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