Doc Middleton
of the Niobrara

      Around 1880, Doc Middleton, a "romantic figure with a striking personality," was also a notorious rustler living near Valentine up in north central Nebraska.  Actually named James M. Riley, he was born about 1851 and lived to the age of 61.  A young woman of Newton, Neb., once found him so irresistible that she almost joined him on his way to the World's Fair.

      And Mrs. Doc herself latched onto some other dude while her husband was busily committed to maintaining a neat and orderly jail cell.  Right after Middleton got back out of the pokey, he rode by the residence of his previous soul mate now married to someone else.  Doc decided to continue on his way, and then proceeded to her sister's place.

      Immediately eloping with his former sister-in-law, Doc Middleton fled on horseback across the Niobrara River with a posse in lackluster pursuit, a precisely identical scenario to the first time he wed.  His new father-in-law was Mr. Richardson, previously his ex-father-in-law, who was known around the community as a horse thief in his own right.  Neither of the Richardson girls were traumatized with culture shock when they hooked up with Middleton.

      "Doc wasn't such a bad guy," rationalized some folks around Karns, Neb.; and besides, they explained the horses were only "stolen from Indians."  Many non-judgmental local settlers found a necessary tolerance for Doc Middleton's personal activities seemed to make prospects of their own continuing existence a little more well-assured.

© Oldtime Nebraska -- Doc Middleton, submitted by Dick Taylor - June 1998