this day in crime history: july 14, 1881

On this date in 1881, Henry McCarty, aka William Bonney, aka Henry Antrim, aka Billy the Kid (his most famous alias), was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garret in Fort Sumner, NM.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang

About Billy the Kid

Find a Grave: William “Billy The Kid” Bonney 

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this day in crime history: july 8, 1898

On this date in 1898, con-man and gangster Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith uttered his last words: “My God, don’t shoot!” What do you think happened next? If your guess was “He was shot,” give yourself 10 points. Soapy was killed in a dispute over a game of three-card monte, among other things.

Further reading:

Alias Soapy Smith: King of the Frontier Con Men

Leadville & Twin Lakes, Colorado History: The Story of Jefferson Randolph (Soapy) Smith

Legends of America: Soapy Smith – Bunko Man of the Old West

Soapy Smith’s Soapbox

this day in crime history: april 3, 1882

On this date in 1882, legendary outlaw Jesse James was shot and killed in St. Joseph, MO by an outlaw named Bob Ford. Ford and his brother Charley attempted to claim a reward that had been offered for James, but the only reward they received was arrest and indictment for murder. They pled guilty and were sentenced to death, but a pardon from the governor spared them the hangman’s noose.

Charley Ford, suffering from tuberculosis, committed suicide in 1884. Bob was killed in 1892, shot in the back by a man named Edward O’Kelley. Sounds like poetic justice to me.

Further reading:

Legends of America: Jesse James – Folklore Hero or Cold-Blooded Killer?

St. Joseph History – Jesse James

Wikipedia – Robert Ford (outlaw)

this day in crime history: february 18, 1878

On this date in 1878, 24 year old John Henry Tunstall, an English-born rancher, was shot and killed in Lincoln County, NM. Tunstall’s men, including a young upstart who came to be known as Billy the Kid, vowed revenge. And thus began New Mexico’s Lincoln County War.

Further reading:

Legends of America – New Mexico’s Lincoln County War

The Death of John Tunstall

Wikipedia – John Tunstall

this day in crime history: october 6, 1866


On this date in 1866, the Reno brothers committed the first peacetime train robbery. The Renos, a family of ne’er do wells, started their criminal careers as bounty jumpers (Army enlistees who collected the sign on bonus, then took off, only to enlist again elsewhere under another name and repeat the process) during the Civil War.

After the war, they searched for new ways to make money. On October 6, 1866, brothers John and Simeon Reno, and associate Frank Sparkes, boarded the east-bound Ohio & Mississippi train at the Seymour, IN depot. While the train was in motion, they stormed the express car and held the messenger at gunpoint. They broke open one of the safes and stole a large sum of cash from it. They pushed a larger safe off the moving train for other gang members to retrieve. Then they pulled the emergency stop cord and fled the train. The gang wound up abandoning the second safe when they were unable to get it open.

The Renos went on to commit several more robberies before most were captured by the law (and the Pinkerton Detective Agency). Most of the gang, including Simeon Reno and Frank Sparkes, died at the hands of vigilantes in three separate lynchings in Indiana. John Reno was tried and convicted. He was sent to prison in 1868, and was paroled in 1878.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Reno Gang

Legends of America – The Notorious Reno Gang

this day in crime history: october 5, 1892

On this date in 1892, members of the Dalton gang — Bob, Emmet and Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Power — rode into the town of Coffeyville, KS. Their mission: a spectacular double bank robbery. It was a great plan, but for two serious miscalculations. The first being that Coffeyville was the hometown of the Dalton boys. In spite of attempts to disguise themselves, they were recognized when they entered the banks. The second miscalculation involved the tolerance of the local population for bank robbery (they had none), and the lengths they would go to in thwarting would-be bank robbers. Said lengths involved guns, lots of guns.

The townsfolk armed themselves and confronted the Daltons as the gang emerged from the banks. After a fierce gun battle, four of the townspeople lay dead. As for the gang, four of the five were killed, leaving a wounded Emmet as the lone survivor. After being tried and convicted, Emmet Dalton was sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was commuted in 1907. He moved to California, where he wrote a book and even acted in a few Hollywood movies. He died in 1937 at the age of 66.

Further reading:

Historynet – Dalton Gang’s Raid on Coffeyville

EyeWitness to History.com – The Dalton Gang’s Last Raid, 1892

Emmett Dalton – His Life After the Coffeyville Raid

this day in crime history: september 7, 1876

On this date in 1876, the infamous James-Younger outlaw gang attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, MN. When some of the local citizens saw what was going on, they armed themselves and confronted the gang. A gun battle ensued, leaving two townsfolk and a couple gang members dead. The remainder of the gang fled, and several were captured a few days after the attempted robbery. Frank and Jesse James managed to escape, but the Northfield raid was the last hurrah for the James-Younger gang.

Every year, the city of Northfield holds a celebration called The Defeat of Jesse James Days.

Further reading:

The Defeat of Jesse James Days website

Minnesota Historical Society: Northfield Raid & the James-Younger Gang

Wikipedia: James-Younger Gang