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."
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
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
"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
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
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.
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,
Subject: THE BANK ROBBERY
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