Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Daltons' Coffeyville Fiasco

Although Coffeyville, Kansas, is not actually a part of the Ozarks, it's close enough to my hometown of Joplin that I consider it to be in the general region. So, I've included a chapter on the Dalton gang's unsuccessful attempt to rob two Coffeyville banks simultaneously in my book about notorious incidents of the Ozarks.
The holdup attempt occurred on October 5, 1892. The Daltons had grown up hearing about and idolizing their notorious cousins, the Youngers, and the Youngers' even more infamous sidekicks, the James brothers; and Bob Dalton had supposedly boasted that he meant to top the record of Jesse James. Instead, the whole gang was virtually wiped out by vigilant townspeople who armed themselves when they realized the banks were being robbed and shot the outlaws to pieces. Four of the five gang members were killed, and the fifth was seriously wounded.
The story of the failed holdup attempt has been written about fairly extensively, and one of the elements of the story that continues to fascinate students of the Old West is the question of whether or not there was a so-called "sixth rider," as popular myth holds. This person, so the story goes, acted as a lookout on the outskirts of town and managed to escape when the shooting started, and there has been much speculation about the person's identity, if, indeed, he existed. Some, for instance, have claimed that Bill Doolin was the sixth rider.
Local residents who met the Daltons coming into Coffeyville on that fateful morning reported seeing six men, and their testimony has given rise to over a hunded years' worth of sometimes wild speculation. None of the citizens in town, however, saw more than five men, and Emmett Dalton, the only outlaw who survived the ill-fated holdup attempt, also said the gang numbered only five. I think Emmett was probably telling the truth, but many people love a mystery and will eagerly advance a marvelous explanation while scoffing at a simpler, more logical one.

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