Around 9:30 the morning of October 5, 1892 five members of the Dalton Gang (Grat Dalton, Emmett Dalton, Bob Dalton, Bill Power and Dick Broadwell) rode into the small town of Coffeyville, Kansas. Their objective was to achieve financial security and make outlaw history by simultaneously robbing two banks. From the beginning, their audacious plan went astray. The hitching post where they intended to tie their horses had been torn down due to road repairs. This forced the gang to hitch their horses in a near-by alley – a fateful decision.
After the battle townspeople display the bodies of Bob & Grat Dalton
To disguise their identity, (Coffeyville was the Dalton’s hometown) two of the Daltons wore false beards and wigs. Despite this, the gang was recognized as they crossed the town’s wide plaza, split up and entered the two banks. Suspicious townspeople watched through the banks’ wide front windows as the robbers pulled their guns. Someone on the street shouted, “The bank is being robbed!” and the citizens quickly armed themselves – taking up firing positions around the banks.
The ensuing firefight lasted less than fifteen minutes. A brief moment in time in which four townspeople lost their lives, four members of the Dalton Gang were gunned down and a small Kansas town became part of history.
Anatomy of a Gun Battle
David Elliott was editor of the local newspaper and published a detailed account soon after the gun battle. We pick up his story as the desperadoes dismount and head towards their targets:
“…After crossing the pavement the men quickened their pace, and the three in the front file went into C.M. Condon & Co.’s bank at the southwest door, while the two in the rear ran directly across the street to the First National Bank and entered the front door of that institution. The gentleman [the observer] was almost transfixed with horror. He had an uninterrupted view of the inside of Condon and Co.’s bank, and the first thing that greeted his vision was a Winchester in the hands of one of the men, pointed towards the cashier’s counter in the bank. He quickly recovered his lost wits, and realizing the truth of the situation, he called out to the men in the store that ‘The bank is being robbed!’ Persons at different points on the Plaza heard the cry and it was taken up and quickly passed around the square.
At the same time several gentlemen saw the two men enter the First National Bank, suspecting their motive, followed close at their heels and witnessed them ‘holding up’ the men in this institution. They gave the alarm on the east side of the Plaza. A ‘call to arms’ came simultaneously with the alarm and in less time than it takes to relate the fact a dozen men with Winchesters and revolvers in their hands were ready to resist the escape of the unwelcome visitors.”
Inside the C.M. Condon Bank
As the townspeople arm themselves, the desperados enter the two banks – Bill Powers, Dick Broadwell and Grat Dalton the C.M. Condon bank, Bob and Emmett Dalton the First National. Inside the Condon Bank, three employees are forced at gunpoint to fill a sack with money. One brave teller declares to the robbers that the vault has a time lock and can’t be opened for another 10 minutes (this was untrue.) The robbers decide to wait, however their plan is interrupted as the townspeople open fire:
The C.M. Condon Bank
“…Just at this critical juncture the citizens opened fire from the outside [of the Condon Bank] and the shots from their Winchesters and shot-guns pierced the plate-glass windows and rattled around the bank. Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell replied from the inside, and each fired from four to six shots at citizens on the outside. The battle then began in earnest. Evidently recognizing that the fight was on, Grat Dalton asked whether there was a back door through which they could get to the street. He was told that there was none. He then ordered Mr. Ball and Mr. Carpenter [two bank employees] to carry the sack of money to the front door. Reaching the hall on the outside of the counter, the firing of the citizens through the windows became so terrific and the bullets whistled so close around their heads that the robbers and both bankers retreated to the back room again. Just then one at the southwest door was heard to exclaim: ‘ I am shot; I can’t use my arm; it is no use, I can’t shoot any more.’ “
Meanwhile, inside the First National Bank
A similar scene played out at the First National where Bob and Emmett Dalton forced the bank’s employees to fill their sack with money. Using the employees as shields, the robbers attempted to escape the bank, only to be driven back inside by heavy gunfire:
“…He [Bob Dalton] then ordered the three bankers to walk out from behind the counter in front of him, and they put the whole party out at the front door. Before they reached the door, Emmett called to Bob to ‘Look out there at the left.’ Just as the bankers and their customers had reached the pavement, and as Bob and Emmett appeared at the door, two shots were fired at them from the doorway of the drug store… Neither one of them was hit. They were driven back into the bank… Bob stepped to the door a second time, and raising his Winchester to his shoulder, took deliberate aim and fired in a southerly direction. Emmett held his Winchester under his arm while he tied a string around the mouth of the sack containing the money. They then ordered the young men to open the back door and let them out. Mr. Shepard complied and went with them to the rear of the building, when they passed out into the alley. It was then that the bloody work of the dread desperadoes began.”
