(1854 - September 8, 1893)
Luke L. Short was born 1854 in Polk Co. Arkansas to Josiah Short and Hettie Brumley. He was the 5th of 10 Children. Luke stood somewhere between 5'4" and 5'7" and weighed between 125lbs and 145lbs. His eyes were described as pale gray and blue. His hair was brown and he wore a droopy mustache. His face was smooth with a short straight nose.
Luke's occupations were: family farm hand, Wrangler, Army Scout, Trader, Card Dealer, Buffalo Hunter, Professional Gambler and Business Owner
Based on all my research Luke Short killed a total of 14 men. The first was a Kiowai Indian when Luke was eight years old. He also wounded a second at that time. In the summer of 1877 while scouting for the Army Luke was attacked by 5 Sioux warriors. He killed all five. Late that same year while selling to the Indians he killed 4 Indians that tried to raid his camp. About a year later 2 white men walked into Luke's camp. Shots were exchanged and Luke was wounded. The two whites were dead. That makes a total of 12 kills while outnumbered: war party to 1, 5 to 1, 4 to 1 and 2 to 1. Then to add to this he went mono y mono with Charlie Storms and Tim Courtright. 14 total kills and Luke himself only wounded once.
In February 1883 Luke becomes equal partner of the Long Branch Saloon with Bill Harris. It was here that the famous Dodge City Peace Commission was formed in order to protect Luke and his business interest. After the Dodge City War was resolved Luke sold out his portion of the business and headed to Fort Worth, Texas.
Short landed in Fort Worth carrying a reputation that stretched from Tombstone to Dodge City. It was in Tombstone that Luke went face-to-face with Charlie Storms, killing Storms. Known as a gentleman gambler like his friend Bat Masterson, the dapper Short was a wizard with the cards. He dressed the part of a gambler with his silk top hats and elegant walking canes which were a bit deceptive because he was also a bearcat in a fight as his record above shows. He never went anywhere unarmed, carrying his handgun in a leather-lined hip pocket.
Short had come to the little town on the Trinity River to make a fresh start, with a satchel full of cash and a long list of gambling contacts in his pocket. His search for a home base in his new town eventually brought him and Bill Ward together. Ward sold the gambling concession of the White Elephant Saloon to "Little Luke," which made him one-third owner in the saloon, but more important gave him free rein upstairs. Short wasted no time putting his personal stamp on his fiefdom. All went well for Luke until Tim (Long-Haired Jim) Courtright tried to horn in on Luke's success. The two eventually faced-off with Luke again besting his man. After that incident Luke decided to part company with the White elephant.
In December 1887, Luke cashed out the gambling concession for the last time and cut all ties to the White Elephant he hooked up with Vic Foster. In 1888 they opened the Palais Royal Saloon located at 406 Main Street, Fort Worth. Others have referred to it as the Palace Royal Gambling Hall. Regardless, it was Luke's last hurrah.
Luke eventually closed his place down do to pressure from Churches and the energetic ladies of the city. An ordinance against gambling was being enforced and the ladies saw to it that neither the police or city officials were paid to allow gambling to continue.
It is now 1893 and Luke is only 39 years old but his health is failing. He and wife Hettie travel to Chicago to take in the World's Fair. Later that year they also travel to the Gilbert House in Geuda Springs, Kansas. There on September 8, 1893 Luke dies from dropsy. His body is taken back to Fort worth where he is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.
Photo by Steve Grimm
Information compiled by Steve Grimm and Bob Wood
Drawing by Richard Florence
Books About Luke Short
Luke Short, A Biography of One Of The Old West's Most Colorful Gamblers and Gunfighters by Wayne Short (Devil's Thumb Press - 1996)
Luke Short was Wayne Short's great uncle and this biography (as one emailer tells me) corrects errors made by earlier biographers.
Luke Short and his Era by William R. Cox