Montgomery County KY Daltons

The Myth

Benjamin Dalton and James Lewis Dalton of Montgomery County KY were children of James and Agatha Patterson Dalton of Pittsylvania County VA and Hawkins County TN.

Source of the Myth

The genealogy of the famous Dalton Gang of the American West is reasonably clear back to their grandparents, Benjamin and Nancy Rabourn Dalton.  Benjamin and Nancy married in Montgomery County KY in 1815.  The matter in dispute is the identity of the parents of Benjamin Dalton.  In The Dalton Gang Story, Nancy Samuelson indicated that Benjamin was the brother of James Lewis Dalton of Montgomery County, and that they were children of James and Agatha Patterson of Pittsylvania County VA and Hawkins County TN.  Samuelson never claimed documentation for this relationship, only that it was arrived at "largely through a process of elimination."

Straightening the Record

Fact 1:  Documention and inference. The best record available for the birth-decade of Benjamin Dalton is the 1830 census in Owen County IN where his age was listed between 40 and 50.  This would place his birth in the 1780s.

Fact 2: Documentation and inference. The most likely birthyear for Benjamin Dalton is 1788 or 1789. Nancy Dalton's application for a War of 1812 pension for her husband was based on his military service in Estill County KY (National Archives). KY military records confirm this service. A Benjamin Dalton, Jr., appeared in the tax lists of Pittsylvania County VA in 1810. This was the last time he appeared in those tax lists. A Benjamin Dalton appeared for the first time in the 1812 tax list in Estill County KY. Documentation supports only two Benjamins living in the American South during this time: one in Pittsylvania County VA that appeared consistently in tax lists and who would have been by age the Benjamin, Sr. in the 1810 Pittsylvania list; and one who appeared in Lawrence County IN in the 1820 census whose household pattern appears to be Benjamin and Nancy Dalton. The pattern of tax list and the scarcity of Benjamins makes it likely the 1810 listing for Benjamin, Jr., was the gang's grandfather. If so, this first tax listing would have placed his birth in 1789. (There is a second Benjamin Dalton listed in the Pittsylvania tax list in 1804, after which he does not appear again. This seems most likely a double entry for Benjamin, Sr., but if it is the gang's grandfather it would make his birthyear 1782 or 1783.)

Fact 3:  Documentation. James Dalton and Agatha Patterson were married in Pittsylvania County VA, 19 January 1791 (Pittsylvania marriage bonds).

Fact 4:  Documentation. James Lewis Dalton was born in 1798 or 1799. His burial record indicated that at his death on 22 June 1879 he was 80 years, 10 months, and 4 days old. Thus his birth was 18 August 1798. This date is consistent with the census in 1850, 1860, and 1870.  He indicated under oath in Nancy Dalton's pension application that he was 79 years old on 3 May 1879,consistent with a birth in August 1798.

Fact 5:  Documentation. No male born in these dates is included in James Dalton's 1820 census entry in Pittsylvania County VA.  Lewis did not appear in the 1820 Montgomery County KY census.

Fact 6:  Documentation. James Lewis Dalton would have been taxable in Virginia in 1815 at age 16. James Dalton who married Agatha Patterson had one male over 16 in his household every year from 1816 through 1820 (Tax Lists for Pittsylvania County VA).  If James Lewis were in the household he would also have been listed.

Fact 7: Documentation. James Lewis would have been taxable in Kentucky in 1820. He did not appear in the Montgomery County KY tax lists that year. Nor did he appear living with Benjamin Dalton.

What the facts tell us about the myth?

No record or document supports the parentage of James and Agatha Patterson Dalton for either Benjamin or James Lewis Dalton of Montgomery County KY. 

The following suggests that James and Agatha were not the parents of Benjamin:

The following suggests other parentage for James Lewis Dalton:

Although the records indicate that the families of Benjamin and James Lewis Dalton were close throughout their lives, this closeness could be attributable to the wives -- Nancy Rabourn Dalton and Matilda Rabourn Dalton -- who were sisters. This relationship is documented in Henry Rabourn's will (Montgomery County KY WB E:32-33). Nothing in the will indicates that the two sisters were married to brothers. No documentation precludes Benjamin and James Lewis being brothers, but no documentation supports the relationship either.

Prepared by James F. Klumpp with research compiled with Melanie Crain.

Last revised July 4, 2018.

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