New Beginnings

1907-1908

* * * * *

Emmett Dalton soon proved himself a useful citizen. He went into business with his cousin in Tulsa, opened a tailor shop, and joined the Tulsa "boosters" on their long trip to promote the town. In Washington he went to the White House and, with the other businessmen from Tulsa, met President Roosevelt.



Emmett Dalton 1907

After receiving his pardon, Emmett talked to the reporters giving his first version of the Coffeyville raid and the events leading up to it. How much his telling was colored by what had been said by his mother, or friends, is hard to say. Also, he must have been aware of all the exaggerated stories about the Dalton gang exploits and naturally wanted to show himself in the best possible light, not knowing how the public would take to him. Everything he said seems very carefully calculated. Another thing to bear in mind is that the memory of such events often disagrees with what actually happened. For instance, Emmett always said he and Bob reached their horses before the others got into the alley. Other accounts have the bandits enter the alley about the same time.


Kansas City Star, Nov. 3, 1907: TOPEKA, Nov. 2. - Not long ago Emmett Dalton was asked if he would say something of himself and tell the details of the Coffeyville raid. There were five members of the gang that participated in that raid but Emmett Dalton was the only one who escaped with his life. For fifteen years, during his imprisonment at Lansing, Dalton has steadfastly refused to discuss, as he expresses it, “the great mistake of his life.” When asked about it by newspaper men and others he always has been courteous, but in some way no amount of insistence could get him to tell of his part of the robbery.

“I have always refused to talk,” said Dalton, “not because I did not care to have my version known, but because I feared that if I had given out interviews the public might get the impression that I was fishing for sympathy. That I have never done. I am as susceptible to sympathy as any man. Every person, man or woman, has it within him to be glad when fellow man expresses compassion for him. But I made up my mind fully fifteen years ago that whatever I did in looking for a pardon no one would be able to say that I had asked it simply on the grounds that he was sorry for me.

“When I entered the penitentiary I laid out a course of action. I made up my mind to strictly adhere to these lines of action; to conform absolutely to the prison’s rules, to work as hard as my health and energy would let me and to keep my mouth shut so far as complaining was concerned. I strove for the good will of every warden and employee under whom I served and determined that it should never be said that I whined or sulked. That I kept to these rules is evidenced by the fact that the present warden and every ex-warden not only signed my petition for pardon, but all made it a point to see the governor in my behalf.”

Dalton sat for a moment as if contemplaiting what he should say next. His fifteen years confinement had apparently left no traces upon his face.

“I was born in Cass county, near Belton, Mo.,” he finally said. “I had three older brothers who went to the Indian territory and finally my mother decided that she and I would follow. I was then 15 years old. All of my brothers were deputy United States marshals. Everybody knows, I presume, what the social conditions of Oklahoma and Indian territory were nearly twenty years ago. There was a semblance of law, but as a matter of fact everything was as near wide open as anything could be. Shooting was common. The killing of a man was almost a daily occurrence. My oldest brother was shot in the performance of his duty by desperadoes. ’Bad man’ talk was as common then as ’law enforcement’ arguments are in Kansas and Missouri now. As I said before I, a boy of 16, was thrown into this atmosphere.

“Everywhere I went I drank in this talk. Soon I seemed to become part of it all and I became a willing listener to the conversations that at first shocked me. However, I did not become a ’bad man’ in any sense of the word. Before the affair at Coffeyville I had never broken the law in the slightest degree, but my environment had had its influence as the Coffeyville mistake showed.

“One day when I was about 18 years old, I was with my brother Bob. He was then a United States deputy marshal. He started to make an arrest. The men resisted. Bob drew as they did and told me to ‘git’. I was just that young to not have sense enough to run so I drew my six shooter and got into the game. We arrested the men and put them in jail.

“It’s funny how small things change the entire course of a fellow’s life, isn’t it?” asked Dalton with that smile that has done as much as any other thing to attract men to him. “If I had run that day with Bob, the chances are that the Coffeyville raid would have been pulled off and I would never have been asked to be one of the gang. But that performance in sticking to my brother seemed to make a great impression upon him. Did you ever have a brother you simply idolized? That was the way I looked upon my brother Bob. In fact to my eyes he was my hero. While in prison I read ’Hero Worship’ by Carlisle. It impressed me because that was my case so far as Bob was concerned. As I said the fact that I refused to run under fire impressed Bob a heap. He spoke of it many times, and said several times that some day he wanted me with him. I didn’t know what he meant then, but I found out later.

“Fully a month before the Coffeyville robbery Bob spoke of the large amount of money the banks there were supposed to have on deposit. We had lived there for a while. In fact I attended the public schools there. I was as well known as any youngster in the town. Gradually Bob led up to the suggestion of robbing the banks at Coffeyville, mentioning that as I hadn’t run before I probably would be game in this case. I discouraged the idea. The more I opposed the more determined he seemed to be. I finally yielded. It was not so much that I wanted to turn outlaw, bandit and desperado as it was that I feared Bob would consider me lacking in nerve. In the gang as finally made up were five: Bob, my other brother Grattin, Bill Power, Dick Broadwell and myself.

“The night of October 4 we rode to a place about three miles out of Coffeyville and camped in a little draw, that is from about 2 o’clock in the morning until daylight, we lay upon our blankets on the ground. I didn’t sleep much. I confess that I was nervous. The thought of the danger in the morrow’s venture did not seem to occur to me as I remember it now. I believe I had sort of an idea that all there was to the matter was that we would merely ride into the town, rob the banks and ride away again. The fact of the matter is that I didn’t take the affair with any degree of seriousness. I was near Bob and that was about all there was in it.

“The next morning, October 5, 1892, this plan was outlined: We were to ride into town at shortly after 9 o’clock, dismount in an alley east of the Condon bank and the First National bank. These two banks were almost directly across the street from each other. Grat, Power and Broadwell were to enter Condon’s bank while Bob and I crossed the street and rifled the First National. It was decided that we were to remain together after the robbery, make for a spot across the line in the Indian territory. There we were to divide the money, separate and each man take care of himself.

