"Little Dick" West
(1865 - April 7, 1898)
Richard West's early years are hazy, but it is believed he was born in Texas. He migrated to Oklahoma as a hired hand on a trail drive and worked on the Halsell ranch in Oklahoma. West was considered a good reliable cowboy. It was here Dick West met Bill Doolin and joined the gang in 1892.
West was with the Doolin gang when they robbed the bank in Southwest City, Missouri. The robbery seemed to be going as planned until the gang mount their horses to leave town. An alarm had been sounded, the citizens armed forced the Doolin Gang to fight their way out of town. In the wild exchange, the gang members were shooting at everybody. Two people exited a building to see what the shooting was all about and Dick West seriously wounded these two innocent bystanders. West received wounds during the flight.
At Dover, OK, West assisted the rest of the gang in a train hold-up. Following Bill Doolin to New Mexico, West once again worked as a cowboy here until 1897. Doolin had returned to Oklahoma and was killed in 1896.
Returning to Oklahoma in 1897, West helped form the Jennings Gang. This Three Stooges type group bungled almost every attempt. They were unsuccessful trying to rob a train at Edmond and Bond Switch, OK and frightened away at a bank robbery in Minco, OK. Another unsuccessful train attempt in Chickasa and a store hold-up in Cushing, West left the gang doing odd jobs.
With Bill Doolin gone, the "Three Guardsman" (Bill Tilghman, Heck Thomas and Chris Madsen) concentrated on individual members of the gang. While in Guthrie, OK, Tilghman and Thomas were told of a suspicious person living in a dugout nearby. Tilghman instantly recognized a description of this person's horse as belonging to Dick West.
Forming a posse of six, the lawmen scouted for Dick West. Early in the morning, Tilghman and Thomas spotted a man walking through the woods. West saw the lawmen and headed to a nearby house where his horse was corralled.
A letter to historian Glenn Shirley by one of the posse members describes the final moments:
As Fossett and Rinehart (members of the posse) approached the house, they saw a man step into the breeze- way to look close at them. He then stepped from view, but reappeared beside a little building at the rear, walking toward the stable yard. They yelled that they wanted to speak to him, but he jerked his six-shooter, firing and running toward the wire fence enclosing the lot. Both men fired at him as he dived under the last strand, one shot going under his right shoulder blade and through his body. He ran, I would estimate, about 150 yards beyond the fence, reloading as he ran, and turned in the act of firing when he died.
Described as wild-eyed and cunning, West was rumored to be equally accurate using six-shooter in either hand - sometimes fighting with guns in both hands.
Dick West is buried in the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, OK near Bill Doolin.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm