Sixteen-year-old Rose Dunn sat at the window of the ranch house near Ingalls, Oklahoma, staring into the darkness. She awaited the arrival of George “Bittercreek” Newcomb. Love lingered in the air. But danger lurked in the shadows.


Newcomb and Charley Pierce, members of the Wild Bunch, were on the run. A reward of $5,000 posted for each of them proved tempting targets for bounty hunters. 

The two outlaws followed a trail bordering the Cimarron River and reached the Dunn place on the night of May 2, 1895. Newcomb looked forward to resuming his romantic relationship with Rose.  

Tired from the long, hard ride, the two men stabled their horses and headed for the boarding house—a walk they would never complete.

Hiding in the shadows were the Dunn brothers—Bee, Calvin, Dal, George, and Bill—who considered the reward money too tempting to ignore.

When Newcomb and Pierce came within a few feet of the front door, two shotguns exploded in the black night. They staggered back from the impact and fell to the ground dead.

Speculation emerged that Rose Dunn, also known as Rose of the Cimarron, helped plot the ambush. But, she later denied betraying Newcomb.

The brothers defended Rose, insisting they kept her in the dark so she wouldn’t tip off Newcomb.

The next morning, the well-known bounty hunter brothers placed the bodies of Newcomb and Pierce into a wagon, took them to Guthrie, and claimed the reward with no questions asked.

In addition to operating the ranch and boarding house, the Dunns owned a local meat market and pursued other ventures, but mostly illegal ones.

Rumors had been circulating that the Dunn brothers may have been behind a series of local crimes that involved cattle rustling, robbery, and several killings.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Frank Canton decided to investigate. He once had a run-in with Bill Dunn and arrested him for rustling.  

After learning about Canton’s interest in the family’s activities, Dunn decided he’d kill the lawman and rode into Pawnee to confront him. 

Canton, born Josiah Horner in September 1849, drifted around the frontier as a gunman and an outlaw. Most considered him a crack shot. Over the years, he developed a reputation as someone cool in the heat of a confrontation.

On the afternoon of November 6, 1896, Canton left a restaurant and headed back to his office. Dunn spotted him, slipped his revolver out, and fired twice.

The ambush failed. Canton pulled his handgun and snapped off two shots. Dunn collapsed dead in the streets of Pawnee. Courts ruled the shooting self-defense.

About a year later, Rose Dunn married and moved to New Mexico. When her husband, Charles Noble, died in 1930, she remarried a man named Richard Fleming in 1940.

The two made their home in Lewis County, Washington, on June 11, 1955. She was 76.


Join the StoryTeller Posse
and receive a FREE copy of
“When the Smoke Clears: Gunslingers and Gunfights of the Old West.”

2 comments to “MOONLIGHT AND MURDER”

  • Andrew McBride

    Yet another fascinating post, Tom. THE DUNN BROTHERS seem to be real-life embodyments of characters very popular in western fiction but very hard to find in the history of the real Old West – bounty hunters.

  • Hello, Andrew–glad you stopped by. You make a good point about the Dunn Brothers. Their nastiness and killer mindset were perfect examples of Old West characters who transcended fiction.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.