MEADE, Kan. (KSNW) – You’ve probably heard of the notorious Dalton gang that robbed trains and banks in the late 1800’s, but you might not know about their hideout in southwest Kansas.
A small house in Meade had a big secret beneath it for years.
“The original tunnel was only 4 feet high, 2 feet wide. It was just dirt and boards,” said Marc Ferguson, manager and curator of the Dalton Gang Hideout.
Big enough for Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton and their outlaw friends to escape the $5,000 bounty on their heads.
“They were quite notorious train robbers down in Indian territory, Oklahoma territory,” said Ferguson. “We believe they would come way out here in the middle of nowhere to hide out from the law.”
Now a tourist attraction, the tunnel ran 95 feet from a barn into the house owned by the Daltons’ sister, Eva, and her husband in 1887.
Though the couple knew about the hideout, the rest of the town did not, until after the brothers were shot trying to rob two banks at once in Coffeyville.
Someone had recognized the gang going in.
“Well, it didn’t take long for about 15 men to get armed with rifles and shotguns, and before these guys got out of the banks, these citizens opened fire on ’em,” said Ferguson.
Two of the brothers and two other outlaws died.
Only Emmett survived the shooting. He spent 14 years in a Kansas prison before he was pardoned and set out on a new career.
“Go to Hollywood and the movies!” laughed Ferguson. “And he did appear in a few silent westerns in the 1920’s.”
As for the house in Meade, Eva Dalton suddenly left town before the shooting, perhaps in disgrace or because of back taxes.
The new owners learned about the tunnel through a surprise guest!
“Through this closet came this trail-worn, dirty cowboy with a Winchester rifle in his hand,” said Ferguson, pointing out the spot in the home. “Of course, they’re like, ‘Oh! oh!'”
That happened a few times before the tunnel was sealed off. A century later, the hideout is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A grant is funding restoration of the house so its infamous story below will never again be hidden.
There’s also a museum in Coffeyville where you can learn more about the bank robbery shootout and the men who stopped the gang.
Click here for the Dalton Defenders Museum.
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