Bill Doolin

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Bill Doolin
Johnson County, Arkansas, USA
DiedAugust 24, 1896 (aged 37-38)
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Resting placeSummit View Cemetery
35°53′45″N 97°24′12″W / 35.89583°N 97.40333°W / 35.89583; -97.40333 (Bill Doolin Burial Site)
  • Founder of the Wild Bunch
  • Old West Outlaw
  • Bank, Stagecoach, Train Robbery
SpouseEdith Ellsworth Doolin
  • Michael Doolin
  • Artemina Beller Doolin

William Doolin (1858 – August 24, 1896) was an American bandit outlaw and founder of the Wild Bunch, sometimes known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Like the earlier Dalton Gang alone, it specialized in robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Kansas, Indiana, and Oklahoma during the 1890s.

Early life[edit]

Doolin was born in 1858 in Johnson County, Arkansas, to Michael Doolin and the former Artemina Beller. Doolin left home in 1881 to become a cowboy in Indian Territory, where he worked for cattleman Oscar Halsell, a Texas native. During this time, Doolin worked with other cowboy and outlaw names of the day, including George Newcomb (known as "Bitter Creek"), Charley Pierce, Bill Power, Dick Broadwell, Bill "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, and the better-known Emmett Dalton.

Doolin's first encounter with the law came on July 4, 1891, in Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas. Doolin and some friends were drunk in public, and lawmen attempted to confiscate their alcohol. A shootout ensued, and two of the lawmen were wounded. Doolin escaped capture by fleeing.

Dalton Gang[edit]

Shortly thereafter, Doolin became a member of the Dalton Gang. On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang tried to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville. It was an utter failure. Coffeyville residents and lawmen rallied in a shootout against the outlaws, resulting in four of the five gang members being killed. Emmett Dalton was captured and convicted at trial, and imprisoned. Historians have speculated that a sixth gang member was in town, holding the horses in an alley, and escaped. The sixth man has never been identified. Some speculate that he may have been Bill Doolin.[1]

Wild Bunch[edit]

In late 1892, Doolin formed his own gang, the Wild Bunch. On November 1, 1892, the gang robbed a bank in Spearville, Kansas. After the robbery, the gang fled with gang member Oliver Yantis to Oklahoma Territory, where they hid out at the house of Yantis's sister. Less than a month later, the gang was tracked to that location. In a shootout, Yantis was killed, but the rest of the gang escaped.

Two teenaged girls, known as Little Britches and Cattle Annie, also followed the gang as bandits. They warned the men whenever law-enforcement officers were in pursuit. Sources indicate that Doolin gave bandit Jennie Stevens her nickname of Little Britches.[2]

Following the Spearville robbery, the gang embarked on a spree of successful bank and train robberies. In March 1893, Doolin married Edith Ellsworth in Ingalls, Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, Doolin and his gang robbed a train near Cimarron, Kansas. During a shootout with lawmen, Doolin was shot and seriously wounded in the foot.[1] He retreated to Ingalls.

On September 1, 1893, 14 deputy U.S. marshals entered Ingalls to apprehend the gang. The armed confrontation became known as the Battle of Ingalls. During the shootout, three marshals and two bystanders were killed, one bystander was wounded, three of the gang members were wounded, and gang member "Arkansas Tom Jones" was wounded and captured. Doolin shot and killed Deputy Marshal Richard Speed during that shootout.[1]

For a time, the Wild Bunch was the most powerful outlaw group in the Old West. Because of the relentless pursuit by the deputy marshals known as the Three Guardsmen (lawmen Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen, and Heck Thomas), by the end of 1894, they had either captured or killed many of the gang. In late 1894, gang member Bill Dalton was killed by U.S. marshals. Rewards were offered for the capture or death of remaining gang members, a lure that sometimes turned friends into foes to collect the money. On May 1, 1895, gang members Charlie Pierce and George "Bittercreek" Newcomb were shot and killed by bounty hunters known as the Dunn brothers. They were the older brothers of Rose Dunn, the teenaged girlfriend of Newcomb. Allegedly, she had betrayed Newcomb, but her brothers may have trailed her to the outlaws' hideout.[citation needed]

Doolin fled to New Mexico Territory, where he hid with outlaw Richard "Little Dick" West during the summer of 1895. In late 1895, Doolin and his wife hid out near Burden, Kansas. They went over the border to visit the resort community of Eureka Springs in northwestern Arkansas. There, Doolin soaked in the sulfur springs in the bathhouses; the waters relieved the rheumatism in his foot that set in after an earlier gunshot. In early 1896, Doolin was captured in a bathhouse by deputy marshal Bill Tilghman.

Posthumous photograph of Bill Doolin

Doolin escaped from jail on July 5, and took refuge with his wife in Lawson in the Oklahoma Territory. There, on August 24, Doolin was killed by a shotgun blast in a confrontation with Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas.[1]

Bill Doolin is buried next to outlaw Elmer McCurdy, in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

By the end of 1898, all of the remaining former Wild Bunch gang were dead, having been killed in various shootouts with lawmen. Heck Thomas had tracked most of them; the remainder were tracked down and eliminated by lawmen Madsen and Tilghman, or other posses.[1][page needed]

In popular media[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Matt Braun, Outlaw Kingdom: Bill Tilghman Was The Man Who Tamed Dodge City, 1995
  2. ^ Paul, Lee. "Cattle Annie & Little Britches". Ranch Diva Outfitters. Archived from the original on January 17, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  3. ^ "The Doolins of Oklahoma". May 27, 1949. Retrieved Oct 19, 2020 – via IMDb.
  4. ^ Desperado (Liner notes). Eagles. London: EMI Records. 1973.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  5. ^ Graeme Thomson (May 21, 2014). "The Eagles on Desperado: "We were quite taken with the idea of being outlaws..."". Uncut.

External links[edit]