On May 23, 1894, shots rang out in downtown Longview, only minutes after outlaw Bill Dalton and three of his gang members robbed the First National Bank on Fredonia Street.
About 200 shots were fired by outlaws and townspeople in response to the robbery, resulting in one of the biggest shootouts in Old West history. Two Longview residents lost their lives and three were injured before Dalton and his crew fled the city.
Now, the historical event is re-enacted each year as a tribute to the heroism showed by Longview townspeople and a celebration of Longview’s heritage and history.
“It’s probably one of the biggest historical events that happened here in town,” says Lindsey Loy, executive director of the Gregg County Historical Museum. “It’s exciting. Kids love it. Parents love it. It makes for a great event.”
The Gregg County Historical Museum held the first Dalton Days in 1994, the same year it formally dedicated its Bill Dalton Bank Robbery exhibit featuring photos, text, and weapons from the robbery. In 2012, the museum moved the re-enactment and its connected festival to the Longview rodeo arena, away from the Fredonia Street location. When Loy took over as executive director in 2016, she decided it was time to move the festival back downtown.
“We felt it would make for a much more engaging and realistic re-enactment if we performed in the same area in which the original bank robbery occurred,” Loy says. “Our building was not there in 1894 when the robbery actually occurred, but the shootout did happen in the same place right in the middle of the street.”
Loy says Dalton Days is a not just a way to showcase the history of Longview but also a way to encourage Longview residents to explore the Gregg County Historical Museum.
“The point of all our events is to let people know that the museum is here and that they can come and see the museum,” Loy says. “Moving [Dalton Days] back downtown and offering free admission to the museum for a day really boosted our participation.”
This year’s Dalton Days will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 7 in the same downtown Fredonia Street location. The museum will bring in professional actors from several gun-fighting groups to perform the robbery re-enactments, which will take place at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m., with various musical guests performing in between.
A “kids zone” will be set up, complete with a petting zoo, face painting, and family-friendly games, and children can attend a meet-and-greet with the re-enactors at noon. Oil Horse Brewing Company will be selling root beer out of a traditional “saloon,” and other food trucks and vendors will be set up throughout the festival.
Loy says it’s important to continue the Dalton Days festival in order to educate people about Longview’s history and encourage children to appreciate it.
“We want to encourage kids to love history,” Loy says. “[Dalton Days] gets kids interested in history and our kids grow up to be our patrons, which is exactly what we want…The guns are loud, they produce real smoke, so kids get excited. And it’s a free event, so parents can bring the entire family without worrying about having to spend a fortune once they get here.”
The museum is adding something new this year: the Dalton Dash 5K and Fun Run, set to begin at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., respectively. Register and find more information on the Gregg County Historical Museum’s website at www.gregghistorical.org.
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 7
Re-enactments of the robbery at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.
The Dalton Dash 5K at 8:30 a.m. ; The Dalton Dash Fun Run at 9:30 a.m.
Where: Fredonia Street and Bank Alley, Downtown Longview