1894 Longview Bank Robbery by the Bill Dalton Gang

According to a Washington, D. C. Evening Star newspaper account on May 24, 1894, a bank robbery had occurred in Longview, Texas the day before, involving suspected members of the Dalton Gang.  When read today, the account could easily be the story line from a Hollywood western.

On May 23, 1894, two “rough looking” men walked into the First National Bank of Longview, Texas.  One was wearing a long slicker coat that concealed a Winchester rifle.  The one with the rifle handed a note to bank President Joe Clemmons that said, “This will introduce you to Charles Speckelmeyer who wants some money and is going to have it.  Signed B and F.”  B and F is thought to stand for Bill (Dalton) and Friends.

Two more of the robbers had set up in the alley, ready to shoot anyone who confronted them.  The gunmen, local lawmen and other armed citizens began firing at each other.  It is estimated that roughly two hundred rounds were were exchanged in the short gunfight.  Killed outright was a local man, George Buckingham.  A Longview City Marshal named Matthew Muckelroy was shot in the abdomen, but his life was spared when the bullet was deflected by silver dollars he was carrying in his pocket.  J. W. McQueen, a local saloon keeper was believed to be fatally wounded.  Charles S. Learned was walking across the court house square and took a round to the leg, requiring his leg to be amputated.  Theodore Summers was shot in the hand.  Bank President Clemmons was not shot, but his hand was injured when he grabbed for a bandit’s weapon and the hammer came down on his hand, causing a flesh wound.  One of the robbers named “George Bennett” (thought to have been an alias for Jim Wallace) was killed outright.  Wallace/Bennett was known in the area, having recently married a local girl named Jenny Renfro.  The bandit called “Speckelmeyer” (believed to be one of the Nite brothers) had also recently married a girl from nearby Panola County, Texas.  The bandits got away with $2,000 in cash and a handful of unsigned bank notes.

A posse quickly mounted up and set out in pursuit of the gang.  Three of bandits escaped, but the posse thought they had wounded one of the gang with a shot to his face or head.  The escaped bandits were later identified as Bill Dalton and brothers Jim and Judd Nite.

Probably the least is known about the bandit who died at the scene.  Most accounts state that there were four robbers in all, two inside the bank and two outside.  One was initially thought to be named George Bennett, likely because one of the bandits was reported to have remarked “Poor Bennett is dead.” as the other three made their escape.  Early accounts had said that the deceased Bennett had recently married a local girl named Jenny Renfro before leaving her for several weeks as he was supposed to have been on a cattle drive.  Later accounts identify the dead bandit as Jim Wallace (full name James Wilson Wallace).

The trio had split up, with Dalton heading up to Oklahoma Territory near Ardmore in the Arbuckle Mountains, where he had a hideout.  He called attention to himself two weeks later, when he bought a wagon and supplies with some of the stolen bank notes.  Authorities tracked him down and Dalton was killed by a posse as he tried to make his escape.

The Nite (or Knight) brothers eluded capture until 1897 when they shot it out with a posse in Menard County.  Judd, whose full name was Christopher Columbus Nite, was killed.  Jim was shot three times but survived.  He was captured, tried and convicted for the bank robbery for which he was sentenced to a seven year term.  Two years into his term, he was in a Tyler jail awaiting transfer under a change of venue for another trial when he escaped on February 24, 1899, only to be captured again.  On August 5, 1899, Jim Nite received a life sentence for his role in the Longview killings.  Nite served fourteen years of a twenty year sentence before being either pardoned or paroled by Texas Governor Oscar B. Colquitt.  He was later killed in an argument with a Tulsa, Oklahoma man in 1920.

Bill Dalton was one of fifteen children, four of whom were known or suspected to be outlaws.  Their father was Lewis Dalton who had served in the United States Army in the Mexican-American War.  Their mother, Adeline, was related to the Younger family that included Cole Younger and his brothers.  Bill Dalton’s sibling Frank was a United States marshal who died in the line of duty.  Another brother (Bob) had served as police chief of the Osage Nation for a while.  Three Dalton siblings, Bob, Grat and Emmett Dalton were suspected of train robberies dating back to 1891.  Emmett, Bob and Grat were part of a gang that attempted to rob two banks in one day on October 5, 1892 in Coffeyville, Kansas.  After an exchange of gunfire, Bob, Grat and four citizens were killed.  Emmett was wounded and captured.  Emmett served about twenty years of a life sentence, was pardoned and lived a peaceful and lawful life afterward.

Bill Dalton was not with his brothers in Coffeyville and put together a gang of his own after the event.  At the time of his death near Ardmore, he was believed to have been in possession of cash from the Longview bank robbery.

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