“What a beautiful plan it was! All planned at daylight, but three hours later four of the planners were dead and the fifth, myself, was riddled with bullets. Can anyone imagine a more insane, crazier scheme? Here I was a kid of 19, known by practically everyone in the town; entering it without disguise or mask of any kind; making me a marked man forever; looked for as a wanderer fugitive, even if I had escaped. I think that my capture there was the best thing that could have happened. True, I have spent fifteen years in prison, but these years instead of embittering me have taught me that to be square with your fellow man is the thing that wins out after all. I have also learned that when a fellow shows that he is trying to be on the square, even if he has been a convict, the average man is not going to give him a push, but rather a boost.

“We rode into Coffeyville shortly after 9 o’clock. Bob and I went straight to the First National bank, while the other three went into the Condon’s bank. In the First National were Thomas Ayres, the cashier, his son, the teller and bookkeeper and three customers. We drew our revolvers and threw them down on the crowd and told them to put up their hands. This they did. Bob walked behind the counter while I remained outside. He entered the vault, took all the currency in sight and took all the money on the counter, except some silver. This amounted to $23,000. He put it in a sack. We started to back out the way we had come, by the front door. Bob had handed me the sack. As Bob got to the front door a Winchester bullet buzzed close to his ear. He turned to me and said:

“ ‘Let’s go by the back door.’

“We left that way. We passed through the back yard of the bank into the alley, turned north to Eighth street, as I remember the name now. On this we went west to another alley, then south to the alley where our horses were tied. The other three of the gang were not there.”

Dalton drew a piece of paper toward him and made a rough scetch of the immediate surroundings of Coffeyville so far as they related to the fight.

“You can see by this,” he continued, “the circuitous route we had to take to get back to our horses. When we got there it seemed that everybody in town had procured a Winchester and had opened fire. The moment we had ridden into town most of the town was aroused. Many ran to the hardware store, ‘D,’ which you will see is in a direct line with the alley. Still the other three didn’t come. Just then a bullet struck me in the right shoulder. My right arm was put out of commission. My Winchester dropped from my right hand. Bob had begun to shoot.

“Right here I wish to make a statement. I didn’t kill a soul that day, because I didn’t fire a shot. I couldn’t if I had wanted to. My right arm was as useless as if it hadn’t been there.

“The shooting had now become general. It seemed that the bullets were coming from every house, store and fence within range of where we stood. We didn’t mount.

“Bob said: ‘The others are in trouble. Let’s go and help them.’ We didn’t get a chance to start. They, at that moment came running out of the bank across the street, a running target for fifty or sixty guns, shooting as they ran. They joined us at the horses. I was trying to untie my horse with my left hand. Bob fell. I thought he was dead. Grat was the next. Then Bill Power went down. Broadwell managed to get on his horse and rode away down the street ‘E.’ He was found dead in the road a mile from town. Just as I was about to mount a Winchester bullet struck me in the back, passed entirely through my body and came out. I got on my horse, nevertheless, and started. The money sack was on my saddle.

“As I turned the corner into the street ‘E’ I looked back. Bob was sitting on the ground with his back to a large rock. I saw that he wasn’t dead. I gave no thought to the consequences. I had one idea only. There was my brother alive and I might save him by carrying him away. No second thought of caution was needed. I wheeled my horse and went back into the firing. I learned afterward that fifteen men fired at me at once, but I wasn’t scratched. I reached Bob’s side, I leaned over and got hold of his wrist with my left hand, my right being useless. Bob was still alive. Just then a load of buckshot struck me in the back and the back of the neck. I remember that I said to Bob: ‘My God, I’m killed!’ Had I been sitting up straight the buckshot would have killed me. As it was they glanced off my back.

“That’s the last I remember, for I rolled off my horse to the ground. I was in bed seventy-two days. I was advised to plead guilty to murder in the second degree and Judge Jerry McCune, now living and practicing law in Kansas City, sentenced me to the penitentiary for life.”

“What delayed the three in the Condon’s bank?” was asked.

“Oh yes, I had forgotten to tell you of that and by the way it was the real cause of the failure of the raid. When they went in the bank vault was closed. The cashier told them the time lock was on.

“ ‘How long will it be before it will be off?’ asked Grat.

“ ‘Three minutes,’ was the answer.

“ ‘We’ll wait,’ said Grat.

“At a time like that,” said Emmet, “three minutes is a lifetime. It meant death to my two brothers and two companions and fifteen years in the penitentiary for me.”


Kansas City Star, Nov. 7, 1907: TOPEKA, Nov. 7. - The mail of Emmett Dalton, pardoned by Governor Hoch from Kansas penitentiary last Saturday night, appears to be increasing rather than diminishing. Letters are coming from all parts of United States from men and women offering words of congratulations and cheer. Some of these are from persons that Dalton has never known.

He has also received about half a dozen letters from theatrical managers offering him a place in their show. One offered him $5,000 a year and all expenses “simply to take a minor part in a sketch where no real acting is really necessary.” Another suggested a “good round salary” to to become a part of a carnival company. Asked if he contemplated accepting any of these offers Dalton said this morning:

“I wish it stated plainly that, under no circumstances, will I even consider a proposition or even a suggestion to exhibit myself, either on the stage or in a ‘Wild West’ show or any sort of public performance where my star stunt would be, only, that I am ‘Emmett Dalton of the Dalton gang.’ That part of my life I would like to see forgotten, and I am going to try and do everything in my power to assist people to forget it. If I had been an actor and had some real dramatic ability I presume there could be no criticism if I re-entered my profession. But I am not an actor, never have been and never can be.

“I have only one object in my life. That is to get some decent employment or get into business in a small way and try to make an honorable living. If I can do that I hope to be known some day as Emmett Dalton, “citizen,” and not as Emmett Dalton, “ex-bandit.”

Dalton hopes to be able to leave Topeka next Sunday for Kingfisher. After a short visit with his mother and brother, who is a farmer, he will return to Topeka for further examination of his wounded arm. He will then go to Kansas City with the expectation of locating permanently.


