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The William H. Hart Collection
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From California To Coffeyville:
the Bill Dalton Rifle
Bill Dalton's 1876 Winchester 45-60 Ser # 23082 Lot 150 May 5th, 2013
Owned and used by Bill Dalton. Provenance: Gun taken from Bill Dalton by E.W. Kay when he arrested him at Cross Creek station in September of 1891 when he was arrested the Ceres train robbery attempt. Later Stamped ETC (Evidence Tulare County) as Kay wanted Bill to stand trial. Acquired by Author Frank Latta, then sold by Latta's Grandson at the dispersal of Frank Latta's Estate to the present owner and former Gunsmith of Watsonville, California.
An important collection of original documents, telegrams and correspondence between E.W Kay and Frank Latta were observed by California Auctioneers at the Exeter, California Museum - in reference to the Dalton Winchester Serial # 23082. The documents were provided from the museums archives by special request, under the direction of Chris Brewer, California Historian & Publisher.
After searching for Dalton Sheriff E.W. Kay and His Deputy Jim Ford (Bob Ford's cousin, who shot Jesse James) waited outside Maggie Ruggle's Farm near Cross Creek Station. One of the young girls spotted them and 'acted like she didn't see them,' Kay reacted quickly, and sent Ford to drive the Buckboard past the front and around the house. Kay went to the front of the house and asked Ruggle if Bill was there. She said no, but seeing in her eyes, he was - he quietly pushed his way in with his revolver, and saw the back room door slightly ajar. He observed Bill looking out the back window watching Jim Ford driving the buckboard and the Winchester (Serial #23082) leaning against the window sill. Kay opened the door with the barrel of his revolver, he could see Dalton wanted to grab his Winchester, but they both knew he would never make it. Dalton was then arrested and Kay took the Winchester as evidence. As Kay wanted Dalton to go to trail and not hang, he stamped the barrel ETC (Evidence Tulare County).
Bill Dalton Came to California at age 20. The first documented Dalton gang train robbery occurred at Alila, (now Earlimart) California in 1891, the second was at Cross Creek station in Ceres, California. He was arrested, but acquitted. The Dalton's went back to Indian territory, after which Bob and Gratt were killed in their failed double bank robbery attempt in Coffeyville, Kansas, Oct. 1892. Emmett was shot 14 times but lived. Latta was told by Littleton Dalton that Bill didn't make the robbery because his horse went lame, after which he became extremely bitter because of the deaths of his brothers in Coffeyville. He then formed the Dalton - Doolin Gang ~ Known as the Original WILD BUNCH.
Few know why the once California politician went so far from the law. Perhaps it started when his older brother, US Marshall Frank Dalton's murder lacked justice within the law, or perhaps it was the culture of the period. Many think it was the brutality in which his brothers were killed and displayed at Coffeyville that unleashed arguably the first outlaw gang leader of the Western plain that had every small town in the west cowering in fear and their banks up in arms as they bought up armaments to fortify his coming.
Bill Dalton met his demise after the Longview Texas bank robbery in 1892 near Poolville Oklahoma when surrounded by deputies in his attempt to escape.
"Bill Dalton claimed to be one of the best rifle shots in the United States. While in jail at Visalia, California, Bill wrote a statement which was printed in Visalia paper in which he claimed that, given a loaded Winchester, at a distance of a quarter mile he could kill any twelve expert rifle shots in the Unites States before they could down him." ... Houston Wallace told a Story that Bill ran from the bank in Longview with his "Winchester spewing flame, smoke, lead and concussion in a solid blast."...This description fits a dozen others related of ill. It will be remembered that Marshal Shadley was shot by Bill three times, 'faster than he could reload [cock] his gun."... " The story was told that Bill had rigged his Winchester to fire automatically when the trigger safety was released as the lever closed... Here's is how Clark Bliven, brother-in-law of Bill, described Bill's shooting to Littleton: "Bill jammed his rifle between his cheek and shoulder with his left hand and slapped the lever up and down with his right fingers faster than you could see. His eyes were never off the sights and the rifle fired automatically when the lever closed. At night he could roll a five gallon kerosene can yards beyond his sight, shooting at the sound made by the can." From Frank Latta's book The Dalton Gang Days
The eagles Desperado may have asked the right questions about Bill Dalton as he was the subject. Both Bill and his brothers were a product of the swiftly changing times of the West. Skilled mule slickers who once were making the trip from homesteading Californians in Bakersfield and Visalia all the Way to Oklahoma 4 or 5 times a year, their unique skills of passage and daring infringed by the coming of the train. The irony of them committing (arguably) the first train robbery in California is perhaps not a surprise. It is said they went as far west as Paso Robles, California. They were truly the trailblazers of the American west, and the world of weapons steel and trains, changed the brothers, until the brutal end.
Certainly the Dalton ~ Brothers ~ gang represent a part of the violent history of the 1890's - from California to Coffeyville. Sheriff E.W. Kay tracked the Gang for six thousand miles after Grat's (Dalton) escape from the Tulare county jail in Visalia, California, but never caught them. He was a true blue Sheriff spending his life savings in the process. The two Winchester's: Lot 150 Bill Dalton's model 76 & Lot 151 homesteader John T. Allen's model 73 pictured on page 245 of Frank Latta's book Dalton Gang Days are a part of California's seed of earth history. The rifle of the homesteader, dug in for the long haul, passed from father to son - and the predatory rifle of a man who's quick fire brilliance uprooted him, like the lonesome white wolf a long way from home. Both will be sold on May 5th, 2013 at California Auctioneers Ventura California.