George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb was a member of the Wild Bunch, an outlaw gang led by Bill Doolin.
Newcomb, Charlie Pierce, Bill Dalton and six others formed the gang also known as the Doolin/ Dalton
Gang. They robbed banks and trains in the Oklahoma and Indian Territories as well as Kansas for four
George Newcomb, the son of a “...respected family which lived near Ft. Scott, Kansas” was born
around 1860. He was described as a “handsome, devil-may-care cowboy with an eye for a pretty girl...”
Newcomb worked for a well known cattleman Charlie C. Slaughter at the age of 12 and picked up the
nickname “Slaughter Kid”. His alias “Bitter Creek” was derived from a cowboy ditty he liked, “I’m a
wild wolf from Bitter Creek and it’s my night to howl”. A creek named Bitter Creek also ran through
the Slaughter Ranch, so when asked where he came from he would answer “Bitter Creek”.
Newcomb settled a claim in Oklahoma on May 20, 1891 at a bend in the Cimarron River north east of
Guthrie near Pleasant Valley. Dick West, Dick Broadwell, Zipp Wyatt and other known outlaws had
claims in this area and it was also called “Outlaw Flats”. Newcomb relinquished his claim in March,
1892 but remained near Guthrie when he was not robbing banks or trains.
Bill Doolin and “Bitter Creek” first struck on October 12, 1892, only seven days after the deaths of
the Dalton’s in Coffeyville, Kansas. They robbed the eastbound DM&A train as it left Caney, Kansas
and reported a take of $1,500.
On November 1, 1892 they continued their reign when Doolin, Newcomb and Ol’ Yantis robbed the Ford
County Bank in Spearville, Kansas of $1,697. Five members of the Wild Bunch including Bill Doolin,
Bill Dalton, Tulsa Jack, Dynamite Dick and Newcomb robbed the Santa Fe train near Cimarron, Kansas on
June 11, 1893 of $1,000.
On September 1, 1893, George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb and the Wild Bunch were involved in one of the most
famous shoot-outs in Oklahoma history at Ingalls. Ingalls lay 35 miles northeast of Guthrie and eleven
miles east of Stillwater. The Cherokee Outlet was about to be opened for white settlement and lawmen
wanted to get the Wild Bunch dead or alive before the opening.
It was not unusual for the gang to see strangers in wagons passing through Ingalls. Relaxing in the
Ransom and Murray Saloon, the Wild Bunch were playing cards and Arkansas Tom was in his hotel room. A
couple of wagons rolled into town, one went on through town but the other one stopped in the street.
Winchester in hand, Bitter Creek left the saloon in time to see Dell Simmons, an Ingalls youth, talking
to a stranger from the wagon that stopped. He overheard the lad exclaiming “Why, that’s Bitter Creek
Newcomb!” and turned to see the lad pointing at him. Bitter Creek reacted for his Winchester just as
Deputy Dick Speed, the stranger, threw up his rifle and fired. Speeds bullet shattered the magazine
on Newcomb’s Winchester driving part of it into his leg. Bitter Creek’s first shot went wild and was
unable to get off a second shot with the damaged gun. Deputy Speed stepped up and took aim for a final
shot at Bitter Creek. In the meantime, Arkansas Tom heard the shots, ran to his second floor hotel
room window in time to see Deputy Speed take aim at Newcomb. Arkansas Tom shot Speed, hitting him
first in the shoulder and killing him instantly with his second shot. Newcomb, in severe pain, managed
to get on his horse and ride south out of Ingalls.
Doolin, Dalton, Tulsa Jack, Dynamite Dick, and Red Buck all opened fire from the saloon, covering
Bitter Creek’s escape. Disappearing into the timber line along the creek, Bitter Creek heard the
first round of firing cease.
Legend has it that Bitter Creek was rescued by his girlfriend “Rose of the Cimarron” from the streets
of Ingalls. This story was determined to have been contrived later when Arkansas Tom, Bill Tilghman,
performers from the 101 Ranch and Pawnee Bill Wild West shows, helped with the production of “The
Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws”. Tilghman did not like the idea of incorporating the “Rose” saga but
went along with it. After his death, Zoe Tilghman, his widow, stated that if Bill said the Rose of the
Cimarron helped Bitter Creek escape, it was true because “Bill didn’t lie” and she wanted to protect
Bill Tilghman’s reputation for honesty.
Unfortunately, the yout (14 year old Del Simmons) who identified Bitter Creek to the officer became one
of the innocent victims of the shoot-out. Either mistaken be both lawmen and outlaws as being a member
of the other side or the victim of an errant shot, he took a slyg during the funfight and died later
At the creek crossing, Bitter Creek met a family on their way to Ingalls. He paused to yell, “Tell
my pals I can do them no good - I’m bad hurt and have only a farmer’s gun” (meaning he could only
load his rifle with one cartridge at a time.) After the shooting ceased, officers went in search of
Bitter Creek. They found a bloody pool of water at the creek crossing where he washed his wound and
evidence of where he had rested in a cornfield. Bitter Creeks trail led to Fall City, two miles
southeast of Ingalls, then east out of town where the posse lost it.
