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Legendary Lawman William "Dave" Allison

Having spent a week in Las Vegas, Nevada this month for SHOT Show I was anticipating an article of some famous lawman from Vegas history. Unfortunately, Vegas didn’t become a city until 1911 and didn’t begin to boom until the Hoover Dam (anticipate an article about the dam in the future) was completed (1935) and during the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s. Of course we all know about the boom created by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky… but that’s another story.

So, without a daring Las Vegas lawman from history I went back to my reader’s requests and pulled out none other than William Davis “Dave” Allison, another noteworthy lawman from the great state of Texas that was once a Texas Ranger. Following this month’s lawman column expect a series of articles on firearms in law enforcement. We’ll explore some history, breakthroughs and blunders. I hope you find it entertaining.

Having read two texts that referenced Dave Allison in the past I had to go through my notes to remember where I came across his name. I finally found the most significant quote from a noteworthy fellow, a young George S. Patton, who would say of Allison: “The most noted gunman here in Texas.” In fact, almost every notation referencing Allison described him as fearless, level headed and deadly with a firearm but also modest and self-deprecating.

Born in Ohio (1861), he eventually moved to Texas and would become the youngest sheriff in the Lone Star State at the age of 27. Elected as the Midland, Texas Sheriff in 1888, he would serve six terms and would go on to become a Texas Ranger serving under Captain John R. Hughes. In 1903 the Arizona legislature would increase the number of Rangers to 26 and on April 27, Allison would become an Arizona Ranger. He was issued (as were all the Arizona Rangers) a horse, saddle, pack gear, Colt .45 and a .30-.30 rifle.  Eventually rising to the rank of First Sergeant, he would earn $110 monthly.

His immediate supervisor, Captain Thomas Rynning, would state referring to Allison’s nerve, “Cool as ice he was, and he’d left school before he learned to spell the word ‘fear.’ He was a grand party when it come to any kind of scrimmage.

As with most lawmen in the old west (here we go again), Dave has his problems.  It seams that Dave Allison had a penchant for gambling; more specifically, cards. This would eventually cost him his job with the Arizona Rangers and he would find gainful employment as a hired gun for the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company protecting mining magnate Bill Greene during the vicious 1906 mine strikes in Sonora, Mexico. Allison had other occasions to do private work and while employed as a range detective he led a posse across West Texas following Pascual Orozco, a Mexican revolutionary leader and four of his compadres. After a brief gunfight all five men lay dead and the posse was charged with political assassination. Eleven members were indicted for murder, including Allison, but were found innocent by the jury in October 1915. He was also noted as being the Chief of Police in Roswell, New Mexico (before it became UFO central).

While working as field inspectors for the Texas Cattle Raisers Association, Allison and partner Horace Roberson had gathered evidence in and around Seminole, Texas against Hill Loftis (aka Tom Ross) and Milton Paul Good. Scheduled to testify the following day Allison and Roberson were in a hotel lobby jammed with other trial participants when Ross and Good walked in and, armed with revolvers and shotguns, shot and killed the two inspectors. Hearing shots fired in the lobby, Martha, Allison’s wife, hurried downstairs to find her husband dead on the floor. She proceeded outside armed with her .25 caliber revolver and fired upon the fleeing Rodd and Good. To her credit, one bullet ricocheted off Ross’ belt buckle and tore into his stomach. When their car ran out of fuel just outside of town they surrendered and were both sentenced to the Texas State Penitentiary only to escape on November 29, 1925.

Good was apprehended in Antlers, Oklahoma and returned to Texas but was pardoned and later penned the book, Twelve Years in a Texas Prison. In an interesting twist, he would die years later when he was opening a gate and his car slipped out of gear, crushing him. Ross, now going by the name Charles Gannon would eventually get into an argument with a ranch foreman in Browning, Montana. This would result in Ross killing the man by gunshot and after leaving a note, finally committing suicide by shooting himself in the head.

If you’d like to read further into the life of Dave Allison I recommend: The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: the Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920 (By Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler) and Fearless Dave Allison: Border Lawman (Bob Alexander).

If you have an interesting character in your family tree or know of someone who warrants further examination, please drop me an email. A great many of the lawmen in these pages were introduced to me by current lawmen looking back on their own history.


About The Author:

Charles Bennett was born in our Nation's Capital and grew up in the Maryland suburbs. Mr. Bennett has been working in all aspects of the publishing industry since the late 1980s primarily in the fields of commercial photography and magazine production. Moving to California in 1992 to attend college resulted in B.F.A and Masters degrees. California also supplied Mr. Bennett with his wife. The two of them are avid sports persons and participate in shooting, scuba diving, surfing, running and bicycling. As a long time hobby Mr. Bennett has studied the legends of American law enforcement which led to his writing these columns.