Emmett Dalton was one of the most notorious outlaws of the American Old West, who was part of the infamous Dalton Gang that robbed banks and trains in the late 19th century. He was also the only one of the five gang members who survived the disastrous attempt to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas, on October 5, 1892. Despite being shot 23 times and sentenced to life imprisonment, he managed to live until 1937, when he died of natural causes at the age of 66. How did he manage to cheat death so many times and what was his life like after his outlaw days? Here is his remarkable story.
The Coffeyville Raid and Its Aftermath
The Dalton Gang was composed of three brothers: Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton, and two other men: Bill Power and Dick Broadwell. They had been involved in several robberies and murders in California, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and Kansas. They decided to pull off a daring heist by robbing two banks at the same time in their hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas, hoping to make enough money to flee the country. However, their plan went horribly wrong, as they were recognized by the townspeople and met with fierce resistance from armed citizens and lawmen.
In the ensuing gunfight, four of the gang members and four citizens were killed. Emmett Dalton was severely wounded, receiving 23 gunshot wounds, but survived. He later asserted that he never fired a shot during the Coffeyville bank robbery . He was captured and taken to a doctor’s office, where he was given little chance of survival. However, he miraculously recovered from his injuries, although his right arm was permanently damaged.
In March 1893, Dalton pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in the penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas . He spent 14 years in prison, where he became a model inmate and found religion. He also wrote letters to newspapers and magazines, expressing his remorse for his crimes and denouncing the glorification of outlaws.
The Pardon and the New Life
In June 1907, Dalton was paroled in order to receive treatment to his right arm, which had been injured in Coffeyville . He also married his childhood sweetheart Julia Johnson, who had waited for him all those years. He moved to Oklahoma City, where he worked as a real estate agent and a writer. He also became an advocate for prison reform and a critic of violence in movies.
In 1918, he wrote a serial story called Beyond the Law, which was based on his experiences as an outlaw and a prisoner. The story was adapted into a silent film of the same name in 1920, in which he played himself . He also wrote another book called When the Daltons Rode in 1931, which was a fictionalized account of his family history and the Dalton Gang’s exploits. The book was adapted into a film of the same name in 1940, after his death .
Dalton also appeared in some other films as an actor or a consultant, such as The Last Stand (1938) and The Daltons’ Women (1950). He also gave lectures and interviews about his life and his views on crime and justice.
The Death and the Legacy
On July 13, 1937, Emmett Dalton died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, California. He was buried at Kingfisher Cemetery in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma. He was the last surviving member of the Dalton Gang and one of the few outlaws who lived long enough to see their own legend on screen.
Emmett Dalton’s life story is a remarkable example of redemption and transformation. He went from being a notorious criminal to a respected citizen who used his fame for good causes. He also left behind a rich legacy of books and films that depict his adventures and his insights into the Wild West era. He is remembered as one of the most fascinating figures of American history.