Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch


Bill Doolin
Dear Friends,

When researching "The Wild Bunch," I discovered that there were at least two outlaw gangs that used the moniker "The Wild Bunch." And believe it or not, both operated withing a few years of each other in two completely different regions of the country.

Today, most think of the "Wild Bunch" as the movie with that name. The movie "The Wild Bunch" was a 1969 film which starred William Holden. In 1969, the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" also came out.

Butch Cassidy was supposedly the leader of an outlaw gang called the Wild Bunch. That gang was a loosely very organized outlaw gang operating out of the Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming. But Butch Cassidy's gang was not the original Wild Bunch. That distinction goes to Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch.

While Butch Cassidy's gang operated for about two years from 1899 to 1901 in Northern Wyoming, the first outlaw gang known as the "Wild Bunch" came on the scene a years earlier than Butch Cassidy's gang as a result of outlaw Bill Doolin. Bill Doolin's gang operated from ‎1892 to 1895 in the Oklahoma Territory.

When compared to Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch up in Wyoming, Bill Doolin's gang was much more violent and ruthless when it came to killing lawmen and citizen alike. In fact, some say the Wild Bunch up in Wyoming was down right tame in comparison.

So who was Bill Doolin?


William "Bill" Doolin was born sometime in 1858 and was killed on August 24th in 1896. He was a bandit and founder of the Wild Bunch, an outlaw gang that specialized in robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas during the 1890s.

Bill Doolin was born in Johnson County, Arkansas, the son of Michael and Artemina Beller Doolin,. He left home in 1881 and became a cowboy in the Indian Territory. He was hired by cattleman Oscar D. Halsell, a Texas native, and began working for Halsell as a cowboy in Oklahoma.

During this time, he worked with other noted cowboy and outlaw names of the day, including George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, Charley Pierce, Bill Power, Dick Broadwell, Bill "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, and Emmett Dalton.

Doolin's first brush with the law came on July 4th, 1891, in Coffeyville, Kansas, while working on the Bar X Bar Ranch. Several of the cowboys decided to celebrate the 4th of July holiday by riding over to Coffeyville, KS and throwing a party. There was a keg of beer there and the law showed up. Kansas was a dry state. Doolin and his friends were drunk in public. When lawmen attempted to confiscate their alcohol, a shootout ensued. 

As a result two of the lawmen were wounded, but Doolin escaped capture and fled Coffeyville. Less than two months later, Doolin became a member of the Dalton Gang.

Then, on October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang made its fateful attempt to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas. Their decision to hit Coffeyville would be fatal. The reason is that the robbery attempt was an utter failure, with a shootout ensuing between Coffeyville citizens and lawmen, and the outlaws. The result left four of the five gang members dead, with the exception of Emmett Dalton.

So why wasn't Bill Doolin killed? Well, we know if he was there or not? Well there are Old West historians who have said that there was a sixth gang member in an alley holding their horses. It is believed that he in fact escaped. Who this sixth man was remains unknown to this day. Emmett Dalton never disclosed his identity, but speculation is that it was their newest gang member Bill Doolin. 

Of course there are some historians who say that Bob Dalton told Doolin, Newcomb, and Pierce, that he no longer needed them, and that they supposedly returned to their hideout in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. If so, then it was fortunate for the three because on October 5th the Dalton Gang would be wiped out in Coffeyville, Kansas. Either way, if he was there or not, Bill Doolin was not a part of things when the Dalton Gang was wiped out in Coffeyville, Kansas, that day.

For an type of criminal gang, strength was in numbers even back then. With the Dalton gang wiped out, Bill Doolin wasted no time in putting together another gang. This took place when Doolin formed his own gang that same year.

Later, the law would call them the "Wild Bunch". Because he put the gang together, Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch was also known as the "Doolin-Dalton Gang," "The Oklahombres," and "The Oklahoma Long Riders" because of the long dusters that they wore.

Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch was based in the Indian Territory and is said to have terrorized Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Oklahoma Territory. The were all killers who had no qualms about taking a life if they felt like it.

