John Daly – Leading a Vicious Gang

Aurora, Nevada

Aurora, Nevada

John Daly was a vicious thug who, along with “Three-Fingered Jack” McDowell, ran the Daly Gang out of a saloon in Aurora, Nevada, between 1862 to 1864.

Daly is thought to have been born in New York in about 1838, and when he grew up, he made his way to California. By the time he was 23, he was said to have already killed several men and made his way to the mining camp of Aurora, Nevada. He soon went to work for the Pond Mining Company in a security role. Also working there was Jack McDowell, William Buckley, and Jim Masterson. The Pond Mining Company was feuding with the Real Del Monte Mining Company over claims to Last Chance Hill. Both organizations contracted gunfighters to threaten the opposite side and to keep witnesses from testifying against them.

Daly soon hooked up with Jack McDowell, and the two ran an unsavory saloon and operated the Daly Gang, which terrorized the Nevada goldfields between Aurora and Carson City. Using scare tactics known as “criminal vigilantism,” they lynched anyone who resisted. The saloon quickly became known as a place where beatings, gunfights, mayhem, and murder were the norm. McDowell, Daly, and two other men named William Buckley and Jim Masterson bullied the town and cheated any card players that were foolish enough to frequent McDowell’s saloon. However, after the gang cut a man’s throat and threw him into Aurora’s dusty street, the fed-up citizens formed a vigilante group and attacked McDowell’s saloon on February 5, 1864. Dragging McDowell, Daly, Buckley, and Masterson from the saloon, they locked them up while quickly constructing gallows. A short time later, all four men were hanged outside Armory Hall in Aurora.

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Also See:

Gunfighters of the Old West

Old West Photo Galleries

Outlaws on the Frontier

Time Line of the American West