Kansas Outlaws and the Dalton Gang

 

With the release of our July anthology called GIVE ME A TEXAS OUTLAW my thoughts have been firmly anchored on history’s bad boys. And Kansas had its share of them. Last month on a publicity tour to kick off the release Phyliss Miranda and I traveled up to Liberal, Kansas. From there, a dear man by the name of Tom St. Aubyn showed us the sights. We can never thank you enough, Tom!

One place that tickled our fancy was the small town of Meade. It’s home to the Dalton Gang Hideout.

Seems Grat, Bob, and Emmett Dalton’s sister, Eva married J.N. Whipple and settled down on Pearlette Street. The house perched on sort of a bluff and had a barn down below.

The Dalton Boys, being quick to spy an opportunity, constructed a 95 foot tunnel from the barn up to the basement of Eva’s residence. They placed wooden beams across an old rain wash and piled dirt over the top of it. It suited their needs to a tee. They could come and go undetected while also protecting their sister’s identity. No one in Meade knew the Daltons were related to Eva Whipple and they wanted to keep it that way.

Like so many other outlaws at the time, the Daltons, who were related to the Younger brothers, started out in law enforcement before they began robbing banks and trains. They must’ve loved the outlaw life because they kept at it until 1892 when the gang faced a hail of bullets while robbing a bank in Coffeyville, Kansas. Grat and Bob along with two other gang members were killed. Emmett Dalton received 23 bullet wounds but survived. He was given a life sentence in a Kansas penitentiary. He served 14 years before being pardoned.

Phyliss at the tunnel

In the meanwhile, the bank in Meade foreclosed on Eva and J.N.’s house and they were forced to vacate. Several new owners occupied the Whipple house and eventually the escape tunnel was found.

In the early 1940’s the WPA reinforced the tunnel with stone quarried from the Clark Ranch east of Meade and the hideout was turned into a tourist attraction.

Today the hideout is owned and operated by the Meade County Historical Society. A wonderful man by the name of Marc Ferguson is the curator in addition to being one of their historical reenactors.


Eva’s home is now a museum and is furnished much as it was in her day.

If you’re ever in Meade, stop by and say hello. Walk the tunnel and browse in the really nice gift shop. And if you’re lucky and get a chance to catch Marc playing the role of Doc Holliday you’re in for a real treat.


You can find out more about the hideout HERE .

Phyliss and I enjoyed our trip and can’t wait to go back. We’ll not soon forget all the warm friendly people we met.

Have you ever visited a historical site that stayed with you long after you left?

If you haven’t already gotten your copy of our new anthology, it’s availableĀ  online and in bookstores everywhere.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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39 thoughts on “Kansas Outlaws and the Dalton Gang”

  1. Good morning.
    I went to a place called Robber’s Cave in Nebraska once, as a child and it was a series of caves near Nebraska City. It was used as a hideout, including rumor has it, for Jesse James.

    I went and looked up some history on it and found out it was CLOSED. Not just closed but the caves filled in and the entrance destroyed and now buildings sit on that land. I had no idea, though I hadn’t heard of it in years.
    I think that’s a shame. We had so much fun running in those tunnels. I suppose it’s not safe enough for all the modern laws.
    First it was used by Indians, then used as a stopping place for escaping slaves on the underground railroad. Then it became a storage facility for beer, in the 1800s. Hard to believe there was a brewery in Nebraska in the 1800s. There weren’t many PEOPLE.

    The brewery failed in 1873 and from that time, the cave became a meeting place for gamblers, outlaws and horse thieves. The most famous outlaw alleged to have visited Robber’s Cave was Jesse James, who supposedly hid out here after a robbery in 1876. One room in the cave is associated with the outlaws and you can find it by climbing up about five feet along the cave wall. A narrow passage then leads into a vast hidden chamber. One one side is a fire pit with a natural stone chimney above it and beyond that is a stone wall that has been filled in with bricks. It is said that if you listen carefully, you can hear the sounds of the ghosts of Robber’s Cave behind this wall.

    The place was absolutely chilling, thrilling, fun, fantasy producing. Loved it.

