He dodged bullets at Ingalls in 1893 and for decades afterward.
Arkansas Tom Jones—real name Roy Daugherty—may have outlived his time, but he did not die a forgotten man. After detectives in Joplin, Missouri, finally gunned him down on August 16, 1924, some 5,000 people filed past his body at a local mortuary. While some were paying their respects, most, according to The Joplin News Herald, were “merely curious to view a man known to be of the type of fearless desperadoes who robbed, plundered and killed in the early days of outlawry….They knew that few of his kind have survived.”
Born about 1870 in Missouri, Daugherty grew up in the southwest corner of the state, across the border from Arkansas, where he likely spent enough time to justify his colorful nickname. In the summer of 1893, he drifted west into Oklahoma Territory and hooked up with outlaw leader Bill Doolin’s “Wild Bunch” (not to be confused with Butch Cassidy’s Wyoming-based Wild Bunch). The gang considered the town of Ingalls their haven, but U.S. Marshal Evett Dumas Nix learned of the outlaws’ whereabouts and sent a 13-man posse in two covered wagons to arrest them. When the posse arrived in town on September 1, 1893, Bill Doolin, Bill Dalton, George Newcomb and three other gang members were loitering in a saloon while Daugherty rested in an upstairs room of a nearby hotel.
As Deputy Marshal Dick Speed jumped from one of the wagons, he saw Newcomb emerge from the saloon. When a citizen identified the outlaw, the deputy opened fire, and an all-out gun battle erupted between the lawmen and the Wild Bunch, leaving Speed and 14-year-old bystander Del Simmons dead. As the gang ran from the saloon, mounted up and rode out of town, Daugherty provided cover from his upstairs window, mortally wounding Deputy Tom Hueston in the process. During the escape, Bill Dalton shot and killed Deputy Lafe Shadley, and when the gang fired a final barrage at the edge of town, a second bystander bit the dust.
Trapped inside the hotel, Daugherty fired shot after shot at the deputies, who in return peppered his room with bullets that smashed bowls and splintered woodwork. When the gunman learned his partners had fled town, he fumed at “the boys” for deserting him. Nix’s chief deputy, John Hale, soon arrived with reinforcements, and the posse promised Arkansas Tom its protection if he surrendered, which he ultimately did.
Authorities held Daugherty in Stillwater, Oklahoma Territory, for the killings of Speed, Hueston and Simmons. In February 1894, they moved him to the federal jail at Guthrie, and in mid-May he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 50 years in prison. After Daugherty tried to break out of the Guthrie jail in June, officials transferred him to the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing.
He returned to the outside world sooner than expected, thanks to Nix. About 1901 the former marshal had Daugherty released into his custody for a traveling Wild West show. On a tour of Missouri and other states, the prisoner appeared as “Oklahoma’s Most Notorious Criminal.” Daugherty was a traveling curiosity for only a short time before returning to Lansing for six more years. In 1907 he was transferred to the new Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester. Daugherty was granted parole in 1910, partly through the efforts of Nix again and legendary Deputy U.S. Marshals Bill Tilghman and Chris Madsen, who wanted Arkansas Tom for a movie they were making in Oklahoma. The trio of lawmen portrayed themselves in the film and gave Daugherty and outlaw Henry Starr bit parts. Released in 1915, Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws failed to spark a new career for the old Wild Bunch member.
On December 13, 1916, Arkansas Tom returned to life as an outlaw, holding up the Farmers and Miners Bank of Oronogo, Mo., with cousin Albert Johnson. At one point during the robbery, Daugherty momentarily removed his mask, and witnesses later described him as standing about 5 feet, 6 inches and 150 pounds with a dark complexion and dark hair.
