[October 5, 2016] One of the great legends out of the Old West in America came about in the late 1800s when the infamous Dalton Gang terrorized the state of Oklahoma robbing and killing. Much has been written and movies made about the gang and their exploits but little on the townspeople who helped bring their activity to a deadly ending. The real story, an inspirational one, is about those local heroes and their courage.
Those in the Dalton Gang were family members of the Dalton clan but also several of their friends. Originally the Dalton’s were members of the respected law enforcement community but they turned and decided that robbery was more lucrative. Initially they concentrated on train holdups although their take was poor and had more murders to their credit than money.
The Old West out on the frontier was very different from today in America and looking back it’s almost like a fantasy. People were hard; we can say little would faze them and they were independent in every sense of the word. In the little hard-scrapple town of Coffeyville, Oklahoma there was a sense that life was good as long as everyone cooperated and helped their neighbors when the time came.
On this date, October 5, 1892, five outlaws from the Dalton Gang rode into Coffeyville shortly after 9:00 am. The gang members had decided to rob not just one bank but two simultaneously; the First National and Condon Banks. After their arrival in town they split up. Unfortunately for them, someone recognized one of the gang members and spread the word that the town banks were being robbed.
Gun battles between the gang members and the townspeople occurred at both banks. This was the day that the Dalton Gang came to an end. Four members of the gang were killed and the sole survivor seriously wounded. Also, four local citizens were killed, including the town’s marshal. The gang’s sole survivor Emmett Dalton was tried and sentenced to life in prison and was later pardoned in 1907.
But the real story here is the courage of the local townspeople who did the right thing and brought to justice, real justice, a murderous gang that had caused havoc and terror throughout most of Oklahoma. They deserve our respect and our right to call them local heroes.
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Note. For a good summary of the Dalton Gang, see: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-dalton.html