Bob Dalton (outlaw)

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Bob Dalton
Robert Rennick Dalton

(1869-05-13)May 13, 1869[1]
Cass County, Missouri, United States
DiedOctober 5, 1892(1892-10-05) (aged 23)
Coffeyville, Kansas, United States
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Parent(s)James Lewis Dalton; Adeline Lee Younger
AllegianceDalton Gang
Criminal chargeBank robbery, train robbery

Robert Rennick Dalton (May 13, 1869 – October 5, 1892), better known as Bob Dalton, was an American outlaw in the American Old West. He led the ill-fated Dalton Gang raid on two banks in Coffeyville, Kansas. Ambushed by town citizens, Bob, Bill Power, Grat Dalton and Richard L. "Dick" Broadwell were all killed.

Early life[edit]

Bob's father was Lewis Dalton from Jackson County, Missouri. He was a saloon keeper in Kansas City, Missouri, when he married Adeline Younger. She became an aunt of Cole and Jim Younger. Bobs siblings were:

·Charles Benjamin "Ben" Dalton (1852–1936)
·Henry Coleman Dalton (1853–1920)
·Littleton "Lit" Lee Dalton (1857–1942)
·Franklin "Frank" Dalton (1859–1887)
·Gratton Hanley "Grat" Dalton (1861–1892)
·William Marion "Bill" Dalton (1863–1894)
·Eva May Dalton (1867–1939)
·Emmett Dalton (1871–1937)
·Leona Randolph Dalton (1875–1964)
·Nancy May Dalton (1876–1901)
·Simon Noel "Si" Dalton (1878–1928)

Those of the family who were members of the Dalton Gang were: Bob, Emmett, Grat, and Bill.[2]

Lewis Dalton spent much of his time unsuccessfully betting on his own race horses. As early as 1870 he began traveling to California to enter in the circuits. Starting with the oldest, he would eventually bring all his boys, including Bob, with him. In 1877 while their father was running horses in Visalia, California the oldest boys were offered steady work but refused at the time. After returning home from the races Ben, Frank, and Littleton decided to take up the offer and traveled back to California to work as muleskinners. Grat and Cole eventually followed in 1880. Grat quickly made a reputation as a bar fighter in the many saloons up and down the San Joaquin Valley. That same year Frank was offered a job in the Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma, and moved to be closer to home becoming a Deputy U.S. Marshall out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Bill joined his brothers in California in 1884, starting a family and settling in San Luis Obispo County, California.

Lewis Dalton ended up gambling away the family home in Belton, Missouri. Adeline was able to obtain a piece of land near Kingfisher, Oklahoma in 1890, when the Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement.[3]

Lawman career[edit]

On Nov 27, 1887 Frank Dalton and another deputy marshal, Jim Cole, went across the river from Fort Smith to arrest three whiskey bootleggers. As they approached the camp the bootleggers began to fire on them. Frank shot and killed two, his gun jammed and he was killed by the remaining bootlegger. His deputy abandoned him after being shot. Frank is buried in Coffeyville, Kansas.

After Frank's death, brothers Grat and Bob took over his job as Deputy U.S. Marshal at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Bob soon hired Emmett under him to guard prisoners. The trouble started to begin when Bob killed a man in the line of duty, which he claimed was in self defense. He began to drink heavily and become restless. Afterwards Bob was given the job of organizing a police force in the Osage Nation taking Emmett along as a deputy. Grat meanwhile stayed at Fort Smith. Emmett and Bob kept good reputations in the Osage Nation until July of 1890 when they began stealing horses. Eventually stockmen organized to capture them, forcing Bob and Emmett to flee. Hiding out in the bluffs on the Canadian River about seventy miles southwest of Kingfisher, Oklahoma, they sent for Grat for help. Grat tried to get them food, horses, and ammunition but was caught and thrown in jail at Fort Smith, where he had formerly placed prisoners. After two weeks Grat was released in the hopes he would lead the law to his brothers. Bob and Emmett however were able to take a train to California, staying at the brother Bill's ranch near San Miguel, San Luis Obispo County, California.[4]

Outlaw Career[edit]

Grat Dalton returned to California to meet Emmett and Bob at their brother Bill's ranch in January 1891. They worked there for about a month while playing poker games and getting in bar fights in San Luis Obispo County, spending most of the money they had made from horse stealing. At this time Bob began making plans to rob a train with the help of Emmett and Grat. Their brothers Cole, Littleton, and Bill unsuccessfully tried to dissuade them.

On the night of February 6, 1891 a Southern Pacific Railroad passenger train was held up by two masked men carrying only 44-calibre revolvers near the town of Alila (present day Earlimart, California). No money had been taken however during the crossfire the fireman had accidentally been killed by the expressman. The outlaws wore masks during the Alila robbery but it has been asserted many years later by Littleton Dalton that his brothers, Bob and Emmett, had told him many times that they robbed the train. Grat was unable to join the heist after spending all his money on drinking and gambling in Tulare, California, therefore unable to secure a horse. Sheriff Gene Kay of Tulare County, California with his posse tracked the outlaws to San Luis Obispo County, near San Miguel, California. Eventually they found the remnants of a saddle that was missing a leather strap found at the scene of the hold up. This was at the ranch of Bill Dalton. Finding what they could about the brothers Sheriff Kay's posse learned that Bob, Emmett and Grat had spent the past few days heavily drinking, gambling and following the Southern Pacific pay car as it made its monthly journey down the San Joaquin Valley. By this time their reputation as horse thieves in Oklahoma had also been known.

