COE-L ArchivesArchiver > COE > 1998-11 > 0910203648
From: Edwin E Wagner <>
Subject: [COE-L] Coe Outlaws
Date: Wed, 04 Nov 1998 11:20:48 -0700
i seen some reference to a Coe being Hung in pueble Colorado in a note
back some place here is a reference to the Coe gang as it was known. This
family is a part of my Grandmother direct line.. I have never heard of him
being called Capt william coe as I believe it was said.. there names are
George and John.
I know its quite long but its all on the Coe gang. If anyone needs more
references I can locate it well it was where the family lived many years In
fact the Robbers Roost that it speaks about was on My wifes Uncles
Property. He also carried a big Gun. John and George both died of Old
age..And are buried on what is now my brother-in-laws farm.
There were No Good Guys in New Mexico's Stockton-Coe Feud
The western novels and the movies of today, as exaggerated as they may
seem, are tame in comparison to the wild and hardfisted days in the old
San Juan county bordering the New Mexico-Colorado line. in the early
1880s,when the San Jaun area was opened for settlement, gun law held the
Farmington,N.M., served as the trading center for most of the
homesteaders and stockmen. The latter were ruled by the gunslinging Coe
clan, in particular Frank and George Coe, who formerly had ridden with
Billy the Kids gang. Their neighbors in the vicinity of Broomfield, were
the equally notorious Eskridge boys, Harg and Dyson.The latter, a lad of
20, imagined himself another Kid. Passing as ranchers, the brothers
operated a small rustling ring.
Port and Ike Stockton, meanwhile, were reared in the cattle country
around Cleburne, Texas, and moved to Fort Worth, where they joined the
great cattle drives north, During these drives Port developed a
reputation as a gunfighter. Later, at the invitation of Clay Allison, he
joined the outlaw's roost at Cimarron,N.M. Within a few short months Port
had added two more killings to his fast-growing list. Rescued from a
lynch mob by his brother Ike, he went to the San Juan country and helped
the Eskridge crew take over control of the area's catle thieves.
With two forces in operation, it was inevitable that Port Stockton's
band and the Coes should soon be accusing each other of rustling.
Outnumbered, Port wwas forced to flee and landed across the Colorado line
at Animas City. The town was in need of a marshal who was quick on the
draw, and Port was their man. But he was not the kind of man who could be
trusted with a gun for long, and citizens soon began to realize they had
more to fear from him than from anyone else. He was stripped of his badge
and placed under arrest, but strangely enough, he was allowed to retain
his gun. That evening he escaped jail and was on the move, adding a few
more shootings that brought his list to 18, he then settled near
Aztec, N.M. Soon, Port had his old rustling gang back in operation.
At the time, Ike Stockton was working for the Thompson and Lacy
Cattle Company, Lacy being a distant relative of the Stocktons. At Port's
urging, Ike went to look at the Farmington area and lived for a spell
with the Coe's, who welcomed him as an old friend, dispite their
difficulties with Port. Ike decided to settle near Animas City, and
toward the end of November 1880 he went to Texas to bring up a herd of
Once more, Port Stockton's crew met opposition from the Coes, and
the Coe gang lynched a cowboy suspected of working for Port. Then the
Coes began to make raids on cattle belonging to Colorado ranchers,
claiming they had no right to winter in New Mexico. Because of the Coe's
swaggering and frightening intimidations, the entire section was branded
in the press as "blacker than hell." Citizens who talked about bringing
in troops to help were threatened with burnings. Ranchers,businessmen and
justices of the peace had to join the Coe's or get out of the country to
avoid being killed.
Port Stockton, the Eskridges and their crew moved into Durango, a
rawhide community that had mushroomed overnight when it became the
railroad supply center for the entire San Juan country. With Durango as
their headquarters, the Stockton gang members continued their raids,
growing so brazen as to sell stolen cattle in open defiance of the law.
They were even in assocation with the butchers at nearby Fort Lewis,
supplying goverment soldiers with beef. Harg Eskridge's saloon served as
a base of operations. Picking a likely victim from among the patrons,
they would tail him outside, knock him senseless and rob him at their
leisure. Occasionally they killed a patron, but since there were no
witnesses, the body would be hauled away to be buried at city expense.
On December 28, 1880, the widowed Mrs. Caroline W. Romney, editor and
publisher of the Durango Record, inflamed the Stockton crew when she
published a highly erroneous report of "An unprovoked Murder." She wrote
of a shooting at the residence of F.M. Hamblet, near Farmington, at a
Christmas Day party. Her story was that three uninvited ruffians, Dyson
Eskridge, Oscar Pruett and James Garrett, had conducted themselves
indicently and been requested to leave. Once they were outside, they had
started shooting. The crowd in the house returned the fire, and George
Brown, a spectator, was killed. A posse took out after the men, and a
reward of $1,000, dead or alive, was offered.
