Sunday, August 21, 2016

Aftermath of the Dalton Gang Raid on Coffeyville Kansas

Emmett Dalton
(from Topeka State Journal. November 4, 1907)
Of course, after the gang was exterminated, there were rumors. Rumors that the ghosts of the Daltons would return to extract revenge from the citizens of Coffeyville. Rumors that the town would be burned to the ground. Rumors that the men would be killed. Rumors that the women would be raped and brutally butchered. And, rumors that the money—finally, would be removed from the banks.

Liveryman John Kloehr received a letter that rattled the entire community upon its publication. It said that “not all of the Dalton Gang are dead by a hell of a sight.” Five of the gang were still living. They had missed the raid because of a mix-up of dates. They would be in Coffeyville soon—to extract their revenge.

“You people had no cause to take arms against the gang,” continued the writer. “The bankers will not help the widows of the men who got killed there, and you thought you were playing hell when you killed three of us, but the time will soon come when you will have to go into the grove and pass in your checks for killing Bob and Joe Evans and Texas Jack. So take warning, and we will leave you in the hands of God for this time.”

Signed the “Dalton Gang.”[1]

Things came to a head on October 15th. It was reported, “The town of Coffeyville is wild with excitement over a reported attempt to burn the town and kill the people, out of revenge for the killing of the Dalton Gang last week.”[2] The mayor told reporters, Ben and William Dalton, and a load of their sympathizers had been loitering about Coffeyville for days.

They were gone now, and so was Emmett. Sheriff Callahan had moved him to the jail at Independence as soon as he was able to travel. Still, people remembered the Dalton family lurking about town—especially Bill Dalton. There was something shifty about him—in the way he talked—and the way he sat back, and watched everything. Many folks supposed there was a bit of the devil in him.

Doors and windows were locked and barred shut. Citizens were “armed to the teeth.”
Isham's Hardware Store as it appeared in 1892
Townspeople went so far as to start a bonfire in the center of town to illuminate the city.

The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railroad sent in a special car loaded with a posse of fifty men, and enough rifles to supply the town.

The source of the rumor was apparently detective Fred Dodge, of Wells Fargo and Company. He told Coffeyville mayor H. M Stansbury, “The plan was for George Dalton and forty whites and half-breeds, completely armed, to ride into Coffeyville at 9 o’clock p.m., and wipe out the place. No mercy was to be given, according to Dodge’s information.”[3]

Dodge reported he was busy, scouring Indian Territory for George Dalton, and his raiders. In the meantime, he advised the townspeople that they should ready themselves for anything and everything. The raiders would be well armed, and hungry for revenge.

Citizens assembled in the square, armed with “rifles and revolvers and plenty of ammunition.” They established a cordon around the village—guarding every approach to town. Patrols were sent four miles into the country to search out the raiders. The Evening Bulletin said the patrol consisted “of men who have been in more than one fight—cool, determined fellows, ready to face death if need be.”[4]

As with most such threats, nothing came of it. No marauders rode anywhere close to Coffeyville. No citizens came to any harm. No buildings were burned. And no women were raped or molested. In the end, it was nothing more than an idle threat.

Several members of the Dalton Gang were still alive. They would be joined by brother Bill Dalton, and from here on out, they would be known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang—or more famously, as the Wild Bunch. 

They had no interest in Coffeyville. What happened there was in the past. They were getting ready to cut a new swath of terror, murder, and mayhem through Indian Territory.

[1] San Saba News. October 21, 1892.
[2] Jamestown Weekly Alert. October 20, 1892.
[3] Evening Bulletin. October 15, 1892.
[4] Evening Bulletin. October 15, 1892.


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