The Dalton Brothers, was a family of both lawmen and outlaws in the American Old West during 1890-1892. They specialized in bank and train robberies. They were related to the Younger brothers, who rode with Jesse James, though they acted later and independently of the James-Younger Gang. The three Dalton brothers involved in the gang were Gratton "Grat" Dalton (b. 1861), Bob Dalton (b. 1869), and Emmett Dalton (b. 1871). A fourth brother, William M. "Bill" Dalton (1866-€“1894), also had a career as an outlaw, but operated as a member of the Wild Bunch. Part of a large family headed by parents Adaline Younger Dalton and James Lewis Dalton. Lewis Dalton came west from Kentucky to Missouri during the late 1840's and in the 1850's he was trading horses and running a saloon in Westport, Missouri (now Kansas City) when he married Adeline.
Most of their fifteen children were born in Missouri before the family migrated to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1882, Grattan "Grat" Dalton (1861 - 5 Oct 1892); William "Bill" Marion Dalton (1863 - 1894); Franklin "Frank" Dalton (1864? - 27 Nov 1887); Robert "Bob" Renick Dalton (1870 - 5 Oct 1892); Emmett "Em" Dalton (1871 - 13 Jul 1937). In 1886, they moved again to a place near Coffeyville, Kansas. In this rough and wild area, the Dalton brothers inherited a tradition of violence on the bloody ground of the Missouri -Kansas border, where Quantrill's raiders and other guerilla bands operated during and after the Civil War.
For a short time the brothers served on the side of the law, working as Deputy Marshals. Their older brother, Frank Dalton, was commissioned a Deputy Marshal for the federal court in Fort Smith, Arkansas and Bob Dalton served on several of his posses. On Nov. 27, 1887 in a gun battle with the Smith-Dixon Gang, Frank Dalton was shot and killed in the line of duty.
Bob Dalton, who would later become the leader of the Dalton Gang, was the wildest of the bunch. When he was just 19, he killed a man, claiming it was in the line of duty. Nevertheless, some suspected that the victim had tried to take away Bob's girl. While Emmett Dalton worked as member of some of his brothers' posses, he made his living working as a cowboy on the Bar X Bar Ranch near the Pawnee Agency. While working at the ranch, Emmett met two men who would later become members of the gang -- Bill Doolin and William St. Power, alias Bill Powers. Powers, also known as Tom Evans, had drifted into the area from Texas with a trail herd from the Pecos. Emmett also made the acquaintance of several other cowboys working on nearby ranches who would later become part of the gang. These included Charlie Pierce, George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, Bill EcElhanie, Charlie Bryant, and Richard (Dick) Broadwell, alias Texas Jack, alias John Moore.
For a short time, the brothers served with distinction on the side of the law. But, a narrow margin separated the lawless from the law enforcers during those rough times. Slipping from one side to the other, Bob Dalton, along with his brother Emmett, were charged with selling whiskey in the Osage Nation on March 21, 1890.
Jumping bail, Bob and Emmett headed to New Mexico. Forming their first "gang", Bob recruited George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, Bill EcElhanie, and "Blackfaced Charley" Bryant to ride with them. It was at a gambling house in Silver City, New Mexico that the Dalton Gang committed their first robbery.
After riding into the mining camp, the crew sat down at a faro game, where they lost heavily. Convinced the game was crooked, they pulled their guns, taking back what they had lost and then some. Bob and Emmett fled to California, where their younger brother Bill was a successful farmer and rancher.
In September, 1890, Grat was arrested for stealing horses, but was later released for lack of evidence. Grat lost his job as a deputy marshal for conduct unbecoming an officer, but he still worked as a posse man for other deputy marshals in the area for a time. Later, he too, left Indian Territory, joining his brothers in California.
Bill's anger with the railroad is thought to be one of the reasons the brothers decided to rob a Southern Pacific train headed to Los Angeles on February 6, 1891. Prior to this robbery, Bill had not been in trouble with the law at all. Bill, along with Bob, Grat and Emmett attempted to hold up the train at Alila, California, but this first attempt at train robbery was a fiasco. While Bill kept the passengers from interfering by shooting over their heads, the others forced the engineer to show them the location of the cash-carrying express car. When the engineer, a man by the name of George Radcliffe, tried to slip away, he was shot and killed. Finding the express car on their own, the guard refused to open the heavy door and began firing on them. Thwarted, the brothers finally gave up and rode away.
Waiting for the at the train at the station on June 1, 1892 at Red Rock in Oklahoma Territory, they sensed danger when the train arrived without any lights shining from its coach windows. Quickly, they abandoned their plans and allowed the train to pass without incident. However, within a short time a second train came along, and this one, they boarded. Blackfaced Charley Bryant and Dick Broadwell held the engineer and fireman in the locomotive while Bob, Emmett, and Bill Powers walked through the passenger cars taking jewelry and cash. Bill Doolin and Grat Dalton took on the express car, throwing the safe out of the train. Loot in hand, the bandits rode away, only to discover they had gained little for their efforts, as the safe only contained about $50.