Kansas City Star, Nov. 15, 1907: OKLAHOMA CITY, Ok., Nov. 15. - Emmett Dalton, who was implicated in the Coffeyville robbery and was pardoned recently by Governor Hoch, has decided to open a tailor shop in Oklahoma City or Muskogee and will visit this city next week to look over the situation. — At the time he was pardoned Dalton said he would engage in business in Kansas City.


Moberly Weekly Monitor, Nov. 22, 1907: It is likely that Emmett Dalton just pardoned from the Kansas penitentiary by Gov. Hoch, has gone to Oklahoma City and will open a tailor shop in that city. During his stay in prison, Dalton accumulated some money, partly from the allowance credited to him and other money earned for tailoring done for private parties. Dalton is spending a few days with his mother at Kingfisher and his sister at El Reno.

Emmett had some more ambitious ideas as well. In her book Heck Thomas, My Papa, Beth Thomas Meeks tells: “Once, Emmett Dalton came. He had just got out of prison and was trying to get a U. S. deputy marshal job. He wanted Papa to help him, but Papa said no, and wrote a letter protesting Emmett’s application to the U. S. marshal’s office at Muskogee, and the marshal agreed with him.” That was the job he had wanted before his troubles began, but obviously it was now impossible with his record. She also said that while Emmett was in prison: “My father saw him several times during those years and Emmett told him that he, Heck Thomas, had been the one lawman that the gang really feared.” The Daltons had known Thomas in their law-enforcing days and his qualities as a lawman. Emmett would have done better to have him as his hero instead of Bob.

In 1921, Tulsa World printed Emmett's letter to United States Marshal Victor: "Mr. Grant Victor, Muskogee, Okla.
"Dear Sir: I understand the old Indian Territory has gone back under Federal control in regard to the whiskey business. If so, I would like to have a deputyship under you. I know I can give satisfaction, as I do not drink, gamble or graft. As to references, I can refer you to such men as Bud Ledbetter, Joe A. Bartles, Dewey, Okla., our sheriff, mayor, chief of police, M. F. Stillwell, president of the Union National bank, or anyone else here at home. I can give any kind of bond necessary should one be required. Should you see your way clear to appoint me I will try and not take possession of your office under thirty days. I worked as a deputy under Col. Yoes, out of Fort Smith and Col. Dick Walker, Southern District of Kansas, over 22 years ago, when a mere boy, and it is said always gave satisfaction. Please let me hear from you."


The Oklahoman, Dec. 3, 1907: Emmett Dalton, recently released from the Kansas penitentiary, where he was serving a life term for his part in the famous Coffeyville bank robbery of years ago, will visit in Tulsa in a few days. He will be the guest of Scout Younger, of the well-known family, who conducts a market on East Third street.

It was in the vicinity of Tulsa that the Coffeyville bank robbery was planned, so it is said by old timers. The older Daltons were well-known federal officers in the early days of their career in Indian Territory, making their headquarters for the most part at the old St. Elmo hotel in Tulsa.


The Fort Worth Telegram, Dec. 6, 1907: TULSA, Okla., Dec. 6 - Back to the same place where the Coffeyville bank robbery was planned, yesterday came Emmet Dalton, the ex-bandit, recently pardoned from the Kansas penitentiary where he serving a life sentence for his part in the Coffeyville affair.

Dalton is the guest of Scout Younger, a cousin and member of the well known Younger family.

Dalton complains frequently of his wounded arm received in the Coffeyville raid and is on his way to the hospital in Kansas City for further treatment. He says it seems like a dream to return to Tulsa and find it a modern city. He knew the place as a struggling cow town of a few hundred people, consisting largely of outlaws. Dalton, himself, as a boy, was a cow puncher and helped round up many a bunch of cattle where now is the Glenn oil field, south of this city. His arm is in such shape now that he cannot use it, but if he recovers the use of it expects to embark in the tailoring business in some city in Oklahoma and looks with favor on Tulsa.


The Hutchinson News, Jan. 3, 1908: Topeka, Jan. 3. - Emmett Dalton was operated upon early this morning in a Topeka hospital. While out on parole last summer an operation was performed on his right arm because of a wound received in the Coffeyville raid. The operation was not successful and in order to save the arm another operation was performed. Since he was pardoned Dalton has been with his mother at Kingfisher, Okla.


The Oklahoman, Feb. 13, 1908: Tulsa, Okla., Feb. 12. - Emmett Dalton, former member of the famous Dalton band and sentenced to the Kansas penitentary for participating in the Coffeyville raid, has decided to engage in business in Tulsa. He will become a butcher in company with Scout Younger.


Tulsa 1908

Tulsa in 1908


Tulsa 1893

Tulsa as Emmett would have remembered it
(image from the Tulsa Library)



The Oklahoman, Feb. 21, 1908: Enid, Okla., Feb. 20. - While in Enid Emmett Dalton denied that he had agreed to become connected with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West show and said there is no foundation for such a rumor.



In Tulsa Emmett was also opening a tailor shop with Mr. J. G. Schuler, aged 41. He wrote the following letter to Mrs. Mowry:

Tulsa Okla, 3/31/08

My dear Mrs Mowry -

I have everything arranged to open our tailor shop about Apr. 10, and if you can conveniently let me have $100 (one hundred) dollars, on my and my Mother’s note, of course you know, it will be appreciatedx Mr Schuler is to put in 300 against my 100 and teaching of him how to cut and we are to divide the profits half & halfx I am sure there is something to be made at it otherwise I would not feel like borrowing money to go into itx Please let me know about this as soon as you can as I am going into this soon as possiblex but will virtually be on salary giving my name to the other party unless I have something to put into the businessx My arm seems to be improving nicely but slowly and I hope the card you sent is a true representation of myself after my course of electrical treatmentx

Very truly yours
Emmett Dalton

(from Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas)

Emmett was in a hurry to get this business organized (Schuler owned this business in 1910, according to census) as he was leaving Tulsa on April 13. Tulsa Commercial Club was sending a “Tulsa booster” train to cities in the east and northeast in an effort to advertise Tulsa and attract business there. Emmett went along with other Tulsa business men. He was glad to as long as he didn’t have to talk. Newspaper men called him “the silent man of the party”.

