Bea Elizabeth Phillips

The Myth

Bea Elizabeth Dalton was the daughter of James Lewis Dalton and Adeline Lee Younger and a sister to the infamous late 19th century Dalton gang who terrorized Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Source of the Myth

Twentieth century oral history in the Phillips family names Bea Elizabeth as daughter of James and Adeline Dalton. Evidence on recent tombstones documenting this relationship appears to be the result of incorporation of this later oral history rather than from sources contemporary with her death. There are also documents circulating which seem to validate this claim. When compared to originals held in official repositories, these documents show inconsistencies with the originals and may reflect the oral history rather than official records. Others of the documents are later modifications of original documents through amendment or late filing that seem to be based on the oral history.

Nancy B. Samuelson in her book The Dalton Gang Story cites this Phillips' family oral history as a source for identifying Bea Elizabeth with Lelia Dalton (p. 39). She also reports from the family's oral history a first marriage to a Harrison before marrying Tom Phillips.

The Phillips' Family Oral History

The Phillips family's twentieth century oral history claims Bea Elizabeth was born 1856 in Harrisonville, Missouri, and died 1894 in Indian Territory (today's Oklahoma), and that she was the daugher of James Lewis and Adeline Younger Dalton. Family sources indicate she left home and traveled some 300-400 miles into Indian Territory and then to Texas before the 1870 census, thus leaving home for this journey at age 13.

Another element of the oral history indicates that she is one and same with Lelia Dalton, daughter of James and Adeline, named as deceased by Emmett Dalton in 1918. Another element indicates that she married a James Harrison before marrying Thomas Louis Phillips and may have had a daughter with Harrison.

Non-contemporaneous Records Reflecting Phillips' Oral History

The following records rely on information from the family for their accuracy:

Straightening the Record

Fact Set 1:  Documentation: Censuses for Lewis and Adeline Dalton record their family

1870:   Cass County MO, Mount Pleasant Twnshp, 26 Aug 1870, Family 75. 
  James L. Dolton, 44
  Adeline, 43
  Charles B[enjamin], 18, b. MO
  Henry C[oleman], 16, b. MO
  Littleton, 12, b. MO 
  Franklin, 11, b. MO
  Grotten, 9, b. KS 
  Mason, 5,  b. MO
  Eva May, 3,  b. MO
  Robert, 1,  b. MO.
1880:  Bates Cty MO, West Point Township, Family 97.
  Lewis Dalton,  54
  Adaline C.,  44
  Mason,  15,  b. MO
  Eva May,  13,  b. MO
  Robt,  11, b. MO
  Emma,  9,  b. MO
  Leona,  6,  b. MO
  Nancy,  4,  b. MO
  Simon,  1,  b. MO.
1890: Kingfisher County, IT, Territorial Census. Families 181 and 182. 
  Charles B. Dalton, 38, b. MO
  Adaline L. Dalton, 55, b. MO
  Leona, 16, b. MO
  Nancy, 14, b. MO
  Simon, 12, b. MO
1900: Kingfisher County, IT, Territorial Census. Family 124. 
  Adaline L. Dalton, Head, 64, widowed, b. Sep 1835, MO 
  Charles B., son, 48, single, b. Feb. 1852, MO
  Leona R., 25, single, b. Jul 1874, MO

This record indicates all children but Grat b. MO.

Fact Set 2:  Documentation. Censuses for the Family of Bea Elizabeth Phillips consistently indicate her birth state as Texas.

1900: Indian Territory, Chickasaw Nation, 18 Jun 1900, Family 181 line 56
  Thos Phillips, 51, b. TX
  Wm, son, 17, b. TX, mother b. TX
  Lee, son, 16, b. TX, mother b. TX
  Robert, son, 13, b. TX, mother b. TX
  Pearl, daughter, 10, b. TX, mother b. TX
  Jesse, son, 10, b. TX, mother b. TX
1910: Oklahoma, Jefferson County, ED 5, Sheet 4A, Family 35.
  Lee Phillips, servant, 21, b. TX, mother b. TX 
1910: Oklahoma, Oklahoma County, ED 212, Sheet 5a
  Wm J., 30, b. TX, mother b. TX.
1920: Oklahoma, Garvin County, Elmore Twp, Foster Pct, 8 Jun 1920, Family 19
  Tom L. Philips, 66, b. TX 
  Margeritte A (wife), 66
  Lee A (Bea's son), 31, b. TX, both parents born TX.
1940: Brady Township, Garvin County, OK. ED. 25-4, Sheet 1-A.
  JJ Phillips, 47, b. TX.

Fact 3: Documentation. "AFFIDAVIT OF DEATH. STATE OF KANSAS, Montgomery County. In the Probate Court, in and for said County. In the matter of the Estate of Robt. Dalton & Gratton Dalton late of said County, deceased. On the 15th day of October A.D. 1892, personally appeared before me, the undersigned Judge of said Court, W.M. Dalton who being by me duly sworn, according to law, doth upon his oath depose and say that Robert Dalton and Gratton Dalton died on the 5th day of October A.D. 1892 at Montgomery County, and State aforesaid, that to the best of his knowledge and belief, the names and places of residence of the heirs of the deceased are as follows, to-wit: Adeline L Dalton mother of the deceased, Kingfisher, Ok. Charles B Dalton (brother of deceased) Kingfisher Ok. Henry C. (ditto). Mrs. E.D. Whipple sister (ditto) and Miss Leona Dalton sister (ditto). Simon M Dalton brother (ditto) minor. Nannie (ditto). And that deceased died without a will, as affiant verily believes. And further states that the said Robt Dalton, Gratton Dalton died seized and possessed of personal estate consisting chiefly of cash, gold watches jewelry, six shooters, Winchester Saddles, bridles. One horse and a diamond ring. All of said estate being estimated to be worth about Twenty Six hundred Dollars. Your petitioner would therefore respectfully pray that your honor will grant Letters of Administration to him the undersigned. [signed] W.M. Dalton. subscribed and sworn to before me, the day and years first above written. [signed] Daniel Cline, Probate Judge." Note: Bill Dalton lists no sister Bea Elizabeth among heirs. This is two years before recorded death of Bea Elizabeth.