Alley of Death
Many of the townspeople gathered in Isham’s Hardware Store near the banks. Not only did the unarmed citizens get rifles, shotguns, and ammunition, but the store also provided an excellent view of the two banks and the alley where the gang had tied their horses:
“…The moment that Grat Dalton and his companions, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power, left the bank [the C.M. Condon Bank] that they had just looted, they came under the guns of the men in Isham’s store. Grat Dalton and Bill Powers each received mortal wounds before they had retreated twenty steps. The dust was seen to fly from their clothes, and Powers in his desperation attempted to take refuge in the rear doorway of an adjoining store, but the door was locked and no one answered his request to be let in. He kept his feet and clung to his Winchester until he reached his horse, when another ball struck him in the back and he fell dead at the feet of the animal that had carried him on his errand of robbery.
Grat Dalton, getting under cover of the oil tank, managed to reach the side of a barn that stands on the south side of the alley… [At this point, Marshal Connelly ran across a vacant lot into "Death Alley" from the south to the spot where the bandits had tied their horses.] The marshal sprang into the alley with his face towards the point where the horses were hitched. This movement brought him with his back to the murderous Dalton, who was seen to raise his Winchester to his side and without taking aim fire a shot into the back of the brave officer. Marshal Connelly fell forward on his face within twenty feet of where his murderer stood.
Death Alley – from a contemporary illustration
The gang tied their horses at the middle, left
Dick Broadwell in the meantime had reached cover in the Long-Bell Lumber Company’s yards, where he laid down for a few moments. He was wounded in the back. A lull occurred in the firing after Grat Dalton and Bill Power had fallen. Broadwell took advantage of this and crawled out of his hiding-place and mounted his horse and rode away. A ball from Kloehr’s [John Kloehr, a townsman] rifle and a load of shot from a gun in the hands of Carey Seaman overtook him before he had ridden twenty feet. Bleeding and dying he clung to his horse and passed out of the city… His dead body was subsequently found alongside of the road a half-mile west of the city.
[As Marshal Connelly fell, Bob and Emmett Dalton - successfully escaping the First National Bank - ran down a side alley and into 'Death Alley' from the north.] When the two Daltons reached the junction of the alleys they discovered F.D. Benson in the act of climbing through a rear window with a gun in his hand. Divining his object, Bob fired at him point blank at a distance of not over thirty feet. The shot missed Mr. Benson, but struck a window and demolished the glass. Bob then stepped into the alley and glanced up towards the tops of the buildings as if he suspected that the shots that were being fired at the time were coming from that direction. As he did so, the men at Isham’s took deliberate aim at him from their position in the store and fired. The notorious leader of the Dalton gang evidently received a severe if not fatal wound at this moment. He staggered across the alley and sat down on a pile of dressed curbstones near the city jail. True to his desperate nature he kept his rifle in action and fired several shots from where he was seated. His aim was unsteady and the bullets went wild… He arose to his feet and sought refuge alongside of an old barn west of the city jail, and leaning against the southwest corner, brought his rifle into action again and fired two shots in the direction of his pursuers. A ball from Mr. Kloehr’s rifle struck the bandit full in the breast and he fell upon his back among the stones that covered the ground where he was standing.
After shooting Marshal Connelly, Grat Dalton made another attempt to reach his horse. He passed by his fallen victim and had advanced probably twenty feet from where he was standing when he fired the fatal shot. Turning his face to his pursuers, he again attempted to use his Winchester. John Kloehr’s rifle spoke in unmistakable tones another time, and the oldest member of the band dropped with a bullet in his throat and a broken neck.
