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The colorful town of Quay fades into history books

QUAY, Okla. (AP) -- This vestige of the Old West along the Payne-Pawnee county line just east of Stillwater is rich with the memories of the outlaws that used to hide out here.

Arthur Ford's grandparents, William and Lizzie Ford, told him of feeding the Dalton Gang when they came through town.

"A few hours later, a posse would come up and ask about the gang, and my grandfather would say he'd never seen them," said Ford, 86.

But for all its storied past, Quay is no longer officially a town. A judge recently dissolved it because elections had not been held in several years.

Still, it remains a point of contact with the past.

The Dalton Gang was notorious for its crime spree of robbing banks and trains throughout Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. They were known for hiding out in caves in Oklahoma Territory.

Most of the action in Quay, formerly known as Lawson, came at a cave hide-out in a nearby cedar forest on a hill. The hill offered the perfect vantage point for the Daltons and others to spot approaching lawmen.

Dalton Cave is adorned with graffiti inside, not the kind you see sprayed on bridge abutments, but carved painstakingly into the sides of the cave. Graffiti signatures tell that "Zickefoose 1913" was here. So was "Okla Bill June 1913," and "Orin Warnock Oct 19 1912."

Time and erosion has worn down many of the notations. There is a spur on a boot here, a heart there. Once the cave was big enough to shelter people and horses, with a stone overhang.

A stone monument had a plaque detailing how outlaw Bill Doolin was shot by federal marshals on Aug. 24, 1896 on Quay's western edge.

The plaque was stolen in the 40s, said Ford, who added students used to picnic at the cave.

Unofficial tourists notwithstanding, the owners of the land where the cave is tucked away aren't anxious for the cave to be on any tourist maps.

Kay and Jack Fritchman said they don't plan to open the property to the public, although they are contemplating building a house on the hill for the view.
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