Records show family ties from outlaws Johnny Ringo, James Dalton, the Youngers, and Frank and Jesse James were to families residing here in Daviess County, MO.

The first census of Gallatin counted Philip Richard Wirt as a young single man in town, when the total population was just 81. He soon married Mary Cravens, daughter of Dr. John Cravens who founded Cravensville which reached a population of 102. Philip Wirt purchased the temporary courthouse on the northeast corner of Grand and Main Streets in Gallatin. He became a storekeeper in 1842. Wirt’s Store became the primary meeting place in the county and was called “Secessionist Corner” by the start of the Civil War.

Philip’s mother, Mary Simms, was a sister-in-law of Zerelda Cole James when she married Benjamin Simms. This made Philip Wirt a nephew of Zerelda and, thus, a cousin of outlaws Frank and Jesse James. Philip Wirt’s sisters married into the Ringo families of Ray and Clay counties, when Elizabeth married Samuel Ringo and Margaret married Andrew Ringo. Philip took his brothers-in-law as partners in Wirt’s Store. The partnership was called Ringo, Wirt & Ringo. They also had stores in Richmond and Liberty.

About 1858 Martin Ringo came to Gallatin. He was a nephew of the Ringo partners at Wirt’s Store. Martin rented the Greenfield and Einstein Store, located a half block south from Capt. John W. Sheets and started his own business, known as the Pryor & Ringo Store. Martin also became a partner with Adam Clendenen, located just east of the Cravensville Ferry. Martin Ringo’s wife was Mary Peters. She was a sister-in-law of Thomas Younger, a brother of Henry Younger who was the father of the outlaw Younger brothers. Mary’s mother was Frances Simms, a sister-in-law of Zerelda James Simms. Also Mary’s mother and Philip’s mother were sisters. Martin and Mary’s eldest son was Johnny Ringo of Tombstone fame.

Old West gunman and outlaw Johnny Ringo [1850-1882] was born in Indiana but lived 7 of his boyhood years in Gallatin, MO, before the family moved to California. Ringo got involved in gunplay and ambushes at Burnet, TX, and was jailed in Macon County, TX, for three years awaiting trial on the death of Jim Chaney. He then was involved in a shooting in Arizona in 1879. But his most infamous escapade followed the famous shootout at the OK Corral at Tombstone, AZ, where Ringo was on the side of the Clantons against Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and their companions in March, 1882.

Henry Younger’s half sister was Adeline Younger who married James Dalton. They were parents of the Dalton Brothers, most of whose gang were killed in Coffeyville, KS, in 1892. Incidentally, Daniel Smith was one of the John Reno Gang members that robbed the Gallatin’s clerk’s office in 1867; he married Emily Ringo in Ray County in 1836.

Johnny Ringo’s best friend in Tombstone, AZ, was “Curly Bill” Brosius. Gallatin’s William L. Brosius, born here in 1853, is the most likely person to be Curly Bill, according to current research. Bill Brosius worked as a bookkeeper for the Daviess County Savings Association until 1873. He then went west. He claims to have worked at the Peoples Bank of Colorado Springs before going back east to medical school. Undoubtedly, Johnny Ringo knew a younger Bill Brosius when he went to school in Gallatin.

Wyatt Earp claimed to have killed both Johnny Ringo and Curly Bill but serious research shows that he didn’t. Philip Wirt died in 1866 at age 51. His wife died two years later at age 45. They never knew of their outlaw/in-laws. They had one son, William Edward, who married Ella Marie Stark in Gallatin in 1873. Ella was the daughter of J.C. and Emily M. Stark. J.C. had been a clerk at the Wirt’s Store for many years. William Wirt knew of his outlaw/in-laws and did business with both Gov. Fletcher and Gov. Dockery. William was born in Gallatin in 1847 and died here in 1930. Ella Stark Wirt died in Gallatin in 1889.

— written by David Stark of Gallatin, MO,
printed in the Feb. 22, 1995, edition of the Gallatin North Missourian