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Bill Doolin

William "Bill” Doolin
Bill Doolin.JPG
DiedAugust 24, 1896 (aged 37-38)
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Resting placeSummit View Cemetery
35°53′45″N 97°24′12″W / 35.89583°N 97.40333°W / 35.89583; -97.40333 (Bill Doolin Burial Site)
  • Founder of the Wild Bunch
  • Old West Outlaw
  • Bank, Stagecoach, Train Robbery
Spouse(s)Edith Ellsworth Doolin
  • Michael Doolin
  • Artemina Beller Doolin

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

Early life

Doolin was born in 1858 in Johnson County, Arkansas to Michael Doolin and the former Artemina Beller. Doolin left home in 1881 to become a cowboy in Indian Territory, having been employed by cattleman Oscar Halsell, a Texas native. During this time, Doolin worked with other cowboy and outlaw names of the day, including George Newcomb (known as "Bitter Creek"), Charley Pierce, Bill Power, Dick Broadwell, Bill "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, and the better-known Emmett Dalton.

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

Dalton Gang

Shortly thereafter, 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. It was an utter failure, with a shootout 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. Emmett Dalton never disclosed his identity, but speculation continues that it may well have been Bill Doolin.[1]

The Wild Bunch

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. In a shootout Yantis was killed, but the rest of the gang escaped.

Two teenaged girls known as Little Britches and Cattle Annie also followed the gang and warned the men whenever law-enforcement officers were in pursuit. Sources indicate that it was Doolin who gave the young bandit Jennie Stevens her nickname of Little Britches.[2]

Following that robbery, the gang embarked on 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 and seriously wounded in the foot.[1]

On September 1, 1893, fourteen deputy U.S. marshals entered Ingalls, Oklahoma, to apprehend the gang, in what became 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.[1]

The Wild Bunch was the most powerful outlaw group in the Old 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, the lure of which often turned friends into foes to collect the money. 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 Pierce and Newcomb were the older brothers of George 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 outlaws' hideout.

Doolin fled to New Mexico Territory, 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 the resort community of Eureka Springs in northwestern Arkansas so that Doolin could utilize the bathhouses there to relieve 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 and took refuge with his wife in Lawson in the Oklahoma Territory. There, on August 24, Doolin was killed by a shotgun blast by Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas.[1]

Bill Doolin is buried in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. He is buried next to the outlaw Elmer McCurdy.

By the end of 1898, all of the remaining former Wild Bunch gang were dead, having been 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 or other posses.[1]

Doolin in film


  1. ^ a b c d e Matt Braun, Outlaw Kingdom: Bill Tilghman Was The Man Who Tamed Dodge City, 1995, 376 pages.
  2. ^ Paul, Lee. "Cattle Annie & Little Britches". Ranch Diva Outfitters. Archived from the original on January 17, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  3. ^ The Doolins of Oklahoma
  4. ^ "The Cimarron Kid". Internet Movie Data Base. March 31, 1952. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  5. ^ "The Doolin Gang". Internet Movie Data Base. June 10, 1954. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  6. ^ Douglas, Gordon (1949-05-27), The Doolins of Oklahoma, Randolph Scott, George Macready, Louise Allbritton, retrieved 2018-06-13

External links