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In Parker's Court: The Trial of the Dalton Brothers

Bartlesville, OK 1888The Dalton Gang

The Dalton Brothers were lawmen, then outlaws. Fate did not smile favorably on either brother in either profession.

Brothers Bob, “Grat” and Emmett Dalton first worked as lawmen for the federal court at Fort Smith, AR. On Nov 27, 1887, another brother, Frank Dalton and Deputy Marshal, Jim Cole, went across the river from Fort Smith to arrest three whiskey bootleggers. As they approached the camp, the bootleggers began to fire on them. Frank shot and killed two, but his gun jammed and the remaining bootlegger killed him. After Frank's death, Grat moved back from California and took over his brother's job as Deputy Marshal at Fort Smith. He also brought Bob along as a posse member. In January 1889, Grat and Bob both became deputies under Marshal Jones.

In the summer of 1888, U.S. Deputy Marshal Grat Dalton and soon to be U.S. Deputy Marshal, Bob Dalton arrived in Bartlesville, OK, on the lookout for a man named Montgomery Deeds. Deeds had been scheming, searching for help from men interesting in robbing a general store owned by a Mr. Bartles. Deeds was not a lucky man and no such assistance came but he was persistent and continued trying to recruit men by selling them the story that there was good money in stealing horses and trouble would stay at bay.

Those hearing his words were wiser than he thought, as again, no assistance was offered. However, Mr. Deeds, a believer in his own words, commenced robbing and stealing. When his crimes caught up with him, he spread word to the people of Bartlesville, OK that he had been hired by the Daltons to drum up business so that when the Dalton’s arrived in town, there would be people to arrest. Deeds told that story, one he knew to be untrue, stole a gun, and told a man named Brown that the Daltons would have to kill him themselves.

The Dalton’s arrived in Bartlesville. Keen-eyed and denying any connection to Mr. Deeds, Bob and Grat Dalton were prepared to find him, put an end to his lies and recover Mr. Brown’s stolen gun. Added incentive, Deeds exploits had put a bounty on his head.

The ensuing events that happened when the Dalton Brothers caught up with Montgomery Deeds in the summer of 1888 in Bartlesville, OK are confusing, perhaps illegal, and detrimental to the future of Deeds.

A commissioner’s hearing puts Gratt and Bob Dalton and two posse members on trial for murder.

Was it self-defense, or did the Dalton posse find Montgomery Deeds with the intent to kill? Did the Dalton posse identify themselves to Deeds before they shot him or did they open fire without saying a word? Witness testimony offers controversial and contradicting information. The jury, chosen from the audience, will decide if the 1888 verdict still rings true today.

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