Later, they found out that their suspicions were correct regarding the train that they had allowed to pass as it had been full of armed guards protecting $70,000 of the Sac and Fox annuity. Obviously not happy with their take in June, they planned another train heist on July 14, 1892 at Pryor Creek in Indian Territory. Arriving at the train station they first took what they could find from the express and baggage rooms, then calmly sat down waiting for the train to arrive with their shotguns over their knees. Once again the train was loaded with deputies, but for some reason they were all at the back of the train. The gang backed a wagon up to the express car and unloaded all of the contents, easily subduing the one armed guard in the express car. When the marshals finally discovered the robbery, a fierce gun battle broke out where two guards were killed, as well as an innocent bystander and another wounded. However, the gang escaped unharmed making off with $17,000 in cash. After this train robbery, a prize of $5,000 was placed on each of the Dalton's heads. Emmett later wrote: "Posting a 'Dead or Alive' reward for a man performs some dark alchemy in his spirit... He becomes fair game for every pot-shooting hunter... In quite a real sense he belongs thereafter to the living dead." With the law hot on their tails, the Dalton Gang split up for a short time. But, it wasn't long before they began to plan another robbery -€“ this one to be their biggest yet.
One of ten sons and five daughters born to a Missouri farmer and saloon keeper, William Marion Dalton gained notoriety as a bandit but was never a member of the Dalton gang. When he reached adulthood, Bill married and obtained a minor political position in the California town of Tulare. In 1891 his brothers Grat and Bob, already in trouble with the law, came to California and tried to hold up a train. After the aborted robbery Grat sought refuge in Bill's house, and a trailing posse arrested both men. Bill was quickly freed, but Grat was convicted and avoided a stiff prison sentence only by means of a spectacular escape.
After the Coffeyville raid, in which the Dalton gang was decimated in a wild street fight, Bill turned up at his brother Emmett's bedside. Bill was bitter and resentful. Any hope of a political career was ruined by family notoriety; three of his brothers had died violently (Grat and Bob at Coffeyville, Frank while trying to arrest whiskey runners in 1887); and Emmett was facing a life prison term after being gunned down by the men of Coffeyville. Bill yearned to strike back at society, and when Bill Doolin offered him an opportunity, he promptly elected to hit the outlaw trail.
Doolin, a key member of the Dalton gang, had missed the Coffeyville massacre only because his horse had gone lame on the way into town. Doolin subsequently formed a band of robbers known as the "Oklahombres," and Bill Dalton became his second in command. The Oklahombres pulled a series of bank robberies in 1893 and 1894, and in September, 1893, there was a bloody shootout with lawmen in Ingalls, Oklahoma. The gang broke up in 1895, and Dalton tried to hide out with his wife and two children, but he was soon tracked down by a posse and killed at his wife's home.
Everyone knows they were the Desperate Daltons -€¦ that they were a band of cold blooded murderers that roamed the Midwest without challenge, robbing and killing at will ... Or so the story goes. The legend of the Dalton gang has more myth than truth in its telling nowadays, but the real story can still stand on its own.
The Dalton Gang story really cannot be told without beginning with the brother who first lost his life to violence. Frank Dalton, born in 1859, was commissioned a U.S. Deputy Marshal at Fort Smith in 1884. He was involved in numerous dangerous episodes as a deputy and was described as "one of the most brave and efficient officers on the force."
But all of that was to change in a "bloody tragedy" on November 27, 1887. Frank, at that time 28 years old, and Deputy J.R. Cole had gone to the Cherokee Nation to arrest Dave Smith on horse stealing and whiskey charges. Not anticipating any trouble, Frank stepped up to the tent that Smith and his friends were camped in and was immediately shot in the chest by Smith. Deputy Cole reacted quickly and shot Smith in the back. Another man in the tent then rushed out and shot at Deputy Cole who retreated backward, but could not escape a bullet in the chest. The deputy sprang to his feet, though, and using his Winchester as best he could, took refuge behind a tree.
By this time, Cole, under the impression that Frank was dead, decided to try to make his way back to Fort Smith for assistance. Frank was still alive, however, and after Cole got out of range, Will Towerly came out of the tent and shot him in the head twice with a Winchester. Newspaper reports of the time indicated that Frank was conscious and begged Towerly not to shoot him as he was already mortally wounded.
Back at Fort Smith, Deputy Cole gathered up a posse of officers to take back to the scene. Smith, Dalton, and a woman hit in the crossfire were already dead. Another man was badly wounded and taken back to Fort Smith where he died in jail. Will Towerly, the murderer of Frank Dalton, escaped unhurt. Over the next several years, some of the other Dalton boys would meet equally violent ends, but none in the heroic, law abiding way that Frank did.
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