Dallas Morning News, April 13, 1908: Tulsa, Ok., April 12. - At 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, Tulsa’s “Booster” special, carrying 150 prominent business men and band of twenty-six pieces, will leave to cover an itinerary of 10,000 miles, heralding to the world that a panic cannot down a good town like Tulsa.

The party will travel in a solid train of Pullmans with every provision for comfort. A daily paper will be published en route, telling of the wonders and advatages of Tulsa and the new State of Oklahoma.

In the party will be Emmett Dalton and Creek, Osage and Cherokee Indians, though in most instances it will be difficult to detect the Indian blood.

The first extended stop will be made at St. Louis, with a brief stop at Springfield, Mo.

This is one of the greatest feats of advertising ever attempted by a young Southwestern city.


The Oklahoma City Times, April 17, 1908: At the age of 33 years, nearly half of which were spent in a Kansas prison for a crime he never conceived, tried hard to prevent and never had it in his heart to do, Emmet Dalton, outlaw for only a short time, game to the core, has again taken his stand among men, and is today with the Tulsa business men’s excursion on their trip east, welcomed by them at home and will begin life anew in the land where he first experienced the vicissitudes that made his one of the most eventful careers that make newspaper material.

There has been a great deal printed in the newspapers about Emmet Dalton. He has been pictured by those who did not know him as a bad man. He admits to his friends that he did wrong, but he does not feel like the average fellow who comes out of confinement that the world is against him, and does not care what becomes of him. No cynic about Emmet Dalton. He is willing to take his chances among men, if they will at least go half way to give him credit what he can do as a citizen. That is what he intends to be.

There have been many incidents printed in connection with the Coffeyville, Kan., bank robbery, in which the Dalton boys perpetuated their fame for boldness and daring, and in which two of the brothers were killed. There are a few facts that have not been used. They show the true side of Emmet Dalton, and were instrumental in bringing about his pardon, by Governor Hoch of Kansas, a short time ago. The following letter , written by Emmet shows that he did not want to get in the Coffeyville job, but was persuaded by others because he thought, in his untutored mind, that it was a coward who turned back in anything:

——, Ind. Ter., October 1, 1892. Dear Mother: Get somebody to see Bob at once. He has planned to rob two banks in —— on the 5th. Am with him now, but he will not listen to me. If he pulls off this job, I will have to go with him. Grat is in it, too. I won’t let them think I am a quitter, so will go with them, unles somebody talks them out of it. It’s going to be close to where we used to live. If Will is in Kingfisher, send him. He knows where we are.
“Yours, E.”

This letter was received in Kingfisher, Okla., by Mrs. Dalton, mother of the boys, from Emmet Dalton on the 3d day of October, 1892. Mrs. Dalton immediately went to Bill Dalton, who was at that time practicing law in Kingfisher, but who later turned out to be an outlaw as bas as the others, and who was killed near Ardmore a few years later, showed him the letter from Emmet and advised him to go. The place of the holdup, which turned out to be the Coffeyville affair, was not told in Emmet’s letter. The dates are correct, but Bill Dalton failed to reach the boys before two of them were killed and Emmet seriously wounded.

As soon as Bill had left Kingfisher to go to the boys in the effort to dissuade them from their purpose, Mrs. Dalton went to William Grimes, then United States marshal of Oklahoma, and told him of the contents of Emmet’s letter. Mr. Grimes at once dispatched couriers to where he thought the Dalton boys were camped, but they could not be found.

These facts, heretofore unpublished, were brought out when Emmet made application for a pardon, and were told to the writer in person by Mr. Grimes.

[More about the letter below, at the end of this article.]

Emmet Dalton was not an outlaw at heart. He was of different turn of mind than his brothers. As a boy he was dignified, unassuming and reserved. He is now. He was but little past 17 when the Coffeyville affair took place, and had been with his brothers, Bob and Grat only a few days before that eventful affair.

“I won’t let them think I am a quitter,” said Emmet to his mother. He didn’t but it proved his downfall. Being younger in years his advice went for naught, and rather than let himself be twitted as a coward by his brothers, he decided to go with them if necessary, but his first thought was to bring about some way that would cause them to give up the job.

Emmet’s nerve was always with him. Whatever else has been said of him, his action at Coffeyville, that long-to-be-remembered day shows that he did not know the coward’s mind. Such acts of bravado have been only seldom mentioned, but in this young 17-year-old boy there was the spirit of innocent bravery that once in a while is brought out. Emmet and Bob were in one bank, and Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers were across the street, calmly awaiting the hour of 10 o’clock when the time lock in the safe of the bank would open the big steel box that contained the treasure they were to get. When the thing was actually pulled off, and the citizens of the town learned what had happened they began to pour a hail of shot into the bank where Emmet and Bob were. Bob handed Emmet a flour sack containing $22,000 and told him to get to the horses. Bob with his hands free began his terrible slaughter of human lives, while Emmet was running to the alley where the horses were tied.

Emmet mounted his horse and in an instant was a hundred yards away. He could have escaped without a scratch. But he turned his head, saw Bob fall, immediately he wheeled his horse and deliberately rode back in a rain of shot to where Bob had fallen, fatally wounded. Emmet dismounted and while doing so was shot in the shoulder, but with one arm raised Bob to the saddle of his (Emmet’s) horse, mounted behind him and started away. When Emmet reached Bob, the latter was lying against a rock where he had fallen. The only words he uttered were: “Emmet, I am killed.”

As Emmet started away with his brother he (Emmet) received a full charge of buckshot at short range in the back. Thirty-three struck him full in the back, some of them going clear through his lungs. He fell from his horse with the body of his brother, Bob, who was now dead. When Emmet was disarmed it was found that he had not fired a shot from his six-shooter or Winchester.

