Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Frank Dalton -- Best Of The Dalton Brothers

Related imageThe Dalton Gang, otherwise known as the Dalton Brothers, was a famous outlaw gang in the Old West. They were mainly train and bank robbers.

There were three Dalton brothers in the gang. Gratton "Grat" Dalton was born 1861, Robert "Bob" Renick Dalton was born 1869, and Emmett "Em" Dalton was born in 1871. A fourth brother William M. "Bill" Dalton who was born in 1866, but he mainly rode as an outlaw with Bill Doolin's Wild Bunch.

The large family was headed by parents Adaline Younger Dalton and James Lewis Dalton. Large is sort of an under-statement because Adeline and Lewis had fifteen children with two of them passing during infancy. Yes indeed, that's a large family.

James Lewis Dalton came west from Kentucky to Missouri during the late 1840's. In the 1850's, he was known as a horse trader as well as saloon keeper in Westport, Missouri, which is now Kansas City. Lewis married Adeline Lee Younger. The family eventually settled in Coffeyville, Kansas.

His marriage to Adeline is how the Dalton's and the Younger family are tied together. Adeline’s brother was the father of the famous outlaws Bob, Cole, and James Younger. The Younger brothers were known to have ridden with the James Gang headed by Frank and Jesse James.

Frank Dalton was born on June 8th, 1859, in Westport, Missouri, the oldest brother to Gratton "Grat", Bob, and Emmett Dalton of the Dalton Gang fame. He was also the brother to William M. Dalton, once a member of California legislature, and later an outlaw and leader of the Doolin Dalton gang alongside Bill Doolin.

Frank Dalton is not to be confused with J. Frank Dalton who made many claims to be famous people, including his claim of being Frank Dalton, and later Jesse James.

As far as I can see, Frank was truly the best of the Dalton brothers. And here's the twist, Frank Dalton was in fact a Deputy US Marshal of the Old West under "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker in the Oklahoma Territory. In fact, he was commissioned as a Deputy US Marshal under Judge Parker out of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Frank Dalton was the eldest of the brothers. Though he wasn't an outlaw, he was the first brother to lose his life to violence. It's true that Frank Dalton was never a part of the Dalton Gang. But it's a fact, he did lose his life while in the line of duty as a lawman.

Before his time was up, Frank Dalton had a great reputation as being a brave lawman, fine shot, good horseman, and man of strong moral fiber. He was involved in a number of shootouts and also a number of high risk arrests over his short three-year career. Sadly on November 27th, 1887, he and Deputy J.R. Cole were on the trail of the Smith-Dixon Gang. Their intent was to serve warrants on Dave Smith for horse stealing and selling whiskey to Indians, but on that day Marshal Dalton would not make it home alive.

To demonstrate just how an Old West lawmen was not much different than today's lawmen in that duty should not be taken lightly, the Smith-Dixon Gang was mainly made up of horse thieves and whiskey peddlers operating in the Oklahoma Indian Territory. Its members included Dave Smith who was a former member of the Belle Starr Gang, his brother-in-law Leander "Lee" Dixon, and William "Billy" Towerly. They were not considered murderers. They were seen as little more than petty thieves and bootleggers.

On November 27th, 1887, Deputy U.S. Marshals Frank Dalton and Deputy James R. Cole tracked them to a camp in the Arkansas River bottoms in present-day Sequoyay County, Oklahoma. With the three outlaws was also Dixon's wife.

As the lawmen approached their tent, they warned all that they were there to talk with Dave Smith only and that others should not interfere. Not anticipating any trouble Marshal Dalton stepped up to the tent and was immediately shot in the chest by Smith.

Yes, Dave Smith met Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Dalton at the tent opening and shot him at point blank range in the chest knocking the marshal to the ground.

As the marshal lay helpless on the ground, Deputy Cole reacted quickly and shot Smith. While Cole returned fire and immediately killed Dave Smith, another man in the tent rushed out and shoots Cole who now was retreating backward.

And though he was trying to move away from what now looks like multiple assailants, Cole could not escape a bullet in the chest. At this point while using his Winchester as best he could, Deputy Cole took refuge behind a tree. Of course by then Lee Dixon and William Towerly had began focusing their fire on Cole who was returning fire while moving backwards to take cover behind a tree.

Though some say he was already out of rifle range and hit twice, Deputy Cole returned fire. He wounded Lee Dixon and killing his wife. And though he was under the impression that Marshal Dalton was already dead, Cole watches as 17 year old Billy Towerly runs over to the fallen Frank Dalton.

It was at that moment when Cole wondered if Frank Dalton was still alive. fore it was at that moment that he saw William Towerly point his rifle straight at the wounded Marshal's face and shoot him twice to the head before turning around and fleeing.

