the wild bunch

Tucked away in a sleepy area of Wyoming, lies an Old West outlaw hideout. It is located in a remote pass in the Big Horn Mountains of Johnson County, Wyoming. It’s called Hole-In-The-Wall, and in reality, it is anything, but a hole in a wall. The nearest town is Kaycee, Wyoming, population of 274. It is 24.9 miles away, but it will take you 53 minutes to get there by car.

The hideout gets its name from the fact that there is a large break in an otherwise full wall of red sandstone. I suppose you could call it a hole in the wall, but it’s rather large to be called a hole. When I think of a hole in a wall, I picture a small hole…man-sized where a person could sneak in, and possibly even hide the hole with a tumbleweed, but that is not it at all. The remoteness of the area, and the wall made it almost impossible for lawmen to get to the hideout without being seen. The hideout was used in the late 19th century by the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, a group of cattle rustlers and other outlaws that included the Logan brothers, Kid Curry, Black Jack Ketchum, and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and other desperados met at a log cabin in the Hole-in-the-Wall country. The cabin was built in 1883 by a man named Alexander Ghent.

The lawmen tried a number of way to learn more about the site, including the one Pinkerton National Detective Agency detective, Charlie Siringo wrote about, “I started for the Big Horn Basin in the vicinity of the Hole-in-the-Wall in northern Wyoming. I had received instructions from Assistant Superintendent Curran to go up there and get in with the friends of the ‘Wild Bunch’, and learn their secrets.” He like so many more was unsuccessful. No lawmen ever successfully entered the Hole-In-The-Wall to capture outlaws during its more than fifty years of active existence, nor were any lawmen attempting to infiltrate it by use of undercover techniques successful.

The area was remote and secluded, easily defended because of its narrow passes, and impossible for lawmen to approach without alerting the outlaws. From the late 1860s to around 1910, the pass was used frequently by numerous outlaw gangs. At its height, it featured several cabins that gangs used to lie up during the harsh Wyoming winters, and it had a livery stable, corral, livestock, and supplies, with each gang contributing to the upkeep of the site. While several gangs were there at any given time, they were able to keep their plans and schemes to their own gang. I suppose the was some honor among thieves after all. Eventually, the use of this site faded into history, with gangs using it less frequently. Of course, now it is just another historic site, but some of the buildings are still there.

George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb was the first member of the infamous Dalton Gang…an outlaw gang in the Old West. Newcomb was born in 1866 near Fort Scott, Kansas. The Newcomb family was poor, and he began working as a cowboy at the age of twelve. Newcomb’s first job was on the “Long S Ranch” owned by CC Slaughter. By 1892, he had drifted into the Oklahoma Territory, where he first met Bill Doolin. Newcomb would meet up with Bill Doolin again, in a deadly way.

As a part of the Dalton Gang, Newcomb met up with Doolin and also met Charley Pierce, who were also members. The three men took part in the botched train robbery in Adair, Oklahoma Territory, on July 15, 1892. During the robbery, two guards and two townsmen, both doctors, were wounded. One of the doctors died the next day. Doolin, Newcomb, and Pierce complained that Bob was unfairly dividing the money fairly amongst the gang. They left in a huff, but later returned. It was at this point that Bob Dalton told Doolin, Newcomb, and Pierce that he no longer needed them. Dalton said that Newcomb was “too wild” for his gang, and Dalton left. Doolin and his friends returned to their hideout in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. On October 5, in Coffeyville, Kansas, the remaining members of the Dalton Gang were killed…except Emmett who survived despite being shot 27 times. I suppose it was fortunate for Newcomb, Doolin, and Pierce that they were no longer part of the gang.

In 1893, Doolin organized his own gang from the remains of the original Dalton Gang, with Newcomb as a member, calling them the Wild Bunch. Bill Dalton later also joined the group and they became known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Newcomb began a romantic relationship with a 14 year old girl named Rose Dunn. She had four brothers who were outlaws and knew Newcomb. They would later become bounty hunters, calling themselves the Dunn Brothers. By 1895, Newcomb was a fugitive with a $5,000 reward on him, dead or alive. Rose Dunn traveled with him, since she could easily go into a town to purchase supplies, and no one knew that she was a part of the gang. This was the perfect plan to keep the gang hidden.

The gang often hung out in the town of Ingalls, Oklahoma. In those days, numerous outlaw gangs of the day took refuge there, and oddly, local residents often defended the outlaws and assisted in hiding them from lawmen. This was mostly due to the outlaws contributing greatly to the local economy. In one shootout with lawmen in Ingalls, called the Battle of Ingalls, three lawmen and three outlaws were shot. After several shootouts with lawmen, Newcomb fled with outlaw Charley Pierce to a hideout near Norman, Oklahoma, both of them wounded in the Ingalls shootout with US Marshals.

On May 2, 1895, Newcomb and Pierce rode up to the Dunn ranch, possibly to visit Rose. As soon as they dismounted, her brothers opened fire, dropping both outlaws. The next day, the Dunn brothers had loaded the two bodies into their wagon and were driving it into town to collect the reward, when Newcomb suddenly moaned and asked for water, to which one of the brothers responded with another bullet. I guess the bounty on their heads outweighed the friendship the Dunn Brothers had previously with the Wild Bunch.

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