Emmet Dalton is now a reformed man. His reputation at the penitentiary was exemplary and his behaviour since gaining his freedom has been such as to entitle him to the well feeling of any man. He looks and talks more like a college athlete than a man of the plains. His boyhood days were spent on the farm in the country. He never had the advantage of education, and 14 years behind prison walls, as a usual thing, does not leave a man in a very polished condition. But Emmet Dalton is a gentleman, every inch of him. The west that he lived in is no more. He has had enough flattery since his freedom to turn the head of any ordinary man.

Recently he showed the writer a score of letters from theatrical managers from all parts of the country, from the Yukon Exposition at Seattle to the Airdome of New York, at salaries that would seem fabulous to the ordinary man, but not one has been accepted.

“I want to be a useful citizen,” he says, “I know I did wrong. I have no complaint to make of my punishment. But I do claim the privilege to try to be an honest citizen, and I shall. I like the press boys, because to them I attribute more than any other source my pardon. At first I was reticent in talking about myself to the reporters, but soon found out that they would have a story in the paper about me, and I decided to be frank with them. However, I dislike to be interviewed on a subject that I would give 20 years of my life to blot forever from my mind.”

“The west that I lived in is gone.”

What a man, our Emmett. Shot through lungs and lived to tell the tale! Sometimes I do wonder about these reporters! And now he had been only 17, and a good innocent, if ignorant, farm boy. Who told the reporter all this? Who showed him the letter? This thing about Emmett’s letter is somewhat mysterious. It was first mentioned in 1903, at which time Marshal Grimes stated that Emmett had not tried to stop the raid (see  Prisoner 6472). He also said that he did not support a pardon for Emmett, but, curiously, it was believed that he (with U.S. Marshal Fossett, also of Kingfisher and a good friend of Grimes) was helping Adeline Dalton in her work to free Emmett. Could it be that he feared it would be detrimental to his career to be publicly supporting Emmett? Emmett himself never mentioned the letter, and obviously had refused to talk about the Coffeyville affair with the reporter above. It may be he felt a traitor having gone behind the backs of the others, especially as there had been rumors that Coffeyville knew to expect the Daltons, and he might not have liked his loyalty becoming questionable.

Some have suggested that the letter was invented to help Emmett gain his freedom. Here again Robert Barr Smith goes way over the top in his efforts to deny anything good in a Dalton. Not only does he discredit Emmett, but also Grimes. In his book Daltons! he writes: “Grimes, incidentally, seems to have been a bit of a blowhard, who was later fired for taking undeserved credit for Dalton-chasing.” I have checked the career of William Grimes and he was a well respected law officer, credited for organizing the first United States marshal force in Oklahoma. He was never fired. The truth of the matter is that he dismissed deputy Ransom Payne for furnishing false material for a book (The Dalton Brothers by Eyewitness), making himself the man the Daltons feared the most, while actually he had been a coward. It is sad that Mr. Smith resorts to spoiling the reputation of a good man just because he loathes Emmett Dalton. His views (which he is perfectly entitled to) shine bright enough throughout his book without him having to resort to such tactics.

Grimes would have been in an awkward situation. Surely he would have wanted to stop any such raid, but Adeline would have feared for the lives of her sons should a big posse be sent after them. Years later, George Yoes, son of Jacob Yoes who was a marshal at Fort Smith at the time, told a story of a prisoner telling his father about the Daltons planning to hit either Coffeyville or Van Buren banks. But maybe it was Grimes who sent some kind of a warning. Van Buren had two banks and the boys had lived near by when acting as officers, and could be as such also considered a target. Cole Dalton later told reporters that before the raid Bill Dalton had ridden out of Kingfisher with some speed, and after the raid disheveled looking Bill had ridden into Guthrie from the direction where the gang was known to have been.

After the raid Emmett said he met the others on October 1st (the date on the letter) and they discussed how much money each had. It may be he had been somewhere, perhaps getting supplies, and would have had a chance to write this letter. No doubt it would have been a spur of the moment, last ditch effort at stopping the raid. And very much against his normal code of conduct.


The Washington Post, April 19, 1908: When the special train bearing the delegation of Tulsans who are making a tour of he principal Eastern cities in the interest of Tulsa, Okla., pulled out of Union Station yesterday afternoon for Baltimore, a solitary man stood on the rear platform of the last car and gazed wonderingly upon the great buildings, the sweeping thoroughfares, and the majestic pose of the Indian on the dome of the Capitol. He was Emmet Dalton, once a member of the famous outlaw band which thirty years ago, under the leadership of Frank and Jesse James, terrorized the Western country.

About five months ago Dalton was released from the penitentiary on parole by direction of the governor of Kansas, after having served nearly seventeen years of a sentence for complicity in the outrages perpetrated by this notorious band He is now a respected citizen of Tulsa, and conducts a meat store there with Scott Younger, a relative of the famous Younger brothers, who participated in many of the expeditions of the James boys. Dalton is a member of the Tulsa delegation, and is viewing the wonders of the big cities for the first time.

Although his picturesque career has guilded outlawry with an allurement unsurpassed since the days of Robin Hood, Dalton is desirous that his experience should prove no false lesson to American youth He is not at all proud of his wasted years. He declares that a man who chooses the career of an outlaw is either a natural fool or an innocent madman But Dalton does not beguile himself. He does not pretend to be a hero, he repels all efforts of the morbid-minded to exploit him in heroic guise. And he is respected by prominent men of Tulsa.

Dalton is about fifty years old. He bears erect a six foot, portly frame, clad in conventional black His eyes are dark gray, his face ruddy with a healthy complexion He appears the middle-aged, prosperous citizen of excellent endowments His countenance indicates also uncommon coolness, courage, tenacity of purpose.

“To me ” said Dalton, “the word ‘outlaw’ is a living coal of fire The past to me is a tragedy shrouded in bitter memories I was young and foolish, and association with men of adveturous proclivities eventually resulted in imprisonment And how many men can conceive what it means to languish in prison? But I learned much in my lonely cell I have learned to hope in a divinity, that a surplus of energy and determination will conquer every weakness.

