History - Deputies versus the Wild Bunch
More than 100 years ago in a
quiet little town in the Oklahoma
Territory, members of the infamous Doolin-Dalton gang squared off
against a posse of deputies in one
of the deadliest confrontations in
the history of the U.S. marshals.
By the end of the gunfight, nine
men lay dead or wounded, and the
people of Ingalls had a vivid picture
of Western lawlessness and the
harsh means needed to restore
Four members of the notorious Dalton Gang (l. to r.) -
Bill Power, Bob Dalton, Grat Dalton, and Dick Broadwell - lay dead after
a shootout in Coffeyville, Kansas, On October 5, 1892. When the
gang attempted to rob two of the town's banks at the same time, brave
townspeople took up arms against the intruders. After the smoke
cleared, eight people were killed and three wounded.
The Wild Bunch
Bill Doolin was born in 1858 in
Johnson County, Ark. At the age of
23 he drifted west, working odd
jobs until settling in as a top ranch
hand along the Cimarron River in
the Oklahoma Territory.
While working as a cowboy. he
met most of the men who would
later form his own gang, a group of
colorful outlaws known as the Wild
One story recounts that the gang
hit the ground running in 1891,
when it celebrated the Fourth of
July holiday in Coffeyville, Kan., by
tapping a keg of beer.
Problem was, Kansas was a dry
state. When lawmen entered the
scene to confiscate the alcohol,
they were met with bullets.
From that day forward, Doolin
and his cohorts were on the run,
and larceny provided their means
By September 1891, the Wild
Bunch had teamed up with the
Dalton Brothers Gang to rob
several banks throughout the
region. A year later, however, Doolin took control after most of
the Daltons were killed in a raid on
two banks in Coffeyville.
A string of heists followed for
the newly consolidated Doolin-
Dalton Gang, whose members
were quite good at alluding capture.
But in the fall of 1893, deputy
marshals zeroed in when they
discovered that the marauders
were using the town of Ingalls as a
hideout between raids.
The stage was set for a fateful
Blood is spilled
The afternoon of September 1, 1893,
found the gang inside George
Ransom's saloon. Present along
with Doolin and Bill Dalton were
Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton,
George "Red Buck" Weightman,
George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb,
"Arkansas Tom" Jones [Roy
Daugherty] and Bill "Tulsa Jack"
The lawmen moving in for the
arrests were headed by Deputy
Marshal John Hixon, who brought
four other deputies with him -
Lafe Shadley, Tom Hueston, Dick
Speed and Jim Masterson. An
additional eight men joined the
ranks as posse members.
In the gruesome confrontation
that afternoon, Hueston was fired
on as he dove for cover. Doolin
shot Speed dead as the deputy tried
in vain to join Shadley, who was
concealed behind the body of a
Then, when Shadley saw one of
outlaws fall wounded, he moved in.
But Dalton shot him in his tracks.
Masterson later threw dynamite
into the outlaws' hiding place and
captured Jones, but the others fled
southeast out of town.
The escaping outlaws halted at
the top of a nearby ridge long
enough to fire some final shots at
the lawmen, and one of those
bullets killed Frank Briggs, an
All told, men on both sides of the
law met their destiny that afternoon.
Deputy Speed was killed
during the actual fighting; Deputies Hueston and Shadley died of their
wounds the following day.
There was talk of Arkansas Tom
Jones being lynched, but instead he
was sent to the federal prison in
Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, about 35 miles
In the marshal's own words
E.D. Nix was the marshal for the
Oklahoma Territory at the time. In
his book, "Oklahombres," published
in 1929, he specified this fight as
one of the more critical of his entire career. It, of course, was also
one of the most devastating, with three deputies losing their lives.
(Nix, shown on right, was appointed U.S. Marshal over the Oklahoma
territory by President Grover Cleveland. He supervised the work of
over 150 deputies, including the famous Three Guardsmen.)
Nearly two years after the Ingalls confrontation, the marshal pieced
together the details of the fight in a letter he wrote to Attorney General Judson Harmon. The letter came about as a response to a
man named Murray, who was tending bar of the fight.
Murray was arrested that day for harboring the criminals. Having
been shot by deputy marshals during the battle, he was now complaining
of damages and seeking redress.
Nix's letter to Harmon, dated
July 30, 1895, is housed in the National Archives. the
transcript, containing all of the original spelling and punctuation
One George Ransom owned a saloon in the town of Ingalls and this man
Murray worked for him as bar tender. The outlaws Bill Doolan, "Bitter
Creek," "Tulsa lack," "Dynamite Dick," "Red Buck," Tom ]ones and
numerous others made this saloon their headquarters, and Ransom, Murray
and other citizens catered to their trade, carried them news of the
movements of the deputy Marshals, furnished them with ammunition, cared
for their horses, permitted them to eat at their tables and sleep in
their beds. These facts were well known to the community, although a
conviction on the charge of harboring or aiding and abetting criminals
against the laws of the United States could never be sustained, by
reason of the fact that the entire community was under duress and would
not testify for fear of losing their lives and property.
On the 1st day of September 1893, a party of deputy marshals who had
been sent after these outlaws by me, arrived in the vicinity of Ingalls,
and the outlaws mentioned herein were at the time in the town and in the
saloon of Rensom, where this man Murray worked. As usual the outlaws had
received notice of the proximity of the deputies and they sent a
messenger to the deputies inviting them to come into the town if they
thought they, the deputies, could take them. The deputies accepted the
invitation and after posting their forces, sent a messenger to the
outlaws with a request to surrender and were answered with Winchester
shots. "Bitter Creek" ran out of the saloon in question and fired one
shot towards the north where some of the deputies were stationed, and
turning, received the fire of the deputies which burst the magazine of
his winchester and wounded him in the thigh. In the meantime, a heavy
fire was directed at the deputies by the balance of the outlaws from the
saloon building and the fire was returned by the deputies which
literally riddled the saloon. A horse was killed by the deputies which
was tied in front of the saloon .... The fire of the deputies becoming
too hot for the outlaws, they escaped out of a side door and took refuge
in a large stable mentioned. This man Murray came to the front door of
the saloon either just before the outlaws left the building or just
after, it is known which. However, when he first appeared in the
door-way, he had the door open just a short distance and had his
winchester to his shoulder in the act of firing. This was previous to
the deputies becoming aware of the fact of the outlaws having left the
building. Three of the deputies seeing him in the position he was in,
fired at him simultaneously. Two shots struck him in the ribs and one
broke his arm in two places.
Eight or ten horses were killed and nine persons killed and wounded.
One deputy was killed outright at the first fire and two more died the
next day. Three outlaws were wounded and one captured. The one captured
was afterwards sentenced to fifty years in the penitentiary and is now
serving his time.
Very respectfully, E.D. Nix U.S. Marshal
Evitt Dumas Nix
United States Marshal 1893-1896