Doc Middleton

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James M. Riley
Born(1851-02-09)February 9, 1851
DiedDecember 29, 1913(1913-12-29) (aged 62)
Other names
  • Doc Middleton
  • David C. Middleton
  • Texas Jack
  • Jack Lyons
  • Gold-Tooth Jack
  • Gold-Tooth Charley
OccupationHorse Thieving
Criminal chargeHorse theft, (multiple counts) Murders {1 known}

James M. Riley (better known as Doc Middleton and also known as David C. Middleton, Texas Jack, Jack Lyons, Gold-Tooth Jack and Gold-Tooth Charley) (February 9, 1851 – December 29, 1913) was an outlaw and horse thief, whose exploits of stealing perhaps 2,000 horses over a two-year period earned a spot in the Wild West Show.

Riley was born in Bastrop, Texas.

Criminal career[edit]

He stole his first horse at age of 14. In 1870 he was convicted for murder[2] and was sentenced to life in prison at the Huntsville Prison.
In 1874 he escaped the prison.[3][4][5]

He was caught stealing horses in Iowa. After serving 18 months he moved to Sidney, Nebraska where he shot and killed a soldier Pvt James Keith of the 5th Cavalry Regiment January 13, 1877 from nearby Fort Sidney in a bar fight.[6][7][8] He was arrested but he escaped as a lynch mob gathered.[3]

He was eventually wanted by Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Union Pacific Railroad, which offered rewards for his capture. Army officer William H. H. Llewellyn, seeking to protect pony herds on the Pine Ridge Reservation,[9] was dispatched to capture him. Llewellyn along with an army from detachment under George Crook lured him to a meeting with a promise of a pardon from the governor. In a melee two of Doc's gang were killed and a lawman named Hazen was wounded [10] but Middleton was captured and was taken to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he was convicted of Grand larceny and served a prison sentence from September 18, 1879 and released on June, 18 1883.[11] {At the time of his 1879 arrest it was reported that he had stolen thirty-five horses from William Irving of Cheyenne in 1877}[12]

In 1884 he and his third bride (a 16-year-old girl) moved to Gordon, Nebraska, where he operated a saloon and was briefly a deputy sheriff.[13]

In 1893 Buffalo Bill, as a stunt for the World's Columbian Exposition, enlisted him to participate in the 1,000 mile horse race from Chadron, Nebraska, to Chicago . He completed the race and rode most of the way, although he was transported part of the way by train.

In 1897 it was reported he was City Marshal of Edgemont, South Dakota[14]

In 1900 he later moved to Gordon, Nebraska and had a saloon in both Gordon and Ardmore, South Dakota and was also the town Marshal,[15] and in 1913 he moved to Orin Junction, Wyoming where he opened a saloon. After getting in a knife fight at the bar he was arrested for dispensing liquor illegally. While in jail he contracted erysipelas and died.[3] He is buried in Douglas Park Cemetery in Douglas, Wyoming.[1]

Media produced of his life[edit]

In 1974, Swallow Press, Inc, Chicago, published a biography of Doc Middleton, Doc Middleton Life and Legends of the Notorious Plains Outlaw, by Harold Hutton. Now out of print, some copies can be found on the internet. According to Hutton, Doc Middleton became best friends with one Zack Light, an equally desperate and offensive outlaw. Zack Light married Doc's sister Margaret Riley, but after a couple of years with the ruffian, marriage proved impossible and Margaret Riley moved to South Texas with her two children, Minnie Light and Zack Light, Jr.

In the biography of Juan Light Salinas, Tio Cowboy – Juan Salinas, Rodeo Performer and Horseman, (Texas A & M Press, 2007) author Ricardo D. Palacios relates that Margaret Riley was his great-grandmother. Minnie Light married Antonio G. Salinas, later Sheriff of Webb County, Texas. Together, Antonio and Minnie had five children: Juan Light Salinas, Jose Maria Salinas, Mucia Salinas (the author's mother), Margarita Salinas, and Antonio Light Salinas. Palacios explains in Tio Cowboy that the eldest and the youngest of the children, Juan Light Salinas and Antonio Light Salinas (grandnephews of Doc Middleton), became prolific rodeo performers in the tie-down calf roping event, eventually joining the national circuit and making every rodeo they could from about 1936 to 1949. They attended every finals rodeo at Madison Square Garden from 1936 to 1946. They were never world champions but they won their share and earned a very comfortable living in their sport. Juan Light Salinas was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1992. Juan Salinas and Doc Middleton never met each other, but coincidentally, decades apart of course, both performed at the rodeo at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, "The Daddy of Them All."

A short documentary film aired on Nebraska PBS in 2017 by filmmaker David Higgins (The Aviation Cocktail) called Doc Middleton: The Unwickedest Outlaw. The opening of the short states that Higgins has spent a decade researching the life of the famed Nebraska outlaw.[16] The film uses reenactments and animation, along with interviews from individuals such as Platte County historian Tim Benson, President of the Association of Professional Genealogists Roberta King, Rock County historian Carolyn Hall and Converse County historian Steve Gregersen.


  1. ^ a b c "Doc Middleton: Life Story". Leaders and Legends. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2009.
  2. ^ [However see footnotes 4 & 5]
  3. ^ a b c "Doc Middleton: Road Agent and Bandit". Rootsweb, an community. April 2005. Retrieved January 8, 2009.
  4. ^ Note: however the Texas Convicts Register notes a James Reily born 1851 of Grayson County, Texas in Huntsville Prison July 12, 1875 { Subscription to see entire record}
  5. ^ See also footnote # 17 page 161 of David Johnson's "The Mason County "Hoo Doo" War
  6. ^ Omaha daily bee., January 16, 1877, Image 1
  7. ^ Baddader's Blog
  8. ^ James Keith Find a memorial
  9. ^ Roeder, Wilfried E. “Fred”. "Colonel William H. H. Llewellyn: Troop H, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry ("Rough Riders"), (1851-1927)". The Spanish American War Centennial Website. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  10. ^ yesteryearsnews
  11. ^ "Doc Middleton (February 9, 1851 - December 27, 1913)". WOLA – Western Outlaw Lawman History Association. 2002–2007. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009.
  12. ^ The Columbus journal., August 20, 1879, Image 4
  13. ^ Omaha daily bee., December 31, 1885, Image 3
  14. ^ The Saint Paul globe., February 15, 1897, Image 1
  15. ^ Yesteryear.wordpress
  16. ^ "Nebraska Stories: Doc Middleton, The Unwickedest Outlaw, 806". Nebraska Educational Telecommunications. Nebraska Educational Telecommunications. Retrieved 19 July 2017.

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