Fact 4: Alternative Family History by Lewis and Adeline's son Emmett Dalton. "Our family was a large one, fifteen in all – ten boys and five girls. Seven, including myself, are now living, as is our mother.... Our family, besides our parents, consisted of Ben, now a farmer in Oklahoma; Cole, now living in New Mexico; Louis, who is dead; Littleton, still a ranchman in California; Lelia, who is dead; Frank, who was killed while serving as a United States marshal; Gratton, who was killed in the Coffeyville, Kansas, raid; William, a stock raiser in California, now dead; Eva, alive; Robert, who was also killed in Coffeyville; myself; Leona, also alive; Nammie, dead; and finally the twins Simon and Adeline, of whom Simon is still alive." Beyond the Law, 1918. Note: The order listed here is from oldest to youngest for those listed in censuses. The two dead siblings, Louis and Lelia, were not in the 1870 census.

Fact 5: Littleton Dalton's account of of families location in 1850s and 1860s. "Mother used to tell me that I was born October 2, 1857, at the Blue Cut, near Independence, Missouri. . . . Father didn't stay at the Blue Cut very long. . . . In 1860 Father was given two hundred acres of good land about a mile and half below Denver, Colorado. . . . Father stopped a few months on the land and then got in his covered wagon and drove off and left it. . . . The family moved out of the covered wagon and into a log house at Denver. (p. 3-4). The Civil War caught us at Lawrence, Kansas. (p. 22)." Frank F. Latta, ed. Dalton Gang Days.

What do the facts tell us about the myth?

Was Bea Elizabeth Phillips' born Dalton?

As of this date, there is no contemporaneous documentary record that would support a positive answer to this question. No record of the marriage of Thomas Phillips and Bea Elizabeth has been found to support the surname.

It seems that the Phillips family oral history supported this as early as 1931. The multiple references given in official documents after that time were inconsistent in listing the mother's surname. It is fair to conclude the the mother's name was probably not foremost in family memory.

Except for the listings of Bea Elizabeth as Harris or Harrison from the family's memory, no evidence has indicated an alternative maiden name. A variation on the oral history is that she was married to a Harrison before marrying Tom Phillips, but to this date no record of that marriage has been found.

Was Bea Elizabeth the daughter of James Lewis and Adeline Younger Dalton?

This seems unlikely. There is considerable documentary evidence of the children of the Daltons. No contemporary documentary record connects Bea Elizabeth to the Daltons and nowhere is Bea Elizabeth acknowledged by those who would be of her generation.

Any validity to the claim would seem to rest on the equating of Bea Elizabeth with a daughter, Lelia, mentioned by Emmett Dalton. If this were Bea Elizabeth, the story would entail a 12 year old, Lelia, leaving home in Missouri, taking an odyssey through the dangerous frontier to emerge later in Texas totally estranged from the parents. Several facts make this seem unlikely. First, the most detailed account of the Dalton family life through the 1860s and 1870s is by Littleton Dalton, recorded in the book Dalton Gang Days edited by Frank F. Latta. Littleton's description of the disruptions of his father's lifestyle could indicate instability in the family. However, his account of Adeline Dalton and her efforts on behalf of her children during this time makes such a narrative seem inconsistent with Littleton's account.

Second, the original connection of the Daltons outside of Missouri were not south but to the west. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, they were in Kansas Territory and in the state of Kansas. Around 1870 they began connections to California. It is only much later, in the late 1880s that they began to move south from Missouri.

Finally, it seems that Lelia probably does not fit Bea Elizabeth's birthyear. Emmett Dalton lists his siblings in an order that is oldest to youngest according to those who appear in the census. His ordering puts the deceased son Louis who is not in the 1870 census between Cole and Littleton, thus born between 1853 and 1857. His ordering puts the daughter Lelia not between Cole and Littleton where she would be for an 1856 birthyear but between Littleton and Franklin, thus probably born in 1858. During this time the family was in Missouri and Kansas, and no record of their ever being in Texas.

Nor does the overall Phillips' family memory support a Missouri birth, in fact indicating otherwise. Her children consistently place their mother's birthplace in Texas. There is currently no evidence that the Daltons lived in Texas, and no record any of their children were born there. Since that same Phillips' family memory is virtually the only source of the name Dalton and the relationship in the first place, dismissing the consistency of Texas as birthplace as attributable to faulty memory places doubt on the thesis itself.

We should add that although there is evidence that the Daltons had a daughter Lelia, there is no documentary evidence that links Lelia to Bea Elizabeth as the same person. Nor to this point has any information recording the memory of any child of James Lewis and Adeline Dalton who acknowledged a sibling Bea Elizabeth.

A Note for Further Research

There is considerable evidence in this case that in recent generations some members of the family have worked aggressively to support the oral history of the relationship of Bea Elizabeth to the Dalton family. Researchers should be particularly careful to verify documentary evidence with its original source, and avoid taking photocopies or electronic reproductions of evidence as genuine.

Prepared and Researched by Tom Cloud with assistance from James F. Klumpp. If you find evidence supporting or refuting this myth please contact the author.

Source documents are available.

Last revised May 29, 2015

Return to Myth Home Page