December 6, 2015

The Shooting of Dick Riddle, 1895

Location of the Mint Saloon (yellow hi-lite)
(yellow hi-lite)
Birdseye view map of Houston, Texas 1891
(Click image to enlarge)

he shooting death of Dick Riddle
Houston, Texas, December 4, 1895

There are so many events, with so much available information, in my great grand-father's adventurous life and even though I spent 25-years researching it, there is still so much I can not locate, hence this blog, for new information when it surfaces.

The general story synopsis is that Soapy Smith and W. R. “Dick” Riddle go into John O. Dalton’s saloon and gambling house in Houston, Texas with the purpose of killing Dalton. Things go awry and Dalton kills Riddle in self-defense.

One of those hard to research events was the shooting of gambler Dick Riddle by gambling room proprietor John O. Dalton above the Mint Saloon in Houston, Texas on December 4, 1895. Soapy Smith came in with Riddle and it is commonly believed that the two, plus possibly another accomplice, planned the murder of Dalton. In my private collection is a newspaper clipping that Soapy himself saved, about the incident, from an unknown newspaper and date. The details, especially why, get murky from here. I won't go into the details I already published in Alias, but rather will center on the new information I've uncovered.

One of my new finds is the first newspaper reporting of the shooting, published the day after the incident, in the Houston Daily Post, December 5, 1895. The other articles I have copied in my files and used in Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel were published in the days following, and led me to believe that the fight took place on December 5th. Riddle passed away on the afternoon of the 5th, and in this clipping he reported to still be still alive, with hope of a full recovery. 

Houston Daily Post, December 5, 1895
Digital copy

Courtesy of the The Portal to Texas History

(Following is the transcription of the newspaper clipping)


By John O. Dalton, in the Rooms of the Latter.


Riddle Receives Two Serious Wounds, But His Condition Not Considered Dangerous.

"Dick" Riddle, a well known gambler of Houston, was seriously, but not fatally shot, about1:45 o'clock yesterday afternoon in a gambling house, No. 503 [508?] Travis Street, over the Mint saloon. The shooting was done by John O. Dalton, also a gambler.

Dalton states that he and Riddle have heretofore been friends, that at the time of the trouble Riddle came into the gambling house, and when he extended him the customary greeting, passing the time of the day, that Riddle replied with a [undecipherable word]. He says he saw a pistol in Riddle's hand, and he procured one, but not until Riddle, had fired at him. He then shot at Riddle, the only two balls fired taking effect.

Officer Cliff Ellison was in a restaurant near by when he heard the shots, rushing in, he arrested Dalton, who was taken to the city calaboose.

Riddle was removed to his home, corner if State and Sabine street, where he is resting under the care of Dr. J. J. Burroughs. One ball took effect in the right shoulder, struck the collar bone and lodged in the neck. The collar bone was broken. This prevented him being almost instantly killed. The other ball passed through the right loin from the front, coming out behind. Br. Burroughs says the wounds are not necessarily fatal, but that the wounded man was not in a condition to be operated on yesterday so that the bullet in his neck could be removed.

The pistol used by Dalton was a 45-caliber Colt, very long, while that found on Riddle was a small derringer.


Interesting to note that Soapy is not mentioned in this first article. Soapy becomes one of the primary players in later articles. Although this article seems pretty cut and dry about what happened, later articles written about this incident tell different stories, as do those who witnessed the fight.

The Mint Saloon
503 or 508 Travis Street (near Prairie Ave.)
Dalton gambling house is located in
one of the red hi-lite squares
Sanborn Insurance map 1896
(Click image to enlarge)

One of the exciting pieces of information extracted from the newspaper clipping is the address of the Mint Saloon. Unfortunately, it is one of two places in the digital copy that are unclear. I could not decipher if it reads "503" or "508." Feel free to scroll back up and check out the fourth line of the main story and let us know what you see?

afternoon in a gambling house, No. 503 [508?]

I checked the Sanborn maps and hi-lighted both addresses. Wondering if one or both of the buildings might possibly still stand, I decided to check Google maps "street view" (see below) 

Travis Street looking towards Prairie Avenue
As it looks today
Transparent yellow squares mark
503 Travis (right) and 508 Travis (left)

Courtesty of Google maps
(Click image to enlarge)

The "street view" map shows that the building at 502 Travis Street is still standing (see Sanborn map) but that the structures at 503 and 508 are no longer there. I created and placed yellow transparent building squares in the approximate locations of 503 (right) and 508 (left). I was not able to find any information about the Mint Saloon, or new information on John O. Dalton and Dick Riddle.

  • The fight took place at 503 or 508 (bad copy) Travis Street, above the Mint Saloon.
  • The incident occurred on December 4, 1895, not December 5, 1895 as reported in other newspapers.
  • More details on the fight itself.

John O. Dalton: pages 399-402, 530.

"No one questioned his bravery. He was fearless. Threatened with violence, he was quick to anger and as quick with his revolver, which was always at the ready. He feared neither policeman nor any foe. He was in the gravest sense of the words a bad man to cross. "
Alias Soapy Smith, Introduction.


1790: U.S. Congress moves from New York to Philadelphia.
1821: Grandparents of bad man Soapy Smith, Dr. Ira Ellis Smith and Ellen Stimpson Peniston marry in Petersburg, Virginia.
1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.
1866: Indian Chief Red Cloud observes the decoy tactics of the Ogalala Sioux Indian braves Crazy Horse, Yellow Eagle, and High Back Bone two miles from Fort Kearny. Warriors taunt soldiers who are out guarding woodcutters, getting the soldiers to lead a chase, and then the Indians attack in mass from the rear. Two soldiers are killed and Red Cloud is convinced that if a large number of soldiers were to be lead out of the fort, a thousand Indians would wipe them out.
1870: Silent-screen actor William S. Hart is born in Newburgh, New York. He is raised in the Dakotas. He is most famous for his western films, starting in 1915, in which he sought authenticity.
1875: The Indian Bureau in Washington, D.C. sets the deadline of January 31, 1876 for all Indians to be on reservations or be considered hostile and treated accordingly.
1876: Jack McCall is convicted in Yankton, Dakota Territory for the murder of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and sentenced to hang on March 1, 1877.
1876: The city of Anaheim, California is incorporated for the second time.
1877: Thomas Edison demonstrates the first gramophone with a recording of himself reciting the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
1881: Outlaw Wood Hite dies after being shot by Dick Liddell the previous day. Both are members of the James-Younger gang, hiding from the law, along with Jim Cummings, Robert and Charley Ford, in Ray County, Missouri. Hite accused Liddell of planning to sell him out to the law, and pulled his gun. Liddell was faster.
1883: Ladies' Home Journal begin publication.
1884: The construction of the Washington Monument is completed after 34 years.
1886: The first Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota train arrives in Topeka, Kansas.
1889: Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America, dies in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1907: The worst mine disaster in the United States kills 361 people in Monongah, West Virginia.

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