon – Buffalo Hunter, Saloon Owner, Lawman

Tom Nixon was one of the first settlers to the Dodge City area. He had previously been a miner and freighter in Nevada before coming to Kansas. He built a sod house near the Fort Dodge military reservation. He made a living putting up hay and selling shelled corn for the horses used to lay track for the railroad. He had married Cornelia Houston, a 2nd cousin of Sam Houston, in Tennessee. They had seven children together.

Once the buffalo hunts began, Nixon made money from the trading of hides. Once, he set up camp 35 miles southeast of Dodge City near the headwaters of Rattlesnake Creek. In the 35 days he was in camp, he reportedly shot 3200 buffalo. It was said by Dodge City old timers that Nixon, “was a very truthful man and no one who ever knew him in those days ever doubted him in the least.” Nixon was sturdy, dark haired. He was a rough frontier character, but was warm hearted and had many friends in Dodge City.

He became a part owner of a dance hall with his friend and fellow buffalo hunter Orlando “Brick” Bond once the demise of the buffalo forced them to find another source of income. He was also named Assistant Marshal under City Marshal Bill Tilghman. He was hired to take the place of “Mysterious” Dave Mather, who went to work under Sheriff Pat Sughrue of Ford County, but Mather was upset he was replaced by Nixon. Further resentment came towards Nixon from Mather when he was sure his rival had played a part in banning the dance hall girls in the Opera House. Mather was part owner in, the Opera House that was located upstairs from Dog Kelley’s place.

Mather became enraged one night when he found Nixon standing on the stairs of his establishment observing what was going on. Words were exchanged, and Nixon took the advice of his friends who told him he better kill Mather before Mather killed him. He shot once at Mather, but missed. The bullet lodged in the railing next to Mather’s hand. Nixon was arrested by Sheriff Sughrue, but was later acquitted on the basis of self-defense. The following week Nixon was on patrol. When Mather saw him stroll past the bottom of the stairs of his dance hall he walked out onto the boardwalk. He yelled at Nixon, “Tom, you’ve lived long enough!” and shot him, killing him almost instantly. Bystanders claim there were three more shots, two into Nixon’s back. Mather walked back upstairs and handed his gun over to his boss the Sheriff and stated, “I ought to have killed him 6 months ago.” Mather stood trial in Kinsley, Kansas where he was acquitted on self-defense. His case can be largely attributed to the witness Bat Masterson who testified that when he went up to Nixon’s lifeless body he saw his gun half drawn. 

Nixon was buried at Prairie Grove. His family left Dodge City after his death. Tom Nixon’s headstone was found in April of 1924 while construction crews were grading Avenue C in Dodge City at the approximate location the cemetery was at before it was moved to the west side of town to Maple Grove Cemetery. The headstone is on display at Boot Hill Museum in the Undertaker’s exhibit.