This Day In History: Bill Doolin The Outlaw Was Killed (1896)

William Doolin was a notorious outlaw in the Wild West in its final days. He was born in Arkansas in 1858.  However, he was actually not a career criminal and for many years had been a hardworking cowboy in Indian Territory in the West. He went west in 1881, finding work in Oklahoma as a cowboy on a ranch. The owner of the ranch liked the young  man. The racher, by the name of Halsell , taught him to write and do simple arithmetic, and even  made him a foreman on the ranch. Doolin worked for other ranchers in the next few years and he was regarded by them as a good worker and an honest man.

By the 1890s, however, Doolin, for some reason had become a thief.  He started off as a small-scale thief but his crimes grew more serious. He joined a bunch of outlaws and took part in bank and train robberies. On more than one occasion he worked  with the infamous Dalton gang. A cautious and shrewd man, Doolin planned his robberies with great care. During his robberies, he was caught up in several shootouts with lawmen and local citizens. Though shot several times, the wounds were never life-threatening or serious. He eventually formed his own gang, known as the Wild Bunch, this is also known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang.


Soon Doolin, was wanted by  law enforcement. In 1895, Doolin and his then gang  went into hiding in New Mexico. Here they were beyond the law. Doolin made several offers to surrender in exchange for a light sentence, but the authorities would not make a deal.

In  1896, the famous lawman Bill Tilghman  captured Doolin at Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Apparently, Doolin was heading to his home area in Arkansas to hide from the law. The outlaw had stopped at the famous  springs to take in the medicinal waters. He was caught by surprise, and Tilghman single-handedly arrested him without a shot being fired. Doolin was jailed and was awaiting trial for his many crimes. However, he managed to escape, it is believed that he may have bribed his jailers.  Immediately a posse was formed and they went in search of the escaped outlaw.  Doolin escaped into the wilds of Oklahoma and tried to evade the posse.

He was on the run from the law for almost two months. When the posse finally caught up with him at  Doolin apparently decided he was not going to be captured alive and spend the rest of his days in jail. The posse outnumbered him and he was had no chance of escape. Doolin drew his gun and before he could even shot, the posse cut him down with a hail of bullets. Doolin was buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma, he was 37 years old when he died.