“I do not desire to plunge deeply into my past I shall strive to build up a name that will be famed for sincerity and honesty And if directness of purpose can accomplish anything, I shall succeed The wrong a man commits should not live with him, mock his efforts and constitute a perpetual embarrasment When a man has paid a penalty for wrongdoing, he should be permitted to demostrate the caliber of his character If he fails to reform, then it is time for condemnation by the world.

“When I joined the wild band I was a mere youth Perhaps my age accounted for the indescretions I committed When I became branded, so to speak, I never visited my home except by stealth Everywhere the members of the band went around armed on the lookout for enemies and detectives Again and again we were charged with offences committed at places we never had seen If a bank was robbed anywhere in the Middle West if a train or stage coach was held up the blame was laid at our door.

“I do not mean to deny that many outrages were perpetrated by the gang, but I do insist that we were frequently wrongly accused ”


The Sun, April 19, 1908: The 33 hacks that went from Mount Royal Station last night and passed through Druid Hill Park, the aristocratic residential section and the burnt district was not a funeral procession. It was the delegation of 113 merchants, lawyers and residents of Tulsa, Okla. - a flourishing city of 16,000 inhabitants - who are traveling over the United States in a special train of five cars to advertise their city.

A more progressive, energetic and business-like delegation of men probably never visited Baltimore. ...

In the delagation which arrived on its special train from Washington at 7 o’clock was Emmett Dalton, one of the family of Dalton brothers, who were noted for daring robberies in the Southwest about 14 years ago. ...He was pardoned some years ago and has since acquired fame as one who advises the boys of the East against undertaking trips to the “wild and wooly West” He has a large produce business and is looked upon as a model citizen.


Baltimore American, April 17, 1908: “Emmet Dalton, once a member of a band of notorious robbers, led by two of his older brothers, Bob and Grant, is now a respected business man of our town,” said Mr. M. A. Sansom, a cattleman of Tulsa, Okla., at the Rennert.

“Emmet Dalton was but 20 years old and completely under the domination of his brother Bob, the leader of the outlaws, when he participated in the attempted robbery of a bank at Coffeyville, Kan., in 1892. A fierce fight ensued between the bandits and citizens of the town, in which Bob and Grant Dalton were killed. Emmet got a life term in the penitentiary, but last September he was pardoned by Governor Hoch, an act that met the general approval of the Kansas people, as the young man had been a model prisoner while confined and there was no doubt of his complete reformation.

“He told me not long ago that he found his greatest consolation and pleasure while incarcerated in the study of Shakespeare, which he read so studiously during the 16 years of his enforced retirement that he can justly claim an enviable acquaintance with the works of the great bard. He is engaged in the prosaic business of selling groceries, and the chances are that he will become one of our prosperous citizens.”


Dallas Morning News, April 25, 1908: Chicago,Ill., April 24 - With a special train of five cars a party of 123 representative citizens and a military band of twenty-three pieces, the Tulsa, Ok., “boosters” reached Chicago this morning and brought to the Great Northern Hotel, State street, the stock yards and other metropolitan points a breezy touch of Southwestern vigor.

Tulsa is pleased to call itself the Chicago of the Southwest. That is the reason that Chicago has been saved practically till the last in a trip which has included all the large cities of the Eastern and Middle States.

Emmett Dalton, a man whose name years ago was synonymous with bloody battles in frontier towns and conjures up images of the “Dalton gang,” so called, came with the Tulsa delegation of business men, respected and honored by them as a fellow citizen. Dalton was the most inconspicuous member of the party. Although Dalton is not seeking notoriety himself his friends bubble over with anecdotes tending to show his natural magnanimity.


Coffeyville Journal, April 27, 1908: …All of the Tulsa, Okla., delegation, including Emmett Dalton, had discovered that “hustling” for their home town was no joke. All except Dalton said so. Dalton, however, when he learned that his presence here was known, sought seclusion and covered his trail as successfully as in the old days, when he was being pursued by United States deputy marshals.

Becky Tiernan, in Tulsa World, 03/09/1997, wrote about the booster trains. Her article included this: “In addition to an 18-piece band, the 125 trippers took along paroled outlaw Emmett Dalton, who had terrorized the Southwest. The reformed gunslinger was promoting his touring Wild West Show starring sharp-shooter Annie Oakley. Dalton proved his entertainment prowess on a visit to the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. He held up the place in true western style. The stunt caused hilarity among the traders but the sudden halt in trading sent a panic throughout New York, London and Paris.”

I do not know where she got this story from. I have found nothing of the sort in old newspapers. Also, Emmett never had a Wild West Show. It seems to me as another one of those invented Dalton tales.


Emmett Dalton

The Washington Times, May 3, 1908: It’s a far cry from the ranks of high-handed outlawry and subsequent prison glamour to the White House and hobnobbing with the President of the United States.

Such, however, is the route traversed by Emmett Dalton, a dashing young Westerner, who was in Washington a few days ago.

When Dalton stepped to President Roosevelt’s side, pinned a button on the Chief Executive’s coat, and said, “Allow me to initiate you as a booster for Tulsa, Oklahoma,” the former rough rider and frontiersman little knew that the man with the gentle voice, radiant smile and innocent face who stood in front was not many months ago feared by the entire population of the West, and that the law granted him the liberty of nicking four notches on the butt of his gun.

A year ago Emmett Dalton, this tall, gentlemanly, handsome, and refined young man who initiated the President, Vice President, Secretary Taft, and other dignitaries into the clan of Tulsa boosters, was confined in a dingy, gloomy little prison cell in Lansing, Kan., with a life sentence within those high stone walls and barred doors staring him in the face. Today he is a substantial merchant, an honorable man, an enthusiastic booster for his town, and respected by his fellow citizens.

EMMETT DALTON robbed a bank of $23.000. He did not get away with it. The only thing he saved was his life. That was more than was saved by the others of the desperate and far-famed Dalton gang of highwaymen and bank robbers, the mention of whose name struck terror into the hearts of Kansas and people living in the Far Southwest.

