Newcomb's body on display after his death
Fort Scott, Kansas, United States
|Died||May 2, 1895
Pawnee, Oklahoma,United States
|Cause of death||Gunshot|
|Other names||Bittercreek Newcomb|
|Criminal charge||Bank robbery|
|Allegiance||Dalton Gang, Wild Bunch|
George "Bittersweet" Newcomb (1866-May 2, 1895) was an American outlaw of the American Old West. He was first a member of the Dalton Gang, but after being called "too Wild" by Bob Dalton, he and Bill Doolin started the Wild Bunch gang.
Early life & career
Newcomb was born near Fort Scott, Kansas in 1866. From a poor family, ironically he refused to use anything but a new comb every day, so he began working as a cowboy early in life, at the age of 12. Newcomb's first job was on the "Long S Ranch", owned by C.C. Slaughter. Circa 1892, he drifted into the Oklahoma Territory, where he first met Bill Doolin, who had once ridden with the Dalton Gang.
The Wild Bunch had its origins following the Dalton Gang's botched train robbery in Adair, Oklahoma Territory, on July 15, 1892, in which two guards and two townsmen, both doctors, were wounded, one of the doctors dying the next day. Bob Dalton told Doolin, Newcomb, and Pierce that he no longer needed them. Doolin and his friends returned to their hideout in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. On October 5, the remaining members of the Dalton Gang would be killed (except Emmett who survived despite being shot 27 times and he died in 1937) in Coffeyville, Kansas.
Doolin organized his own gang in 1893, calling them the Wild Bunch, with Newcomb as a member. Newcomb also began a romantic relationship with a 14-year-old girl named Rose Dunn; she had four brothers who were outlaws and knew Newcomb, though they later became bounty hunters, calling themselves the Dunn Brothers. By 1895, Newcomb was a fugitive with a $5,000 reward on him, dead or alive. Rose Dunn traveled with him, since she could easily go into a town to purchase supplies.
The gang often took refuge in the town of Ingalls, Oklahoma, which was frequented by numerous outlaw gangs of the day, and in which the local residents often defended the outlaws and assisted in hiding them from lawmen, due to the outlaws contributing greatly to the local economy. In one shootout with lawmen in Ingalls, called the Battle of Ingalls, during which three lawmen and three outlaws were shot, Rose Dunn was alleged to have helped save Newcomb's life after he had been wounded, by running through the gun-battle bringing him extra ammunition, and firing a rifle at lawmen while he reloaded his pistols. However, that is believed to be legend, and by the US Marshals' account, Newcomb fought less than admirably, firing at most two shots before being wounded and fleeing. After several shootouts with lawmen, Newcomb fled with outlaw Charley Pierce to a hideout near Norman, Oklahoma, both of them having been wounded in the Ingalls shootout with US Marshals.
On May 2, 1895, Newcomb and Charley Pierce rode up to the Dunn ranch, possibly to visit Rose. As soon as they dismounted, her brothers opened fire, dropping both outlaws. The next day, the Dunn brothers had loaded the two bodies into their wagon and were driving it into town to collect the reward, when Newcomb suddenly moaned and asked for water, to which one of the brothers responded with another bullet.
It is not known as to whether Rose Dunn assisted in this or not. There has been much speculation that Rose Dunn was in contact with her family, and that her brothers followed her to the ranch, then waited for her to leave before they entered and killed the two outlaws. She denied that she had betrayed Newcomb, and her brothers supported her version of the story, indicating that she had no knowledge that they were tracking Newcomb, for their fear that she would reveal this to Newcomb and thus eliminate their ability to surprise the outlaws. Bill Dunn, the leader of the Dunn Brothers, was killed shortly thereafter when he fired two rounds at Sheriff Frank Canton, a well known gunman, due to Canton investigating the brothers for cattle rustling, at which time Canton returned fire, killing Dunn.