Dalton Gang

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Dalton Gang
Dalton Gang memento mori 1892.jpg
Dalton gang following the 1892 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. (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. During an attempted bank robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1892, two of the brothers and two other gang members were killed; Emmet survived to be tried and convicted. He was paroled after serving 14 years in prison.

Their oldest brother Frank had been a Deputy US Marshal, but was killed in 1888. In 1890 three Dalton brothers turned to crime after not being paid as lawmen. They were Gratton "Grat" , Bob, and Emmett, the youngest. Their middle brother William M. "Bill" Dalton also had a career as an outlaw, but he rode with the Wild Bunch. The gang were related through their mother to the Younger brothers, who rode with Jesse James. The Daltons were active later and independently of the James-Younger Gang.

Beginnings[edit]

Their father was Lewis Dalton from Jackson County, Missouri. He was a saloon keeper in Kansas City, Kansas, when he married Adeline Younger. She became an aunt of Cole and Jim Younger. The Dalton boys were born in quick succession: Frank Dalton (1858), Gratton "Grat" (born 1861), William M. "Bill" (1866), Bob (born 1869), and Emmett Dalton (born 1871).

By 1882, the family was living in the Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma. A few years later, they had settled 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 for some time as they followed his model into the law. He became a Deputy US Marshal, and his brothers rode with him in posses. Frank Dalton was killed when he was tracking a horse thief in the Oklahoma Territory. Dalton and another deputy marshal had located the fugitive with his companions on November 27, 1888, and tried to arrest him. The outlaws resisted, and shot Dalton 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 fatally wounded.[2]

Brothers Grat, Bob, and Emmett Dalton also became lawmen. Frontier conditions for towns were often strained, and in 1890, after not being paid money owed them, the brothers became outlaws. Bob Dalton had killed his first man at age 19. Deputy Marshal Dalton stated that the killing was in the line of duty. However, some noted that the dead man had been Dalton's rival for a woman.

In March 1890, Bob Dalton was charged with bringing forbidden 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 he 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 was 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 timed his escape for when 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 only gained 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 en route to jail in Wichita, Kansas, Bryant grabbed a gun from a railroad worker assisting Deputy Marshal Short, and in the ensuing gunfight Bryant and Short killed each other.

The gang struck again in July at Adair, Oklahoma, near the Arkansas border. They went to the train station and took what they could find in the express and baggage rooms. They sat to wait for the next train 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. The 11 armed guards on the train all happened to be at the back of the train when it pulled in. They 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 fled and disappeared, likely 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

Bob Dalton had ambitions. 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 on opposite sides of the street in Coffeyville, Kansas. They wore fake beards but one of the townspeople recognized them.

An employee of one of the banks delayed them by convincing them (falsely) that the safe was on a time lock, and could not be opened for another 45 minutes. With the delay, word got out that the bank was being robbed. Residents armed themselves and prepared for a gun battle. When the gang exited the banks, a shootout began. Three townspeople were shot, and Town Marshal Charles Connelly[4] was killed when he ran into the street after hearing gunfire. He returned fire and died while killing one of the gang.

Grat and Bob Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power were all killed. Emmett Dalton received 23 gunshot wounds and survived (he was shot through the right arm, below the shoulder, through the left – right, in some accounts – hip and groin, and received 18-23 buckshot in his back[5]). 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. Speculation arose that a "sixth man" had been holding the gang's horses in an alleyway and had escaped; he was believed to be Bill Doolin. That has never been confirmed. Bill Doolin, "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, and Charlie Pierce, none of whom were at Coffeyville, were the only members left of the Dalton Gang.

Years after the robberies and his release from prison, Emmett Dalton would say that Deputy US Marshal Heck Thomas was a key factor in his gang's decision to commit the robberies. He said Thomas kept relentless pressure on them. They hoped to make a big score from the banks and leave the territory for a while, to escape Thomas' heat.

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 who 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 was ever tried. Why they were indicted remains a mystery.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

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