…He was sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in Lansing prison. …

Each day he remained in the cell he fought harder to get out. The people of Kansas and the Southwest were afraid of him. It was frankly admitted that perhaps he did not have the fairest of chances in the matter of a trial, but the bankers and cattle owners reckoned that a good Dalton was a dead Dalton, or a Dalton up for life. The harder he fought to get out the harder they fought back, and the harder they fought back the more determined and persistent the young man became.

He finally won over the majority; proved by fighting spirit and indefatigable will that he would not be the under dog and in consequence of his untiring efforts of fourteen years the heavy iron doors of Lansing prison swung open for him last July and he stepped out into the sunshine a free man again. In November he was unconditionally pardoned.

Since then Dalton has been hitting the line hard. He is a fighter and determined to succeed. He has the grit and the spunk about him and the people of Tulsa are strong for him.

No man can ever understand how Dalton feels toward the people of this new little Oklahoma town. He cannot express his feelings. He tries, but each time a lump rises in his throat, his voice becomes husky, and one must guess the rest. Branded as a criminal he struck straight for Tulsa. Out there they say “It’s not what you were but what you are.” Emmett Dalton when he landed in Tulsa was young, strong, determined to live an honorable, upright life, and willing to start out from the cradle afresh. That is just what he is doing.

He has started life anew and is a credit to Tulsa. He is one of the most popular and successful men in the town, and throughout the Eastern trip of 125 of the most prominent citizens of the town - of which he was one - the former outlaw and prisoner was as enthusiastic over the prospects of Tulsa and the hospitality of the people as he could possibly be. Dalton is grateful beyond expression for the cordial reception given him by the inhabitants of the town.

When he left Lansing he did not know how the world would receive him. He said he hoped it would fight him in order that he might fight back and show the good that was in him, since the world knew all the bad. Dalton declares sympathy unnerves him and says it is the one thing that will cause him to give up. With strong opposition he says he can work out an honorable destiny much faster and more satisfactorily. But to the people of Tulsa he is indebted for his fresh start. He cannot say too much in praise of the inhabitants or the soil.

To see Dalton and to know him are two vastly different things. He has a clear blue eye, a determined mouth, but more wonderful than all, in view of his confinement, suffering and humiliation, is his winning smile, his soft, gentle manner, and tolerance of other people. None could ruffle him. He is as meek and docile as a lamb. He looks every man straight in the eye, but never talks above a whisper.

Bank robbing is the one subject he does not care to talk about. He has put the one act of his life of which he is ashamed behind him and is living in such a fashion as to blot out this episode from the memory of other men as well as his own.

While Dalton was in Washington a dispatch was received from Coffeyville, Kan., telling of another robbery in the same bank which he and his brother visited in 1893. He read the dispatch, but displayed little interest. “That’s bad business,” was the only comment he made.

Dalton has the greatest respect for the law which punished him. He makes no complaint against the statutes, but rather holds them in reverence and says he wants to see the same law which punished him enforced at all hazards and times. He does feel, however, that his sentence was a little steep, but since he did not serve the remainder of his life in the dark cell he glories in the triumph of having been sentenced for so long and being liberated so soon.

“That First National Bank incident is something black in my life which I want to forget,” said Dalton after being repeatedly questioned and realizing the utter hopelessness of getting out of telling something about the robbery which shocked the West, cost four lives, resulted in permanent injury for him, and cast him into a cell for fourteen years.

This is possibly the strangest version of the Coffeyville raid told by Emmett.

“I was twenty-one years old when it all occurred. I knew it was wrong, but I did it. Every man knows what brother love is, what it is to be young and daring. That’s all ther was to the bank robbery. I had never done anything like that before, and I never will again. It is not right. I realized that I was not doing right when I went into the bank in broad daylight to rob it, and I knew it.

“Yes, I am the only one not killed in the fight following the robbery of the two banks, but there are many things worse than death. There were other men besides Daltons in the gang but it has been called the Dalton band all these years, so let the Daltons stand the notoriety, which I hope will soon die down.

“I have no idea what brought the whole thing about. We had a good home, honorable parents, and a fine farm. My brothers, Jim and Bob, have been blamed for many crimes which they did not commit, but they were caught and killed when they were guilty. I never will understand what started them on this expedition of pillage.

“They had served as deputy United States marshals for some time, and asked repeatedly for $2.000 which was due them. The money was never paid. That may have started them. Both were older than I, and seldom took me into their confidence. I did know, however, about a month ahead that they had planned to tap the First National Bank and C. M. Condon’s bank on the main street in broad daylight. As I say, I was only twenty-one years old at that time, and the dramatic, spectacular effect of robbing a bank in open light, with business going on, appealed to me, but I knew it would be wrong to steal the money. Perhaps I was not as enthusiastic as my brothers and their companions, and for some weeks it was a matter of conjecture as to whether or not I would accompany them.

“Finally they decided that I should go with them. We mounted our horses on the outskirts of Topeka and galloped into Coffeyville. It was somewhere near noon and we knew many deposits had been made. With a rush we charged up to the corner. The two banks were directly opposite each other. I wore a belt with two horse pistols and fifty rounds of ammunition in it. In the holster near my stirrup strap I carried a brand new Winchester. It was a thrilling experience, but I never want to go through it again.

“Jim and his friend went to Condon’s bank and Bob and I ran into the First National. Across my left arm I carried a sack in which we were to carry away the money. In my right hand I carried my Winchester. Bob drew no weapon as he entered behind me.

“I walked into the little bank and old man Ayres and his son, who were counting gold, silver and certificates, looked up. I leveled my Winchester at the old man’s head. We were good friends, but when he looked into the muzzle of that gun he immediately threw up his hands as I very coolly informed him that I would have to ask him to oblige in that direction. His son’s hands went up in the air simultaneously.

“Then Bob stepped forward, took the sack off from my arm and went behind the wire grating. He shoveled in all the coin, bills, and checks on the counter and in the drawers and then cleaned out the safe, while the old man and his son stood mute and I had the business end of the Winchester headed their way.

“As we passed out of the bank we bid them good day and they lowered their hands.

