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Craddock: Yet another bandit met his maker

The date was June 8, 1894. The bearded man standing on the front porch of the tiny Oklahoma farmhouse was feeling pretty good about himself. After all, just two weeks earlier he’d led his gang on a raid of Longview’s First National Bank.

The gang got away with some $2,000, but not before a major gunfight that resulted in the deaths of two locals, George Buckingham and Charles Learned, and outlaw Jim Wallace. Several other residents also were wounded in the battle.

The bandits had miscalculated the quick response of Longviewites who put up a stiff resistance on May 23.

As far as the bearded man was concerned, the loss of outlaw Wallace was no big deal. After all, the gang was $2,000 richer after its visit to the First National Bank.

On June 8, the bandit leader was certain he’d outfoxed the law one more time.

Six weeks earlier, he’d summoned his wife and children from California and they had rented the farmhouse in this remote section of Indian Territory near the Arbuckle Mountains west of Ardmore.

Noose tightening

It seemed to be the perfect hideout.

However, little did the bearded man know the law was tightening its noose around him.

After the East Texas robbery, the three remaining robbers had headed their horses north toward Indian Territory. They were hotly pursued by Gregg County Sheriff Jack Howard and a hastily assembled posse, which eventually lost the trail of the outlaws a couple of days out of Longview.

But the sweatband in dead outlaw Jim Wallace’s cowboy hat bore a label from a store in Ardmore. Sheriff Howard wired authorities in Oklahoma, asking them to be on the lookout for the bandits.

Now, most of the money taken in the Longview robbery had been fresh $20 national bank notes from Washington, D.C. By early June, a couple of the notes had turned up in Duncan, northwest of Ardmore.

On June 7, two women and Houston Wallace — the brother of the dead Longview bandit — rode by wagon into Ardmore to stock up on provisions to the tune of $200.

The large amount was unusual enough, but even more curious was the fact Wallace paid in new national bank currency.

The store owner became suspicious and took the notes to local authorities. They, in turn, sent a quick telegram to bank officials in Longview, listing the numbers on the currency.

Sure enough, the numbers matched with those taken in the Longview holdup.

Wallace and the two women were arrested and, under questioning, admitted that the supplies were for some acquaintances who had been staying at Wallace’s farm between Ardmore and Duncan.

With that, deputy marshals and other lawmen hightailed it toward Houston Wallace’s farm.

Identity revealed

On the morning of June 8, the lawmen surrounded the little house and called for anybody inside to come out with hands up. There was no answer from the cabin, but pretty soon a figure was seen climbing out a back window.

It was a man with a gun in his hand running toward the safety of some nearby woods.

Lawmen fired and the bearded man fell to the ground.

Inside the farmhouse the lawmen discovered money sacks from the First National Bank of Longview. They also found two young children in the cabin.

It was only when one of the sobbing children blurted out her father’s last name (“Dalton”) that the deputies learned they had just gunned down the Southwest’s most feared desperado.

However, Bill Dalton had been reported slain several times over the years.

The New York Sun carried this poem from a subscriber:

So Bill Dalton is killed ag’in?

This makes six times, don’t it?

Perrs to me like after while this

killin’ will git sorter fatal, won’t it?

But this time Bill Dalton would be robbing no more banks.

— Van “Law and Order” Craddock’s latest book is “East Texas Tales, Book 2,” available at Barron’s and the Gregg County Historical Museum. His column appears Sunday. Email vancraddock@sbcglobal.net .

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