Dalton Gang

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Dalton Gang
Dalton Gang memento mori 1892.jpg
Dalton gang following the Coffeyville, Kansas raid. Left to right: Bill Power; Bob Dalton; Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell
Founded March 21, 1890
Founding location Pawhuska, Indian Territory
Ethnicity White
Membership 8
Criminal activities Bank and train robberies

The Dalton Gang was a group of outlaws in the American Old West during 1890–1892. It was also known as The Dalton Brothers because three of its members were brothers, although not all of the gang members came from the Dalton family, and not all of the Dalton brothers were in the gang. The gang specialized in bank and train robberies. They were related to the Younger brothers, who rode with Jesse James, though they acted later and independently of the James-Younger Gang. The three Dalton brothers involved were Gratton "Grat" Dalton (born 1861), Bob Dalton (born 1869), and Emmett Dalton (born 1871). A fourth brother, William M. "Bill" Dalton (1866–1894), also had a career as an outlaw, but operated as a member of the Wild Bunch.

Beginnings[edit]

Lewis Dalton, father of the outlaws, was from Jackson County, Missouri. He was a saloon keeper in Kansas City, Kansas, when he married Adeline Younger, an aunt of Cole and Jim Younger. By 1882, the family was living in the Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma. A few years later, they had settled down in Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas. Lewis and Adeline Dalton had a total of 15 children, two of whom died in infancy.

Lawmen[edit]

Frank Dalton

Frank Dalton was the oldest of the brothers and kept the others on their good behavior. He was a Deputy US Marshal, and his brothers had ridden with him in posses. Frank Dalton was killed when he was tracking a horse thief in the Oklahoma Territory. Dalton and another deputy marshal located the fugitive with his companions on November 27, 1887, and attempted to arrest him. The outlaws resisted, and Dalton was shot dead. Two of the outlaws were killed, and Dalton's companion was wounded. The wanted horse thief escaped capture. On December 3, the remaining outlaws were located and a second gunfight took place. Deputy U.S. Marshal Ed Stokley[1] shot and killed the horse thief, but was himself fatally wounded.[2]

Following in their brother's footsteps, the remaining brothers — Grat, Bob, and Emmett — became lawmen. In 1890, however, after not being paid money owed them for their work, the brothers became outlaws themselves. Bob Dalton had already killed his first man when he was just 19. Deputy Marshal Dalton claimed the killing was in the line of duty. However, some noted that the dead man had been a rival for a woman. In March 1890, Bob Dalton was charged with bringing liquor into the Indian Territory. He jumped bail and did not appear for his trial. In September 1890, Grat was arrested for stealing horses — a capital offense — but either the charges were dropped or he was released. Discredited as lawmen, the Daltons soon formed their first gang.

Outlaws[edit]

Grat Dalton

Bob recruited George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, Charley Pierce and Blackfaced Charlie Bryant to ride with him and his brother Emmett. Bryant received his nickname because of a gunpowder burn on one cheek. Grat was visiting his brother Bill in California when the gang was formed, but joined it later, as did Bill Doolin, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Power. Their first robbery target was a gambling house in Silver City, New Mexico.

On February 6, 1891, after Grat Dalton had joined his brothers in California, a Southern Pacific Railroad passenger train was held up. The Daltons were accused of the robbery, based on little evidence. Grat escaped and Bill was acquitted, but Grat was arrested, convicted, and given a 20-year prison sentence. According to one account, Grat was handcuffed to one deputy and accompanied by another while being transferred by train. After the train had gone some distance, one deputy fell asleep and the other busied himself talking to other passengers. It was a hot day, and all the windows were open. Suddenly, Grat jumped up and dived head first out of the train window. He landed in the San Joaquin River, disappeared under water, and was carried downstream by the current. The deputies were astounded. Grat must have taken the key to the handcuffs from the first deputy's pocket as he slept and then timed his escape to take place when he knew the train would be on a bridge. If he had landed on the ground, he would almost certainly have been killed. Grat found his brothers, and they made their way back to Oklahoma Territory.

Between May 1891 and July 1892, the Dalton brothers robbed four trains in the Indian Territory. On May 9, 1891, the men held up a Santa Fe train at Wharton (now Perry). They got away with several hundred dollars only, but they had worked well as a team. As they passed Orlando, they stole eight or nine horses. A posse chased them, but the gang escaped.

Four months later the Dalton gang robbed a train of $10,000 at Lillietta, Indian Territory. In June 1892, they stopped another Santa Fe train, this time at Red Rock. Blackfaced Charley Bryant and Dick Broadwell held the engineer and fireman in the locomotive. Bob and Emmett Dalton and Bill Power walked through the passenger cars, robbing the passengers as they went. Bill Doolin and Grat Dalton took on the express car. They threw the safe out of the train. They gained little for their efforts—a few hundred dollars and some watches and jewelry from the passengers. The gang scattered after the Red Rock robbery, but soon Blackfaced Charley was captured by Deputy US Marshal Ed Short.[3] While in route to be jailed in Wichita, Kansas, Bryant grabbed a gun from a railroad worker assisting Deputy Marshal Short, and in the ensuing gunfight Bryant and Short killed one another.

The gang struck again in July at Adair, Oklahoma, near the Arkansas border. They went directly to the train station and took what they could find in the express and baggage rooms. Then they sat down on a bench on the platform, talking and smoking, with their Winchester rifles across their knees. When the train came in at 9:45 p.m., they backed a wagon up to the express car and unloaded all the contents. There were several armed guards on the train, but for some reason all 11 men were at the back of the train. The guards fired at the bandits through the car windows and from behind the train. In the gun fight, 200 shots were fired. None of the Dalton gang was hit. Three guards were wounded, and a town doctor was killed by a stray bullet. The robbers dropped out of sight, probably hiding out in one of several caves near Tulsa.