They robbed banks and stores, held up trains and stagecoaches, stole Army payrolls, and did the same with mine payrolls. They killed lawmen and bystander alike. Of its eleven members, only two would survive into the 20th century. But even though that was the case, all eleven met with violent deaths in gun battles with lawmen.

The gang consisted at various times of Bill Doolin, George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb also known as "Slaughter Kid," Charley Pierce, Oliver "Ol" Yantis, William Marion "Bill" Dalton, William "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, Roy Daugherty also known as "Arkansas Tom Jones," George "Red Buck" Waightman, Richard "Little Dick" West, and William F. "Little Bill" Raidler.

Bill Doolin, in addition to having been a member of the original Dalton Gang, was once a cowboy who was well liked by many in Oklahoma. And later, because of this, it's said that he and his gang received considerable aid in eluding the law in Ingalls in the Oklahoma Territory.

On November 1st, 1892, his new gang, The Wild Bunch, robbed the Ford County Bank at Spearville, Kansas, getting away with all the cash on hand and over $1,500 in treasury notes. From the postcard descriptions sent out, the Stillwater, Oklahoma Territory, city marshal recognized Oliver Yantis who was the newest member of the gang.

After the robbery, the gang began a spree of successful bank and train robberies. But then the gang hid out at the house of Yantis' sister. Less than one month later, U.S. marshal tracked the gang to that location.

On November 29th, 1892, during a shootout with a marshal's posse, Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Hueston and Ford County Kansas Sheriff Chalkey Beeson shot and killed new gang member Oliver Yantis.  During that shootout with the marshal's posse, the rest of the gang was able to escape.

U.S. Marshal Evett "E.D." Nix was appointed by the President of the United States in 1893. Handling the jurisdiction that included the wild Oklahoma Territory, later to be the state of Oklahoma, he served in the closing years of the Old West during the last years of "Hanging Judge" Parker's tenure. He made his main priority the capture of the Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch gang, dead or alive.

He did this by appointing one hundred Deputy U.S. Marshals to the task, insisting they hunt down all outlaws, but with a priority on Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch. And yes, according to all accounts, Marshal Nix was staunchly supportive of his deputies and in the means they felt were necessary to bring down the gang. He was their defender politically, and his deputy marshals systematically hunted down the gang members.

In March of 1893, Bill Doolin married Edith Ellsworth in Ingalls, Oklahoma. And yes, believe it or not, it's said that many locals were actually invited to his wedding knowing full well that he was a killer and an outlaw.

On June 11th, 1893, the Wild Bunch held up a Santa Fe train West of Cimarron, Kansas, and took $1,000 in silver from the California-New Mexico Express. Right on his heels was a sheriff's posse from old Beaver County, Oklahoma Territory. They caught up with the gang north of Fort Supply. 

The gang got away, but during the gunfight Doolin was hit with a bullet in his left foot. Doolin was to suffer with the pain for the rest of his short life, and it led indirectly to his capture.
On September 1st, 1893, a posse organized by the new U.S. Marshal, Evett Dumas "E.D." Nix, entered the outlaw town of Ingalls with the intent to capture the gang. In what would be remembered as the Battle of Ingalls, three of the fourteen lawmen carrying Deputy U.S. Marshals' commissions would die as a result of the battle. Two town citizens would also die, one was actually killed protecting the outlaws. Of the outlaws, Newcomb was seriously wounded but escaped, and Arkansas Tom Jones, the killer of the three deputies and one citizen, was captured.

The Battle of Ingalls

The gunbattle began on September 1st, 1893, when the US Marshals, led by Deputy U.S. Marshal John Hixon, engaged "Bittercreek" Newcomb. This turned into a shootout that ended up in an exchange that left Newcomb badly wounded after firing at the most two rounds.

By a first hand account given later by US Marshal Nix, a large number of the outlaws then opened fire from a saloon. This started the lawmen returning fire, killing one horse and firing in such a furious manner that it forced the outlaws to flee out a side door of the saloon. They then fled and took refuge in a large stable.

