August 25

This Day in History

Old West

Aug 25, 1896:

Outlaw Bill Doolin is killed

The outlaw Bill Doolin is killed by a posse at Lawson, Oklahoma.

Born in Arkansas in 1858, William Doolin was never as hardened a criminal as some of his companions. He went west in 1881, finding work in Oklahoma at the big ranch of Oscar D. Halsell. Halsell took a liking to the young Arkansan, taught him to write and do simple arithmetic, and eventually made him an informal foreman on the ranch. Doolin worked for several other ranchers in the next decade and he was widely considered trustworthy and capable.

By the 1890s, however, Doolin had become at least a part-time thief. For six years, he participated in a variety of bank and train robberies, sometimes in partnership with the infamous Dalton gang. A careful and methodical man, Doolin planned his robberies well. Though he was shot several times, the wounds were never serious.

Success inevitably brought increased pressure from law enforcement. In 1895, Doolin and several of his partners went into hiding in New Mexico. Doolin made several offers to surrender in exchange for a light sentence, but his offers were rejected. In January 1896, the famous lawman Bill Tilghman single-handedly captured Doolin at Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The outlaw, who was at the springs to take in the medicinal waters, was caught by surprise, and Tilghman arrested him peacefully. Jailed at Guthrie, Oklahoma, while awaiting trial, Doolin escaped on July 5, 1896.

Doolin managed to elude the pursuing posse for nearly two months. When the posse finally caught up with him at Lawson, Oklahoma, Doolin apparently decided he was not going to be captured alive. Badly outnumbered, Doolin drew his gun. A rain of shotgun and rifle fire instantly killed him. He was 38 years old. Doolin was buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

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