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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|
|Years active||March 21, 1890 - October 5, 1897|
|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. 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; Emmett survived and was captured, tried, and convicted. He was paroled after serving 14 years in prison.
The oldest brother Frank had been a Deputy U.S. Marshal, but was killed in 1888. In 1890, Gratton "Grat", Bob, and Emmett turned to crime after not being paid as lawmen. Their middle brother William M. "Bill" Dalton also had a career as an outlaw, but he rode with the Wild Bunch. The gangs 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.
Their 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. The Dalton boys were born in quick succession: Frank Dalton (1859), 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.
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 shot and killed the horse thief, but was fatally wounded.
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.
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 in the town of Alila (Since renamed: Earlimart). 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, 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. 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.
In an old abandoned mining town near Marysville, Utah, stands a plaque stating that the Dalton gang were trapped inside for 3 days by the sheriff and were forced to eat Bob Dalton to stay alive. This is not true.
Coffeyville bank robbery
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 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). 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 said 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.
In popular culture
- The Dalton Gang is referenced in the Morgan Kane book Killer Kane about the fictional gunslinger.
- The 1954 Belgian graphic novel Hors-la-loi by Morris embroiders the Coffeyville events, with all four Daltons dying in the end. Morris's comical depiction of the brothers — as mustachioed quadruplets differing only in their height — having proved popular, a second fictional gang of Dalton brothers identical to the originals and presented as their (bungling) cousins became recurring villains in the Lucky Luke series, now written by René Goscinny. These were also depicted in several films including La Ballade des Dalton (animated feature, 1978), Lucky Luke (1991) and Les Dalton (2004).
- 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 were featured in Randolph Scott's western, Badman's Territory (1946).
- The Daltons were also featured in yet another Randolph Scott western, Return of the Bad Men, loosely based on Doolin's leadership of an outlaw gang in Oklahoma Territory combining the remnants of the original Dalton gang with new members to become the Wild Bunch.
- Randolph Scott himself plays Bill Doolin in the 1949 film The Doolins of Oklahoma, in which he is depicted as a reluctant outlaw forced into a leadership role by circumstances after the Coffeyville raid.
- The motion picture The Cimarron Kid (1952), about the Dalton Gang, starred Audie Murphy as Bill Doolin.
- "The Dalton Gang" is a half-hour, 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 (1957) is a fictional B-grade western in which Dalton sisters continue in the ways of their brothers.
- 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.
- Three Minutes to Eternity is a half-hour, 1963 episode (season 12, episode 9, narrated by Stanley Andrews, known as the "The Old Ranger") of the TV series Death Valley Days about their last robbery in Coffeyville, with Forrest Tucker as Bob Dalton, Jim Davis as Grat, and Tom Skerritt as Emmett.
- Robert Conrad starred as Bob Dalton in The Last Day (1975), depicting the events leaden up to the gang's attempted robbery of two banks in Coffeyville. The film has a documentary-style voice-over by Harry Morgan.
- Randy Quaid starred in The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979), a portrayal of the gang's attempted robbery of two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas.
- In Charles Portis's novel True Grit (1968), 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."
- "Doolin-Dalton", by the Eagles, is a song about the Dalton Gang. The album from which the song came, Desperado, has a photograph on its back cover that shows the Eagles band members and songwriters re-enacting the image of the capture and death of the Dalton Gang.
- "Les Dalton", a 1967 song by Joe Dassin
- 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.
- Hanna-Barbera created various versions of the Dalton Gang in animate productions, most notably with Huckleberry Hound.
- The Max McCoy novel The Sixth Rider (1991) tells of the group's exploits from the vantage point of the possible sixth member involved in the Coffeyville bank holdups.
- The Dalton Gang appears in the Italian comic book Tex, No. 8 and 9.
- In the video game Red Dead Redemption, there is a gang called "Walton's gang," loosely based on the Dalton gang.
- In the movie Reign of Fire (2002), Matthew McConaughey's character is from Coffeyville, Kansas, and refers to the historical shoot-out.
- The 2013 videogame, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, contains an episode based on the Coffeyville shootout.
- "Deputy Marshal E. A. "Ed" Stokley, United States Department of Justice - United States Marshals Service, U.S. Government". Odmp.org. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- "Deputy Marshal Frank Dalton, United States Department of Justice - United States Marshals Service, U.S. Government". Odmp.org. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- "Marshal Charles T. Connelly, Coffeyville Police Department, Kansas". Odmp.org. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- Samuelson, Nancy B. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History. "Dalton Gang." Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- "Three Minutes to Eternity on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- Graeme Thomson (May 21, 2014). "The Eagles on Desperado: "We were quite taken with the idea of being outlaws..."". Uncut.
- Coffeyville, Kansas: The Town That Stopped the Dalton Gang, a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
- Dalton Gang's Raid on Coffeyville article by Robert Barr Smith
- Presland, Kith M. "Emmett Dalton - His Life After the Coffeyville Raid". kayempea.net. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
- Samuelson, Nancy B. "Dalton Gang". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
- Weiser-Alexander, Kathy. "The Dalton Gang". Legends of America - Old West Legends. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
- Weiser-Alexander, Kathy. "The Dalton Brothers - Lawmen & Outlaws". Legends of America - Old West Legends. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
- Weiser-Alexander, Kathy. "Heck Thomas - Tough Law in Indian Territory". Legends of America - Old West Legends. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
- "The Dalton Girls". Internet Movie Data Base. December 1957. Retrieved April 21, 2011.