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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 justice.

Members of the Dalton Gang
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, Arkansas 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 Bunch.

One story recounts that the gang hit the ground running in 1891, when it celebrated the Fourth of July holiday in Coffeyville, Kansas, 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 of support.

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 battle.

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" Blake.

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 horse.

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 innocent bystander.

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 away.

Evitt Dumas Nix

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 follows.

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