From the (WOLA) Western Outlaw Lawmen History Association website, which provides a good amount of information about ‘Doc.’
Doc Middleton** was born James M. Riley in Bastrop County, Texas (his death certificate says he was born in Mississippi). Family members state the middle name was Middleton. Doc’s early years are confusing, but sorted out nicely by Harold Hutton in his book. Suffice to say, Doc got into some trouble in Texas, joined a cattle drive and headed to Nebraska.
The website link** above doesn’t seem to work anymore, so here is a link to the WWHA site, which also has a good article about Doc Middleton.
Fight with Outlaws.
OMAHA, July 26. Hazen, the detective wounded in a fight with Doc Middleton, has arrived here. Lewellyn, third detective in the fight, arrived at Fort Hartsuff and has left with soldiers from there for the place where Middleton is.
Later report shows the detectives treacherously fired on the outlaws, during negotiations. The outlaws promptly returned the fire. Middleton is severely wounded. Hazen badly and Llewellyn slightly. Black George and another outlaw were killed. The result will be the capture of Middleton and breaking up the gang.
Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine) Jul 28, 1879
A DESPERATE CONFLICT.
Chicago, July 24. — An Omaha special to the News gives meagre details of a desperate fight between a body of detectives and four desperadoes of Doc Middleton’s gang of thieves and murderers infesting the cattle country on the Niobara river which occurred Monday on one of the branches of the creek called Long Pine, 140 miles north of Grand Island. Shots were fired by two of the detectives and returned by the desperadoes, with effect upon each side, although no lives were lost. Hazen, one of the detectives, received three balls — one in the neck, one in the arm, and a third through his body below the ribs, coming out near the backbone.
S. Lewellyan, another of the detectives who was present at the fight, is missing, and the remaining detectives escaped without a scratch, and made their way to Columbus, 150 miles distant. Hagan reached the place safely and his wounds are not serious, though painful. Middleton would have been killed, had not the detective’s revolver missed fire four times. He was badly wounded in the groin, and it is thought he will die. He is being cared for by friends.
Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Jul 30, 1879
CHEYENNE, July 31. Doc Middleton, the notorious horse and cattle thief for whose capture large rewards were offered by different counties in Nebraska, was taken last Sunday in his camp on the Nebraska river, about 200 miles northwest of Columbus, Neb., and brought into that town this evening. Sunday morning, detectives and soldiers from Columbus and Grand Island surrounded the house of Richardson, Middleton’s father-in-law, and captured Middleton and five of his gang.
Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine) Aug 1, 1879
“Doc.” Middleton, the notorious horse and cattle thief, has been sentenced to five years in the Nebraska penitentiary for stealing horses from Carey Bros, of that Territory. There are other indictments against him in Nebraska.
Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) Sep 21, 1879
Killed by Gamblers.
OMAHA, March 26 — A gang of gamblers, supposed to be Doc Middleton’s gang, went to Covington, Neb., Tuesday night and opened up a room. Yesterday morning they killed John Peyton, a gambler, and fled. The sheriff is in pursuit.
Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Mar 26, 1891
–Covington, the Nebraska suburb of Sioux City was the scene of another saloon and gambling house murder. James Peyson, ex-mayor of the town, is nearly dead, and Doc Middleton, a young gambler, has a dangerous wound in the abdomen. The trouble grew out of a game of craps in the White House, a notorious place kept by Sioux City saloon men. All were drunk.
The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Apr 1, 1891
A DARING DESPERADO
SOME ESCAPADES OF THE NOTORIOUS “DOC” MIDDLETON.
For a While He Ran Things With a High Hand in the Black Hills Country — Defied the Federal Authorities and Made a Judge Quickly Throw up His Hands.
“‘Doc’ Middleton was the most daring desperado that ever terrorized the Elkhorn valley and ruled the Black Hills country with a high hand,” said John C. Barclay, a shoe drummer, at the Lindell, as a party of western traveling men were swapping stories.
“Middleton always bore the soubriquet of ‘Doc,’ but nobody seems to know how he was so dubbed. Before the railroads were built into Deadwood, S.D., I used to make one trip a year by stage to that country, and I saw ‘Doc’ Middleton several times. He was a powerful fellow, with quick, elastic step, and wore a dark sombrero, an overcoat of wildcat skins and a bright handkerchief, and his cowboy make-up gave him the appearance of a typical western frontiersman. Leading a band of rangers, he waged war on the Sioux Indians and protected the settlers of the Elkhorn valley, Neb. Government officials in those days feared him, and for years he was the chief of desperadoes in those parts. But he settled down to a respectable life in Nebraska over 15 years ago and was engaged in the cattle business.
