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The Day the Bad Guys Won
Echoes from the Battle of Ingalls continue to reverberate throughout history.
By Ron Soodalter
Published July/August 2018
The U.S. Marshals Service calls the Battle of Ingalls “one of the deadliest confrontations in the history of the U.S. marshals.”
ILLUSTRATION BY JJ RITCHEY
By the early 1890s, the Wild West had become more the subject of dime novels and show business extravaganzas than a reality. Oklahoma was no different: By then, most of its outlaws were either dead or in jail. One notable exception, however, was the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Familiarly known as the Oklahombres, or the Wild Bunch, they were a band of desperados that freely ranged the Midwest robbing banks and trains. Led by two men—the affable but deadly Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton, whose brothers Bob and Grat had met a bloody fate in a Kansas bank raid—the gang was the bane of United States Marshal Evitt Dumas “E.D.” Nix.
On September 1, 1893, Nix and a posse of more than a dozen lawmen arrived at the tiny town of Ingalls in a buggy and two covered wagons. Reportedly, six of the gang members were there, and their names read like a Hollywood casting list of Western banditti. In addition to the two leaders, there were “Bitter Creek” Newcomb, “Tulsa Jack” Blake, “Arkansas Tom” Jones, “Dynamite Dick” Clifton, and “Red Buck” Weightman.
Most of the outlaws were sitting in the Murray and Ransom Saloon, while Arkansas Tom recuperated from a headache in his hotel room. The deputies took up positions around the saloon, and once they were in place, one of the lawmen shouted for the outlaws to surrender, whereupon the battle opened.
Bullets peppered the saloon. The outlaws returned fire, and in the exchange, two townspeople, including a fourteen-year-old, were fatally shot and several others wounded. Somehow, the outlaws managed to sneak out a side door undetected and make their way to the livery stable and their waiting horses.
Meanwhile, from his second-floor hotel room, Arkansas Tom directed fire at the officers. Deputy Lafayette “Lafe” Shadley was desperately trying to free himself from a barbed wire fence that had snagged his coat, when a slug from Dalton’s rifle mortally wounded him. Deputies Dick Speed and T.J. Hueston were killed as well.
The other outlaws rode off at a gallop under fire. The lawmen managed to superficially wound Doolin and Bitter Creek and kill Dynamite Dick’s horse, but the gang managed to escape without fatality. The deputies gave Arkansas Tom the option of surrendering or being blown up along with the hotel; he chose the former. After a brief burst of action—roughly half an hour by some estimates—the Battle of Ingalls was over.
The debacle at Ingalls, embarrassing as it was to the marshal’s office, merely staved off the inevitable. Within a short time, nearly all the gang members would meet violent ends, their bodies posed in macabre scenes on cooling boards and porches for thrill-seeking gawkers and enterprising photographers.
Ultimately, Arkansas Tom, whose real name was Roy Daugherty, did two stints behind bars, one of which he served in Guthrie’s federal prison. After his first release, he made an appearance in former deputy marshal Bill Tilghman’s film The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws, after which he returned to bank robbing. The fifty-four-year-old Arkansas Tom was shot and killed by officers in 1924, the last of the Oklahombres to die.
Today, Ingalls is a ghost town. Aside from its old cemetery, it boasts a recreated saloon, livery stable, hotel, and general store. For some time, the town staged an annual reenactment of the battle, but it hasn’t happened for many years now. A metal highway sign describes the battle, while a stone marker stands in memory of the three officers who died in the Battle of Ingalls—two small reminders of when the West was still wild.
The metal sign commemorating the Battle of Ingalls is located one mile northwest of the site on State Highway 151. The stone marker is located one mile south of the site on State Highway 51 on East Nineteenth Avenue in Payne County about ten miles east of Stillwater.