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Top Ten Wild West Gangs Including the Outlaw “three-fingered Jack”

David Goran
The famous photograph of the Wild Bunch taken in Fort Worth in 1901, with Sundance in the left front and Butch in the right front.  Harvey Logan is standing on the right. Photo credit: hegreatwesternmovies.com
The famous photograph of the Wild Bunch taken in Fort Worth in 1901, with Sundance in the left front and Butch in the right front. Harvey Logan is standing on the right. Photo credit: hegreatwesternmovies.com

The Old West, often referred to as the Wild West, encompasses the period after the Civil War, the rest of the 1800’s, and the early part of the 20th century. There is much legend surrounding American History of the Wild West when it comes to American outlaws and lawmen. The odd thing is that on occasion, the two were interchangeable and a lawman might have been a bandit previously in another state. Here are some profiles of famous outlaws of the American wild west.

1. Billy the Kid (The Regulators and The Rustlers)
Photo credit: www.rogerebert.com

Photo credit: www.rogerebert.com

Henry McCarty, aka, William Henry Bonney, aka, Billy the Kid was a teenage outlaw and the most notorious gunman in the history of the wild west. Billy the Kid’s exact date of birth and place is not known, and historians and biographers are still trying to solve the mystery. Possible birth dates, according to historians, are November 20, 1859, and September 17, 1859. Orphan at fifteen, Billy had been fending for himself as a horse thief and by the age of seventeen, Billy had already killed a man in a fight, claiming it to be an act of self-defense. In just a few short years transformed himself from a skinny orphan boy to the most feared man in the West and an enduring western icon. According to legend, he killed 21 men during his days as an outlaw, one for each year of his life, though he likely killed far fewer than that number.On the run from the authorities, McCarty moved to Arizona. Known as “The Kid,” McCarty switched to the opposition to fight with John Tunstall under the name “The Regulators.” The second gang of Billy the Kid was called “The Rustlers“ (Tom Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, Tom Pickett, Billy the Kid, Dirty Dave Rudabaugh and Billy Wilson).

Billy was sentenced to hang for the murder of Sheriff Brady and two weeks before his execution, on April 28, Billy escaped after killing the guards. His murders turned him into the nation’s most wanted man.

On July 14, 1881, a local bartender and former buffalo hunter named Pat Garrett finally tracked Billy down at a ranch near Fort Summer, New Mexico. Billy was visiting a girlfriend and Garrett gained access to the house and surprised him in the dark.Garrett fired a bullet through Billy’s chest.

“Тhe Kid“ was dead at age 21.

2. Dalton Gang
Photo credit: escapetothesilentcities.blogspot

Photo credit: escapetothesilentcities.blogspot

They were known as the Dalton Brothers because three of its members were brothers. A gang made up of outlaws and lawmen in the American Old West. They were known as train and bank robbers. The members of the gang were , Emmett “Em“ Dalton, born in 1871, Robert “Bob“ Renick Dalton, born 1869 and Gratton “Grat“ Dalton, born in 1861. William M. “Bill“ Dalton, born in 1866, was an outlaw as well and mainly rode with the Wild Bunch (one of the loosely organized outlaw gangs operating out of the Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming during the Old West era in the United States).

For a very short time the brothers served on the side of the law, working as U.S. Deputy Marshals.Bob Dalton, who was the wildest of the gang, killed a man when he was 19, claiming it was in the line of duty.

On October 5, 1892, the gang set out to rob the C.M. Condon & Company’s Bank and the First National Bank on opposite sides of the street in Coffeyville, Kansas. They were disguised with fake beards, but that wasn’t enough because one of the townspeople recognized them and word got out that the bank was being robbed. When the Dalton brothers walked out of the bank, a hail of bullets forced them back into the building.That gave the townspeople enough time to gather force and they were met by wild gunfire from vigilante citizens. Every member was killed except for Emmett Dalton. He was wounded and spent 14 years in Kansas Penitentiary in Lansing.

The Dalton gang is no more, and travelers through the Indian Territory could travel without fear. The country, and the railroads and express companies, especially, breathed easier. The country was rid of the desperate gang, but the riddance cost Coffeyville some of its best blood.

