In the Past…

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Every family has secrets. Every family has a story passed along about relatives from long ago. Well while growing up in my family, the story was we were descendants of the Dalton Gang. One of our family historians, Uncle Mel, has traced down the lineage of our family for some time. One of the stories that came to light was regarding the Dalton’s. The surprising thing to me was the time they spent in California back in the 19th century. This is how some of it goes.

In the days before the Civil War, Kansas was the scene of border warfare. William Quantrill , a native of Ohio, and became a notorious guerrilla leader moved to the Kansas prairies. He has been described as the “bloodiest man known to the annals of America.“ Many partisan leaders ignored the official surrender at Appomattox Court House; they had private reasons for continuing the horrors of guerrilla warfare. This led to a new generation charged with hatred fury. In this region lived the James family, the Youngers, The Dalton’s. The boys of the two former families were tutored by Quantrill. Jessie James and Cole Younger were first cousins. Adeline Younger an aunt to Younger brothers, married a Dalton and became mother of the boys who were to receive notoriety as part of the Dalton Gang.

Grattan Dalton served as a United States Deputy Marshall in Oklahoma. He became disillusioned at the dishonesty in the officials over him and tried as a Younger officer to correct the situation and failed. he resigned and left with his younger brother Bob on the way to California. On the way In New Mexico they had trouble with the gamblers in New Mexico being injurious to the reputation of the Dalton’s. They fled to the San Joaquin Valley.

The Dalton’s had a Brother named Littleton residing on a ranch near Clovis another brother William, owned a ranch on the foot hills of Paso Robles, A cousin, Sam Oldham lived a mile east off Kingsburg. Grattan Dalton loved to provoke fights for the sheer joy of battle. In the San Joaquin he found men who would accommodate Him. For a time they lived with their cousin Sam Oldham.

While on a visit to their brother in Paso Robles , a Southern Pacific passenger train was held up near Alila, near Earlimart. The Dalton brothers suspected. Sheriff O’Neil and Detective Will Smith appeared suddenly at Bill Dalton Ranch. Grattan an Bob Dalton and His friend McElthanie hid out successfully in the next room. after the officers left then he escaped.

Bob Dalton rode his horse following the rim of the hills to Tehachapi crossing the Mohave Desert and finally reaching Oklahoma. Grattan was arrested at Fresno by Will Smith. He was convicted and released, only to be arrested in San Francisco, brought to Visalia and convicted on circumstantial evidence. While waiting trial, a file was smuggled into the Jail. Grattan and three escaped to the home of Maggy Rucker at Cross Creek. Grattan and so called friend escaped into the high foot Hills above Sanger. One of those hills are called Dalton’s peak to this day.

His so called friend Middleton came back to the valley and betrayed Grattan Dalton. Grattan escaped the posse with the help of a friend and sympathizer Judge Grey of Merced through the Tehachapi pass to Oklahoma . The Dalton’s were never convicted of train robberies but resumed their careers as bad men of the “Wild West”

One thing sad about this story is what was stated early on regarding how hatred was taught to another generation. This likely made it worse when that generation came of age. There are many cases like this and probably a root cause of why some counties/races have issues today. Regardless, it is always neat to discover and read about one’s family past. Do you have any family stories like the one above?

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