Though this Dodge City man was not as famous as Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson, the "fighting mayor" was significant in shaping the history and character of Dodge City.
Alonzo B. Webster was born in October 1845 in Rochester, New York. Webster enlisted as a private soldier during the Civil War. After the War, reaching a crossroads in his life, he went west to Hays, Kansas where he opened a general store and served as assistant postmaster. While in Hays, he married Amanda Colborn.
Webster gained the reputation of being tough, but cool-headed. In 1869, when threatened by a group of bad characters in his store, Webster shot a man dead.
Webster and his wife arrived in Dodge City in 1872 or 1873 and he soon established himself as one of Dodge City’s early businessmen. In 1879, he built Richard Hardesty’s house.
Hardesty, a cattle baron, was brother-in-law of famed hotelier and restaurateur, Fred Harvey.
Webster served his first term as mayor from 1881 to 1883. He opposed the "gang" which Dodge City’s famous lawmen and their friends belonged. Webster, a stickler for the rules, wanted a calmer element to prevail.
On June 22, 1882, Webster published a set of rules for Dodge City policemen in the Dodge City Times. Along with other regulations, City lawmen were prohibited from outside employment. While on duty, they had to wear their star or shield and could not be intoxicated.
They had to have the mayor’s permission to leave town. Furthermore, police could not assist in civil cases unless there was a breach of the peace or a disturbance. And they were required to work closely with the City Attorney with all arrests.
Soon after, Marshal Peter W. Beamer, who had held his office less than three weeks, resigned. He turned his duties over to Mayor Webster who filled the position for a short time.
The Saloon War of 1883, was in part, due to Webster. Webster’s election of 1881 ousted the gambling, prostitution and saloon tolerant "gang" which included Long Branch Saloon owner, Luke Short. The anti-gang selectively enforced rules against Short’s establishment. Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and other gang members returned to Dodge to fight this treatment.
Fortunately, a compromise was reached without any blood being spilled.
In 1881, a statewide prohibition of alcohol took effect which was ignored in Dodge City for a few years. By 1884, Stock Exchange Saloon owner Webster, along with former buffalo hunter O.A. "Brick" Bond, saw the days of being able to openly sell alcohol were numbered.
Together they opened the Palace Drug Store, which sold alcohol to those with a doctor’s prescription.
The bullfight of July 4, 1884 was Webster’s brainchild. It was the only traditional bullfight held in the United States.
After a break of a few years, Webster was again elected mayor in 1886 and took office in 1887. This second time he held the office for only a few weeks.
In addition to Webster’s times as mayor and short stint as marshal, he also held the Ford County offices of Treasurer and acting Sheriff. During his time in Dodge City he was a merchant and at least dabbled in Colorado mining interests.
Webster died on April 12, 1887 at 41 years of "acute rheumatism." He left behind his wife, Amanda, and a 10-year old son, Alan, who later became a dentist.
On April 15, the Masons held a large elaborate funeral, for which Dodge City businesses shuttered their doors. The funeral procession stretched for a mile from downtown nearly all the way to Prairie Grove Cemetery. The Grand Army of the Republic gave him full military honors.
When Prairie Grove was closed in the late 1890s, his grave was moved to the G.A.R. section of Maple Grove, Dodge City’s current cemetery.