Photo of Robert "Bob" Dalton c. 1889

On March 17, 1891 the Tulare County Grand Jury indicted brothers Bob, Emmett, Grat, and Bill Dalton for the Alila robbery. A few days later Grat and Bill were arrested and placed in the Tulare County jail. A $3000 bounty was placed for the capture of Bob and Emmett. Bill however had already helped them escape California before he was arrested, and Bob and Emmett were on their way back to Oklahoma territory. Bill was soon able to secure bondsmen and was released. He quickly hired attorneys to defend Grat. While Grat sat in jail in Visalia, California, Bob and Emmett began making their way to Oklahoma. They borrowed money and supplies from their brothers, Cole and Lit, and made their way east across the Mojave Desert. After their horses were discovered at Ludlow, California, Sheriff Kay decided to pursue them with his deputy, Jim Ford. He discovered that the brothers were actually making their way to Utah to throw him off, tracking them to the town of Ogden, Utah. After some close encounters Bob and Emmett escaped capture by train. Sheriff Kay continued to track them throughout the Southwest for several months, even at one point entering Mexico, but with no success. Eventually they ending up at the Dalton home near Kingfisher, Oklahoma. The Daltons had many friends in Oklahoma willing to hide them however and Sheriff Kay was forced to give up the chase and return to California for Grat's trial. Realizing they were no longer being pursued, Bob and Emmett robbed a train at Whorton, now Perry, Oklahoma, May 1891. They began forming what would be known as the Dalton Gang.

Even though much of the evidence showed that Grat was in Fresno, California the night of the Alila robbery, including the testimony of several witnesses, the influence of the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad gave him an unfair trail. Grat's lawyer was corrupt and it was not mentioned by either the defense nor the prosecution that the fireman had been killed accidentally by the expressman. This was unknown to Grat since the Dalton brothers had all assumed that Emmett had killed the fireman. Grat was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to life imprisonment. On September 3, 1891 a train was robbed near Ceres, California, but was unsuccessful and no money had been taken. The robbery was performed very similarly to the one at Alila. Sheriff Kay suspected Bill Dalton, and arrested him and a man joining Bill named Riley Dean. Kay found Bill and Dean at an abandoned overland stage station where they looked as if they were either planning a robbery or to break Grat from jail. Both Bill and Dean established a clear alibi but Bill was held in Tulare County Jail to await trial for his part in the Alila robbery.

On the night of September 20th, Grat and two other men escaped from the Tulare County Jail in Visalia while Sheriff Kay was in San Francisco, California. Grat and the other two men were slipped a saw from someone on the outside and were able to saw a hole in the bars. Bill had remained in his cell however and was found in the morning playing a guitar, joking about how the boys had left him. Bill was acquitted and released on October 15th. He sold the lease to his ranch in San Luis Obispo County, moved his family to his wife's parents in Livingston, California and left for Kingfisher, Oklahoma. After arresting the two other men that had escaped with Grat, Sheriff Kay learned that Grat was helped by Riley Dean and that they were both hiding on the summit of a steep mountain close to the Kings River near Sanger, California. This would be known as Dalton Mountain. On Christmas Eve 1891, the posses of both Sheriff Kay of Tulare County and Sheriff Hensley of Fresno County ascended the mountain to Daltons camp. They ambushed the outlaws on their way back from a boar hunt. Grat managed to escape, firing at the lawmen with his Winchester rifle and stealing a horse from a nearby ranch, but Riley Dean was captured. Grat rode to a friends near Livingston, California and stayed for several weeks before escaping back to Oklahoma with the help of his brother Cole.

Bob and Emmett had meanwhile been busy in Oklahoma forming their gang. After their unsuccessful career in California they decided they could do much better in their home country and, unlike their first attempts, they began carefully planning their robberies. With Bob as the leader they recruited mostly men who had grown up with them in Oklahoma. First recruited were George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb and "Blackfaced" Charlie Bryant, Bryant received his nickname because of a gunpowder burn on one cheek. This resulted in the first robbery at Whorton, May 1891, where the gang stole $1200. Joined afterwards were Bill Doolin, Dick Broadwell, Bill Powers, and Charley Pierce. The gang was also assisted by Bob's lover Eugenia Moore, known by her aliases "Tom King" and "Miss Mundays", who acted as their informant but was also a notorious horse thief and outlaw.