The truth was that the incident was the outcome of a trial concerning
two Farmiington rustlers. George Brown and others had sworn vengance upon
the Eskridges the next time they met. The so-called ruffians were at the
party at the invitation of one of the younger Hamblets. They were
well-behaved untiled the Farmington crew ganged up on them, and then a
loud and abusive argument followed. Eskridge and Garrett started to
leave, and then Brown, in the lead of the Farmington mob, came running
around the building with drawn guns, yelling to get the so-and-so's.
Seeing himself about to be attacked, Eskridge opened fire and killed
Brown in the first exchange. Young Oscar Pruett, who never drew his gun,
ran up to his host, Lee Hamblet, and begged for protection, saying he had
never been a member of the Stockton gang. Hamblet told him he had nothing
to fear and should run for it. Pruett took off but was shot in the back
by the Farmington mob. Carried to a nearby home, Pruett died, his gun
still in his holster.
With their search for Dyson, Eskridge and Garrett on in earnest, the
Farmington crew got word that Port Stockton was hiding them at his place
near Aztec. A group of seven rode out there and, while five of them
secretly surrounded Port's place under Frank Coe's direction, the
remaining riders, Alf Graves and Aaron Baker, approached the house
through the main gate. They were greeted by Port, unarmed and cleaning
his pipe. As he and the two visitors were talking, the men under Coe
closed in and killed Port instantly. Mrs. Stockton came running with a
winchester, but they shot her down before she knew what was happening. A
quick search failed to reveal any fugitives, so the gang rode off. Mrs
Stockton recovered, but her left arm was permanently paralyzed.
The shooting brought Ike Stockton back to Durango, vowing vengence
against the Coe's. Many who knew Ike's temperament, including George Coe,
fled the country. Ike took over his brothers crew, adding a few
fast-shooting cowboys, including stage robber Charley Allison, M.C. Cook
and young Burt Wilkinson. The Farmington mob forbade any of the Stockton
crew to return to their New Mexico ranches. At least 40 refugees from
the Farmington area moved into the vicinity of Durango. It became clear
that, in addition to the established war between the two gangs, the
Farmington cattlemen had decided to drive out homesteaders who were
fencing the country.
There were no law officers in Farmington to enforce the rights of any
individual. In the fall of 1880 a justice and constable had been elected,
but as they would not join the Coes , All books and records were detained
by the local postmaster, who was in sympathy with mob rule. One of the
Coes was the assisant postmaster and routinely tampered with the mails to
prevent any letters of complaint from reaching the authorities at Santa
Early in March 1881, in spite of the warnings to keep out, Ike
Stockton led nine of his followers into New Mexico to gather their herds.
They camped near the site of James Garrett's cabin, which had been
burned to the ground by the Farmington posse soon after the Christmas
shooting. That afternoon, while some of the men were asleep, two
Farmington cowboys accidentally stumbled into Stocktons camp. Aaron
Barker, one of the men who had killed Port, was in the lead, with Tom
Nance not far behind. As they approached, Ike, who was sitting by the
fire, rose with his rifle in hand. Barker recognized him and was the
first to shoot, hitting one of the Durango men in the leg. Stockton
plugged Barker off his horse, he was dead before his body hit the ground,
a clean shot though the head. Nance, though pursued, managed to escape.
Fearing ambush, the Stockton crew returned to Durango. Doubling
their force, they started out once more. they had barely reached their
former camp near Garrett's place when a rider brought word that a
Farmington gang of about 30 was headed for Durango with the intent of
burning the town. The arsonists did not show up, but a company of troops
came into town from Fort Lewis.
At this point, the wealthy and respected J.W. Lacy took up residence
in Stockton's Durango house. The Coe gang saw this as a threat to their
plans, so they planned to undermine the relationship between Stockton and
Lacy. Men from various parts of New Mexico were detailed to write letters
to Lacy with lies about Stockton's killing off Lacy's cattle, stealing
his horse's and generally robbing him. So many of these tales were
received that Lacy finally sent " Big Dan" Howland to spy on Stockton,
Lacy did not know that Howland was a plant of the Coe gang. Lacy finally
caught on to Howland and got rid of him, after deciding that Stockton was
right. Then the Farmington gang tried writing letters to Mrs. Lacy,
warning her against Stockton. Lacy went to Farmington to try to settle
matters but ended up on Farmington's list of wanted men.
On April 11, 1881, the Coe gang, some 20 strong, rode into Durango
to arrest Stockton and his crew. As it happened, Durango's first lynching
was in progress, a gambler was being hanged for shooting a cowboy. With
300 armed vigilantes around, the New mexico visitors were afraid to start
anything and rode on to Animas City. The next morning they rode back
toward Durango and were met just east of town by the Durango
cowboys. there was a half-hour pitched gun battle. two spectators were
hit. Big Dan Howland, with the Farmington gang, had his horse shot from
under him. The Farmington gang had to head home to escape. On the way to
Farmington, Howland killed a defenseless Mexican sheepheader.
