Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Captian William Coe, An Oklahoma Outlaw and the Builder of Robber's Roost

During the 1860’s a group of cattle rustlers led by a man named Captain William Coe operated in an area that today is known as the Oklahoma Panhandle. This group conducted most of their rustling activities just across the border in Colorado and New Mexico but would occasionally prey on travelers using what was known as the “dry route” of the Santa Fe Trail. The gang would change the brands on the livestock and take it to Missouri to sell.

Captain Coe and his gang, which numbered between 30 and 50 men at a time made their headquarters at a spot known as Robber’s Roost, which is just north of Kenton, Oklahoma. Here the gang built a stone headquarters with walls three feet thick that had portholes instead of windows. The headquarters was equipped with a fully stocked bar, a piano and several women, you know, the necessities in life. From the location of the headquarters on top of the mesa they could see the surrounding area for miles and the rock fortress afforded the gang a lot of protection. They lasted at this location for four years.

There are various stories floating around about Captain Coe and his gang but one of the most told stories is that of the army coming to capture the Captain. It is said that in 1867 a detachment of 25 soldiers sporting a six-inch cannon marched into the area of Robber’s Roost and bombarded the stone fortress, killing several of the rustlers. Captain Coe and some of his men were able to escape only to be captured about a year latter by a posse. In 1868 Captain Coe had been captured and was sitting shackled in a jail cell when some very angry citizens took matters into their own hands and broke Captain Coe out of jail. Unfortunately for Captain Coe they weren’t there to set him free, they took him out to a tree and hanged him on the spot. He was buried under the same tree he was hanged from. It seems Captain Coe and his rustlers weren’t making very many friends in the area as the ranchers and the military were loosing a lot of livestock to the gang.

Just before Captain Coe was about to be hanged he supposedly stated; “Between here and Flag Springs arroyo I have buried enough gold to make you all rich”. To this day none of Captain Coe’s gold has been reported found. Most of the searches for his gold have taken place around the immediate area of Robber’s Roost, Black Mesa and Carrizozo Creek Valley. It should be noted that Captain Coe was hanged near Pueblo, Colorado so this statement may have been made at another time that he was caught but able to escape. Captain Coe had escaped his captors on at least two occasions prior to being hanged. That’s why he was shackled while in a jail cell. It’s also possible that the captain’s treasure isn’t where everyone thinks it is. I guess that would be kind of a “duh” since nobody has found it!

Captain Coe was known to move his stolen herds into what is called Blacksmith Canyon where the cattle were rested, the brands changed and the gang’s horses shod. They kept equipment in the canyon that they stole from travelers on the Santa Fe Trail for branding the cattle and working with the horses.

If I was a betting man I would bet there is something hidden in Blacksmith Canyon. At the least you could probably find some pretty good relics that would make your day and even be worth some money.

As a side note, an Indian that rode with Captain Coe and his gang claimed on his deathbed that the gang had stumbled across the remains of a pack train that had been attacked by Indians. Part of this pack train supposedly contained $750,000 of gold and Spanish coins that was scattered about at the site of the attack. The Indian said that the treasure was gathered up and buried in the area of Flag Springs where it was found.

Indians, Cowboys and the Spanish! What more could you ask for?


Andrea Bell said...

I am the daughter of the present owner of Robber's Roost. I have been compiling information on Coe and his gang. I keep reading that none of the loot was found, but an author of outlaws did dig up some information about a couple of old men in 1963 loaded with metal detectors found a saddle bag containing gold dust along with 2 rusted gun skeletons. They claimed to have found 1/3 of the loot and swear to be back. The treasure was found on the Lookout Mountain, also known as Robber's Roost. Also, the hideout's outline still remains on our land and is no way as big as most articles claim. I used to give tours to the Historical Society from Colorado, we all noticed the walls couldn't have been 3 feet thick. However there are two doors and two fireplaces. I believe the cave under the hideout was where all the room came from, but it has been demolited by the old previous and codgy owner, Elsie Tanner. A shame, because it is said to have been able to house 20 horses, but the old man laid dynomite to it to keep the kids from hiding and drinking in there since he couldn't see them from his house. I think I finally found that sight after years of looking for it. If you have any new information about Coe's Gang, please forward for I am compiling info for a possible movie. Sincerely, Andrea (Griggs) Bell

Matt Engel said...

my name is Matt Engel. I am a friend of your fathers. He lets me hunt on his land. I am a film student from Norman, Ok and am working on a capstone project. I absolutely fell in love with the area and the story of the roost. I am wanting to do a documentary on No Mans Land and outlaws and the like and I would love to meet with you and collaborate. I don't know whether or not you have a movie set up yet, but I would love to do the project. I have a professional hd camera and i can rent any other equipment from school. I am not looking to make money necessarily but to learn more. I love the history up there. Please contact me asap 405 740 6786
thank you

Anonymous said...

Hello Andrea,

I have spent about 25 years coming and going from the Black Mesa area. I am friends with the Bob and Jane Apple. I too have been reading up about the Coe's. I live in Wichita and am a radio and tv show host. I heard of your thoughts about a movie out there covering the Coe story. I would love to see one made the did it justice. I am actually staying with the Apples in late April of this year. Are you currently living in the area? How would I go about getting ahold of you to talk..I might have some extra info for you via a professor out here that I know. It might help.Hope to hear from you soon. Have a great day Andrea

Anonymous said...

Dennis M,
My father in law has walked just about every inch of the Kenton area. He surveyed for the telephone company before they had phones in the area. Due to his work he knrw just about everyone in the area.
Several years before his death he took me out to th robbers roosts cabin. All that was left was a foundation approx 16x32ft with a fireplace at each end. While we were being told of the capture of some of the bandits at the cabin I pocked up a brass calvery button next to the door at the cabin. I also have an intrest in this portion of Okla history and would be willing to part with the button. I can be contacted at dpmoore@ptsi.net I do hsve a witness that saw me find this button at that location

Dave Gettman said...

Does anyone have a physical description of William Coe? I found the following information while researching early 2d Dragoon enlistments. This man would certainly have known the area, and the timing is right. COE, William A.; enlisted: February 16, 1856, New York, by Capt. Morris; born: Dover, New Jersey; age: 21 yrs; occupation: moulder; blue eyes, brown hair, fair complexion, 5’10½”; Company I, 2d Dragoons; discharged: December 28, 1860, Taos, New Mexico, by General Order; rank: private. Company I was stationed in New Mexico the entire time of this troopers enlistment.

Retta said...

Wow how interesting