Bill Doolin

Bill Doolin
Bill Doolin's passing was as violent as the rest of his Wild Bunch. As with him, all their deaths were by gunshot.

William "Bill" Doolin (1858 – August 24, 1896) was an American bandit and founder of the Wild Bunch, an outlaw gang that specialized in robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas during the 1890s.


Early life

Doolin was born in Johnson County, Arkansas, in 1858. A son of Michael and Artemina Beller Doolin, he left home in 1881 and became a cowboy in Indian Territory. He was hired by cattleman Oscar D. Halsell, a Texas native, and began working for Halsell as a cowboy in Oklahoma. During this time, he worked with other noted cowboy/outlaw names of the day, including George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, Charley Pierce, Bill Power, Dick Broadwell, Bill "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, and Emmett Dalton.

Doolin's first encounter with the law came on July 4, 1891, in Coffeyville, Kansas. Doolin and some friends were drunk in public, and when lawmen attempted to confiscate their alcohol, a shootout ensued. Two of the lawmen were wounded, and Doolin escaped capture, fleeing Coffeyville.

Dalton Gang

Less than two months later, Doolin became a member of the Dalton Gang. On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang made its fateful attempt to rob two banks simultaneously, in Coffeyville, Kansas. The robbery attempt was an utter failure, with a shootout ensuing between Coffeyville citizens and lawmen, and the outlaws, leaving four of the five gang members dead, with the exception of Emmett Dalton. Historians have since indicated that there was a sixth gang member in an alley holding the horses, who escaped. Who this sixth man was remains unknown to this day, and Emmett Dalton never disclosed his identity, but speculation continues that it was Bill Doolin. [1]

Wild Bunch gang

In 1892, Doolin formed his own gang, the Wild Bunch. On November 1, 1892, the gang robbed a bank in Spearville, Kansas. After the robbery, the gang fled with gang member Oliver Yantis to Oklahoma territory, where they hid out at the house of Yantis' sister. Less than one month later, the gang was tracked to that location, and in a shootout Yantis was killed while the rest of the gang escaped.

Following that robbery, the gang began a spree of successful bank and train robberies. In March 1893, Doolin married Edith Ellsworth in Ingalls, Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, Doolin and his gang robbed a train near Cimarron, Kansas, during which a shootout with lawmen resulted in Doolin being shot in the foot. [2]

On September 1, 1893, fourteen deputy U.S. Marshals entered Ingalls, Oklahoma, to apprehend the gang, in what would be known as the Battle of Ingalls. During the shootout that followed, three marshals were killed, two bystanders were killed and one wounded, three of the gang members were wounded, and gang member "Arkansas Tom Jones" was wounded and captured. Doolin shot and killed Deputy Marshal Richard Speed during that shootout. [3]

The Wild Bunch was the most powerful outlaw group in the west for a time. However, because of the relentless pursuit of the Three Guardsmen (lawmen Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen, and Heck Thomas) many of the gang had been either captured or killed by the end of 1894. In late 1894, gang member Bill Dalton was killed by U.S. Marshals. Rewards were offered for their capture or death, which often turned friends into foes to collect the reward. On May 1, 1895, gang members Charlie Pierce and George "Bittercreek" Newcomb were shot and killed by the bounty hunters known as "The Dunn Brothers". The bounty hunter team that killed them were the older brothers of Newcomb's teenage girlfriend, Rose Dunn. It was alleged that she had betrayed Newcomb, but it is more likely that her brothers simply trailed her to the hideout.

Doolin fled to New Mexico where he hid with outlaw Richard "Little Dick" West during the summer of 1895. In late 1895, Doolin and his wife hid out near Burden, Kansas for a time, then they went to Eureka Springs, so that Doolin could utilize the bathhouses to remedy his rheumatism brought on from his earlier gunshot wound in his foot. In early 1896, Doolin was captured in a bathhouse by Bill Tilghman.

Doolin later escaped on July 5, traveling to take refuge with his wife in Lawson, Oklahoma Territory. There, on August 24, Doolin was killed with a shotgun blast by Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas. [4]

By the end of 1898, all of the remaining former Wild Bunch gang were dead, killed in various shootouts with lawmen. Heck Thomas had tracked most of them; the remainder were tracked down and eliminated by lawmen Chris Madsen and Bill Tilghman, and other posses. [5]


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