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Nat Love

African American cowboy, author, "Deadwood Dick"
Born: 1854
Died: 1921

Born into slavery in 1854 in Davidson County, Tennessee, Nat Love learned the skills of roping, herding, and branding cattle and horses as a young boy. Though there were laws against teaching reading to slaves at the time, Love learned to read and write.

At the end of the Civil War Love, along with thousands of other enslaved people, was set free. His father started a farm to support the family, but died soon afterward. Nat attempted to help on the farm, but felt too restrained. After winning a horse in a raffle he gave half the earnings from its sale to his mother, and took the other half and headed for Kansas at the age of 15. Love moved to Dodge City to find work as a cowboy. His skills paid off and soon he was driving cattle on the trails.

Love's adventures during his cattle driving days were numerous and became legend. According to one, Love earned the title of "Deadwood Dick" after winning a shooting contest in Deadwood City. The name was common at the time, based on a series of adventure novels, but Love would become one of the most famous to claim the moniker.

Legends claim that a group of American Indians ambushed Love and he fought vigorously before being captured. They were so impressed with his bravery that they allowed him to live among them. The chief offered him 100 ponies to marry his daughter, but Love refused. Instead he stole the best pony of the lot and rode away.

As the days of the trails faded Love began working as a pullman porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In 1907 Love's memoir, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, was published, outlining the story of his life as a cowboy. It is believed that he died at the age of 71 in 1921.

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Entry: Love, Nat

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: May 2009

Date Modified: July 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.