Smith-Dixon Gang – Horse Thieves in Oklahoma




The Smith-Dixon Gang was a group of horse thieves and whiskey peddlers operating in Indian Territory (Oklahoma in the days of the Old West. Its members included Dave Smith, a former member of the Belle Starr Gang; his brother-in-law, Leander “Lee” Dixon; and a teenager of about 17 years-old named William “Billy” Towerly.

On November 27, 1887, U.S. Deputy Marshals, Frank Dalton and James R. Cole were attempting to serve warrants on Dave Smith for horse stealing and introducing whiskey in Indian Territory. They tracked them to a wood chopper’s camp in the Arkansas River bottoms in present-day Sequoyah County, Oklahoma. With the three outlaws, was also Dixon’s wife. As they approached their tent, they warned they were after Smith only and the others should not interfere. However, Dave Smith fired a shot, hitting Frank Dalton in the chest. As the marshal lay helpless on the ground, Deputy Cole returned fire, killing Dave Smith. Lee Dixon and William Towerly then began firing at Cole, who took cover behind a tree. William Towerly then ran towards the fallen Frank Dalton pointing his gun straight at the marshal’s face. Though Dalton pleaded with Towerly not to shoot him again, as he was already dying, Towerly blasted him once in the face and a second shot time to the head. In the meantime, Cole had also been hit several times, but, continued to fire, wounding Lee Dixon and killing his wife. William Towerly then fled.

Deputy Marshal Cole made his way back to Fort Smith, Arkansas to report the battle. A posse was sent to retrieve the bodies of Smith, Dalton, and Mrs. Dixon. Lee Dixon, who had been hit by a bullet near the left collar bone, was taken to the prison hospital in Fort Smith, where he later died from his wounds. A $1,000 reward was issued for Towerly for Frank Dalton’s murder and the youth’s freedom would be short-lived. Marshals Z.W. “Bill” Moody and Ed Stokley caught up him near Atoka, Oklahoma, where he was hiding out at his parents’ home. On December 3, 1887, they approached Towerly demanding his surrender. When “Billy” went for his gun, both officers shot him, hitting him in the leg and the shoulder. However as Stokley approached the outlaw to disarm him, Towerly switched the gun to his unwounded arm and shot Stokley in the Chest. Moody then killed Towerly.

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated February 2020.

Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Oklahoma – Indian Territory

Old West Gunfighters

Outlaws on the Frontier

2 thoughts on “Smith-Dixon Gang – Horse Thieves in Oklahoma”

  1. The Dixon family response backed up by 4 witnesses in handwritten testimony My Great-Great Uncle was also unfairly persecuted but this time by Judge Parker. He died of pneumonia in the miserable dungeon basement jail charged with killing a US Marshal. He was in the process of trying to rescue his sister from an outlaw she had married, they were at a logging camp in a tent in Oklahoma territory near the Arkansas river. Two US marshals from Parker’s court came riding in firing wildly into the tent Killing my Great Uncles wife. My Great Uncle Leander Dixon was accused of killing Marshal Frank Dalton (of the infamous Dalton outlaw gang family.) I read hand written testimony in court records of several witnesses contradicting the account of the Surviving Marshal…My great Aunt Belle Dixon remembered one of the women in the camp bursting into the front door of the Dixon home in Arkansas with the tragic news…she had bullet holes in her apron

  2. Leander Dixon was my Great-Great Uncle. The handwritten witness accounts contradict the self serving testimony of Marshal James R. Cole. The story passed on to me from my Great Aunt (who remembered one of the women in the tent bursting into the house, with bullet holes in her apron with the tragic news) Leander was never a part of the gang. He was a working man, a logger. His sister had married the outlaw Dave Smith you might say she was an “abused woman” He had traveled from Arkansas to Oklahoma to a logging camp to get her away from Smith. The two Marshals came riding in with no warning firing wildly into the tent killing Leander’s wife Dave Smith killed Marshal Frank Dalton (of the infamous Dalton gang family). When I first starting researching this net there was no “Smith Dalton” gang, I contacted the curator of Judge Parkers court museum and suggested my story be told. However the story has been embellished over the years and it gets worse and worse for the Dixon family

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