Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dalton Gang and Coffeyville, Kansas

After five days of steady rain, the sun came out and the air warmed to a delightful temp that reminded us of summer. We took a road trip for the day heading to Coffeyville, Kansas. I had spent a lot of time in Coffeyville as a kid because my grandparents lived there. The town’s claim to fame was a double bank robbery in 1892 when the town’s citizens took out the Dalton Gang. We had never been to the museum and so it was a good destination on a sunny day.

We traveled 166, a quiet highway crossing rolling farmland that was greening up for spring. The fields were muddy and ditches had leftover rainwater. We pulled into a town vastly changed from my memories. First of all, the huge old scenic bridge across the Verdigris had been replaced by a modern Plain Jane bridge. Then the humane society, a small rodeo ground, and some park features were gone. A massive flood a few years ago caused the entire town grief destroying much of the town.

While two banks had been hit in the Dalton raid, the Condon Bank building still stands. Imagine outlaws coming out the double doors and windows shattered by flying bullets. One can still see bullet holes and enter the bank from the attached Chamber of Commerce. Across the street is what is called Death Alley, a passage way as narrow as it was a hundred years ago when four outlaws met their death there…along with four unfortunate horses!

I never could understand why they built a museum to bank robbers, but it wasn’t to honor them. The museum called Dalton Defenders Museum is a testimony to the bravery and determination of ordinary folks not willing to give in the bad guys. The Daltons had robbed Coffeyville once before, and they decided to go back and do a double bank job of the Condon and the First National Bank. Through a series of mistakes and hitches, 30 citizens had time to grab guns and defend their banks. Four of them were to die in the line of duty.

There are numerous pictures of the dead gang which was a unique situation in 1892. Now we are used to cameras snapping photos of unfolding events, but that day a photographer was one of the first to capture the day for posterity. The bandits’ hats and guns are display at the museum. A picture of the Dalton mother intrigues me. She was supposedly a gentle woman (probably just worn out after bearing 15 children!!) and was related to the Youngers, a name associated with another gang of bandits. Bob was the leader of his brothers and others in the gang, and he was a very handsome man. My curiosity has been pricked, and I want to read more about these bad boys and their family.


Lynn said...

What a cool looking bank! Nice post.

Linda O'Connell said...

Thank you for this wonderful, virtual road trip. Sounds like a fun way to spend the day. You do such interesting things, I should retire :)

irishoma said...

I love historic tidbits like this, Claudia. You are always so generous in sharing your visits with the rest of us. The photo of the bank is great. I felt like I was stepping back in time reading your post. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I am related to the dalton gang, and I am not saying what they did was right but if you study that time period you will find that a lot of the robberies were due to the Civil War and the deep hate for the pinkertons. I do not agree with what they did, but they had their reasons for what they did. We just may never understand their reasons.