By Craig Day, The News On 6
COFFEYVILLE, KANSAS -- Stealing a headstone is bad enough. It's even worse when it's part of old outlaw history.
But that's what happened just across the state line in Coffeyville, Kansas, where residents put an end to the Dalton gangs robbing ways nearly 120 years ago.
At the Dalton Defenders Museum in Coffeyville, they're welcoming a lot of visitors in town for the Dalton Defenders Days celebration.
"All that is just dedicated to the defenders themselves, not to the bandits. We try not to celebrate banditry," John Alvey, Dalton Museum Co-Curator, said.
The event commemorates the day in 1892 that townspeople got into a gun battle with the notorious train and bank robbers known as the Dalton gang.
"It was Coffeyville's first and one of the most famous occurrences," Alvey said.
Four gang members were killed. But as the town prepares to mark the event this year, there's something missing, thanks to thieves.
"My first reaction was that they were lower than the Dalton boys ever thought of being," said Wendy Alvey, Dalton Museum Co-Curator.
Someone took the headstone from the grave of three of the slain Dalton gang members from Elmwood Cemetery.
"Well, it would have weighed around four hundred pounds," John Alvey said. "It would have taken some hefty people to carry it off."
John Alvey and his wife Wendy are co-curators at the Dalton Defenders Museum in Coffeyville.
Wendy is appalled by the theft.
"Why would you desecrate somebody's final resting place. That's immoral. It's not just criminal, it's immoral," she said.
For now, the only things left at the outlaws' grave site are the monuments base, the iron hitching rail the outlaws used during the double bank robbery and the questions of who would take the marker and why.
"It certainly isn't something you can hock," Wendy Alvey said.
The Alvey's and others who love the town's history want the monument returned soon. If it is, they'll try to figure out how to make it more secure, to ensure part of the towns past is left intact.
If the grave marker isn't returned, a local monument company has offered to make a duplicate for free.