Deputy Marshal Cole made his way back to Fort Smith, Arkansas to report the battle. A posse responded and found Marshal Dalton, and other Smith and Mrs. Dixon dead. Lee Dixon, who had been hit by a bullet near the left collar bone, was taken to the prison hospital in Fort Smith, where he later died from his wounds. But before Dixon dies, the dying outlaw named William Towerly as the killer of Marshal Frank Dalton.

It is said that Judge Isaac Parker was furious and immediately offered a $1,000 reward for William "Billy" Towerly for the wanton murder of Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Dalton. Yes, the reward would be paid whether brought in dead or alive. Judge Parker wanted Towerly hanged, but dead would be fine and he made it a priority to find him.

As today's world, the merit of the crime is what was taken into consideration. It was not normal for someone to summarily execute a Deputy U.S. Marshal. And since William Towerly demonstrated such a blatant disregard for human life in the deliberate execution of Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Dalton, Judge Parker felt Towerly needed to be stopped immediately and hanged. In fact, Towerly's act was looked at as so heinous that finding Towerly was a priority.

On December 3rd, 1887, Deputy U.S. Marshals Z.W. "Bill" Moody and Ed Stokley caught up with Towerly near Atoka, Oklahoma, where he was hiding out at his parents' home.  It is said that when the marshals approached Towerly demanding his surrender, Towerly went for his gun. At that moment both officers shot him, hitting him in the leg and the shoulder.

But as fate would have it, as Marshal Stokley approached the outlaw to disarm him, Towerly switched the gun to his unwounded arm and shot Stokley in the chest. Moody then shot Towerly again. Yes, some say two more times just to make sure the 17 year old devil was dead.

As for the myth of Frank Dalton begging his killer not to kill him, while I've looked and can't find it, it's said that a local newspaper of the time spread the false rumor that Frank Dalton had begged Towerly not to kill him. The story tried to say that the young Marshal told Towerly that he was "already dying."

Frankly, since Deputy Cole was under the impression that Marshal Dalton was already dead when Towerly shot him twice in the head, as far as I'm concerned since no one could hear Marshal Dalton beg for mercy, I really believe that that sort of rumor is the invention of a sick mind on the local newspaper at the time. 

As for Deputy US Marshal Frank Dalton, yes he was killed by a murderous outlaw on November 27th, 1887. Marshal Dalton was 28 years of age. And yes, he sent home and buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Coffeyville, Kansas. 

Frank Dalton Gravestone
Believe it or not, Frank Dalton is buried about 30 yards away from the graves of his two outlaw brothers, Grat and Bob, who would be buried in that same cemetery in 1892.

And no, their burials were not out of courtesy of laying them to rest in their hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas. No, Bob and Grat died right there in town in a hail of bullets as the outlaws that they were.

Coffeyville, Kansas, has the distinction of being one tough town back in the day. And as for its people, they didn't let outlaw thugs and bank robbers like the Dalton Gang push them around or intimidate them. This was proven as fact on October 5th, 1892.

On that day, the famous Dalton Gang attempted what was called a "daring daylight robbery" of two Coffeyville, Kansas, banks at the same time. But if they thought the residents of Coffeyville were simply going to sit back and watch it take place without protecting their interest, they were sadly mistaken.

It is said the Dalton Gang terrorized folks by carrying out train holdups and bank robberies. And while it is said that the gang had more murders than loot to their credit, they had managed to successfully evade the best efforts of Oklahoma lawmen at the time. 

Maybe it was their success in evading the law that made them think they could get away with such a robbery as they had in mind for Coffeyville, maybe their were other reasons that no one will ever know. What we do know is that the Dalton Gang decided to try their hand at robbing two banks at one time. 

Their targets were the First National Bank and the Condon Bank in their hometown of Coffeyville. And yes, it is believed that they thought it would be easy pickings to do at the same time.

Around 9:30 on the morning of October 5th, 1892,  the five members of the Dalton Gang, which were Grat Dalton, Emmett Dalton, Bob Dalton, Bill Power and Dick Broadwell, rode into the small town of Coffeyville, Kansas. 

From the beginning, their plan was met with problems. First, the hitching post where they intended to tie their horses had been torn down due to road repairs. This forced the gang to hitch their horses in a near-by alley, and that turned out to be a fateful decision.

Second, to disguise their identity, knowing they would be clearing recognized in the their hometown, two of the Daltons wore false beards and wigs. This didn't work as the outlaw gang was immediately recognized as they crossed the town's wide plaza and then split up to entered the two banks. 

Townspeople who knew something wasn't right watched as two of the Dalton brothers, Bob and Emmett, headed for the First National while Grat Dalton led Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers in to the Condon Bank. 

Soon all hell broke loose for the gang when someone on the street shouted, "The bank is being robbed!" At the same time several men give the alarm on the east side of the plaza. 

"To arms! To arms!" came the call simultaneously with the alarm that the bank was being robbed. And in less time than it takes to relate the fact of what is taking place, a dozen men with Winchesters and revolvers in their hands appear at the ready to stop the outlaws from escaping.

