An interview Given by Ben Dalton at Coffeyville After the Raid
Researched, complied & edited from World Wide Web resources by Rodney G. Dalton.
Special Correspondence of the Globe Democrat
Full name: Charles Benjamin Dalton.
In 1889, the parents of the Dalton gang - Adeline Younger Dalton and James Lewis Dalton - planned to move to Oklahoma. Mr. Dalton died on the way, leaving Adeline with three young children to raise: Nancy, Leona, and Simon. An older, feeble-minded son named Charles Benjamin accompanied them.
COFFEYVILLE, KAN., October, 16. - Just before he left Coffeyville to go back to his Oklahoma claim Ben Dalton talked freely. For the first time he gave the history of the family. And for the first time he gave his version of the circumstances, which led his brothers into outlawry. The conversation took place upon the steps beside the Condon Bank. As he sat there and talked Ben Dalton drew diagrams to illustrate more clearly his story. He is the oldest of the family of ten boys and three girls. He is only forty years old, but three of the ten boys have met violent deaths and one is now scarcely better than a dead man.
Ben Dalton has a reputation of being an honest man, and he talks like one. He is 6 feet in height, stands as erect as an Indian, notwithstanding a life of toil and trouble. He looks slender, but the flesh is put on firm and the frame is well muscled. Magnificent physiques were the inheritances of the Dalton brothers. Dr. Ryan, of Coffeyville, said: "I saw Emmett Dalton, the wounded one, stripped, and I never gazed upon a more perfect specimen of physical manhood. The boy is just 21. He is all Apollo."
"My father," said Ben Dalton, "was 6 feet 2. He looked slim, but he weighed 220 pounds. His flesh was solid and firm. There were ten of us boys and not one of us had a flaw."
He spoke slowly and with no air of boasting. "Our family," he continued, "was from Kentucky, near Mount Sterling. Father was raised there and went through the Mexican war as a member of Col. Cleary's regiment. He was the fifer. At the battle of Buena Vista he blew the long roll which ordered the American soldiers when the Mexicans were trying to surprise them. I heard him tell the story. The sergeant came to the place where my father was sleeping, grabbed him by the foot and pulled him out. "The Mexicans are coming," he said, "blow the long roll." Without waiting a moment my father began to fife, the Americans fell into line and the surprise the Mexicans had planned fell through."
There was published recently what purported to be a brief interview with the father of the Daltons. It was sent from Pueblo. "My father," Ben Dalton said, "is not living. He died two years ago last July, and is buried only a little way out of Coffeyville. He was not in the last war. After he returned from the Mexican war he came to Missouri and stopped at Kansas City, or rather Independence, for there was no Kansas City then, only a landing called Westport.. When the war closed he moved to Cass County, bought 640 acres of land, went to farming and did well for several years."
"What is the truth about these stories of a relationship between your family and the James boys and Younger brothers?" was asked.
"There is no kinship whatever between our family and the James family," Ben said. "The Younger's and the James's were not related at all. That is all a mistake. We are distantly related to the Younger's in this way. The father of the Younger brothers and our mother were half brother and sister. Harry Younger, the grandfather of the Younger's, had two wives. The father of Cole Younger was a son of Harry Younger by the first wife. My mother was a daughter of Harry Younger by the second wife. That is all there is in the relationship."
"You have a brother named after Cole Younger?"
"I have a brother, Cole Dalton. He is about 35 years of age. He was born just before the war began. He is living with us in Oklahoma, where we have claims, near Kingfisher. Mother lives with me. There are two other brothers, mere boys, Littleton and Simon."
"How did you happen to leave Missouri?"
"Father did well on his farm in Cass County until he began to deal in Texas cattle. He got pipped on one deal. The next time he had to mortgage his farm. He had more bad luck with his Texas purchases, couldn't take care of the mortgage and lost the farm. After that he moved to Kansas and lived on a rented place a few miles out of Coffeyville. When Oklahoma opened I went there with mother and we got claims. My brother William, who is with us here, went to California years ago, settled in Tulare County, and was doing well until the trouble occurred out there. He had no more to do with the affair than you or I. And my other brothers were just as innocent.
"When an express company gets after a man it has no mercy," said Ben Dalton. "It may do injustice. I know it did in that case, for I have satisfied myself that all my brothers were entirely innocent. Not one of them was at the Alila robbery. They had had trouble in the Indian Territory and they had gone to California to look for work and to begin their lives over again. That is the truth of it. William was living out there and was doing well. Grat and Bob and Emmett were on the way out there when this thing was laid on them. I blame two men in California for all this trouble that has recently come upon the family."
Ben Dalton's story of how the outlawry came about is a strange one. He said false swearing and persecution in the California affair started the boys in the train-robbing profession. But they had begun to go wrong in other ways before that. "The Government service," said Ben, "was their eternal ruin. They got into bad associations. The United States Marshals didn't pay up. The court at Fort Smith owed Bob several hundred dollars, and so did the one at Wichita. He never did receive it. The boys couldn't get their money when they needed it, although they had earned it, and they took ways which were wrong to raise it. That was the beginning of their going astray, and that was the cause of all that followed.
"The boys," said Ben Dalton, "went to California. They were looking for work at the time of the Alila robbery, and they intended to lead honest lives. Now, I will tell you the way they came to be charged with that crime." Ben Dalton stooped down and drew a diagram on the floor. "Here," said he, "is Tulare Lake and here is Alila. After the train robbery, which was done by two men, the Sheriff and his posse found a trail leading away from the place, they followed in the direction of Old Mexico down toward Sonora for many miles until they lost it. Then they came back and went to looking in all directions. They came upon the trail made by my brothers on their way through the country. It was not anywhere near the train robbery, but it passed at one place where the boys had bent down in their course to go around the lake within four or five miles of the train robbers' trail. The officers took up the trail and followed it to the vicinity of where my brother William was living. I have all of these facts from the officers themselves. The Sheriff told me that the trail of the robbers led from the robbery down into Old Mexico, 'but,' he said, 'there appears to be evidence against your brothers.'
"After they had failed to overtake the robbers in Old Mexico," continued Ben Dalton, "the detectives of the express company went to work to swear the crime on my brothers, Bob and Emmett. With only the fact that the trail my brothers made as they passed through was at one point four or five miles of the robbers' trail, the whole case was constructed. Two men," (Ben Dalton gave the names) "procured a witness who would swear to anything." (The name of the witness was also given) They paid this man $500 for his testimony. They even wrote out the story to which he made oath. My brother Cole was in California. He went before the Grand Jury and pleaded with the members two days. He told all of the circumstances. He explained the boys had come to California to look for work and had not been at the train robbery. The Grand Jurors were not inclined to find any indictment but the influence of the express companies and the railroad was too strong. I am satisfied the sheriff and other officers did not think the boys had anything to do with the robbery. My brother found that he could not save them; that the express companies were determined to swear the job on them. So he said to them, 'Boys you had better take a couple of horses and get out of the country.' And they went. There was no claim that Grat Dalton was at Alila. Fifty men were ready to swear to an alibi for him. When the robbery took place he was playing cards in a crowd many miles away.
"Now this is the true story of that Alila business," continued Ben Dalton. "My brothers had nothing to do with it, but the crime was sworn on them by bribery and perjury, and then they entered on the life which ended here at Coffeyville — not a word, but those two men who hired a perjurer in California to swear that train robbery on the boys I believe are responsible for what has happened since."
"Had you seen the boys recently?"
"No, not for nearly two years. They hadn't been home and we had seen nothing of them. After things began to go wrong they didn't come to us and didn't send us any word about themselves. They knew it might cause us trouble. My mother and I were talking about them only two or three days before this thing happened at Coffeyville. We agreed they had probably left the Government. We rather thought they had gone to South America. Right after that came the telegram from Coffeyville."
Charles Benjamin Dalton the oldest son was undoubtedly named for both grandfathers, Charles Younger and Benjamin Dalton.
He owned land and farmed for a number of years in Kingfisher Co. Oklahoma. He was described as slow and at one time as looking older than his mother. The cause of death is listed as apoplexy with contributory cause of cerebral arthrosclerosis. He never married.
Notes about Fort Supply & the Mental Hospital:
Camp Supply was established in November 1868 by order of General Philip H. Sheridan. The post, originally the supply base for the Winter Campaign of 1868-1869, was re-designated Fort Supply in December 1878 and remained an active military post until the fall of 1894. It would become the hub of military roads and trail's over what is now a three state area of the Southern Great Plains.
In 1908, the Old Fort Supply buildings were converted to Oklahoma's first state run mental hospital. To bring the first patients from a private institution to the new hospital, a road was built from the old post to the railroad station south at Tangier, Oklahoma. Farmers and ranchers from the area furnished buggies and wagons to transport the two train loads of arriving patients to the new hospital.
The Condon Bank. One of two banks robbed by the Dalton Gang
The Dalton Gang