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After being found guilty of bank robbery, Emmett Dalton, the head and last survivor of the notorious Dalton gang, relates the story of the fall of his family: The four brothers--Emmett, Grat, Bob and Ben--decide to give up their outlaw ways and escape to Argentina. Along the way, they stop in the Kansas town of Skeleton Creek to visit an old friend of their father, cattle rancher Tex Walters. Emmett soon falls for Mary Bohannon, the daughter of Skeleton Creek's newspaper publisher, Michael Bohannon. The brothers' plan to leave town is squelched when Tex is murdered, his land burned and his cattle are run off. When A. J. Haines, the local banker, refuses to pick up the $4,600 note held on the Walters ranch by the Prairie Development Co., Bob goes to the bank and robs it of $5,000. Realizing the money is stolen, Kate Walters, Tex's widow, refuses it, so Ben goes directly to the land company and pays off the note. Emmett and Grat then break in and steal the money back. Later, Bob returns to the bank, gives back the stolen money and forces Haines to write a new note for the Walters ranch. Unfortunately for the brothers, J. K. McKenna, the town drunk, recognizes the Daltons from a wanted poster and informs the sheriff. Knowing a posse is looking for the brothers, Michael convinces the four to accept his dinner invitation, but the sheriff soon arrives at the Bohannon home and begins a search. With the help of McKenna, however, the brothers manage to escape detection. Learning Emmett's true identity, Mary begs the outlaw to turn himself in, offering to marry him upon his release from prison. Meanwhile, McKenna, who is actually one of the heads of Prairie Development, orders his men to begin a reign of terror against the ranches around Skeleton Creek, knowing the Dalton gang will be blamed. Having been holed up at the Walters ranch, the brothers are unaware of McKenna's deception, so they do not stop Emmett when he announces his intention to turn himself in. Mary then arrives at the ranch and tells the three remaining brothers that a $5,000 reward is being offered for any of the brothers, dead or alive. When Emmett is seen entering the sheriff's office, a lynch mob quickly forms, but his brothers arrive in town just in time to rescue him. After eluding the posse, the Daltons go to Michael to plead their innocence, noting that all the witnesses who identified them worked for the land company. Realizing that the land company is trying to force the ranchers off their lands in order to acquire a railroad right-of-way, the Daltons steal Prairie Development's land deeds and take them to Bohannon. McKenna, however, kills the newspaperman before he can print the story. The Daltons are blamed for the murder, with the land company offering to double the rewards against them, but during a town meeting, Jeff Coulton, Michael's assistant, accuses the land company of his boss's murder. The Daltons then arrive at the meeting with the stolen deeds, proving Prairie Development's complicity. McKenna tries to escape, but in the ensuing gunfight, he is shot by Emmett. While his brothers set off for Coffeyville, Emmett tries to turn himself in to the sheriff, but upon learning that his brothers are headed into a trap, he instead races to Coffeyville. He arrives just in time to be shot as his brothers try to rob the First National Bank and are killed. Despite his confession, Emmett is given a life sentence for his many crimes, but Mary promises to wait for him and pray for his parole.