How are legends born? Why are we so fascinated with them? There have been umpteen books written about The Rose of Cimarron. She’s identified as Rose Dunn, who was 15 at the time of the Ingalls shootout in Indian Territory in 1894. Even though this has been proven as not only unlikely but blatantly untrue, the tale lives on.
In 1968 Richard Graves wrote in his book, Oklahoma Outlaws, how Rose Dunn was indeed the Rose of Cimarron.
Glenn Shirley perpetuated the legend in his book, Toughest of Them All. Others have followed suit with both fiction and nonfiction books.
All wrote an amazing story of how Rose rescued her sweetheart, Bitter Creek when she saw him caught without a weapon when a fierce battle broke out on that hot September day in Ingalls, Indian Territory. Her daring deeds of lowering herself from the hotel room on sheets, carrying weapons and ammo, then crossing the street while the gallant deputies withheld their fire, have been repeated over the years. Even in the face of interviews with Rose Dunn’s relatives who swore the fifteen-year-old girl was not even in town that day, she continues to be identified as Cimarron Rose.
It’s a fine, romantic story, and it’s easy to see how the legend grew. It actually probably began when The Eagle Film Company developed a script for Oklahoma Outlaws to be shot in and around the Ingalls area in 1915.
Marshall Bill Tilghman played himself in the famous shootout that saw the Doolin gang pitted against 13 lawmen. The legend was born to romanticize the movie script. After the film was finished, Tilghman grew weary of reporters continuing to ask questions about the identity of Rose of Cimarron. He had a female prisoner in his jail pose for a photo and identified her as Rose Dunn, the Cimarron Rose. After the famous lawman’s death, his wife verified that fact.
So who was the Rose of Cimarron? Did she exist at all or was she solely created for a pathetic attempt at a western movie?
It is said that legends almost always have some basis in fact. As a writer of romantic fiction, I’d like to believe that’s true. So I’ve written my version of who Rose was and what happened to her. Why should everyone else have all the fun? Mine is based on a lot of research beyond those things written to perpetuate the romantic version created by the movie and the books that followed. The Legend of the Rose will be released soon to Kindle. It’s a romantic novella rather than a full-length novel and it reveals what I believe happened to Cimarron Rose after she disappeared into history.