  2. Hi Vicki…….glad you liked reading about the hideout. Yes, I walked through the tunnel. It was really cool. I could just imagine the Dalton boys using it. Phyliss and I enjoyed every minute of it.

  3. Linda how fasinating that they could have built this and no one been the wiser… The authorities I mean..
    I always enjoy these historical facts and love to read about Outlaws who have gone from bad to good..

    Thanks for the history lesson
    Smiles
    Kathleen

  4. Hi Mary……..I would’ve loved to have seen Robbers Cave. It sounded like fun. I can’t believe they filled it in and built houses on top of it. Good grief. I can’t understand why they did that. Is there no other ground in Nebraska to build houses on? I hate it when people mess with history. And I can’t imagine a brewery in the mid-1800’s. Wow! That’s pretty early and like you said there weren’t many people living in the area then. No wonder it failed.

  5. Hi Kathleen…….thanks for stopping by. I always enjoy your comments. Glad you enjoyed my blog. Meade, Kansas was a wonderful place to visit. They also had a museum downtown but we didn’t have time to go through it. I hear it’s really nice. Maybe next time. We met some of the nicest people in Kansas.

  6. Secret passageways aren’t just for old drafty castels, are they? šŸ™‚ Loved the post, Linda. Such a fun find on your trip.

    And I have to tell you, I read Give Me A Texas Outlaw last weekend and loved your Johnny! Out of all the outlaws, I think he best fit the gorgeous cover model. And his inner character was such that I was cheering him on all the way. Great story!!

  7. Fascinating story about the tunnel, Linda. I can imagine a fictional version, where the heroine has a gang of outlaw brothers coming and going from her house, and this handsome lawman is courting her… hmm…
    So much fun to see the photos. Thanks for a great blog.

  8. Hi Linda — You and Phyliss look great in the picture. Fascinating stuff about the Daltons and the tunnel. Yes, that’s one tourist spot I would love to visit!
    Again, a really great cover. Going to get your book on my Kindle now!!

  9. Loved this post, Linda! I’m so jealous, Meade Kansas and the Dalton tunnel are definitely on my to do list.

    A little more sedate than and outlaw’s secret tunnel, but I worked as a tour guide at the P.B. Moss Mansion in Billings, Montana while I was in college. This historic home has stayed with me mainly because I got to know the family so well. And I just visited the Kendrick mansion in Sheridan, Wyoming this summer and its history and the history of that family really struck a cord (The letter between the rancher and his young bride are worthy of any romance novel).

    Give me a Texas Outlaw has been waiting on my Kindle for a few days while I’ve been writing, but I’m really looking forward to reading it. Outlaws are so much fun.

    –Kirsten

  10. Hi Karen…….Glad you found my blog interesting. I sure enjoyed roaming through the tunnel and Eva’s house with Phyliss. We had a great time. Met lots of neat people.

    Thank you for the kind words about my Outlaw story in the new anthology. It was high praise coming from you. Your stories always touch me. Glad you saw in Johnny Diamond what I did. He snuggled down in my heart and hasn’t left. He’s one of the most special characters I’ve given life to.

  11. Hi Elizabeth……..glad my blog sparked your imagination. That tunnel would fit nicely in a romance story. You’re more than welcome to use it, my Filly sister.

  12. Hi Charlene……..Phyliss and I had a blast there. It’s such a neat place. I’m not sure but I think Eva was the Dalton’s only sister. They must’ve really been attached to her and probably visited often or they wouldn’t have taken the time to build the tunnel. It’s a shame the Dalton boys had to go the outlaw route and met with such a tragic end. All except Emmett. He got a reprieve and turned his life around.

    Hope you enjoy Give Me a Texas Outlaw. We had such fun writing those stories.

  13. Hi Kirsten……..how wonderful that you got to be the tour guide at the P.B. Moss Mansion in Billings. Wow! That must’ve been fun. Sounds like a place I’d like to visit. And also the Kendrick mansion. I love seeing how people lived back then and the things they placed value on.

    Hope you enjoy Give Me a Texas Outlaw when you get time to read it. Thank you for buying it. Good luck with your writing!

