Dalton Defenders Museum (old location) entrance.
Dalton Defenders Museum (the old location) entrance.

Dalton Defenders Museum

Field review by the editors.

Coffeyville, Kansas

Not every town has a giant twine ball on which to peg its civic pride. Some must make the best of what fate has handed them, and few have grabbed their opportunity with such gusto as Coffeyville, Kansas, whose citizens killed some bank robbers over 120 years ago and have been pocketing interest from it ever since.

Replica giant hailstone. Other than bullets, it didn't hail during the Dalton shootout.
Replica giant hailstone. Other than bullets, it didn't hail during the Dalton shootout.

The robbers were members of the Dalton Gang, America's premier lawbreaking family of the Gilded Age. One of their hideouts is preserved in Meade, but the true lover of Dalton Gang lore takes a trip east, cross state, to Coffeyville, where two of the Dalton brothers (and two of their henchmen) were shot dead on October 5, 1892.

Coffeyville showcases its civic chest-thumping to the Dalton Defenders Museum, an oddly-named nod to the martyred heroes of the day. It exhibits a collection of artifacts, old photos, and a horse-drawn hearse (the type used "to carry the Dalton bodies to their graves"). The place has a wall-size photo of the Dalton Gang's corpses, and visitors can walk across the actual threshold and through the actual vault doorway of the two banks that the gang robbed just before an irate citizenry blew their brains out.

And, perhaps echoing the "hail of bullets" theme, the Dalton Defenders Museum has another unique and -- potentially, at least -- deadly display: a plaster replica of the "largest hailstone on record," 17.5 inches in circumference, 1.67 pounds.

A hearse just like this carried Dalton bodies to their graves.
A hearse just like this carried Dalton bodies to their graves.

It fell on Coffeyville on September 3, 1970, roughly a century after the Dalton carnage. "Scientists concluded that it struck the ground at a rate of speed of about 105 mph." Wouldn't that have smashed it into smaller hailstones? Or maybe the 1.67-pounder is a smaller hailstone.

There's a scary thought.

In July 2010 the Coffeyville hailstone was finally surpassed in size by one that fell in Vivian, Nebraska, with an 18.625-inch circumference and a weight of 1.93 pounds. But you can't see that hailstone in a museum, let alone a museum as memorable as the one in Coffeyville.

Also see: Death Alley | Death Sidewalk

RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Dalton Defenders Museum

Address:
814 Walnut St, Coffeyville, KS
Directions:
Downtown, South Walnut St south of 8th St.
Hours:
M-Sa 10 am - 4 pm, Su 1-4pm. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
620-251-2550
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Dalton Death Alley

Address:
814 S. Walnut Street, Coffeyville, KS
Directions:
Just west of S. Walnut St., between E. 8th and 9th Sts.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Field of Weird College Wood ArtField of Weird College Wood Art, Coffeyville, KS - < 1 mi.
The Dead ZoneThe Dead Zone, Coffeyville, KS - < 1 mi.
Dalton Gang GraveDalton Gang Grave, Coffeyville, KS - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Lead Toxic, Tornado Ravaged Ghost Town, Picher, OK - 43 mi.

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