A civilian known only as Murray, who owned the saloon, then engaged the Marshals in a shootout from his saloon's front doorway. Yes, he was one of the locals who supported the outlaws. During his assault on the marshals, they shot him in the ribs and arm. He was badly wounded and later arrested for protecting the gang.

Believe it or not, even though Murray himself shot at the U.S. Marshals, he actually had the nerve to pursue damages against the government two years later for what the lawmen did to his saloon. He lost his case much thanks to US Marshal Nix who staunchly defended his deputy marshals' actions.

During the fight, "Arkansas Tom" Jones opened fire with a rifle from an elevated position. Having an advantage over the marshals, he was able to push them into points of cover. It was during this that Jones shot Deputy Marshal Thomas Hueston. Hueston would die the next day from those wounds.

During the shootout in Ingalls, an innocent bystander named Young Simmons was fatally shot by a stray round as he attempted to take cover inside Vaughn's Saloon. Another bystander, known as Old Man Ramson, was hit in the leg.

Bill Doolin shot and killed Deputy Marshal Richard Speed while Bill Dalton shot Lafeyette Shadley who died the following day. Shadley had fired on Dalton prior to himself being shot, breaking the leg of the outlaw's horse and toppling Dalton to the ground. Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton was then hit and wounded, but he was still able to ride.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Jim Masterson, yes the famous Bat Masterson's brother, eventually threw a stick of dynamite into where Arkansas Tom Jones was hiding. The explosion stunned him long enough to be captured by Masterson.

Of the outlaws, "Bittercreek" Newcomb was seriously wounded but escaped, "Dynamite Dick" Clifton was slightly wounded but escaped, and "Arkansas Tom" Jones who had shot at least one of the deputies and one citizen was stunned by the dynamite explosion and was captured.

The saloon owner, Murray, who had taken up arms and sided with the outlaws, survived, spent some time in prison and later sued the marshals over his being shot. The rest of the gang escaped unscathed.

Gang member Charley Pierce, who escaped, was later said to have been wounded during that gunfight, and was known for a fact to have gone into hiding with Newcomb shortly after the gunbattle, at which time both men were cared for by Newcomb's girlfriend Rose Dunn.

After going into hiding for a month or so, the gang continued its activities again when on January 3rd, 1894, Pierce and Waightman held up a store and post office at Clarkson, Oklahoma Territory. Then on January 23rd, the gang robbed the Farmers Citizens Bank at Pawnee, Oklahoma Territory, and on March 10th, the Wild Bunch robbed the Santa Fe station at Woodward, Oklahoma Territory, of over $6,000.

On March 20th, U.S.Marshal Nix sent the U.S. Deputy Marshals known as the "Three Guardsmen" a directive to take care of the Wild Bunch. Known as the "Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma," they were Deputy U.S. Marshals William "Bill" Tilghman, Henry "Heck" Thomas, and Chris Madsen. Old West history celebrates them as being instrumental in bringing law and order to the Oklahoma Indian Territories in the late 1800's.

The directive stated in part, "I have selected you to do this work, placing explicit confidence in your abilities to cope with those desperadoes and bring them in—alive if possible -- dead if necessary."

On April 1st, 1894, the gang attempted to rob the store of retired Deputy U.S. Marshal W.H. Carr at Sacred Heart, Oklahoma Indian Territory. Carr was shot through the stomach, but still managed to shoot Newcomb in the shoulder and the gang fled without getting anything.

On May 10th, 1894, the Wild Bunch robbed the bank at Southwest City, Missouri, of $4,000, wounding several townspeople and killing one.

On May 21st, 1894, the jurors in Arkansas Tom's trial found him only guilty of manslaughter in the killing of the three Deputy U.S. Marshals. As a result of the jury decision, Judge Frank Dale, the territorial judge hearing the case, returned to Guthrie, Oklahoma, which was the territorial capitol, and told U.S. Marshal E.D. Nix, "you will instruct your deputies to bring them in dead."