“When I first knew ‘Doc’ he was freighting from Sidney, Neb., to the Black Hills. One night, in a Sidney dance house, a half-dozen soldiers engaged in a quarrel with ‘Doc,’ and there was a shooting scrape. Middleton escaped and his in the hill sands on the Platte river. While living in the hills he picked up a bunch of horses and started out with them. He was captured and thrown into jail in Sidney. The second night there he got the jailor drunk and walked away. He next appeared at a road ranch up the Elkhorn, having been without food for five days. Soon after that he was hurrying down the Elkhorn valley with a bunch of horses that belonged to the Indians. ‘Doc’ and his party were pursued by a company of United States soldiers, about 50 settlers and a band of Indians. The white men gave up the chase in a few days, but the Indians kept on the trail. One night the thieves were overtaken by the Indians. The red men dared not shoot Middleton, so they took the horses and returned home. Middleton’s front teeth were filled with gold, and he was known to all the redskins as the ‘Gold Chief.’ The Indians believed that ‘Doc’ must have been favored by the Great Spirit in oder to have gold teeth, and they would not kill him.
“One of Middleton’s escapades was known all over the country. He was at North Platte, and a deputy sheriff tried to take him. ‘Doc’ mounted his horse, pulled a couple of revolvers and rode over all the town daring any man to shoot at him. The government finally made a determined effort to capture ‘Doc’ and sent out four secret service men. They met ‘Doc’ at a Fourth of July celebration at Atchison, Neb. He took their pistols away and made them run foot races and join in the other festivities of the day. Once Judge Moody of Deadwood demanded Middleton’s surrender. He made the judge throw up his hands and then took all the valuables he had.
“Middleton was finally captured by Deputies Lewellen and Hazen, who were sent out by Governor Thayer of Nebraska. ‘Doc’ was taken to Omaha, where he received a sentence of five years in the penitentiary. He was shown leniency because he always protected the white settlers and only stole the stock belonging to the Indians. At the expiration of his term ‘Doc’ returned to Atchison, Neb., and became a law-abiding citizen.” — St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
New Oxford Item (New Oxford, Pennsylvania) May 6, 1898
“Doc.” Middleton, well known to pioneer Nebraskans twenty years ago, who served a term in the penitentiary and afterwards engaged in the saloon business at Gordon, is now in the same business at Ardmore, South Dakota. He is also town marshal and so gets pay for “running men in” after he has “filled them up.”
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Dec 21, 1900
Doc Middleton Had Asked Malone for Job as Detective
“I knew Doc Middleton well,” said Chief Malone, in discussing news of the outlaw’s death. “My relations with him were very friendly. When he was at Whitman I got acquainted with him. Some months ago Doc asked for positions for himself and his son as specials in the railroad secret service. I have his letter of application in my possession now.” The chief said that Middleton wanted a job at Crawford.
A Burlington man tells a good story of the outlaw and gambler and an old time detective of the road. The latter had gone to a western town in the state with the avowed purpose of cleaning out the Middleton gang. He and his assistants were quartered in a freight car when it reached the town. The gang heard of the arrival of the detective and his force of exterminators and when the train pulled in shot after shot was fired into each freight car. Quick orders from the sleuth resulted in the train being pulled outside of the corporate limits of the town. The job of extermination was nipped in the bud.
Lincoln Daily News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Jan 1, 1914
SIXTY YEARS AGO TODAY.
(From the Journal Files.)
Five of Doc Middleton’s gang, including Middleton, passed thru Sidney, Neb. Local officers were in hot pursuit and shot one of the outlaws within city limits.
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Apr 28, 1939
Sixty Years Ago Today.
It was learned that Doc Middleton, the notorious outlaw, had paid a quiet visit to Lincoln during the week.
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Sep 13, 1944
TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY.
Doc Middleton, Nebraska “bad man” of the seventies, died at Douglas, Wyo. In the early history of the state his gang was the terror of settlers in northwestern Nebraska. He belonged to the “Wild Bill” and “Calamity Jane” period in that section. He had a ranch at Rushville said to be the rendezvous of many noted road agents.
The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) Dec 30, 1933
Santa Fe Publisher Puts West in Books
By DON TURNER
Of Our Staff
(excerpt from article)
The other two, “Doc Middleton, The Unwickedest Outlaw,” by John Carson, and “The Lynching of Elizabeth Taylor,” by Jean Williams, are based in Nebraska…
The story of Doc Middleton — horse thief, gambler, accused murderer and Texas fugitive — also is interesting reading. A lot happened between the time Middleton came to Nebraska in 1876 at the age of 25 and his death from a group of diseases while in the Converse County jail in 1913 at the age of 62.
Amarillo Globe-Times (Amarillo, Texas) Nov 10, 1966
Golden Empire: A Novel of the Northwest
By Chalmer Orin Richardson
Published by Greenberg, 1938
…by Chalmer Richardson now superintendent of schools at Vesta. “Golden Empire,” by Mr. Richardson, is a story of Custer county of the 70’s and 80’s and brings into prominence the Olives, well known Nebraskans because of the Mitchell and Ketchum case long in the courts of the state. Mr. Richardson does not say that none of his characters are drawn from life. He admits that several are fairly close copies of early people of Custer county. Doc Middleton, another well known and lawless early day resident, is easily recognizable. The original title of the book was “Buffalo Grass,” which has sufficient meaning for people brought up in close proximity to this familiar landscape covering, but evidently not enough for Mr. Richardson’s publishers. The book made its appearance as “Golden Empire, a novel of the northwest: blandly ignoring the fact that Custer county is far from being in the northwest of Nebraska, to say nothing of the territory usually known as the northwest.
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 9, 1938