In Southeast Kansas and the four-state area there is so much “wild west” history, I have a hard time keeping these posts short! There are many details that have been left out, and some details here may be arguable. In this area, I know Dalton and James descendants. Several area towns still have ‘Jesse James’ days. Please enjoy this condensed history. ~sekanblogger
Lewis Dalton was a saloon keeper in Kansas City, Kansas, when he married Adeline Younger, the aunt of Cole and Jim Younger, other famous outlaws who rode with Jesse James and gang. In 1882 the family lived in northeast Oklahoma, and by 1886 they had moved to Coffeyville in southeast Kansas. When the Oklahoma Territory opened for settlement in 1889, the family homesteaded Kingfisher Oklahoma. (My own Grandfather was a child in this same Oklahoma land rush.) The Dalton’s had 15 children, 13 survived to adulthood. One son, Frank, was a U.S. Deputy Marshal who was killed in the line of duty in 1887. Hoping to avenge their brother’s death, the three younger Dalton boys-Grattan “Grat” (b. 1861), Bob (b. 1869), and Emmett (b. 1871)–became lawmen. By 1890, the boys had made the change from lawmen to outlaws.
Bob Dalton was always the wild one. He killed a man for the first time when he was just 19. In March 1890, Bob was charged with introducing liquor into Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), but did not appear for his trial. In September 1890, Grat was arrested for stealing horses–a hanging 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, Bill McElhanie, and “Blackfaced Charley” Bryant to ride with him and his brother Emmett. Grat Dalton joined in later, as did Bill Doolin, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Powers. Their first robbery target was a gambling house in Silver City, New Mexico.
In February 1891, the ‘Dalton Gang’ was in California and Southern Pacific passenger train was held up. The Daltons were accused of the robbery, based on little evidence. Bob escaped and Bill was acquitted, but Grat was arrested, convicted, and put on a train headed for a 20-year prison sentence. Grat was handcuffed to one deputy and accompanied by another. 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 deputy’s pocket as he slept and then timed his escape to take place when he knew the train would be on a bridge. Somehow he found his brothers and made his way back to Oklahoma Territory. The Dalton brothers were now professional outlaws. Between May 1891 and July 1892 they robbed four trains in 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 Powers walked through the passenger cars, robbing the passengers as they went. Bill Doolin and Grat Dalton threw the safe out of the train. They only got a few hundred dollars, and it wasn’t long until Blackfaced Charley was caught and killed in an escape attempt.
The gang struck again in July at Adair near the Arkansas border. They first robbed the train station, then calmly sat waiting. When the train came in at 9:45 p.m., they backed a wagon up to the express car and unloaded the loot. There were 11 armed guards on the train, but for some reason all were at the back of the train. The guards fired at the bandits from behind the train. None of the Dalton gang was hit. Three guards were wounded and a town doctor was killed by a stray bullet.
The gang could have kept themselves busy with train robberies, but Bob Dalton wanted to make sure his name would long be remembered. 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 in Coffeyville, Kansas.
By this time, Cole Younger was serving a 25-year sentence for his part in a bank robbery attempt. From his prison cell he warned his Dalton cousins against a life of violence and crime, but they would not listen. These former Coffeyville residents planned to outdo the James Gang by using the town as the setting for a spectacular double bank robbery. The robbery ended, however, with four of the five outlaws dead. Coffeyville became famous all over the country as the “town that stopped the Daltons.”
THE FOLLOWING IS FROM THE COFFEYVILLE JOURNAL (still published today)
DALTONS! The Robber Gang Meet Their Waterloo in Coffeyville. The Outlaws Beaten at Their Own Game.