The Coffeyville Affair

By October of 1892, only five men remained in the Dalton Gang. Three left voluntarily, one simply disappeared and another, Charley Byant, was killed in a gun battle in August of 1891. So, on the morning of October 5, 1892, it was five men-Bob, Emmett and Grat Dalton, Bill Power and Dick Broadwell-who tried to make history by robbing two banks at one time. Only one would make it out alive.

The gang rode into Coffeyville, Kansas about nine in the morning. After hitching their horses in an alley, the men grouped themselves into a formation, three in front and two in the rear. Grat, power and Broadwell, the three in front, proceeded to the C.M. Condon & Co. Bank. Bob and Emmett went to the First National Bank.

The citizens quickly realized what was about to happen and went to the hardware store to arm themselves for battle.

In the Condon Bank, the bandits found three men and demanded that the safe be opened. The cashier told them that there was a time lock that could not be opened for another ten minutes. Grat, Power and Broadwell decided to wait, but in the meantime, the citizens opened fire.
Bob and Emmett had a little more success at First National, where bankers handed over the money to them. But as the Daltons reached the door of the building, they were met with a volley of fire from the citizens. Bob and Emmett retreated and left the back by the back door.

In the next fifteen minutes, the streets of Coffeyville were a firing zone. Of the Dalton Gang, only Emmett emerged alive, although he was wounded. The other four robbers and four citizens had died in the gunfire. The money was recovered and the next day First National reported a surplus of $1.98 and Condon's a loss of $20.00.

Emmett Dalton was nearly lynched by the crowd at Coffeyville, but cooler heads prevailed to see him to jail and eventually trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and was pardoned after serving fifteen years in the Kansas State Prison. Emmett went on to write two books about the Dalton Gang and also became involved in the movie business. He died in 1937.

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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