  14. Linda, brought back fun memories. I thought I’d be a little scared in the tunnel because I don’t like to be enclosed in anything, but it was nice. Comfortable and well constructed. The only problem, I broke a fingernail on the jagged rocks lining the tunnel. If I’m not mistaken, originally the tunnel lead to the barn and corrals.

    As far as places I’ve visited. On this particular trip the Point of Rocks over by Elkhart was wonderful. Just imagining being that high up on a butte watching everyone moving around below you, along the Santa Fe Trail. It gave me all kinds of ideas for stories. My favorite of all favorite, as you know, is Andersonville Prison in Georgia. I get chills just thinking about walking the walk on the grounds and cemetery. Great blog. And, we could have stuck Doc Holiday in one of our pocketbooks and brought him back home with us. Such a nice guy! Have a wonderful day and I enjoyed a walk down memory lane, although it was only last month. Love, P

  15. Hi Phyliss……..I was really proud of you for going into the tunnel with me with your claustrophobia and everything. But you did really well. I didn’t know you broke a fingernail on the rocks though. Shoot! Those rocks were awfully rough though. I might not’ve gone into it if it had still been dirt though.

    I agree about the Point of Rocks, another interesting place on our tour of the area. We’ll have to blog about that at some point. And we met more interesting people over at Elkart. It was just a fun trip all around and we sold some books too.

    Yes, I also agree if we could’ve gotten Marc aka Doc Holliday in the car we’d have brought him home with us. He sure made a convincing Doc.

  16. Hi Linda, what a major post! I love this and hope to get to Kansas someday. I have distant relatives in Coffeyville. And yes, a tunnel like this definitely needs to appear in a story sometime soon!

    I’ve seen some way cool stuff that still resonates in my head. Walden Pond and the remains of Henry David’s homestead being one. The Alamo another.

    We’re going to the East this fall and I am sure Gettysburg will end up on my list, too.

    Wonderful stuff today, filly sister! oxoxox I’m loading up my Kindle, too.

  17. Hi Tanya……..glad you found my blog interesting. You have relatives in Coffeyville? Oh yes, you’ve absolutely got to go visit! Without a doubt. I’ll look for a tunnel to appear in one of your stories.

    You’ve gone to some interesting places for sure. I’d love to see Walden’s Pond and Henry’s homestead. Bet that’s neat. And I agree with you on the Alamo. That place is awesome. And then you’ve gone on that wagon train through the Tetons don’t forget. That’s definitely on my list of things to do.

    Hope you enjoy our Outlaw stories!

  18. Hi Margaret…….thanks for checking out my blog and loved the tunnel. I think that resonated in all us writers today. There’s something about it that sparks our imaginations.

    As for your question…..I think the reason so many lawmen turned to crime was for the money. Lord knows the lawmen were paid very little. Maybe they got to looking at the possibilities of crime and a good payday for once. That’s the only plausible explanation I have.

  19. I want to visit this place, Linda. Love the history. My grandfather said the James gang once stayed in a cave discovered by my great-grand Aaron Higginbotham in McMinnville, TN. The cave has a different name now.

    I received my authographed copy of Outlaw at our meeting Saturday. I’ll begin reading Outlaw stories soon. But, first I’m finishing up the ARC of Christmas. Loving it.

    Take care,

  20. Hi Winona…….how neat that your great grandfather found that cave the James Gang hid out in. Bet they stayed in most anything they could find. I wonder if they’ve made the cave into a tourist spot.

    Thank you for the kind words about our Christmas anthology. Those were fun stories to write. Hope you enjoy our Outlaws. Take care and good luck with your own writing.

  21. Why Phyliss I had no idea you did not like tight spaces you did great. Meade has a Dalton Gang Days each year, that was just a couple weeks before your visit, among other things they had a quick draw contest.

    Anyone who wants to know more about the Dalton Gang, there is a great book about them called Desperados by Ron Hansen. Though you know they were not the sharpest gang in the west, which is why they got shot up in Coffeyville. And Emmett ended up after he was pardoned out in Hoolywood and produced some movies with Broderick Crawford.

    Tom

    PS And thanks for the kind words, it was my pleasure to show you around.

