"TULSA JACK" BLAKE
Written, submitted & © 2000-Present by: Jim L Fulbright
Late on the night of April 3, 1895, the southbound Rock Island Passenger train was stopped and held up about 1 mile south of Dover, OT., near the Cimarron River Bridge. The five outlaws in on the robbery that night were William Blake, known as "Tulsa Jack", Charlie Pierce, George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, "Little Bill" Raidler, and George "Red Buck" Waightman. All were members of the notorious Bill Doolin gang.
The gang ordered that the express car be opened but messenger J.W. Jones refused. The outlaws fired about 20 rounds into it with their 45-90 caliber Winchesters. In a shower of wood splinters and glass, Jones held to his station until random bullets struck him in the leg, arm and wrist. Fearing the bandits would kill the entire train crew, the conductor finally persuaded Jones to open the car. Jones, however, could not open the "through safe" which had been locked in Kansas City. It could only be opened by express agents at the final destination of Ft. Worth where a large amount of money in the safe was destined for a military payroll. While Charley Pierce and "Bitter Creek" Newcomb kept an eye on things outside the train, "Tulsa Jack" and "Red Buck" patrolled the three coach cars containing about 250 people. They ushered the train's porter along and collected the passenger's wallets, watches and jewelry in an empty grain sack. "Tulsa Jack" walked behind him holding a gun to his back while "Red Buck" walked backwards to cover the rear. They collected about $400 cash and some jewelry and rode away into the night. The train moved on toward Kingfisher, 10 miles south, where a report was wired to Deputy Marshal Chris Madsen's office about 25 miles further down the line in El Reno.
As the gang rode northwest, confident that a pursuit could not quickly be mounted, Madsen rounded up his deputies in El Reno and formulated a plan the gang did not expect. The Rock Island provided an engine with a boxcar hooked behind the tender. At about 3:00 A.M., with their saddled horses aboard the special train, Madsen and nine deputies pulled out of El Reno toward the robbery site in Dover, arriving at dawn within about four hours of the holdup.
After trailing the gang most of the morning, the posse split into two groups. Madsen led one west along the Cimarron and deputy William Banks, with six men, pushed on along a trail the bandits did not bother to hide.
By mid-afternoon Banks and his men spotted the outlaws. They were barely 60 yards away in a grove of black jack trees, resting themselves and their horses. The deputies quickly shucked their rifles, dismounted, and called for the gang to surrender. "Tulsa Jack" Blake, who was apparently standing guard, spotted the lawmen and fired a first shot in their direction, alerting his slumbering comrades.
"Tulsa Jack" Blake was Bill Doolin's "right hand man", and considered by many to be his most loyal and stouthearted follower. He worked as a cowboy in Kansas during the late 1880s before moving south to Oklahoma Territory where he met Doolin. Blake participated in many of the gang's bank and train robberies and was a key figure in the fight against lawmen at Ingalls, Oklahoma, on September l 1893. There, marshals had the outlaws trapped in a local hotel, but when gunfire erupted, three deputy marshals were cut down and killed. "Tulsa Jack" shot his way out of the building, ran to the stable, freed the outlaws horses, and led them back to the hotel where the gang mounted up and sped away through a barrage of gunfire.
In another incident, Blake, known to be "as quick with a gun as he was with cards", almost single-handedly enabled the gang's escape from a bank robbery in South West City, Missouri, on May 20, 1894. Armed citizen's added to the heavy gunfire of lawmen in a street shootout as the gang left the bank. Blake's deadly accuracy was responsible for wounding several gun-wielding citizens who fired at the gang as it thundered down the main street and out of town. The daring "Tulsa Jack" covered their retreat and was the last to mount up and leave, but he would be the first to fall following the train robbery at Dover.
In a fierce gun battle lasting almost 45 minutes, Deputy William Banks later estimated that more than 200 shots were exchanged that day in the sand basin along the Cimarron River. He reported that each bandit was armed with two revolvers and that their rifles were model '86 Winchesters in 45-90 caliber. Midway through the melee, "Tulsa Jack" scrambled toward one of the outlaw's downed horses. Deputy Banks took careful aim with his rifle and fired a shot that sent "Tulsa Jack" sprawling. He was killed instantly by a bullet that hit him in the back and came out near his heart. As the firing continued, two more bandits were wounded and another of their horses killed. The gang then withdrew; escaping down a hollow that could not be covered by the deputies.
The death of "Tulsa Jack" was just the beginning of a violent end to the Bill Doolin gang. A month later on May 2, "Bitter Creek" Newcomb and Charley Pierce were slain from ambush by reward seekers. A posse caught up with mortally wounded "Zip" Wyatt on August 3, 1895; he died in a jail cell one month later. On October 2, George "Red Buck" Waightman was also killed by marshals. By December 1896, 19 months after the Dover train robbery, both Bill Doolin and "Dynamite Dick" were fatally shot by marshals. "Little Dick" West died by gunfire in April of 1898 and "Little Bill" Raidler was crippled in a shootout with deputies, served prison time, and died a few years after his parole in 1903.
Hanes, Bailey C., Bill Doolin, Outlaw OT. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
Wellman, Paul Iselin, A Dynasty of Western Outlaws. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1961.
El Reno Democrat: April 4, 1895.
El Reno Eagle: April 4, 1895
Hennessey Clipper: April 4, 11, 1895.
Return to the Lawman & Outlaw "B" Page