Bill Dalton

Even with the demise of the Dalton Gang at Coffeyville, there was one member of the family who still captured the attention and fears of citizens in Indian Territory. Bill Dalton's name was splashed across headlines as continuing the lawlessness that made his brothers infamous. He was called the "worst outlaw who ever stole a horse shot a man in the Southwest!"

It is unknown how much Bill was involved with his brothers' outlaw activities. He could not have participated in their first two robberies as he was in jail in California at the time. But Bill did join up with Bill Doolin after the Coffeyville affair to lead what was called the Dalton Gang or the Dalton-Doolin Gang. This band of outlaws continued in the vein of Grat, Emmett and Bob Dalton, robbing the Santa Fe railrod, fighting a gun battle with deupty marshals at ingalls and robbing the Woodward Station Agent.

What made Bill's story slightly different than his brothers was that he was killed several times during his career. Newspaper reports of the Ingalls gunfight had Bill wounded so seriously that he could not live. In April 1894 he was again reported so badly shot up that he would die, this time as a result of a shootout with Deputy William Carr at Sacred Heart mission. Later that same month, Bill Dalton was killed again, this time by a posse of seventeen U.S. deputy marshals. Two years after Bill's actual death he was captured in New York City and then committed suicide in Wyoming.

Ironically, the real cause of Bill's death was a robbery in which he was not even personally involved. In May of 1894, the gang held up a bank in longview, Texas, stealing $2,600. They immediately had a posse on their trail, and in the weeks that followed, the robbers eventually crossed over from Texas into Oklahoma, passing by the area where Bill Dalton lived with his family. On June 8, 1894 a posse of lawmen approached Bill's home near Ardmore, Oklahoma. Bill, with a pistol in hand, jumped out of a window and ran toward the posse, ignoring orders to halt. He was killed immediately. This time his wife and two brothers identified the body and shipped him to California for burial.

Juliet Galonska
March 1996

References: The Dalton Gang Story by Nancy Samuelson.

This sketch is part of a series, “Fort Smith Minutes,” originally developed by the park staff to provide one minute long public service announcements for local radio stations. These sketches provide a light and entertaining glimpse into the complex history of Fort Smith.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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