The Durango Record, in its next issue, carried an editorial accusing
the Stockton gang of starting things and demanded a mass meeting to find
a way to get rid of the gang. The vigilantes reconvened and adopted a
resolution that the Stockton gang had to leave Durango. Governor Lew
Wallace of New Mexico issued an indictment against them, and rewards
totaling $2,250 were offered for the capture of Stockton and seven of his
Newspapers had a field day. The Santa Fe New Mexican branded the
Coe brthers as organizers of a murderous mob, listing 16 murders for
which they were responsible. The Durango paper, which at first had
demanded that the Stockton gang be run out of town, later took up the
gang's defense, saying the gang members would surrender to authorities
but not to their mortal enemies in New Mexico.
The Stockton party decided to move to Amargo, N.M., anyway. There,
Kit White, a gambler who was down on his luck, hired out as a killer to
the Coe gang and made the mistake of drawing his gun on Harg Eskridge.
Before White died, he admitted before reliable witnesses that Eskridge
had shot back in self-defense. Then the gang turned up in Rico, where
Stockton, Eskridge and young Burt Wilkinson operated a silver mine. Two
weeks later the whole gang joined in the pursuit of a large band of
indians who had killed three ranchers, burned homes, stolen cattle and
harassed the whole county along the Colorado-Utah line. The final battle
withthe indians resulted in the loss of 10 whites and nearly 100 indians.
Harg Eskridge, in spite of severe wounds, accounted for nine dead
warriors, and the heroic services of Stockton and the other men redeemed
them in the eyes of all the Colorado citizens.
While the Stockton party was engaged in the indian hunt, the Coe gang
seized the opportunity in late May 1881 to strike against Lacy. While
lacy was on business at Fort Lewis, Big Dan Howland visited him, got into
an argument about back pay, and then shot Lacy in the back three times,
The Stockton party finally arrived at Durango around the middle of
June, they were given a hero's welcome. The Santa Fe papers published
editorals that slurred Governor Pitkin for his failure to do something
about the "Colorado Desperadoes."
The Durango Record came out in strong defense of the Stockton group.
Unfortunately, right after this, Dyson Eskridge,Burt Wilkinson and a
Texan known as the "Black Kid" went on a wild drinking spree that started
at Durango and ended with the shooting of the town marshal at
Silverton, Colorado. Eskridge and Wilkinson escaped, but the Black Kid was
jailed and soon lynched.
Because of the popularity of Ogsbury, the slain marshal, rewards
snowballed to $5,000 for the apprehension of Wilkinson and Eskridge.
Ironically, Ike Stockton was among the swarms of men trying to find the
fugitives, even though Ike had actually helped mold the two into the
killers they became.
Ike relized that Harg Eskridge would kill him if he turned in his
brother Dyson, and he also knew Dyson would not desert Wilkinson. So
Stockton proposed to Harg a scheme to get Dyson out of the way, turn
Wilkinson over to the authorities, collect the reward and then ride in
with a gang and free Wilkinson. Stockton had himself and a friend,
Marian C. Cook, appointed as deputies, and they soon found the fugitives.
Stockton explained his plan to help them escape, and the four headed
Late in the evening, while resting on LaPlata mesa near Durango,
Stockton instructed Dyson Eskridge to call at a friend's house some miles
away to get fresh horses before redezvousing and continuing into Old
Only then did Stockton reveal to Wilkinson the plan to turn him in,
get the reward and then help him escape. Wilkinson finally agreed to the
scheme, and they rode into Animas City. The capture was widely reported,
and negotiations were started with the Silverton authorities for the
reward. Wilkinson was only 20, but he had three killings to his credit.
When the Silverton Authorities paid off the reward and started back to
Silverton with Wilkinson, one of the largest police forces ever organized
to watch a single man stood by to prevent any attempt at rescue. If
Stockton even tried to get to Silverton, he was to late, for Wilkinson
was promptly lynched.
Many men turned against Stockton for betraying Wilkinson. And
Sheriff Jim Sullivan, up to now sympathetic with Stockton, hastily sent
for new warrants. Cook, who had helped with Wilkinson' capture, was
actuallly a murderer whose real name was Gilbreath. He had killed a
Sheriff in Bosque County, Texas, and a reward of $1,700 was still on
Sullivan, having obtained his warrants, waited for Stockton and
Cook to come to town. Cook was arrested, but Stockton drew his gun and
started to run. He was shot down by Sullivan and his deputy, who were
taking no chances. Stockton died that night. Cook went to Texas for
trial. The Stockton gang was by then well scattered. The Coe crew
disbanded, and peace reigned agained in the San Jaun country.
Leatrice (Lea) Wagner
Edwin E. (Gene) Wagner
6428 E. Presidio ST
Mesa AZ. 85215
602 981 1253
|[COE-L] Coe Outlaws by Edwin E Wagner <>|