3. Clanton Gang (They called themselves “The Cowboys“)
Photo credit: www.pinterest.com

Photo credit: www.pinterest.com

“The Cowboys“ were a loosely organized gang of outlaws who operated along the Mexican border, stealing cattle, robbing stage coaches (a large, closed horse-drawn vehicle formerly used to carry passengers and often mail along a regular route between two places), ambushing teamsters and committing murder.

The head of the Clanton Clan in Cochise County, Arizona, was Newman Haynes “Old Man“ Clanton (1816-1881). Newman and his sons Ike, Billy and Phin arrived in Arizona Territory in 1873 when they were involved in freighting and ranching. The “Cowboys“ also included Tom and Frank McLaury, Curly Bill Brocious, Johnny Ringo, Pete Spence and several others.

The “Old Cowboy“ Newman was accused by Wyatt Earps (lawman of the American West) of rustling, ambushing, smuggling and harboring rustlers, but he was never arrested for those crimes.

In July 1881, Newman and several members of the gang ambushed a group of Mexican cowboys driving a herd through Guadalupe Canyon, killing 19 of them. That incident was later known as the Guadalupe Canyon Massacre. But the tables were turned and the Mexican cowboys were seeking revenge for the earlier ambush and Newman and four of his men were killed in the same canyon.

4. The Innocents
Henry Plummer Photo credit: wikipedia

Henry Plummer Photo credit: wikipedia

They were an alleged gang of outlaw road agents from Montana, led by Henry Plummer, during the gold rush of the 1860s. They terrorized the road between Bannack and Virginia City and allegedly killed over one hundred people during this violent time. The group of possibly more than 100 members preyed on miners and were so named because they’d answer to a secret password, “I am innocent” and they used a particular secret knot in their tie to recognize each other. The group would split themselves up into smaller units of men so they could hit different mining camps simultaneously.

Many residents soon became frustrated by the amount of crime that was occurring. In 1863, the citizens were getting fed up and formed a vigilante committee to hunt the men down (a group of men calling themselves the Vigilante Committee).

There is really little evidence connecting Plummer with any crime committed in the Bannack area, other than the “confession” of a criminal attempting to save his own life. However, in January 1864, Henry Plummer was accused of leading the group and he was executed by the Vigilante Committee and other 21 men were hanged.

5. Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch
The famous photograph of the Wild Bunch taken in Fort Worth in 1901, with Sundance in the left front and Butch in the right front. Harvey Logan is standing on the right. Photo credit: hegreatwesternmovies.com

The famous photograph of the Wild Bunch taken in Fort Worth in 1901, with Sundance in the left front and Butch in the right front. Harvey Logan is standing on the right. Photo credit: hegreatwesternmovies.com

Robert Leroy Parker, born April 13, 1866, better known as Butch Cassidy, was one of the most famous names of the Old West. A thief and murderer who formed one of the most prolific bank robbery gangs in history. Butch Cassidy began his life of crime as a cattle rustler and horse thief and became notorious for holding up banks and trains. He was working in a butcher’s shop and, according to popular legend, became known as Butcher Cassidy, which morphed into Butch Cassidy.

In 1894, Cassidy was found guilty of stealing a horse and sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary. After 18 months behind bars, he was released for good behavior. After prison, Cassidy reunited with members of the Wild Bunch, a circle of criminals, a loose-knit band of men (Elzy Lay, Harvey “Kid Curry“ Logan, Ben Kilpatrick, Harry Tracy, Will “News“ Carver, Laura Bullion and George Curry) who started out as rustlers and horse thieves and became notorious for bank and train robberies.

He and his fellow bandits developed a pattern for committing crimes that involved doing reconnaissance on the place they planned to rob, as well as stashing supplies and extra horses along their intended getaway route. Cassidy’s gang, The Wild Bunch, became notorious for pulling off holdups throughout the West in the 1890s.

The facts surrounding Butch Cassidy’s death are uncertain. Most likely gunned down by Bolivian soldiers after a botched attempt to steal a mining company payroll with his companion Sundance Kid. There were multiple reports the two men had returned to the United States where they lived for a number of years under aliases. More than a century after their presumed deaths, the true fate of Butch and Sundance remains a mystery.