After the battle – Bill Power, Bob Dalton,
Grat Dalton and Dick Broadwell
Emmett Dalton had managed to escape unhurt up to this time. He kept under shelter after he reached the alley until he attempted to mount his horse. A half-dozen rifles sent their contents in the direction of his person as he undertook to get into the saddle… Emmett succeeded in getting into the saddle, but not until he had received a shot through the right arm and one through the left hip and groin. During all this time he had clung to the sack containing the money they had taken from the First National Bank. Instead of riding off, as he might have done, Emmett boldly rode back to where Bob Dalton was lying, and reaching down his hand, attempted to lift his dying brother on the horse with him. ‘Its no use,’ faintly whispered the fallen bandit, and just then Carey Seamen fired the contents of both barrels of his shot-gun into Emmett’s back. He dropped from his horse, carrying the sack containing over twenty thousand dollars with him, and both fell near the feet of Bob, who expired a moment thereafter.”
John J. Kloehr’s version of the Coffeyville raid
The New York Sun, April 8, 1906: I don’t like to tell this story. I have never told it before, that is, with anything like completeness.Just a word or two about the Daltons before beginning the story of their final raid. They were Kentuckians, born and bred. They were cousins by marriage of the notorious Youngers and Jameses. In them the lust of slaughter was inborn. In 1889 the Dalton family, father and mother and thirteen children, among them the three who met their death here – Bob, Emmet and Grattan – came to Kansas. They settled on a farm in Montgomery county, where they remained until the opening of the Territory. Then began the life of adventure that proved their undoing. First, United States deputy marshals, then train robbers, whisky pedlers, and bandits in the mountain passes of California; then, the final act, bank robbers.
On October 4, 1892, five men, Tim Evans, or Powers, Grat Dalton, Bob Dalton, Emmet Dalton and Dick Broadwell, the last having been enlisted in the scheme a day or two before, rode up from the Indian Territory from that part known as the Cherokee nation.
They passed the night hiding in the wooded fastnesses along the banks of the Verdigris River, on which this town stands. Early on the morning of the 5th they took up their journey again, their bloodied horses refreshed by rest and food.
For miles they followed one of the main roads into Coffeyville, the road that becomes Eighth street when it enters the town.
As they neared the town they were noticed by many people riding to and from the city. The Daltons, who were, of course, well known in Coffeyville, were disguised by false beards and other means. Long cloaks concealed their weapons – Winchester rifles and heavy Colt’s revolvers. They looked, as they intended, like a party of deputy United States marshals on official business. This was an occurrence too common to excite wonderment or remark.
As they rode up Eight street many eyes were turned upon them, but without the slightest suspicion. It was evidently their intention to tie their horses on Eighth street, where they would be readily accessible when the need to flee came. However, the street was torn up, pending certain repairs, making this impossible. An alley running directly off the street attracted their attention. They turned down it, the only false move they had made thus far, and tied their horses to a paling back of my livery stable. Then in single file they emerged from the alley, their long coats removed, their spurs clanking, their guns swinging at their sides.
Three of them, Bob and Grattan Dalton and Powers, entered the Condon National Bank, and covering the cashier with their Winchesters commanded him to open the vault. Grat hurried around behind the iron screen that partitioned the vaults and the business part of the bank from the front, and opening a heavy grain sack commanded one of the three clerks to pour into it all the cash in sight. That done he, with a fierce oath and threatening wave of his gun, commanded the cashier to open the vault and get the gold.
“I can’t,” replied the cashier. “The time lock is on the vault.”
“What time will it open?”
“At half past 9,” returned the cashier. The time was only a guess on his part; it was after 10 o’clock then, but Grat bit at the desperate expedient to gain time.
“We’ll wait,” he announced.
All this time the citizens were not idle. So completely by surprise had the assault on the bank been that no one was in the least prepared. Even the town marshal, Frank Connelly, was unarmed. The first intimation that I had of the affair was when some one ran into the stable shouting that Condon’s bank was being robbed. I had no weapon in the barn, but, running across the street to the hardware store, I fitted myself out with a small Winchester, the first thing that I came upon. Stationing myself on the street I began to fire on the Condon bank, hoping to frustrate the plans of the bandits. In this I was soon joined by others, who hurriedly procured weapons from the hardware stores. The plate glass windows of the bank were riddled and bank people narrowly escaped death from the flying bullets, but the effect of the fusillade was to make the robbers chary of staying too long in the bank. In the grain sack was about $4,000 in silver and greenbacks. The silver was discarded, Grat Dalton stuffing the paper money into his coat.
