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by Bob Bowman

"One of the most famous outlaw crimes was in 1894 when the famous Dalton gang, headed by young Bill Dalton, robbed the First National Bank of Longview."
Bob Bowman
Lately Iıve begun to wonder if our Chambers of Commerce in East Texas havenıt exhausted the availability of suitable tourist attractions. Theyıve started promoting outlaws.

Somehow, over the years, weıve softened our attitudes about some of our worst outlaws and elevated them to almost mythical roles. Historical markers tell us of their exploits, their raids and robberies are chronicled in history books, and weıve even made movies about them.

I have to admit that we've had our share of important outlaws in East Texas.

One of the most famous outlaw crimes was in 1894 when the famous Dalton gang, headed by young Bill Dalton, robbed the First National Bank of Longview. It ended in a bloody gunfight which resulted in the ultimate capture of the outlaw band.

After gunfights and prison ended the careers of his famous brothers -- Bob, Frank, Gratton and Emmett -- Bill Dalton became obsessed with the idea of making his own name more prominent than that of his brothers. Bill soon joined Bill Doolin, a former member of his brothersı gang, and together they formed a new gang of motley group of misfits, including Jim Wallace, a cowboy with the habit of deserting his women; Jim Nite, a loafer from Oklahoma; and Bill Nite, Jimıs young brother. Together, they vowed to take East Texas by storm.

Jim Wallace had been married at one time to the daughter of a Longview farmer and told Dalton about the prosperous First National Bank. Choosing the bank for their first job turned out to be a mistake. It was not only their first job, but the last of the Dalton family.

A few days later, the Longview bank received a scrawled note in the mail:

"We take this method of informing you that on or about the 23rd day of May, A.D., 1894, we will rob the First National Bank of Longview. So take notice accordingly and withdraw your deposit as this is a straight tip. For further information, see Charles Specklemeyer or the undersigned. Yours for business, B&F."

It later turned out Bill Dalton had written the note. The B&F apparently stood for "Bill and friends." The bank official who received the note showed it to his superiors, but they judged it to be a hoax.

But just as planned, the Dalton gang rode into Longview on May 23, 1894. Holding two bank officials and a customer at gunpoint, they made their withdrawal -- taking coins, bills and $20 bank notes -- but bank president T.E. Clemmons grabbed Dalton's drawn pistol. The pistol fired, but the hammer came down on Clemmons' hand. Jim Nite kept his gun leveled at Clemmons' brother, J.R., the other bank officer.

While the struggle continued, witnesses in the bank bolted and ran out the back door, jumped a high fence to avoid Wallace, and alerted Longview residents.

Realizing their only chance for escape lay in using Clemmons brothers as hostages, they turned the bankers into human shields, forcing them out the back door and onto waiting horses.

But lawmen arrived and gunshots ran up and down the alley. Seven people were wounded and two Longview residents and Wallace died from gunshots. As angry townspeople hung Wallace's body from a telegraph pole, a posse was quickly organized and rode after the remaining gang members, traveling as far north as Ardmore. Conceding they were out of their element, the posse returned to Longview in a few days.

But Bill Dalton's own mistakes eventually cost him his freedom. A few months later, he used several of the bank notes taken in the Longview raid to buy a wagon and supplies near Ardmore. Authorities traced the money to Dalton, rode out to his home to make the arrest, and killed him when he tried to flee.

The two Nite brothers were found by lawmen in Guadalupe County, Texas, where they were shot. Bill died instantly and Jim was seriously wounded. In 1897, Jim was returned to East Texas to stand trial for the bank robbery and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Texas Gov. Oscar B. Colquitt granted Nite a pardon, but he was later killed in a Tulsa saloon fight.

Wallace's body was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Longview. The money taken by the Dalton gang in its last raid amounted to $2,000 and a few unsigned bank notes.
All Things Historical >
May 19-25, 2002 Column
Published with permission
(Bob Bowman is author of Pioneers, Poke Sallet and Politics with Archie McDonald. It is available through the East Texas Historical Association, Nacogdoches.)

Readers' Forum:
Searching the web looking for articles about the [Longview] Texas bank robbery, I arrived at your TexasEscapes web site. The article by Bob Bowman was interesting but inaccurate as far as the Nite brothers are concerned. Those boys were born and bred in TEXAS. They were my grandmother's cousins. She was born in Gonzales. Don't try to blame those wild Texas cowboys on Oklahoma. They just hid out there like a lot of other badmen. Thanks for your time. - Willard Keune, Toledo, Ohio, May 17, 2005

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