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Perhaps the best thing about being a Western author is that it has allowed me to go to places, see things, and meet extraordinary people, rare opportunities which would never have presented themselves under ordinary conditions.
Since I started attending the yearly conventions for the Western Writers of America, I often use those opportunities to, on my own, visit places that have a real significance in Old West history.
This year, I visited the home of famed Old West outlaw, Jesse James, in St. Joseph, Missouri. Continuing my ride along this outlaw trail, I also visited Coffeyville, Kansas, made famous by the Dalton Brothers.
St. Joseph and Coffeyville, both of these towns would prove to take a great toll on the illegal activities of outlaw brothers, Jesse and Frank James and the Dalton Brothers, respectively.
Perhaps I will say more about St. Joseph later, but for now, I wish to focus on my visit to Coffeyville, Kansas, a town which ultimately punched the ticket for the Dalton Gang.
Bob Dalton had a plan, a big plan.
It was Bob’s stated desire to “beat anything Jesse James ever did–rob two banks at once, in broad daylight.”
On October 5, 1892, Bob Dalton decided to put his plan into action.
It was certainly a daring and unique plan, but it
also suffered from bad luck and poor execution,
as the photo so clearly illustrates…
The daring raid on Coffeyville might have
succeeded were it not for two things:
As was often the case, the good citizens of Coffeyville didn’t much care for the idea of their money being robbed from the local banks. They apparently also didn’t share the grand aspirations of Bob Dalton and were somewhat hostile to the idea of helping him become more prominent in Old West, outlaw history than Jesse James.
Upon realizing what was happening in their midst, the townspeople were quickly alerted. And next door at the local hardware store, Isham’s, the proprietor was passing out brand new 1873 Winchesters and a couple of boxes of ammo, free to anyone who would dare try to stop the outlaws.
Natural selection dictates that fools generally die first, so it is not all that surprising that those in the C.M. Condon Bank, Grat and his companions, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power, were among the first of the outlaws to die, although Broadwell did get mounted, long enough for his horse to carry his mortally-wounded body about a half-mile west of town, where his body was soon located.
Bob and Emmett Dalton fared somewhat better in their robbery attempt at First National Bank. Perhaps it also had something to do with Bob’s wise decision to actually use the back door of the bank for their escape.
Bob and Emmett were still relatively-unscathed when they reached the alley, in which Bob would be shot multiple times and mortally wounded. Emmett mounted his horse and might have gotten away with his money, had he not boldly decided to come to the assistance of his dying brother, Bob.
Despite receiving 23 gunshot wounds, a captured Emmett Dalton would survive the shooting and spend the next 14 years in Kansas State Penitentiary. He died in Los Angeles, CA, in 1937, dwelling in the same city as another famed Old West figure, former marshal, Wyatt Earp.
Perhaps this October day in Coffeyville, Kansas, was also a transformative day in Old West history. Civilization was coming to the Old West. The era of roving outlaw bands would no longer be tolerated.
Gone forever would be the days when outlaws were permitted to ply their trade without suffering the consequences of their actions.
When the good citizens of Coffeyville brought down the Dalton Brothers on October 5, 1882, you might say the Wild West finally became the Old West.
Riding the Outlaw Trail
The three pictures above need no explanation other than to tell you that this is what you will find painted on the street in Death Alley.
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