While this was going on, Bill Dalton left Bill Doolin and the Wild Bunch to form his own Dalton Gang. Then on May 23rd, 1894, Dalton and his new gang robbed the First National Bank at Longview, Texas. This was the only job by the gang. After that robbery, a number of different posses would kill off three of the members and finally send the last one to life in prison.

The Wild Bunch was the most powerful outlaw group in the west for a time. However, because of the relentless pursuit of the Three Guardsmen, many of the gang had been either captured or killed by the end of 1894. And in late 1894, gang member Bill Dalton was killed by U.S. Marshals.

Rewards were offered for their capture or death, which often turned their friends into willing and ready witnesses to collect the reward. With high rewards on their heads, the gang scattered to save their hides.

This worked to the advantage of the marshals who were now using a new tactic in its efforts to rid the territory of the gang. Marshals had used the reward money and outstanding arrest warrants for cattle rustling and such, to get others into giving them information as to the movements of the gang.

One family who gave the gang comfort and a place to hide was the Dunns who had a farm near Ingalls. They did give the gang a place to hide out and information about the deputies. They also fenced some of the stolen goods the gang had gotten from their robberies.

On May 1st, 1895, while hiding out at the Dunn farm, Bitter Creek Newcomb and Charlie Pierce were shot while they lay slept in their beds by bounty hunters Bill, John, and Dal Dunn who became known as "The Dunn Brothers."

On May 1, 1895, while hiding out at the farm, Bitter Creek Newcomb and Charlie Pierce were shot while they laid asleep in their beds by Bill, John, and Dal Dunn. The brothers became bounty hunters. They were the older brothers of Newcomb's teenage girlfriend, Rose Dunn. 

Supposedly she betrayed Newcomb, but it there is also the thought that her brothers simply trailed her to the hideout. After they killed the outlaws, the brothers took the bodies to Guthrie and turned them over to the U.S. Marshal there for the $5,000 reward money. After that happened, Bill Doolin fled to New Mexico where he hid out with outlaw Richard "Little Dick" West.
On April 3rd, 1895. the Wild Bunch would pull its last job as a gang. They boarded the train at Dover, Oklahoma Territory, without Bill Doolin. They then held up a Rock Island train but were unable to open the safe with the $50,000 Army payroll. So instead of the safe, they robbed passengers of cash and jewelry. After that robbery the gang made its way West unaware that a large posse of marshals had formed and was moving in on them.

It's said that Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Madsen and his posse boarded a special train and went to Dover to pick up their trail. Later that day, around 2:00 p.m., the posse caught up with the gang surprising them as they were camped near Ames, still in Oklahoma Territory.

In the gun battle with the deputies, the outlaw "Tulsa Jack" Blake was killed. The rest of the gang then scattered and was able to get away. They split up and would never re-unite as a gang again. Yes, that was the last robbery by the Wild Bunch as a gang. And although its members kept up the robberies and killings, with his gang getting picked off one by one, Bill Doolin saw the handwriting on the wall. His time was coming.

Believe it or not, Doolin had his lawyers get in touch with U.S. Marshall Nix on three different occasions over the summer of 1895. All were offers to turn himself in if Marshal Nix would promise him a light sentence. Marshal Nix refused. Because of his refusal, the only thing left for Doolin was to leave the territory.

He made his way into New Mexico and soon joined up with Little Dick West. Then on September 6th, 1895, a posse was able to bring another member of the gang to justice. That's when "Little Bill" Raidler was shot and captured by Deputy U.S. Marshal Bill Tilghman near Pawhuska, Oklahoma Territory.

Raidler stood trial for his part in the Dover robbery and was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years. He was paroled in 1903 and returned to Oklahoma, but died in 1904 as a result of complications from his gunshot wound.

Doolin returned to Oklahoma to gather up his family. Some say he wanted to leave and put his murderous life behind and make a new start. Others don't believe it. They say that by that time he and his wife Edith had a son, and that he just wanted them along with him while on the run.

