A man of many names: James M. Riley, David C. Middleton, John D. Riley, Jim Cherry, ‘Texas’ Jack Lyons, ‘Gold-Tooth Charley’ and John D. Shepherd (among others). None gained notoriety as much as the outlaw Doc Middleton. His early life is mostly speculation, but many historians believe he came up from Texas and landed in the Niobrara River Valley of Northern Nebraska. This area became known as “Doc Middleton Country” while his infamy spread. He was most famous as a successful horse thief, reportedly stealing 2,000 head from ranchers and Sioux over a two-year period. He was also a respectable businessman, a lawman, and married three times. Most people who knew him spoke kindly, saying that he had Robin Hood-like discretion when “hoss-thieving”. In 1893, he rode in the great Chadron-Chicago horse race with ‘Buffalo’ Bill Cody. At the end of his life, a white moustache replaced Doc’s long, Mormon beard. By this time he made his living running tent saloons in railroad boomtowns. Unlike other outlaws, Doc lived into old age.
Another peculiar outlaw, Black Bill hailed from Iowa. He began to ride with the Middleton gang around the spring of 1879, at the height of Doc's heyday as a gentleman bandit. There is some speculation that the two knew each other during Doc's cowhand days, around 1871. Records show that Black Bill was convicted in Woodbury County, Iowa, for horse theft in the fall of 1879. Little else is know of Black Bill. It is rumored that all associates of Doc Middleton were hunted down and lynched by members of the Rancher’s Association.
A kid in every sense of the word. William Albert 'Kid' Wade turned to a life of crime at the tender age of nineteen. Without a past and with nothing to lose, Kid Wade found a home with The Ponyboys. Their leader, Doc Middleton, took Kid in and he quickly ascended the ranks. Doc considered him one of his closest friends, like a son. Eager to prove himself to those around him, Kid sometimes acted without conscience or morals. Often exploiting those from whom he stole, he was quick to beg for his life when the tables were turned. Like many outlaws, death found him at a young age.
Sister to Mary Richardson, Rene was fifteen when she and Doc eloped on June 2nd, 1884. Rene and Doc had 5 children together. Lulu died in infancy, but William, Joseph, Ruth and Henry Tomas lived into adulthood. Rene made Doc extremely happy and he was devastated when she died on November 11, 1911, of heart failure. She was 43 years old. Her funeral was in Ardmore, SD and she is buried in Crawford, NE.
Daughter of ranchman Henry Richardson, Mary Richardson was Doc Middleton's second wife. Rev. I.H. Skinner married them May 24th 1879. Mary was 18. Slightly neurotic even by today’s standards, Mary preferred to be called "Pood" and never took her clothes off, even to bathe. While Doc was serving time in the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Mary divorced him (in 1882) and married Sam Morris the same year. Living with the outlaw proved to be too difficult, and Mr. Morris had money to spare. She lived comfortably into old age.
Originally from Green County, Wisconsin, gold fever originally brought William Henry Harrison Llewellyn to Nebraska. After a handful of failed careers, he found his place as a law enforcement officer and was appointed to the Justice Department by President Hayes in 1877. At this time the Department of Justice had their eye on a gang of horse thieves, headed up by the outlaw Doc Middleton. Llewellyn's prestigious new position suited him well, but his means of enforcing the law were sometimes questionable. Nevertheless, fellow lawmen felt (or feared) a certain level of respect for him. Llewellyn distinguished himself from the rest by becoming part of the Rough Riders. Theodore Roosevelt held him in high esteem and even wrote about him in his biography. Doc Middleton thought of him as a coward and a nemesis.
Lyman P. Hazen was a native of New York. Even though (or because) he was married, he was convicted in Polk County, Iowa for an offense involving a girl. He was sentenced to six years and was released August 23, 1878, after serving ¾ of them. Upon his release, he drifted west and landed in Omaha, NE. He lived in Papillion in Sarpy County, south of Omaha, for about a year before becoming acquainted with William Henry Harrison Llewellyn. Not much is known about the pair except this: they intended to capture Doc Middleton by any means necessary.
Perhaps the most mysterious of the Ponyboys: the English remittance man by the name of Count Shevaloff. A remittance man was an exile living on money sent from home, in this case, home was Victorian Britain. Often dissolute or drunk, he was sent overseas (and paid to stay away) after many disgraces at home. Shevaloff landed, of all places, in northern Nebraska. Always loyal to Middleton, he vanished after Doc’s 1879 arrest and imprisonment.
Hired by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, William C. Lykens began hunting Middleton in 1877. He was described by associates as a heavy-set short man with a round, cherubic, pink and white face. Around 1879, Lykens resigned his position as stock detective and became a railroad detective. It was around this time that he became fast friends with Llewellyn and Hazen. His steel-blue eyes were piercingly out of place, and it was said that he never failed to get his man. The epic gun battle between the railroad detectives and the Ponyboys is talked about to this day.
Judge William Gaslin, in the fall of 1878 said, (he) "would like to get some of the Adams County rogues before him, and… sentence them." Gaslin later denied making the statement. However, those closest to him knew better: he was a take action now, ask questions later kind of judge. Initially involved in the Middleton case, he was persuaded to ‘back off’ by the Rancher's Association. Back in the old days, their influence was exceedingly powerful in Doc Middleton country.