Grandma Barlow and the Dalton Gang


(From news paper in Portland, OR)

“She has always know what to put on her head — Mary Jane Barlow formerly of Kansas and Oklahoma. 

When the slender, aristocratic little lady stepped off the train in Portland to be met by her daughter, Mrs. Fern Craghead, 1944 NW Johnson street, with whom she will make her home, a black hat with a curling scarlet feather topped the soft waves of her white hair. Nevertheless, a more famous bonnet belongs to Mrs. Barlow, one which became notorious on a crisp day in October, 1892, at the then tiny border town of Canney, Kansas. 

Irish Mrs. Barlow, a dark-haired colleen who’s husband was mayor of the town, was out hanging clothes up on the line. She heard shots and the wild clatter of hoofs coming from the direction of the Caney Valley Bank only a block away.  Before she could turn around, however, a bullet clipped through the top of her peaked sunbonnet. 

It wasn’t till later that she learned from frenzied townsfolk that the bank had been robbed by the Dalton gang and that it was one of their bullets which had missed her head by inches. Two of the lawless Dalton’s, Grant and Bob later were shot down at Coffeyville, fifteen miles away, when they attempted robbing two banks at once. Emmett Dalton, imprisoned and later pardoned, would too suffer from his wounds for a lifetime. 

Hardier survivors than they are Mrs. Barlow and her bonnet; the first an alert and vigorous 87 and a great-great grandmother; the second still reposing in a trunk at home.”


Gathering in my grandmother Mary, I sometimes think she is the one actually gathering in me! I want to find this newspaper article to give it a proper citation. The story is questionable and I don’t know if it a story or an actual experience.  More research is surely needed!

Yet even if the facts are incorrect, I feel that I can hear Mary’s voice coming through the newsreport. Mary is a teller of tales. She doesn’t just wear a sun bonnet, she wears a peeked sun bonnet. It’s the details a storyteller remembers to add. 

Mary’s people on her mothers side came from Ireland in the early 1800s.  After arriving, likely in Philadelphia, the family made their way west to Pittsburg and on to the Ohio river.  Her people were among the early settlers of Fleminsburg, Kentucky.

My mom, Sandi Taylor, remembered her Grandmother Barlow having the bluest eyes she ever saw.  I remember my mom’s beautiful blue eyes.  Looking out in the brilliant blue winter sky, I honor them both.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s