The piece of the magazine or the bullet that struck it, in Bitter Creek’s leg prevented him from being
able to ride. Eventually it worked itself out and he was able to ride a horse again and rejoin his
cohorts. Back on the trail, Doolin, Newcomb and Tulsa Jack pulled off another robbery on January 23,
1894 at the Farmers and Citizens Bank in Pawnee O.T. They only made off with $262 because the time
lock on the vault was active.
Doolin learned from circumstances surrounding the Dalton’s deaths in Coffeyville, Kansas. He chose
not to wait as Grat Dalton had done. Doolin sacked up money laying on the counter. He then put cashier
C.L. Berry, on his horse behind him to keep the towns people from opening fire on the gang. When
safely out of town Berry was ordered off the horse and the gang escaped through the woodlands of
Black Bear Creek into the Osage reservation.
Around 8:00 on the evening of April 1, 1894, Dalton and Newcomb attempted to rob the store of W.H.
“Bill “ Carr at Sacred Heart O.T., a Catholic mission community above the Canadian River near the
Seminole border. Carr, a retired deputy marshal resisted with pistol in hand. He was shot through
the stomach, however, he managed to stay on his feet long enough to wound Newcomb in the left
shoulder. Running into the darkness, Dalton escaped to a new hideout across the Canadian River into
the Chickasaw Nation. Bitter Creek fled into Seminole country where an Indian woman dressed his
wound and then he headed north to Ingalls. Both Newcomb and Carr recovered from their wounds.
Still looking for the Wild Bunch, deputies surrounded “Rock Fort” on the Dunn farm March 3, 1895.
The Dunn farm was located south of Pawnee in Payne County on Council Creek east of Ingalls. The
“weather beaten cabin” was considered a safe haven for outlaws.
Lawmen came away from Rock Fort with several small time outlaws that day, but none of the notorious
members of the Wild Bunch they had hoped for.
Pierce, Raidler, Newcomb, Tulsa Jack and Red Buck, members of the Wild Bunch, robbed the Rock Island
train near Dover O.T. on April 3, 1895. They netted $1,437.50 and made their get away.
After the Dover robbery, it is speculated Bitter Creek may have been kicked out of the Wild Bunch
for killing an old preacher man named Godfrey. Bitter Creek and Pierce were in need of horses to
replace the one they both were riding on. Bitter Creek told the preacher they were going to take
his team but the preacher refused. Grabbing for his shotgun in resistance, Godfrey was shot and
killed. It was felt that Newcomb was responsible for the killing because after the shooting,
Newcomb and Pierce returned to Rock Fort alone.
On May 1, 1895, Bitter Creek Newcomb and Charlie Pierce were slain at Rock Fort. Controversy
surrounds their deaths with several versions of what happened to the pair but it is generally
accepted that they were killed by the Dunn brothers, Bill, John and Dal.
The Dunn brothers arrived in Guthrie with the bodies of Newcomb and Pierce. Both bodies were “...in
full clothes with boots and spurs on, and armed to the teeth. Besides a Winchester each, they had
on a revolver apiece and belts of cartridges for both instruments of death.”
When they were stripped of their clothing, it was found that Pierce was riddled with up to 35 wounds,
any of which could have been fatal. Newcomb had five wounds, mostly to the head and neck area though
one of the wounds had torn away part of his forehead, exposing his brain.
The Dunn’s reported to officers that when the two outlaws came to Rock Fort there was a
confrontation and an ensuing gun battle took place. Lawmen were skeptical of the story. Pierce’s
body was swollen, meaning he had apparently been dead for some time yet Newcomb’s body was not.
This gave the impression he had not been dead as long as Pierce. Gunshot wounds in the bottom of
Pierce’s feet, gave rise to the idea that he was laying down when he was shot. Speculation that
Newcomb and Pierce passed out after drinking with the Dunn brothers then were shot by the brothers
as they slept.
The Dunn’s presumed Newcomb was dead because of a wound to his head when in fact he
was only unconscious. On the way to Guthrie they realized their error and finished the job they
started. This would explain why Newcomb’s body was not swollen when they arrived in Guthrie.
Either way, George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb was dead. His father claimed his body and took him home
to Nine Mile Flats, west of Norman, Oklahoma for burial on the family farm. The wild wolf from
Bitter Creek would howl no more.
Some aspects of this account are in dispute. The OHP article contains an appropriate disclaimer.
However, this version agrees with historical consensence.