On October 5, 1892, the Dalton gang attempts to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas, but meets resistance from townspeople, who wind up killing four of the five bandits.
The Dalton brothers, Grat, Bob, Bill, and Emmett first started their life of crime with cattle rustling and then moved on to armed robbery in 1890. On February 6, 1891, Bob, Grat, and Bill tried to rob a Southern Pacific train heading to Los Angeles, California, but despite shooting and wounding a guard, the brothers didn't score any money, and Bill and Grat were captured. Although Bill managed to escape charges, Grat received a 20-year sentence. However, he escaped from the train that was taking him to prison, and all of the brothers headed back to the Midwest together, where they recruited the best gunmen they could find and began an impressive crime spree. They got $14,000 from a train robbery in Oklahoma and then $19,000 from a bank.
Eugenia Moore, who was engaged to Bob, was in charge of scouting out the best robbery targets for the gang. She was good at chatting with bankers and railroad workers in order to find out when large sums of money were to be transported. For over a year, the Dalton gang completed a streak of successful robberies that were designed to bring them enough money to retire. However, Eugenia died of cancer, and the gang soon made a huge blunder. Emmett, Grat, Bob, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Power rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, wearing false beards and carrying rifles. As Grat, Broadwell, and Power walked into the Condon Bank and Bob and Emmett entered the First National Bank, one of the town's citizens recognized the Daltons and quickly called the town's men to action.
As the gang was about to make their getaway, a throng of armed townsfolk surprised them. The five thieves shot their way to the alley where their horses were waiting and tried to defend themselves, but they were greatly outnumbered. In the epic gunfight that ensued, all five men were shot, but not before killing a number of the makeshift vigilantes. Dick Broadwell made it out of the alley on his horse but died a few miles outside of town. Emmett Dalton, who had been shot more than 20 times, was the only one that managed to survive. He received a life sentence for the murder of the men who tried to stop him but was released a mere 15 years later. For the remainder of his life he was peaceful and law-abiding citizen. He returned to the site of the crime nearly 40 years later and offered a caution to would-be thieves: "The biggest fool on earth is the one who thinks he can beat the law that crime can be made to pay. It never paid and it never will and that was the one big lesson of the Coffeyville raid."
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: