Some letters left behind by bandits fleeing from the Winnemucca bank robbery and other recently discovered
materials show that an obscure Dixon,
Wyoming bartender was a vital link in
Wild Bunch operations. His name was
Dunbar had taken a one-year lease on
an old bar in Dixon once owned by Phil
S. Lerler. He painted, varnished and
redecorated the bar in much the same
manner as he was refurbishing his life. A
newspaper report of the grand opening of
the new bar in Dixon said "the liquor sold
over this bar will transform very ordinary
men into poets, orators, artists, statesmen
and millionaires." Was he being
Some say the Wild Bunch gang got its
name from hurrahing towns like Dixon
and its neighbor in south central
Wyoming, Baggs. People would say there
goes that "Wild Bunch from Powder
Springs." Powder Springs was the outlaw
hideout west of the towns. And that put
Mike Dunbar right in the middle of the
According to census records, William
"Mike" Dunbar was born in Illinois in
December, 1852. His family, including
his brother, Jefferson, migrated west,
through Kansas into Wyoming, where
the boys apparently began to test the
limits of the law. On April 12,1892, Mike and Jeff were
in the Carter & Brenham Saloon in
Casper, Wyoming, where Mike was
running a poker game. Jeff and a black
man named Lewis Adams got into an
argument which escalated with threats
and abuse until Jeff drew his revolver.
Adams grabbed a nearby billiards cue
stick and advanced menacingly on Jeff,
who fired three or four warning shots
before killing Adams. Jeff reholstered his gun and calmly
walked out the rear of the saloon with
Mike. Sheriff Rice and his deputy found
them at a nearby stable and Jeff said, "Iím
the one you want." At a preliminary
hearing, Jeff was held over without bail
and taken to Douglas, Wyoming, to stand
trial on a charge of murder. He pleaded
self-defense and was acquitted. Mike and Jeff relocated to Dixon,
Wyoming. On July 28, 1893, Mike leased
the bar from Lefler, where in addition to
liquor he sold supplies and ran a billiards
table. Mike appeared to have settled
down. He married Louisa, an immigrant
from Norway, and they soon had a
daughter, Ruth, born in August, 1893. However, on December 31, Mike witnessed a shooting involving a man
named Frank Howard. It occurred near
Mike's saloon. He was called to testify at
the trial, which began on January 1, 1894. Justice of the Peace and Acting
Coroner D.C. Jones presided. Jones was
known to fear and hate Mike's brother,
Jeff, and therefore thought little of Mike's
Jeff, meanwhile, had gone to Craig,
Colorado, where he remained for the
duration of the trial. As much as Mike
seemed to want to go straight, Jeff
apparently drew him to outlaw life.
Suspected as a rustler, thief and killer, his
acquaintances were of questionable
Jeff became a full-time outlaw on
August 14, 1894, when he and George
Huse robbed William Nichols of $200 on
the Strip near Fort Duchesne, Utah. A
warrant was issued in Vernal and Sheriff
George Searle and a posse began searching
for the culprits.
Within a week Huse was captured and
jailed but Jeff had eluded the posse. Sheriff
heard that Jeff was hiding out in Dixon
and notified the sheriff in Rawlins,
Wyoming. However, there is no record
of Jeff's arrest and things quieted down
for the brothers for awhile.
A news item in the Craig Courier next
mentioned that Jeff arrived in Baggs on
August 15, 1896, from the Four Mile, a
small gold-mining camp and a nest of
rustlers and outlaws. Two months later,
the paper reported that Mike Dunbar of
Dixon had accidentally shot himself near
the knee on the right leg while "recklessly
handling" his gun. Both Mike and Jeff
were in the Baggs and Dixon area at the
same time that Harry Longabaugh, alias
The Sundance Kid, was working for the
nearby Al Reader Ranch. The brothers
and Sundance became trusting friends
and stayed in touch with each other
when Sundance left the area.
On July 24, 1898,Jeff headed into Jim
Davis' saloon in Dixon. An argument
ensued and Jeff drew his gun and shot
Davis, wounding him. Davis reached for
his gun and fired four rounds, killing Jeff.
According to Dunbar's front-page
obituary, Jeff had been the leader of the
Robbers Roost Gang, a band of 400 or so
outlaws, which included Butch Cassidy,
Isom Dart, and Bert Charters, among
others. The reporter speculated that
"Butch Cassidy will be Dunbar's successor
as a leader, but it is generally believed
that there is not a single man in all the
league possessed of sufficient ability to
hold the gang in line."
No sooner had Jeff been buried up on
Blue Mountain than Mike's wife gave
birth to a son, Charles. Mike no longer
ran the saloon in Dixon but moved his
growing family into Baggs. His friendship
with Sundance and members of his
brother's old gang continued, however.
This resulted in Mike coming under
surveillance of the Pinkerton Detective
Agency.The Pinkertons dossier on
Mike used the code name "Coyote" when
referring to him in correspondence with
their field agents.
The Pinkertons also were watching
numerous other residents in the Snake
River Valley, an area they considered a
hotbed of banditry. Charles F. Tucker, a
rancher in Dixon; Jack Ryan, Bert
Charters, Sam Green, Jim Hanson,
Chippy Reid, and Jim Ferguson, all of
Rawlins; and Robert McIntosh, the
postmaster at Slater, Colorado. All were
under surveillance by Charles Ayers and
Bob Meldrum both of Dixon.
Ayers, a rancher and stock association
inspector from Dixon, was the first person
to identify and describe the Sundance
Kid to the Pinkertons. That description
became well known on wanted posters
and is found in the Wild Bunch files
today. Meldrum was another story,
According to census records, Robert
D. Meldrum was born in 1866 in England.
The census shows him working as farm
laborer but Pinkerton records identify
him as a deputy sheriff in Dixon, with a
code name "Cigar." Researcher Dan
Davidson says that Meldrums' position
with the Pinkerton's with similar to that
of Tom Horn. Meldrum often walked a
fine line between gun-for-hire and law
Meldrum eventually crossed that line
when he killed Chick Bowen in cold
blood on January 19, 1912. Sentenced to
five to seven years in the Wyoming State
Penitentiary, Meldrum had plenty of time
for his hobby, drawing. Now stored in the
Wyoming State Archives and Museum,
one of the sketches he made in 1914 was
the saloon gunfight between Jim Davis
and Jeff Dunbar.
This pen and ink drawing done by Bob Meldrum in 1914 depicts James W. Davis, bartender, shooting Jeff Dunbar. Dunbar was killed. Meldrum never saw the actual shooting, but he was familiar with the people and the saloon where it took place in Dixon. Courtesy of the Wyoming State Museum.
By August 29, 1900, plans had been
finalized for the Wild Bunch holdup of
the Union Pacific train at Tipton,
Wyoming. Many of Jeff Dunbar's old
gang were being watched by Ayers and
Meldrum and soon after were questioned
as to their knowledge of the crime. Nearly
all of those questioned had known some
aspect of the robbery prior to the event.
In fact, the Pinkerton report on Tipton
mentions that four of these men should
have been charged as accessories before
and after the fact.
Mike also knew about the robbery in
advance because he was the contact
person for correspondence between
Sundance and the Wild Bunch lawyer
Douglas A. Preston. Mike knew that
Sundance would not be at Tipton but
instead was headed for Nevada and the
bank robbery in Winnemucca. He was
helping Preston and Sundance make
arrangements to dispose of some
blackened gold and currency along the
return trip from Nevada.
On September 1, 1900, Mike had his
wife, Louisa, addressed a letter to C.E.
Rowe in Golconda, Nevada. It read, "Dear
Friend: Yours at hand this evening. We
are glad to know you are getting along
well. In regard to sale enclosed letters
will explain everything. I am so glad that
everything is favorable. We have left
Baggs so write us at Encampment,
Wyoming. Hoping to hear from you soon
I am as ever, Your Friend, Mike." The
letters which Mike had enclosed were
from Preston and indicated a deal could
be made to sell or trade "the black stuff."
All arrangements had gone through Mike
Soon afterward, Mike dropped from
sight. Through census records, we know
that he and his wife remained in Wyoming
at least through 1902 when their second
son, Norman, was born. One report
claims that Dunbar moved to Montana
but that has not been verified. Maybe
Mike just tired of being on the fringes of
the lawless element and finally found a
way to go straight.
While Mike and Jeff Dunbar certainly
knew many of the Wild Bunch members
and associates, they also made a mark of
their own on the Snake River Valley.
Bill Doolin & His Wild Bunch
William (Bill) Doolin was born in 1858 in Johnson County, Arkansas.
In 1881, at the age of 23, he drifted west working at odd jobs and eventually
ended up in Caldwell, KS were he met Oscar D. Halsall of Texas. Halsall
hired Doolin to work for him on his ranch on the Cimarron River in Oklahoma.
Doolin soon became a top hand for Halsall.
It was during this time of working as a cowboy that he would meet
most of the members of his future Wild Bunch. Working on the ranches in
Oklahoma, Bill Doolin would meet George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb,
Charlie Pierce, Bill Power, Dick Broadwell, Bill "Tulsa Jack"
Blake, and Emmett Dalton.
Doolin's first brush with the law came in the summer of 1891, while
working on the Bar X Bar Ranch. Several of the cowboys decided to celebrate
the 4th of July holiday by riding over to Coffeyville, KS and throwing
a party. There was a keg of beer there and the law showed up. Kansas was
a dry state. When they tried to confiscate the beer there was a shoot-out,
and two officers were wounded. From that day on Bill Doolin was on the
By September of 1891, Bill Doolin was riding with the Dalton Brothers.
He participated in the train robberies at Leliaetta, I.T., Red Rock, OT,
and Adair, I.T.. Several reasons have been given as to why Bill Doolin
did not join the Dalton Gang on their fatal raid on two banks in
KS on Oct. 5, 1892. It has even been rumored that he was the mysterious
6th rider that day. But whether he was the 6th man, or Bob Dalton was jealous
of his growing popularity in the gang, or that Bob considered him too much
of a "wildcat" and too uncontrollable, one thing is for sure
he was a lucky man that day.
With the death of the Daltons in Coffeyville, there were still three
members of the Dalton gang at large and they didn't waste time resuming
their work. On Oct.12, 1892, 7 days after the raid, John J. Kloehr of Coffeyville,
the citizen who shot 3 of the Daltons, received a letter stating that there
was 3 members of the gang left alive and that they were coming to Coffeyville
to exact their revenge. Needless to say this put the citizens of Coffeyville
in a near state of panic. In the meantime, that same night the train at
Caney, KS, eighteen miles west of Coffeyville was robbed by 4 masked men.
While never proved, Bill Doolin is credited with both events.
Now on their own, Doolin, Newcomb, and Pierce would have no problem
in finding new recruits for their gang. The first to join was Oliver "Ol"
Yantis. On Nov. 1, 1892 he would join Doolin and Newcomb and rob the Ford
County Bank at Spearville, KS. After the robbery the trio would split up
to throw off any pursuing posse. However, marshals were able to track Yantis
to his sister's farm near Orlando, OT and on Nov. 30 they surprised him
at daybreak and killed him in a brief gun battle.
By the end of 1892, 4 more members had joined the gang, Bill Blake,
alias Tulsa Jack, Dan Clifton, alias Dynamite Dick, George "Red Buck"
Waightman, and William "Bill" Dalton, brother of the infamous
By the spring of 1893 the gang was riding high. Their reputation
was growing and their deeds were becoming more bolder. And on March 14,
1893 Bill Doolin and Edith Ellsworth of Ingalls, OT are married in Kingfisher
OT Whether Edith knew Bill was an outlaw at the time is not known, but
throughout his career as an outlaw she stuck by him, all the time keeping
the marriage a secret and meeting him secret
For a "wedding present" the gang robbed the train near
Cimarron, KS on June 11, 1893. While being pursued by a posse, Bill Doolin
was shot and wounded in the left foot. He would recover from his wound,
but it would leave him with a limp and plague him the rest of his life,
and would be the contributing factor in his capture years later.
By now, Roy Daugherty (a.k.a. Arkansas Tom Jones) had joined the
gang. Unfortunately for him, he had joined the gang just in time for a
surprise the marshals had been cooking up for the Wild Bunch. US Deputy
Marshals had learned that the Doolin-Dalton gang had been using the town
of Ingalls, OT as a hideout the summer of 1893 between raids. On Sept.
1, 1893, two wagons loaded with 13 marshals entered the town of Ingalls.
In the fierce battle that ensued, 3 deputy marshals were killed, 2 innocent
bystanders were killed and 1 was wounded, 2 of the bandits were wounded,
and Arkansas Tom was captured. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
In early 1894 the gang was hard at work. Two more members, William
F. Raidler (a.k.a. Little Bill) and Richard West (a.k.a. Little Dick) had
joined the Wild Bunch. They robbed the Farmers and Citizens Bank in Pawnee,
OT on Jan.23, 1894. On March 13,1894, two men rob the railroad station
at Woodwind, OT it was believed to be Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton. The
on May 10, 1894, 7 members of Wild Bunch rob the bank in Southwest City,
MO. In shoot-out with townsfolk 1of the bandit was wounded, 1 citizen was
killed, and 3 were wounded.
Bill Dalton was not present at the Southwest City robbery, he had
left the Wild Bunch and formed his own gang that spring. On May 23, 1894
Jim Wallace, Big Asa Knight, Jim Knight, and George Bennett joined up with
Bill Dalton to rob the First National Bank in Longview, TX. Bennett is
killed and 1 citizen was killed and 3 were wounded in the attempted getaway.
The law trailed Bill Dalton to his hideout near Ardmore, I.T. and surprise
and kill him on the morning of June 8, 1894.
Early in 1895 the deputy marshals suspected the gang was hiding out
in the Ingalls area. March 3, 1895, Deputies surrounded the cave at the
Dunn farm and ordered the bandits to come out. When none appeared, they
used dynamite to coax them out. Although the raid did net the law several
men wanted for various crimes, none of them were of the Wild Bunch. They
had left the day before.
On April 3, 1895 the Wild Bunch would pull it's last job as a gang.
They boarded the train at Dover, OT and proceeded to rob it and the passengers.
After the robbery the gang would make it way west at a leisure pace unaware
that a posse had formed and fast moving in on them. At 2:00 p.m. the posse
would catch up with the gang as they were camped near Ames, OT In the gun
battle with the deputies Tulsa Jack was killed. The rest of the gang was
able to getaway, but they would split up and never re-unite as a gang.
With high rewards on their heads, the gang would scatter. The marshals
were now using a new tactic in its efforts to rid the territory of the
gang. They had used the reward money and outstanding warrants for cattle
rustling to induce the Dunns to give them information as to the movements
of the gang. The Dunns had a farm near Ingalls, and were never part of
the gang. However, they did give the gang a place to hide out and information
about the deputies, as well as fence some of the stolen goods the gang
had. On May 1, 1895, while hiding out at the Dunn farm, Bitter Creek Newcomb
and Charlie Pierce were shot while they laid asleep in their beds, by Bill,
John, and Dal Dunn. They took the bodies to Guthrie and turned them over
to the marshal for the $5,000 reward money.
With his buddies dying off one by one, Bill Doolin saw the handwriting
on the wall. He had his lawyers get in touch with US Deputy Marshall Nix
3 time that summer and offered to turn himself in if Marshal Nix would
promise him a light sentence on robbery. Marshal Nix refuse. The only thing
left for Doolin was to leave the territory. He made his way to New Mexico
and joined up with Little Dick West. Together they hid out there the rest
of the summer of 1895.
On Sept. 6,1895, the law was able to bring another member of the
gang to justice. Bill Raidler is seriously wounded and captured by Marshal
Bill Tilghman near Pawhuska, OT He stood trail for his part in the Dover
robbery and was found guilty, sentenced to 10 years, he was paroled in
1903 and returned to OK
Tiring of New Mexico, Bill would return to Oklahoma to gather his
family. By this time Bill and Edith had a son. Together with his family
he set out to make a new life for himself. They lived the last part of
1895 near Burden, KS. But the law wasn't finished with Bill Doolin. Deputy
Marshal Tilghman learned of Edith Doolin's disappearance from the Ingalls
area, and was able to trail her to Burden. However, he was to late, Edith
had returned to Oklahoma and a man named "Tom Wilson" had gone
to Eureka Springs, AK to seek the healing treatment of the hot spas there
to ease the pain of his rheumatism.
Tilghman suspected it was Doolin and proceeded to Eureka Springs
were he did indeed find Doolin and was able to get the drop on him and
capture him. He returned him to Guthrie and for the first time in his life
Bill Doolin was behind bars.
With Bill Doolin behind bars the rest of the gang was being rounded
up quick. Red Buck Waightman was killed in gun battle with deputy marshals
near Arapaho, OT on March 4, 1896. Dynamite Dick Clifton is arrested on
a whiskey charge in Texas. Deputy Marshal Frank Canton brought him back
to Oklahoma to face a murder charge, delivering him to the Guthrie jail
on June 22. Thanks to the law Bill Doolin and Dynamite Dick were back together.
Then on July 5, 1896, Bill Doolin, Dynamite Dick, and 12 other prisoners
escaped from the Guthrie jail. Outside the jail Bill was able to make it
back to Lawson, OT were Edith was staying with her folks. Once again they
made plans to leave the territory and make a new start somewhere else for
their family. Once again the law was chasing him. On Aug. 24, 1896 Bill
Doolin was ambushed and killed by Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas's posse.
What happen to the rest of the gang? Dynamite Dick Clifton and Little
Dick West were all that was left of the Wild Bunch. They would go on and
join up with the Jennings Gang but later leave that gang and eventually
be track down and killed by the law. Dynamite Dick Clifton was killed by
deputies on Nov. 7 near Chectoah. Little Dick West was killed on April
8, 1898 by Deputy Marshal Heck Thomas's posse.
Members of the Wild Bunch
George (Bitter Creek) Newcomb
Oliver (Ol) Yantis
William (Bill) Dalton
Bill (Tulsa Jack) Blake
Charles (Dynamite Dick) Clifton
George (Red Buck) Waightman
Roy Daugherty (aka Arkansas Tom Jones)
William F. Raidler (aka Little Bill)
Richard West (aka Little Dick)