Instead of Coffeyville being easy pickings for the gang, citizens quickly armed themselves and took up firing positions around the banks and the plaza. What happened next was a firefight that lasted less than fifteen minutes. 

Yes indeed, as was the case in the Old West, townspeople fought for their town and when Bob and Emmett walked out of the First National Bank -- they were met with a hail of bullets which forced them back into the building. Regrouping, they tried to flee out the back door of the bank, but the townspeople were waiting for them there as well. 

In the C.M. Condon Bank, a brave cashier had managed to delay Grat Dalton, Powers, and Broadwell by claiming that the vault was on a time lock and couldn't be opened. The ploy gave the townspeople enough time to gather force, and suddenly a bullet smashed through the bank window and hit Broadwell in the arm. 

Grat Dalton, Powers, and Broadwell then quickly scooping up $1,500 in loose cash, and the three men bolted out the door and fled down a back alley. 

Bob and Emmett Dalton made a run for it and successfully escaping the First National Bank, ran down a side alley and into what later became known as the "Death Alley" from the north. When Bob and Emmett reached the junction of the alleys, after shooting at a local man taking up a position with a gun in his hand, Bob fired at him point blank at a distance of not over thirty feet and misses.

Bob is said to have stepped into the alley and looked up at the tops of the buildings as if he suspected that's where the shots were coming from. As he did so, townsmen positioned at Isham's hardware store took deliberate aim at him from their position in the store and fired. 

Bob Dalton, the notorious leader of the Dalton gang, was hit and staggers across the alley and sat down on a pile of dressed curbstones near the city jail. With his rifle, he fires several shots from where he was seated. He rises to his feet to seek refuge alongside of an old barn west of the city jail, and while leaning against the southwest corner, he fires two shots in the direction of his pursuers. It was then that a ball round from a rifle struck Bob Dalton in the chest. The shot sends him slamming back onto the ground where he was standing.

At this point, City Marshal Connelly ran across a vacant lot into "Death Alley" from the south to the spot where the bandits had tied their horses. The marshal sprang into the alley with his face towards the point where the horses were hitched. This positioned him with his back to the murderous Grat Dalton who shot the officer in the back. Witness say that City Marshal Connelly fell forward on his face within twenty feet of where his murderer stood.

Gang members Powers and Broadwell were shot. Powers died where he stood, but believe it or not, Broadwell made it atop a horse screaming that he couldn't shoot because of his arm. That didn't stop the townspeople from filling him with lead. His horse ran off with him atop and he was found dead on the side of a road leading out of town.

After shooting Marshal Connelly, Grat Dalton made another attempt to reach his horse. He passed by his fallen victim and had advanced probably twenty feet when he turned to see his pursuers and again use his Winchester. Just then a rifle shot hit Grat to drop the outlaw. The bullet slammed into his throat and had actually broke his neck.

Emmett Dalton managed to stay clear of getting hit. He kept under shelter, but his luck changed when he attempted to mount his horse. It's said as rifles fired at him, Emmett succeeded in getting into the saddle. Of course that didn't last long as he was hit almost simultaneously through the right arm, the left hip, and one into his groin. Then as Emmett tried to reach down to Bob, both barrels of a double barrel shot-gun slammed into Emmett's back and dropped him from his horse.

When the gun battle was over, though the town had lost four brave of their own, the people of Coffeyville had destroyed the Dalton Gang and killed every member except for Emmett Dalton. Yes, the small Kansas town of Coffeyville became part of history because of the quick-acting townspeople.

Left to right: Bill Power; Bob Dalton; Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell

As for Emmett Dalton, after recovering from serious wounds he was tried and sentenced to life in prison. After 14 years, he won parole. As for his dead brothers, they ended up being buried in the same cemetery with their oldest brother Frank Dalton. Believe it or not, he would go on to be a writer in Hollywood. Imagine that.

A little known fact about the Daltons is that Frank's younger brothers Grat, Bob, and Emmett had tried following in their oldest brother's footsteps and actually became lawmen. That was before crossing the line and becoming outlaws.

Their careers as lawmen was extremely short lived. It's said that in 1890, after not being paid money owed to them, as Bob Dalton killed a man over a woman and that Grat had stole horses. Those acts discredited them as lawmen. And yes, that was before the brothers became became horse thieves, bank robbers, train robbers, and murderous legends of the Old West.

To me, it shows that it doesn't take much for some folks to cross the line that separates right from wrong, and good from evil. Frank Dalton proved there are those who do whatever they have to do not to cross that line even in the hardest of times. 

Tom Correa 

1 comment:

  1. Marginally related, Grat Dalton's "historic" Greener shotgun, possibly used in the Dalton's first train robbery in 1891 in California, was sold at auction in Ventura, CA, on November 24, 2013. Bob Paul


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