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Bill Dalton and the Cimarron Train Robbery

 By Nancy Ohnick

I have spent a lot of time researching the Dalton Gang. My initial interest was their connection with their sister, Eva, who used to live in Meade. It is Eva Dalton Whipple’s home that has been preserved as the Dalton Gang Hideout. She came to Meade when she was about nineteen or twenty, married John Whipple October 25, 1887, and lived in that house until they left Meade in the early 1890’s. Their marriage license, deeds, and the Meade County tax rolls all testify as to her time here.

I never could quite prove that the Dalton brothers actually “hid out” here, but I have eye-witness accounts of what that tunnel looked like when it was just a rough rain wash covered with timbers and earth, and it stands to reason that family would have visited her during her time in Meade. She was close enough to her brothers to travel to Coffeyville with her mother when Bob and Grat were killed and Emmett was severely wounded, a fact that was reported in detail in the Coffeyville newspaper.

What always puzzled me was bits and pieces I had learned about a train robbery at Cimarron reportedly perpetrated by the Dalton Gang. The problem was, it happened after the gang was killed and caught at Coffeyville on October 5, 1892. I was so please this past year to finally put the pieces of that puzzle together.  It all happened because of the book I published for LaDonna Meyers, “Cimarron Chronicles.”

I got an email from Roger Myers (no relation to LaDonna) telling me how much he had enjoyed the book. We corresponded back a forth a bit and we came to realize that we had known each other in year’s past. In fact, I used to be his baby sitter! He was the son of Dan and Thelma Myers who used to live in my neighborhood growing up in Meade. Roger told me how he was a history writer also and, long story short, he had written the account of the Cimarron robbery years before for “True West” magazine.

I bought the rights to the story from Roger and added it to my book, “The Dalton Gang and Their Family Ties” of which I was in the process of publishing a new edition. With the story from Roger and new research I had done I came up with this great addition for my book. 

The outlaws who robbed the train at Cimarron were actually the Dalton-Doolin Gang, with the headliners in that gang being Bill Dalton and Bill Doolin. Bill Dalton was never mentioned as taking part in any outlaw activity until after his brothers were killed in Coffeyville. The newspapers there gave a detailed account of Bill Dalton’s vengeful attitude toward what had happened to his brothers, and it wasn’t long before he turned to crime.

The Cimarron robbery took place on June 10, 1893. I have traced the gang’s trail from Beaver where they stayed for a few days before coming north. They probably rode up the Jones and Plummer Trail because they showed up at the Sol Zortman place northwest of Fowler a few days before the robbery. Dean Zortman shared with me the stories that had been handed down by his grandfather about the event. They stopped around noon and asked to water and feed their horses and Nancy Zortman asked them to eat with them, which they did. Later, on their way back through, Sol and also a neighbor saw the gang moving fast, they didn’t stop this time, nor did they greet the settlers.

A few miles northeast of Meade the gang stopped at the J. H. Randolph home where they forced the settlers at gunpoint to give them a meal. Carrie Anshutz wrote in “Cimarron Chronicles” that they came by their place and when Doc Anshutz and her little brother saw them on the trail the outlaws waved them on in a gesture that clearly meant, “leave us alone.” When reporting every encounter along the trail the sentence would end with, “later we learned they had robbed a train at Cimarron,” thus leaving a trail for history.

Even if you already own a copy of “The Dalton Gang and Their Family Ties” it’s almost worth getting the third edition just to get the whole story of the Cimarron robbery. The book can be found at the Dalton Gang Hideout, Meade Historical Museum, and Back Room Printing,  in Meade, Trails West or Hastings in Dodge City, or on the web at www.prairiebooks.com.

 

The following are newspaper articles from the Meade County Globe about the Cimarron Robbery:

From the Meade County Globe, dated June 15, 1893, Meade, Kansas

Four masked robbers held up the California express on the Santa Fe road half mile west of Cimarron last Friday night at 1:20. The train had just pulled out of that town when the engineer saw a danger signal near the bridge and stopped the train, when two of the men jumped onto the engine and with revolver drawn commanded the engineer to go with them to the express car with a sledge hammer to batter in the door. When they arrived the messenger refused to open the door and after firing some shots into the car they blew the door off with dynamite. They had shot the messenger through the side and disabled him. The robbers took the contents of the way safe and commanded Whittlesey to open the through safe but he could not do so. It is thought they secured about $1000 in silver, and mounting their horses rode off to the south.

About ten o’clock the next day Sheriff Byrns received a telegram from Cimarron informing him of the robbery and for him to be on the lookout. About this time these same robbers were passing east of the city along the lane east of Brannon’s, Judge Hudson saw them as they passed the corner at his place going south.  

Sheriff Byrns and deputy Givler along with some others got their guns and started out about one o’clock, going east and south. In the mean time these robbers were laying in the canyon near Chilcott’s about ten miles southeast of this city, but the boys didn’t find them and returned the next day without getting sight of them. The bandits got their supper at Chilcott’s and then went in the direction of the territory. They stopped at Tainter’s ranch the next day for dinner and this is the last that is known of them. Robberies of this kind seem to be greatly on the increase and there should be some way devised that would put a stop to them.

 

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From the Meade County Globe, dated June 22, 1893, Meade, Kansas 

John Randolph has the proud distinction of entertaining the Cimarron train robbers for dinner, the next day after the robbery—last Saturday a week. They stopped at his place about 11 o’clock on that morning and wanted their dinner. Said they had been after a horse thief.  

They said they were in a hurry and to get them a bite quick. They unsaddled their horses and fed them, leaving their Winchesters on their saddles. Going into the house they sat down a few minutes to wait for the preparation of the meal and in that many minutes were all sound asleep in their chairs. When dinner was ready John awoke them, little thinking he had in his house four men who were desperate robbers and for whose capture there was a reward of $10,000. It is safe to say that had honest John known this he would have bagged them and by this time had a snug little fortune down in his jeans—but he did not know it—so there’s the rub. But at any rate he got a good squint at them, and will know them if he ever sees them again. They asked him about Whipple, if he knew him, and all the time seemed just as quiet and serene as though they had been common farmers who had dropped in to pass the time a day. John says they were all gentlemanly in their actions and seemed well bred.

 

 

 

 

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