In the early morning of August 25, 1896, outlaw Bill Doolin left his sleeping wife and child in her parents’ farmhouse and stepped into the main road under the light of a full moon—a walk from which he wouldn’t return.


Not far from the house in Lawson, Oklahoma, lawman Heck Thomas, and four deputies waited in hiding.

When Thomas spotted Doolin, he glanced at his watch and noted the time at about two a.m., puzzled by the outlaw’s sudden appearance.

When the notorious gunman got a few steps closer, Thomas ordered him to halt and throw down the Winchester he carried.

Defiant, Doolin raised the rifle and squeezed off two random shots into the shadows in front of him.

Sudden flashed of gunfire filled the night air. One posse member emptied his double-barreled shotgun at the gunman. At the same time, Heck Thomas took aim and pulled the trigger of his own Winchester.

Doolin moaned and staggered back from the force of the blasts and collapsed, his life nothing more than a memory.

A doctor later counted twenty buckshot wounds in Doolin’s chest and four bullets to the heart. He also determined the ball from Thomas’ Winchester shattered Doolin’s left arm.

Thomas had been tracking Doolin ever since receiving word the outlaw possibly used his in-laws’ Payne County home as a hideout.

Earlier in the year, January 1896, Doolin found himself behind bars in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory after being arrested by lawman Bill Tilghman at Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

But, he staged a daring escape a few months later, overpowering guards and leading over a dozen fellow prisoners to freedom.

On the night of his death, Doolin wore the same clothes he wore during his jailbreak months earlier, but he altered his physical appearance.

A heavy beard covered his face. He also shed a considerable amount of weight, said to be due to a sickness he contracted while serving jail time.

When the gunman rode into Oklahoma about twelve years earlier, he worked as a cowboy for a while before joining the Dalton Gang.

Later, Doolin organized other gangs of lawbreakers, one of which terrorized the territory for years.

According to historians, Doolin gunned down eight men during his career, staged three train robberies, and three bank hold-ups.

He died at 38.


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