Coffeyville bank robbery[edit]

Grave of Dalton gang in Coffeyville, Kansas
Emmett Dalton's booking photo

The gang could have kept themselves busy with train robberies, but Bob Dalton wanted to make sure his name would long be remembered. He would, he claimed, "beat anything Jesse James ever did—rob two banks at once, in broad daylight." On October 5, 1892, the Dalton gang attempted this feat when they set out to rob the C.M. Condon & Company's Bank and the First National Bank in Coffeyville, Kansas. Since the locals were aware of what they looked like, they wore fake beards. But they were still identified by one of the townspeople.

An employee of one of the banks convinced them (falsely) that the safe was on a time lock, which would not open for another 45 minutes. Being delayed for that long, word got out that the bank was being robbed. While the gang was busy trying to hold up the banks, the people armed themselves and prepared for a gun battle. When the gang exited the banks, a shootout began. There were three townspeople shot, and Town Marshal Charles Connelly[4] was killed when he ran into the street after hearing gunfire, returning fire before he died killing one member of the gang. Grat Dalton, Bob Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power were killed. Emmett Dalton received 23 gunshot wounds and survived. He was given a life sentence in the Kansas penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas, of which he served 14 years before being pardoned. He moved to California and became a real estate agent, author and actor, and died in 1937 at age 66. Bill Doolin, "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, and Charlie Pierce were the only members left of the Dalton Gang, although none was present at the Coffeyville shootout. Speculation later suggested that there had been a "sixth man" holding horses in an alleyway and that he had escaped, and that man was believed to have been Bill Doolin. However, that has never been confirmed.

Emmett Dalton would say years after the robberies, and after his release from prison, that Deputy US Marshal Heck Thomas was a key factor in their decision to commit the robberies. According to Emmett, Thomas was relentless in his pursuit of the gang, keeping them on the move constantly. With one big score from the two banks, the gang intended on leaving the territory for a time, hoping the heat brought down by Thomas would subside.

Bill Dalton reportedly joined the Doolin gang after the Coffeyville raid. He was reportedly one of the participants in a gun battle on September 1, 1893 at Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. Three deputy U. S. marshals were killed in the shootout. He may have been one of a four-man gang that robbed the First National Bank of Longview, Texas, on May 21, 1894. He was shot and killed by a posse near Ardmore on June 8, 1894. Nine of the deputy U.S. marshals who killed Bill Dalton were indicted for his murder in the federal court at Ardmore in June 1896. Apparently, none were ever tried. Why they were indicted remains a mystery.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • A largely fictional film version of the Daltons' lives was made in 1940 as When the Daltons Rode starring Randolph Scott, Broderick Crawford and Brian Donlevy.
  • The Daltons resurfaced in 1946 in another of Randolph Scott's westerns, Badman's Territory.
  • The motion picture The Cimarron Kid (1952) about the Dalton Gang starred Audie Murphy as Bill Doolin.
  • The Daltons are regularly recurring adversaries in the Lucky Luke comic book series. Joe, Jack, William, and Averell Dalton are portrayed as the somewhat inept cousins of the real-life Daltons, who appear in one album, Hors-la-loi.
  • A fictional French film based on the Lucky Luke comic strip called Les Dalton came out in 2004.
  • "The Dalton Gang" is a half hour version of their lives in a 1954 episode of the American TV series Stories of the Century with Myron Healey as Bob Dalton, Fess Parker as Grat, Robert Bray as Emmett and John Mooney as Bill Dalton.
  • The Dalton Girls[6] (1957) is a fictional B-grade western in which the daughters continue in the ways of their brothers. It also features early rebellious feminist themes.
  • In Charles Portis's 1968 novel True Grit, the young heroine Mattie Ross refers to Bob and Grat Dalton as "upright men gone bad" and to Bill Doolin as "a cowboy gone wrong."
  • The gang is mentioned in the 1993 movie Tombstone.
  • "Doolin-Dalton", by The Eagles, revolves around the Dalton Gang's story.
  • The Dalton Brothers is the name of a parody country and western band briefly impersonated by U2 during their 1987 Joshua Tree U.S. tour.
  • There were various fictional "Dalton Gangs" created by Hanna-Barbera appearing in various productions, most notably with Huckleberry Hound.
  • The Dalton Gang appears in the Italian comic book Tex No. 8 and 9.
  • Joe Dassin authored a song called "Les Daltons", loosely based on the brothers' portrayal in the Lucky Luke comic book. It was widely acclaimed as one of Dassin's most famous songs.
  • The CBS documentary anthology series You Are There offered the 1957 episode "The End of the Dalton Gang (October 5, 1892)", with Tyler MacDuff in the role of Emmett Dalton.
  • In the video game Red Dead Redemption, there is a gang called "Walton's gang" which is loosely based on the Dalton gang.
  • In the 2002 movie Reign of Fire, Matthew McConaughey's character is from Coffeyville, Kansas, and references the historical shoot-out between the townspeople and the Dalton Boys.
  • The 1991 Max McCoy novel The Sixth Rider tells of the group's exploits from the vantage point of the possible sixth member involved in the Coffeyville bank holdups.
  • The Dalton Gang is referenced in the Morgan Kane book Killer Kane about the fictional gunslinger.
  • The 1979 Ron Hansen novel Desperadoes tells the story of the group's activities in the form of a fictional memoir written by 65-year-old Emmett Dalton in 1937.
  • The 2013 videogame Call of Juarez: Gunslinger contains an episode that is based on the Coffeyville shootout.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]