In August 1891, Bryant was spotted in Hennessey, Oklahoma after leaving the gangs hideout to visit his mother. The locals who identified him notified a Deputy Marshal named Ed Short. He arrested Bryant and took him on a train to be committed to the jail at Wichita, Kansas without a guard or notifying Marshal Grimes at Fort Smith. After the train left Hennessey and was approaching the stop at Waukomis, Oklahoma, Short noticed a group of mounted men that looked as if they were trying to beat the train and feared it was the Dalton Gang coming to free Bryant. Short put the baggage man in charge of Bryant giving him his revolver while he went to the rear platform with his rifle. The baggageman carelessly stuck the revolver into a Pigeon-hole messagebox and went to work at the other end of the car. Bryant secured the revolver and ordered the baggageman to go back to work. He opened the door to the rear platform and, while Short had his attention to the mounted men, shot him in the back. Short turned and they both shot each other to death.

The second train robbery by the Dalton Gang in Oklahoma was at a small station called Lelietta on September 15, 1891, about four miles north of Wagoner, Oklahoma. Here they secured $19,000, which Bob spent mostly on women and gambling. Bill Doolin complained that he was not dividing the money fairly and quit the gang along with Newcomb and Pierce. Grat returned to Oklahoma in the spring of 1892. The three dissatisfied members also returned and new plans began to formulate. Bill had also returned several months earlier living at his mothers near Kingsfisher. Even though he did not participate in any of the hold ups with his brothers he acted as a spy and advisor.

On June 1st, 1892, the gang robbed the Sante Fe train at Red Rock, Oklahoma securing about $50,000. Here the Santa Fe had found out about the Daltons plans and attempted to set up a trap for the gang filling the train with heavily armed officers. However they made the mistake of leaving the train dark which made Bob suspicious and the gang allowed the train to go by robbing the next train a few minutes later. The $50,000 however came out to only $1800 after draft and securities had been thrown out. It was soon necessary to rob another train.[5]

The next robbery was at Adair, Oklahoma, near the Arkansas border on July 14th. At the station the gang 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 eight 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. Doctors W. L. Goff and Youngblood were sitting on the porch of the drug store near the depot. Both men were hit several times by stray shots; Dr Goff was fatally wounded. Also wounded were captains Kinney and LaFlore, but they recovered.[6] The gang secured about $18,000. They were also accused of robbing a bank in El Reno, Oklahoma on July 28th, however this was based on little evidence as no one saw any members of the gang.

Coffeyville raid[edit]

Law enforcement officers hold up the bodies of Bob and Grat Dalton after the attempted Bank Robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas

Bob and his brothers were deeply concerned with the pressure put upon them by the law. They decided to make one last robbery to earn enough money to leave the country. Their plan was to rob two banks in the same town at the same time to get the money and to also make history for accomplishing something that no other outlaw gang had even attempted. Their target was their old hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas.[7]

Early on Oct. 5 1892, Bob, Grat, Emmett, Powers and Broadwell entered Coffeyville. Tying up their horses in the alley across from the banks, they walked across the street dividing into two groups before entering the Condon National Bank and First National Bank. Well known by the townspeople they were recognized and an alarm was given. Townsmen quickly armed themselves with guns from the local hardware stores and took positions to defend their town. As the Dalton Gang began their escape a gun battle erupted that killed gang members and four town citizens.[7] The lone survivor among the gang, Emmett, was seriously wounded receiving 23 gunshot wounds[8] and he stood trial for the bank robberies after recovering. Sentenced to life in prison, he was granted a pardon by the governor after 14 years.[7]

Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas remembered Bob Dalton as the most accurate shot he had ever seen. Dalton is buried at the Coffeyville, Kansas Cemetery under a group marker for himself, his brother Grat, and Bill Power.[8]

In 1959, Don Kelly portrayed him in an episode of "Tales of Wells Fargo" entitled "The Daltons."

The actor Forrest Tucker played Bob Dalton in the 1963 episode "Three Minutes to Eternity" of the syndicated western television series Death Valley Days, a dramatization of the simultaneous bank robberies in Coffeyville. Tom Skerritt portrayed the surviving Emmett Dalton; Jim Davis was cast as Grat Dalton. The episode was narrated by Stanley Andrews, known as "The Old Ranger".[9]

In 1975 Bob Dalton was played by the actor Robert Conrad in the TV movie western The Last Day.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "DALTON Family History: Old West Kansas - Dalton Gang - KS Heritage Group -". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  3. ^ Latta, Frank (1976). Dalton Gang Days:From California to Coffeeville. Bear State Books. p. 1-44. ISBN 1892622149.
  4. ^ Latta, Frank (1976). Dalton Gang Days:From California to Coffeeville. Bear State Books. p. 25-50. ISBN 1892622149.
  5. ^ Latta, Frank (1976). Dalton Gang Days:From California to Coffeeville. Bear State Books. p. 50-209. ISBN 1892622149.
  6. ^ "The Dalton Gang Train Robbery at Adair, I.T." Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "The Dalton Gang". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b LEGENDS OF AMERICA. "The Dalton Brothers - Lawmen & Outlaws". LEGENDS OF AMERICA. Archived from the original on 23 February 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  9. ^ "Three Minutes to Eternity on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 5, 2015.