It was easier to get lost in a town as a relocating married man with a wife and child, then it would as a single man. A single man on the run sort of stuck out, especially if he didn't want to change his ways. Though they lived the last part of 1895 near Burden, Kansas, the law wasn't finished with Bill Doolin.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Tilghman learned of Edith Doolin's disappearance from the Ingalls area and was able to trail her to Burden. When Tilghman arrived in Burden, he was too late as Edith Doolin had already returned to Oklahoma with a man named "Tom Wilson." After that, again using the alias "Tom Wilson," Bill Doolin had gone to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to seek the healing treatment of the hot springs. Supposedly he went there so the hot springs would help ease the pain of rheumatism. Supposedly he endured a lot of pain from his many gunshot wounds. I say supposedly because no one really knows if this is true or not, and really on speculation.

In early 1896, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bill Tilghman suspected Tom Wilson was really Bill Doolin. So he proceeded to Eureka Springs where he did in fact find Doolin. And there he got the drop on him and capture him, then returned him to Guthrie.

While this was the first time in his life that Bill Doolin was behind bars, it wouldn't be for long. Fact is on July 5th, 1896, Bill Doolin, Dynamite Dick, and twelve other prisoners escaped from the Guthrie jail. Once outside of jail, Doolin was able to make it back to Lawson, Oklahoma, where his wife Edith was staying with her folks.

On August 24th, 1896, Bill Doolin was ambushed and killed by a shotgun blast by Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas.  His death was instant after Thomas opened up on him with both barrels of buckshot from his shotgun.

The picture to the left is Bill Doolin with shotgun holes.

Yes, they were a ruthless wild bunch of outlaws hell bent on death, destruction, and taking what they wanted. And really, they died exactly like they lived which was very violently.

As for the list of how they died:

Oliver Yantis was killed November 29th, 1892 at Orlando, Oklahoma Territory by Ford County, Kansas Sheriff Chalkey Beeson and Deputy US Marshal Tom Hueston.

Arkansas Tom Jones was captured September 1, 1893, in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. He was pardoned in 1910, but shot dead on August 16th, 1924, in Joplin, Missouri, by Joplin police detectives.

Bill Dalton was shot and killed on June 8, 1894, near Elk, Indian Territory, by an Anadarko posse.

Tulsa Jack Blake was shot dead on April 4, 1895, near Ames, Oklahoma Territory, by Deputy U.S. Marshals Will Banks and Isaac Prater.

Bitter Creek Newcomb was shot and killed on May 2, 1895, in Payne County, Oklahoma Territory, by the Dunn Brothers, who were Bounty Hunters.

Charley Pierce was shot dead on May 2, 1895, in Payne County, Oklahoma Territory, by the Dunn Brothers.

Little Bill Raidler was shot and captured on September 6, 1895, by Deputy U.S. Marshal Bill Tilghman. Then paroled in 1903 because of complication from wounds received when he was captured, he died of complication from those wounds in 1904.

Red Buck Waightman was killed March 4, 1896, near Arapaho, Oklahoma Territory, shot by a Custer County posse.

Dynamite Dick Clifton was captured June, 1896, by Deputy U.S. Marshals from Texas and escaped with Bill Doolin. He was shot dead on November 7, 1897, near Checotah, Indian Territory, by Deputy U.S. Marshals under Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Madsen.

Little Dick West was shot dead on April 8, 1898, in Logan County, Oklahoma Territory, by Deputy U.S. Marshals under Deputy Marshal Chris Madsen.

Bill Doolin was captured January 15, 1896, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas by Deputy U.S. Marshal Bill Tilghman but escaped with Dynamite Dick Clifton. A shotgun blast killed Bill Doolin on August 24, 1896, in Lawson, Oklahoma Territory, by a posse under Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas.

Bill Doolin's death was as violent as the rest of his Wild Bunch. And of all the outlaw gangs in the American Old West, none was more violent, and none met a more violent end, than Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa

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