A month later, on January 13, 1917, Daugherty and Johnson teamed up with Jessie Cutler and William Massee to rob the First National Bank of Fairview, Mo. A fifth member of the gang who sat out the robbery got angry because the others wouldn’t share the spoils. So he went to the authorities and spilled the beans. Lawmen soon arrested Johnson, Cutler and Massee in Joplin. Johnson and Cutler in turn incriminated Daugherty.
On February 19, two Joplin police detectives crossed the state line to Galena, Kan., to apprehend the notorious Arkansas Tom. When the detectives knocked on the door of the targeted house, Daugherty opened up, then made for a revolver on a table. But detective William Gibson, whom the outlaw knew, beat him. “I’m glad you got it, Billy,” Daugherty reportedly remarked. “If I had beat you to it, I would have had to kill you.”
Returned to Joplin, Daugherty admitted his participation in the recent bank robberies but steadfastly refused to identify his cronies or reveal where the stolen loot was stashed. The next day’s issue of The Joplin Globe referred to Daugherty as the “baddest bad man” and noted, “Talking is one of the things Arkansas Tom does not believe in.”
Regardless, lawmen soon brought Johnson, Cutler, Massee and Daugherty to Newton County to answer charges related to the Fairview holdup. All four pleaded guilty. The judge sentenced Daugherty to eight years in the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. His sidekicks received lesser sentences after Arkansas Tom reportedly sought leniency on their behalf. On March 12, Daugherty was sent up to the pen. In 1921, midway through his term, he was released on good behavior.
Daugherty’s behavior on the inside may have earned him early release, but once outside he soon drifted back into crime. On November 26, 1923, Daugherty and three partners held up the Bank of Asbury in Asbury, Mo. Two of the men remained in the car while the other two entered the bank and secured $1,000. But as the robbers emerged, citizens alerted by a burglar alarm opened fire. The outlaws made it to the getaway car, but the townspeople piled into another car and gave chase, engaging in a running gun battle. The following day, The Joplin News Herald reported that the bank robbers “fought their way to liberty, outwitting and outgeneraling their pursuers.”
Joplin motorcycle cop Clarence Allison tried to intercept the gang near Crestline, Kan., exchanging fire as they sped past him. When Allison gave chase, the robbers abandoned the car and took to the woods. Allison went after them and got the drop on three of the gang, but Daugherty managed to sneak up behind the officer. Pressing the barrel of his pistol against Allison’s back, he told him to drop his gun. Their prisoner in tow, the outlaws then marched back to the road. Commandeering a passing motorist’s car, they forced Allison to drive them to Oklahoma before releasing him unharmed. Allison later identified Daugherty from photos in the “rogue gallery” taken seven years earlier following the Oronogo bank robbery.
By mid-August 1924, authorities had chased down Daugherty’s three partners in the Asbury caper. On Saturday, August 16, Joplin Chief of Detectives William Gibson, the same man who had arrested Daugherty seven years earlier, got word the fugitive was staying in west Joplin. About 6:30 that evening, Gibson and Detective Len Van-Deventer hopped into a patrol car. The chief detective said later he was sure they were headed for a showdown, as they were “after a man who had shot first in 18 fatal encounters.”
At the suspect’s address, Gibson covered the rear of the house, while Van-Deventer approached the front. Daugherty had seen the policemen arrive and stepped out the back door, practically into Gibson’s arms. Both began firing. Daugherty’s first shot ripped through the officer’s straw hat, and his second went just wide before his pistol jammed. Meanwhile, Gibson got off four shots, wounding Daugherty, who turned and ducked back inside. In the front room, Van-Deventer dropped him with a single shot from his .44 revolver. Arkansas Tom pitched onto a nearby bed and died almost instantly.
Hurlbut Undertaking collected Daugherty’s body and put it on display the following day. Onlookers were eager to get a glimpse at one of the last links to the lawless days of yesteryear. After all, other Doolin Gang members had long since met their demise, and the Wild West had become increasingly mild. Arkansas Tom, the crowds knew, belonged to a vanishing breed.
Originally published in the August 2009 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.