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
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]

The Dalton family came from Jackson County, Missouri. Dalton's father, Lewis Dalton, was a saloon keeper in Kansas City, Kansas, when he married Adeline Younger, the aunt of Cole and Jim Younger. By 1882, the family moved to northeast Oklahoma, then known as the Indian Territory, and by 1886 they had moved to Coffeyville in southeast Kansas. Bob was one of 13 of the couple's 15 children who survived to maturity. His siblings included: Frank, Grat, Bill and Emmett.

Bob acquired a reputation for being dangerous after he killed a man at age 19. A deputy at the time, he claimed the killing was in the line of duty. The victim, however, was suspected of flirting with a woman that Bob liked.[2]

Lawman career[edit]

Bob's older brother Frank was a U.S.A.U. (meaning?) Deputy Marshal and Bob served with him on several posses. Frank was killed by a gang of horse thieves, the Smith-Dixon Gang, on November 27, 1887[3] and Bob may have been part of that posse.[4] After that incident Bob wished to be commissioned as a Deputy Marshal in the Western District at Fort Smith, Arkansas and was assigned to work for the Wichita, Kansas Court. Additionally, Dalton also served as the Chief of police for the Osage Nation while he was with the Kansas court.[4]

On August 26, 1889, Dalton was sent to Coffeyville, Kansas to arrest a man named Charley Montgomery, who was charged with illegally selling whiskey and stealing horses in Indian Territory. Montgomery resisted arrest and drew his guns forcing Dalton to kill him with his pistol. Since there was no bounty on Montgomery Dalton did not receive any payment when he returned with Montgomery's corpse to Fort Smith. When no one claimed the outlaw's body, as was the custom of the time, Dalton was required to pay for the burial.[4]

In April 1890, both Dalton and his brother Grat were sent to Claremore, Indian Territory to arrest Alex Cochran who had been accused of killing U.S. Deputy Marshal Cox. The Daltons followed a rider fitting the description of the fugitive but the rider attempted to distance himself from the two deputies. The man refused to stop so, from a distance of 300 yards, Bob shot both the rider and his horse. The dead man, unfortunately, was Cochran's son, not Alex himself.[4]

While Dalton continued to work as Police chief for the Osage Nation rumors began that he and his youngest brother Emmett were illegally selling whiskey to the Indians and the brothers became involved in a noisy disturbance with them. U.S. Commissioner Fitzpatrick called Bob Dalton in from the field, when he heard of the news, to demand his badge and discharge him from his position. Angered, Dalton claimed that he resigned, rather than being dismissed, over being cheated him out of several expenses.[4] Charged with selling liquor in Indian Territory he would pay his bail but not appear for his trial.[2]

Early outlaw career[edit]

In July 1890, Bob, Grat, and Emmett were accused of stealing horses near Claremore to sell them in Kansas. With a posse close behind of them Bob and Emmett left the territories for California where brother Bill was residing. Grat was arrested for the crime but would gain his release because of a lack of evidence. He would join his brothers in California.[5]

On the night of February 6, 1891 the Daltons raided a train operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad, near Alila, stealing $60,000. The boys were accused of the crime causing Bob and Emmett to flee the state, with a posse after them, while Grat and Bill were arrested. Grat would be found guilty on July 3, 1891 after a jury trial.[5]

Next 18 months[edit]

Bob and Emmett retreated to the Indian Territories, but the law was still after them, so they decided to hide themselves. When Emmett worked, previously, at the Bar X Bar Ranch he became friends with cowboys Bill Doolin and Bill Power. Acquaintances of Emmett from other ranches included Charlie Pierce, George Newcomb, Charlie Bryant, and Richard Broadwell.[5] Bob, as gang leader, decided they needed reinforcements and the future gang recruits were tough men who would help the brothers rob banks and trains throughout the Oklahoma Territory over the following 18 months.[4]

The Dalton boys, at first, connected with Bryant and Newcomb in Wharton, Oklahoma Territory to rob a train in May 1891 earning $1745. Shortly after the robbery, Bryant fell ill and was taken to Hennessey to see a doctor. After being spotted and arrested by Deputy Marshal Ed Short they killed each other during an escape attempt.[5]

On the night of September 15, 1891 they robbed the KATY train at Leliaetta, near Wagoner, Indian Territory. Bob and Emmett Dalton led Newcomb, Powers, Broadwell, Pierce and Doolin on the raid. The gang stopped and boarded the train and then stole $2500 from the express car.[5]

Grat escaped from jail on Sept. 18 while awaiting sentence in California and promptly returned to Oklahoma to rejoin his brothers. At the end of May 1892 the three Dalton brothers led Pierce, Newcomb, Powers, Broadwell, and Doolin on another train robbery. At the Red Rock train station, June 1, 1892, the gang positioned themselves to await an approaching train. A train entered the station with its coaches dark, which alerted the gang to a problem, so they allowed it to continue. A second train suddenly arrived which the gang boarded as it stopped at the station. They gang boarded it and robbed it but only collected $50. The gang later ed that the first train carried armed guards protecting $70,000 of the Sac and Fox Nation annuity.[5]

The gang made its last train robbery at Adair, Indian Territory on July 14, 1892. The train was again loaded with deputies, but the gang was quick and quiet enough not to disturb the marshals until the job was nearly completed. Exiting from the train the marshals engaged the gang in a violent but short gun battle. The battle claimed the life of an innocent bystander and wounded another. The Dalton Gang escaped without casualties and with the cash.[5]

Coffeyville raid[edit]

The gang split to pursue their own goals after the Adair raid. 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.[5]

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.[5] The lone survivor among the gang, Emmett, was seriously wounded receiving 23 gunshot wounds[4] 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.[5]

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.[4]

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".[6]

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


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Reading 2: The Dalton Gang". National Park Service. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  3. ^ "The Dalton Gang". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h LEGENDS OF AMERICA. "The Dalton Brothers - Lawmen & Outlaws". LEGENDS OF AMERICA. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Dalton Gang". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Three Minutes to Eternity on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 5, 2015.