  22. Hi Tom, if you check back and Linda, I didn’t feel the least bit closed in inside the tunnel. It obviously was built for big men, and I’m bettin’ tall ones, too, because of the heigh. It was great fun and fantastic that I met one of my fears and you all didn’t even know it. Might have been easier to walk the tunnel than walk around the buildings to get to the museum in 110 degree weather! Can’t believe you didn’t hear me mumbling about chipping a nail on the side of the tunnel. LOL Tom, you’re a great guide. Phyliss

  23. What a cute little house. We are lucky the tunnel was preserved as well as it was. This will make for an interesting stop on a trip. Was hoping to do it in September, but we won’t be going far enough west. We are going to Branson, MO for a reunion. So far, there hasn’t been much of historical interest in the immediate area that I have been able to find. Will be doing more searches closer to the trip. Anything of interest within 2 or 3 hours of there?
    I need to go back and somehow make note of all the great places you have all mentioned. One could easily plan a great trip visiting all the places mentioned.

  24. Hi Tom…….so glad you stopped by. You made our trip to Kansas one we won’t forget. You spoiled us something awful, plus introduced us to some of the most interesting people. I did not know that about Emmett. I loved Broderick Crawford. How neat that they worked together. As it turned out, Emmett might’ve been the smartest one of the Dalton boys. At least he survived and beat the odds.

    Hope things are good in Liberal!

  25. Hi Patricia B……..So glad you enjoyed my blog. I liked bringing it to you. Phyliss and I had so much fun on that trip. You’ll have to take time and go see the hideout one of these days. No, I don’t know what is around the Branson area. Have you done an online search? I’m sure there’s a website that tells the attractions in Missouri. It’s worth a shot. Hope you enjoy your trip. I’ve never been to Branson but I hear it’s a neat place to go.

  26. The Branson area listed only the museum at the college and an artist’s house for historical sites. I will be doing a search with a wider area. A friend has mentioned Eureka, Arkansas, an historic town which is just over the border. I have no doubt I’ll find something else. The Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead is NE and a few hours away. I know we’ll find something.

    Thanks.

  27. That chipped nail sounds pretty serious-grin. Yes the heat was incredibal, I was hoping Marc would do Doc inside, every time we got out was like stepping into the furnace.

    I believe the courthouse where True Grit starts out is somewhat close to Branson, and the original is still there I think.

    I think Emmett may have been more lucky than smart.

    If you are going from Branson to Missouri, you will pass lots of historical plases in kansas I think.

    Some interesting things going on with my friends friend I will have to tell you about if I see you at the next PPW thing.

  28. Tom, thank you for answering Patricia’s question. I didn’t know the courthouse that was in the True Grit movie was a real building. I assumed it was something on a movie set. That sounds like a great place to visit. I’d love to see it. Thanks for suggesting it.

    Can’t wait to find out the interesting things going on with your friend’s friend. You’ve caught my attention.

    Patricia…….I’ve been to Eureka Springs and loved it. I think you’d like it also. And if you’re only going to be two hours from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead, that’s a must-see. I loved her books.

  29. Linda;

    I am not sure if the one in the film is the actual historical one, but the historical one is still there. It seems like it is Ft Smith Arkansas.

  30. Thanks, Tom. I remember Ft. Smith being in the first scene of that movie in both the new and old version. I’ve heard a lot about Judge Parker. He sure didn’t have any sympathy for men who broke the law.Thanks for the link.

  31. Hi Nat……..glad you stopped by and checked out my blog. Yes, Phyliss and I had a blast on that trip. Wish you could’ve been with us. Maybe next time. Hope so.

  32. i wonder if you can help me on a question on dalton days.
    i have a 4′ X 6′ banner for dalton days. there is a banner at the top that says DALTON GANG DAYS. WITH A TRAIN AND STAGE BEING ROBBED. AND FACE PICTURES OF GRAT/EMMETT/BOB. ITS SIGNED AT THE BOTTOM THE LEW WIGHT COLLECTION. I`M TRYING TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE LEW WIGHT COLLECTION. THANK YOU GARY

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