Then they made their way to the rear doors of the bank, driving the cashier and his assistants before them. When they swung open the door they were confronted by George Baldwin, 23 years old, as brave and noble a lad as ever breathed. In his hand he held a pistol, a toy compared to the weapons carried by the robbers.
“I’ll have to get that man,” said Bob Dalton, and raising his fatal Winchester to his shoulder he fired, and Baldwin fell to the ground mortally wounded.
At the other bank, the First National, a similar scene was enacted. The cashier and others in the bank were made to hold up their hands and the contents of the vault were emptied into a sack. Here, too, the fire from the people on the streets became too severe and they were forced to discard the heavy silver for the lighter and more valuable gold and paper.
Charles Gumy, another of the bravest men this or any other town has ever known, opened fire on the bank, but was wounded by a shot from one of the robbers that splintered the stock of his gun and smashed his right hand into a mass of raw flesh. Friends rushed out to him and dragged him within the shelter of a store.
After leaving the First National Emmet Dalton and Dick Broadwell passed down Eight street, where they were joined by the three from the Condon Bank. There in front of his shoe shop stood George Cubine, gun in hand, waiting for them. Two shots rang out simultaneously and Cubine fell back dead. Charles Brown, a fellow workman of Cubine’s, saw him fall and ran out to help him. Again the deadly rifles of the bandits spoke, and Brown fell a martyr to right and the ties of comradeship.
Passing down Union street, after killing Cubine and Brown, the five bandits espied Thomas Ayres, cashier of the First National Bank, standing by the curb with a rifle in his hands. Bob Dalton’s rifle rang out and Ayres fell, wounded in the head, although the distance was more than seventy-five yards.
Bob and Emmet then hurriedly dodged behind buildings and were not seen again until they reappeared in the alley where their horses were tied. Grat dalton and his companions, Bowers and Broadwell, regained the shelter of the alley first.
In the alley was standing a Standard Oil tank, to which a magnificient team of grays were hitched. Using the wagon for a breastwork, the three bandits prepared to deal death to all who should dare dislodge them.
All this time I was, so to speak, mounting guard over the horses. I saw Grat and his companions take up their position behind the wagon and I determined to wait until the most auspicious moment came before attempting to do anything. Just at this moment Bob and Emmet came down the alley from the other way, making for their horses. As I saw them they saw me. We had often competed in friendly shooting matches. He knew that when I fired I shot to kill.
“Hell!” he exclaimed. “There’s Kloehr. I hate to do it, but he’s got to fall.” For a moment I was transfixed, watching his face intently as the bird watches the snake about to seize it. Then instictively my own rifle came to my shoulder. I fired just as Bob pulled the trigger. His bullet went wild, glancingly striking the side of the alley, taking a tangent course and killing both the Standard Oil horses and entering my barn, where it demolished a buggy wheel. But Bob, poor chap, lay in the alley, shot through the breast. Emmet fired at me, and I returned the shot. He was wounded. I could see that, but he kept steadily on. His companions behind the oil wagon now opened up on me. I had no time to care for Emmet. Skirting the alley paling until he came to a breach, he crawled through and away.
Grat Dalton, Powers and Broadwell kept up a galling fire on me. I was not hit. Some way I felt exalted, lifted above everything on this earth. I did not fear their bullets; it seemed as though I was invulnerable.
Finally, Grat exposed himself. I got him. Then, siezed with a sudden terror, Powers and Broadwell made a rush for their horses. Before they could mount I had hit them, too, but Broadwell, exerting superhuman effort, dragged himself into the saddle and rode off. His body was found later beside a hedge a mile from town.
Emmet, who had made his way to a lumber pile, now reappeared in the alley, obviously trying to reach his horse. I shot him again. He had enough, and surrendered, and is still doing time at Fort Leavenworth.
After the raid, Kloehr was hailed a hero for his part in the fight, and perhaps over the years he came to believe this version of events; that he single-handedly got rid of every member of the gang.
It is well known that Bob and Emmett went into the First National bank, and that Bob shot Lucius Baldwin at the back of this bank. Emmett was knocked off from his horse by the buckshot fired from the gun of Carey Seaman.
The Death Alley scene