The Strange Fate Of Emmett Dalton

“The best way to rob a bank is to own one.” —William K. Black

In A Nutshell

The Dalton Gang terrorized the American Old West, pulling off a string of train robberies. In 1892, they attempted one of their most daunting stunts yet, robbing two banks at the same time in the town of Coffeyville, Kansas. The scheme was a disaster, ending with four of the gang members dead and a fifth, Emmett Dalton, riddled with gunfire. Despite 23 bullet wounds, he survived, and after over a decade in prison, moved to Hollywood where he became an author, actor, and real estate agent.

The Whole Bushel

While most recognize that the “Wild West” was far more peaceful than television and movies would lead people to believe, there were some notorious personalities and incidents that sprung from the era. One such group was the Dalton Gang, who made their name with a series of successful train robberies. However audacious these heists might have been, they were hardly lucrative. Most of the jobs left them with just a few hundred dollars to split between the members of the gang.

In 1892, the Daltons plotted something far more bold than they had ever attempted before. They would rob two banks in the town of Coffeyville, Kansas simultaneously. They might have succeeded if not for a shrewd bank employee, who convinced them that the vault was equipped with a time lock and wouldn’t open for another 45 minutes. That gave the townspeople time to rally and engage the Daltons in a fierce gun battle.

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Four members of the gang were killed: Dick Broadwell, Bill Power, and brothers Grat and Bob Dalton. A third brother, Emmett, suffered 23 bullet wounds. Surviving such a barrage would be nearly impossible, even with today’s medical technology, but Emmett was wounded before the invention of aspirin or CPR. Despite the odds, he survived. For his misdeeds, he was sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned after 14 years, having discovered the Lord while behind bars.

Many figures would have faded into obscurity at this point, but Emmett capitalized on his dubious legacy. He penned a memoir of his exploits called When the Daltons Rode and appeared in Hollywood films, including a dramatization of the Daltons’ exploits. He played himself. The former gunslinger also sold real estate and championed prison reform. He died in 1937, aged 66, more than four decades after the deadly shoot-out.

Show Me The Proof

Biography: Emmett Dalton
Emmett Dalton: Live After The Coffeyville Raid