Randolph County Arkansas Genealogy Trails

Randolph County's Connection to the Dalton Gang

(Randolph County's Connection to the Dalton Gang)

By Jake Marlett
    On Oct. 5, 1892, the small railroad town of Coffeyville, Kan., was written into the pages of history for all time.  The 12 minutes of blazing gunfire that occurred there on the bright sunny fall morning has endured down through the ages.  Eight men lost their lives, four defending the law and four violating it.
    The Dalton Gang begins in Mt. Sterling, Montgomery County, Kentucky, where James Lewis Dalton, Sr. married Matilda Rayburn on Feb. 20, 1821.  James "Lewis" Dalton Jr., father of the Dalton gang was born near Mt. Sterling in 1826.  At age 15, Junior ran away from home, caught a wagon train west and was never heard from again by his immediate family.  1851 finds the James Lewis Dalton Jr. family in Jackson County, Missouri, a few miles south of Kansas City and married to Adeline Younger on March 12.  The Missouri census of 1880 finds the Dalton family still living in Jackson County, and now, the future Dalton Gang was growing up with Gratten (Grat), age 19; Robert (Bob), 11; and Emmett, 9.  Lewis Jr. and Adeline had 15 children with three dying as infants.
    It may be worth noting here that Charles Younger, father of Adeline, may have been kin to the infamous Younger brothers, Cole, Bob and Jim Younger, who rode with the Frank and Jesse James Gang.
    Charles and Adeline's family lived only 20 miles from the James farm near Kearney, Mo.  During the 1880s Lewis and Adeline moved their family to Dearing, Kan., a small community about 10 miles north of Coffeyville.  By the early 1890s, the Dalton Gang had already gained a reputation as train robbers and several of the local citizens knew them and their family.  Their mother, Adeline, an expert seamstress and very religious, never approved of her sons' outlaw ways.  In 1889 she separated from her husband and she and her son, Ben, went to Indian Territory where they squatted on a section land, now Oklahoma.  Her last known whereabouts was that she bought a small house in Kingfisher, Okla.  Her husband, Lewis Jr., died in 1890.  Lewis Jr. was a veteran of the Mexican War of 1847-1848.
    During the planning stages to rob two banks at the same time, the Condon and First National in Coffeyville, Grat Dalton, the leader, brothers Bob and Emmett, Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell decided to wear disguises.  When they left their camp on Onion Creek about three miles south of Coffeyville, they road at a slow pace joking about their fake moustaches, goatees and whiskers.  They didn't want to arrive in town before the banks opened.  It was a beautiful fall day.
    The gang arrived in town around 9:30 a.m. and tied their horses to a hitching rail in an alley, later named Death Alley.  As Grat, Broadwell and Powers headed toward the Condon Bank, Bob and Emmett strode toward the First National Bank, Charles Gump, a drayman, recognized some of the outlaws and immediately spread the word around town.  The news spread like wildfire.  Storekeeper Alex McKenna also recognized the gang members and got busy.  Bob and Emmett Dalton were successful and relieved the First National of $23,000 in gold and bank notes.  Grat, Bill and Dick ran into trouble at the Condon Bank.  Quick-thinking teller Charles Ball told Grat and friends that the bank vault was on a time lock and would not open for 15 minutes--this was untrue.  Cocky Grat Dalton replied, "We'll wait," and that was his undoing.  The teller had given the town precious time to arm themselves.  When Bob and Emmett tried to leave the First National Bank, a hail of withering gunfire greeted them, shattering windows, wood and bank furniture causing the bank employees and customers to hit the floor.  At the sound of gunfire, the Dalton gang headed to the alley where their horses were tied, guns blazing, with the townspeople following and shooting as they went.
    The gang had failed to devise a good escape plan.  Emmett Dalton reached his horse, threw the money sack over the saddle, mounted and was ready to escape then saw his brother Bob go down in a hail of bullets.  Emmett went back and stretched down to help his mortally wounded brother into the saddle when Bob gasped, "I'm done for, never surrender and die game."  At this moemnt a barber, Carey Seaman, fired both barrels of his sotgun and Emmett fell.  All the outlaws were down as the townspeople rushed into the alley ready to hang any survivors, but David Elliott, publisher of the Coffeyville Journal, restored order.
    Emmett was hit 23 times, carried to a drugstore where Dr. W. H. Wells patched him up.  He was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
    Grat and Bob Dalton, Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell were photographed, handcuffed and placed in jail overnight and buried the next day.
    Grat was 30 years of age, Bob 24 and Emmett 21.  Also killed that day were brave citizens Town Marshal Charles Connelly, 47, who was also a school teacher, Lucius Baldwin, 23, clerk at Read Brothers Store, George Cubine, 36, a shoe maker and Charles Brown, 60, also a shoemaker.  These brave men have been honored by the citizens of Coffeyville, Kan., since the day they died defending the law and their town.
    In 1907 Kansas Gov. E. H. Hoch pardoned Emmett Dalton and he returned to Coffeyville to install a red granite headstone for his dead brothers.  For the past 15 years, the arch-shaped hitching post the brothers had used to hitch their horses in Death Alley has been used to mark their graves.  Emmett's childhood sweetheart, Julia Johnson, had waited for him and they were soon married and moved to Tulsa, Okla., where Emmett got a job as a police officer.  He wrote a book entitled "Beyond the Law," and went to California to help produce a movie with the same name.  The movie told of the lives of the Dalton Gang but was a failure.  Emmett had hoped to become a movie star.  However he did become successful as a building contractor.  
    Our family history states that Emmett Dalton visited my great-grandfather, David "Tim" Dalton at his farm just east of Old Burr, Mo., in Ripley County in 1911.  Although they had never met before, they agreed that they were from the same Dalton clan.
    Great-grandpa Tim, 1844-1921, was a big man, a blacksmith for 50 years at Warm Springs, Ingram and Middlebrook in Arkansas, played the fiddle, and loved visits to his grandchildren.  A wounded Confederate soldier during the battle of Prairie Grove, he was drawing a pension in the amount of $75 a month at the time of his death.  His last home was located about 200 yards southeast of the present day Dalton cemetery on part of the farm where he was born.
    In 1931, Emmett Dalton, then 60, returned to Coffeyville and spent many hours with Kansas City Star reporter, A. B. McDonald walking around retracing the route of the Dalton Gang that took place 39 years earlier.  They went to the Elmwood Cemetery where his brothers are buried and Emmett pointed to the red granite headstone and said, "I challenge the world to produce the history of an outlaw who ever got anything out of it except that of a prison cell."  He added, "The biggest fool on earth is the one who thinks he can beat the law."
    Today, there is a museum in Coffeyville developed 62 years to the day after the Daltons' fateful raid.  Photos, guns, a copper whiskey still, ox bells, etc. are on display for the public.  The Dalton Gang is viewed by the public with awe and admiration similar to the James Gang and others, but in the end there was relief when they were in their graves.
--Written for the Pocahontas Star Herald, March 9, 2006 by Jake Marlett, a former resident of Randolph County who now lives in Wentzville, Mo.  (Contributed by Freda Roberts)

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