“Previous to this robbery my brothers had an unenviable name, although I don’t believe they deserved it. When we rode into town it was a signal for a posse to form.

“While we were busy in the First National, my other brother was engaged in similar operations across the street. The four of us reached the pavement at the same time. Bob passed the sack of money to me and I ran to my horse and vaulted to the saddle. I saw the fellows across the street had their sack, too.

“The posse opened fire as soon as I put spurs to my horse. I rode on at breakneck speed, believing Bob and the others would join me at any minute. After riding some distance and failing to see any of the party by my side, I looked back. As I turned in my saddle a bullet hit my right arm and still another lodged in my right hand.

“I saw Bob lying on the ground near his horse and I determined to rescue him. Although they were all firing at me and I had the money, my only thought was of the safety of Bob, and I spurred my horse into a gallop and started back toward the bank. I escaped many bullets and buckshots and passed a number of members of the posse before I reached a spot opposite where my brother lay.

“Reining up my horse I was preparing to dismount and throw Bob over my saddle when a terrific load of buckshot struck me square in the back and I was knocked off my horse landing in the street near my brother. The money bag fell on top of me. I made no effort to save it. I thought I had been killed.

“They captured me and carried me away. For weeks I was treated by Drs. Platt, Wilsop, McQuinn and McCarthy. They dressed my wounds every day. The injuries still pain me and the wound on my right arm has to be dressed every morning. I am able to to do that myself now. I have good use of the arm, but my right hand is swollen almost twice its normal proportions.

“Four members of the posse were slain on that fateful day. My brothers and their companions were also killed. I hovered between life and death for many weeks.

“Finally I got strong enough to go to trial. I was charged with murder in the second degree, although I don’t remember having fired a shot. My attorneys suggested that I plead guilty as the maximum penalty was twenty years and we did not believe I would be given more than that length of time. I have the greatest reverence and respect for the law and bench, and I don’t want to be construed as criticizing either, but while I appreciate that I was rightly punished, I believe I could have been tried before a more unbiased judge. I have no complaint to make because I offended and should have suffered, but I firmly believe that mercy should always precede justice.”

Brother Jim? The Tacoma Daily News (Sept. 9, 1892) had this to say about the Daltons: “The Daltons are probably the most notorious outlaws in the country. There are three brothers - Robert, George and Jim. Only two, however, have been identified with the industry of robbing trains, banks, express cars and killing people. George is a moderate farmer, living on a little ranch in southwestern part of Kansas, where he is respected by his neighbors as an industrious, law-abiding citizen.” The names of the doctors seem all wrong as well. At Coffeyville he was treated by Drs. Wells and Ryan, at Independence by Drs. McCulley and Masterman. Galloping from the vicinity of Topeka? Just about everything in this account is wrong. Why? Was he annoyed these reporters pestered him to tell about the raid and, rather than offend them by refusing, he told them whatever came to mind? I feel the names must have had some meaning. It seems he was playing some game for his own private amusement.

“With a life sentence hanging over my head, I - a mere youth just budding into manhood - was carried off to the penitentiary, shackled, disgraced, but undaunted.

“From the first day they closed that door on me until they opened it and let me go my way I fought for my liberty. Years dragged on. Sixty minutes meant that much more inward suffering to me and the agony was long drawn out. I read everything from the almanac to the bible. When you are looking for good interesting and comforting reading the bible is the volume you should select. It stood me in good stead and I shall never go back on it. I read law and ferreted out technicalities on which I could be freed, but I wanted to get out on better grounds than technicalities. I wrote letters to my friends constantly and - if I must confess - I wrote some poetry and short stories to unburden my wearied soul and express my inner feelings.

“I never once lost hope. I knew I was fighting for a just cause, that my friends were with me, and I must succeed in the end. I was young during those fourteen years of misery and suffering, and I am young yet, so I never gave up. There is no such thing as ’can’t’ when you’re in the right, and keep plugging. Each day, I believed, brought me nearer liberty, and that kept me buoyed up. The thought what I would do or how I would feel if I was not liberated until death never occurred to me. While I was planning to get out I was also determining my course after I was free. I had had enough of criminality and the felon’s life and I resolved that however the world greeted me I would show only the best that was in me, lead an honorable life and prove to my dear old mother that I was a good son. She is still living. She believes I, as well as my brothers, am innocent of everything with which we were ever charged. I am living to be a credit to her, to myself and to my town.

“I went into the prison March 8, 1893. July 6 of last year I was paroled, and on November 12 I was unconditionally pardoned by Governor Hoch. There is one of the squarest and best men in the world. He pardoned me because he thought it was right to do so. I admire him for more reasons than because he pardoned me. He is a sincere, genuine man of courage and strength and I stand for him. When he pardoned me he said the more he saw of weak humanity the more sympathy he had for it. I don’t want sympathy. That is the one thing that will knock the heart out of me, and cause me to throw up the sponge. I want opposition. Competition is the life of trade, and the heart of life. I get along better if I have to struggle.

“I admire President Roosevelt immensely, not because he is the first man in the nation, but because he is a man through and through, and one that is worth knowing as a citizen and fellow, as well as a President.

“Tulsa is the greatest place in the world. It welcomed me, received me, as a man starting life all over again, and without a slightest bit of a past, and has never asked any questions. I am trying to live a straight life. If I slip up and my conduct cannot be reconciled with the law, I want to be punished. I am just getting on my feet out there, but I seem to have a good start, and nothing I can think of can cause me to swerve in my course except pitying sympathy.”

Mayor Rhode, prominent bankers, real estate dealers, doctors, lawyers and merchants who were in the bands of Tulsans spoke in the highest terms of the former outlaw. They believe in him, say they would trust him with their lives or money, and respect him. This feeling warms the heart of the big reformed bank robber, and he is striving to more firmly root himself in their hearts every day.

Dalton would be the last man to suspect of a lurid past. He is a man of refinement, is well dressed, uses faultless language, and is a most gentlemanly and interesting man. A more complete reformation could not be expected of mortal man.




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