GEORGE MONTGOMERY MURDER IN 1901
George Montgomery was born in the hills of West Virginia in 1864. The family moved to Kansas in 1882. He started his law enforcement career as marshall of Rossville, Kansas. He later became a deputy sheriff of Shawnee county (Topeka). In 1892 he entered the secret service of the Santa Fe as a detective. He was one of the best known of his profession in the west. In 1898 the Santa Fe transferred him and his family from Topeka to Winfield.
They rented a house on Millington Street and in a short time the family had made many friends. In 1900 they built a house on South Loomis Street and they settled down for a long and happy life. On the street and on trains he always carried two six shooters in easy reach, and he knew how to shoot with both hands. But once in his own house the revolvers were laid aside and Montgomery was a companion for his two little boys and his wife. One time the head of the Santa Fe claim department sent him a present of a fine Winchester rifle, but he never carried it because the revolvers suited him better. A dare devil on the road, he was a boy at home, full of fun and always sympathetic.
Saturday evenings in October are much the same now as in 1901. Men are home because the work week is over. Women are in the kitchen cleaning up after supper, husbands in the living room and the young children are outside playing in the diminishing twilight. The evening of October 5, 1901 changed forever the lives of the George Montgomery family.
George Montgomery was working out of town, in Wichita, all week. He returned Friday night and had been in Winfield all day Saturday. He was at his home on Loomis Street where the family had finished supper. He went to a table in the sitting room, put his green eye shade on and started preparing his weekly reports to send to the Santa Fe home office. His wife sat at the table which had a ordinary shaded oil burning parlor lamp on it to talk with him. His youngest son, Guy, was in his bedroom. The eldest son, Phil was playing in the yard with his fathers dark lantern. This is a kerosene lantern with metal sides instead of a glass globe. One side has a glass lens that can be opened or closed. With the lantern lit and the lens closed, no light escapes. Phil was flashing the light thru the window into his fathers face. This bothered Mr. Montgomery and he told Phil to quit and to come into the house. Phil started into the house thru the east kitchen door. Mrs. Montgomery got up and went into their bedroom to hang up and arrange some of her husbands clothes. Mrs. Bereau, mother of Mrs. Montgomery, lived with them and was at the well, south of the house, drawing water.
A shot rang out. Mr. Montgomery half rose from his chair, put both hands to his face, and fell to the floor. Mrs.
Montgomery heard the shot and returned to the sitting room. She thought the oil lamp had exploded throwing burning oil over the room as well as into his face. She panicked and ran out into the yard calling "Help, the house is on fire."
Mrs. E. E. Rogers who lived across the street from Montgomery's was the first person to enter the house after the shot was fired. She entered through the east door and as she got into the hall leading to the sitting room heard Montgomery say his last words: "My God, I am shot." She hurried to him and raised his head as he gasped a few times and died.
The family and neighbors extinguished the fire before they looked at George. He was dead, having lived only a few seconds after being struck by buckshot from a shotgun. Eight shot struck Montgomery in the face and five in the neck and breast. Two went into the left eye and entered the brain and one struck just on the right side of the nose. One entered his heart and the others perforated his lungs. The window screen wire through which the shot passed showed seventeen holes. The glass had a hole about seven inches across. His wife did not know, till after his death, of some of the threats made on his life.
In a few moments word spread up town and the county officers and many other people hurried to the scene. The house and yard were carefully examined in the hopes of finding a clue to the murderer. There is a fence about thirty feet east of the house and shotgun wads were found midway between the fence and the house. There were buggy tracks that swerved from the road to near the fence at that point but they appeared to have been made earlier in the day. After studying the buckshot embedded in the wall and the hole in the glass, the sheriff determined that the murderer was standing on the ground and not sitting in a buggy. Tracks were found running across the road and they might be those of the murderer.
Sheriff Daniel's wired Manhattan, Kansas to send bloodhounds to follow the tracks. Sunday morning the bloodhounds arrived by train, along with Santa Fe detectives and Chief of Police Hamilton of Topeka. Chief Hamilton had become a personal friend of George Montgomery while he lived in Topeka. They went to the Montgomery home and examined the ground. They could not do much, owing to the fact that hundreds of people had trampled over the ground, and it was almost impossible to discover the footprints of the murderer.
Tracks thought to be the right ones, were taken up Sunday afternoon by the hounds at a point on Fuller street near Hop Shivvers' residence at 1803 Fuller street. There were boot tracks that led back to a point near Montgomery's house. The footprints were measured several times. They show a boot with a high heel and correspond in form and shape with a boot track which was found just outside of Montgomery's yard in Winfield. The cowboy boot has a particularly high heel. The boot worn by the man who made the tracks was evidently a size 8. The hounds took the trail and followed it south on Fuller Street to the main road (originally named Pearl Street and now 19th street) running east and west and then went south to the bridge and across it to the second Santa Fe railroad crossing. Here they lost the trail.
The agent at Hackney had a man ask him about Montgomery of Winfield. This was about 10 o'clock of the Saturday night of the murder. He suspected something and telegraphed to Winfield and found out about the murder. The man was still in the office. He told of a man being in the office enquiring about it, and word was sent back from Winfield to hold him. The agent got up to go out for help, but the fellow drew a gun on him and told him to stay where he was, and then disappeared into the darkness.
The Sheriff had heard about the man at Hackney, so they took the hounds there. The hounds caught the scent and followed it south. The man walked to Arkansas City where he was joined by two other fellows who took him away in a buggy. The trail ends in a Arkansas City Livery stable owned by J. C. Mattox.
The men around the stable gave an accounting for everybody who left the stable Sunday morning except one. That man was one of three who came in a buggy in the afternoon on Saturday. He seemed to be intoxicated and his companions asked for a place for him to sleep. He was taken to an out of the way corner of the hay mow. He was not seen again until 3 o'clock Sunday morning, when he appeared, apparently sober enough. He and his companions did not leave town until after daylight. All efforts to trace their buggy failed. If they were from the Oklahoma territory they must have returned into Kaw country east of the Arkansas river.
While at Arkansas City, detectives heard that one of the men connected with the suspected Oklahoma men had been seen to write on a brick at the Santa Fe Depot at Arkansas City. The message reads "Ranch 101 will get even with Montgomery." This brick was found and removed from the depot wall. It was sent to the legal department of Santa Fe where it was kept for future use.
An expert in secret service work is the authority for the statement that the secret service men of the Santa Fe are not handling the case in such a way as to indicate that they believe that the conspiracy to assassinate Montgomery was hatched in Oklahoma. However Deputy marshals and officers from Oklahoma are working into the Indian country. Sheriff Bain of Ponca City, went south to follow some clues in Noble county which is the next county south of Kay county.
Wednesday October 9th. Sheriff Daniels and Santa Fe Detectives went north on the Santa Fe Railroad. Santa Fe officials invited nine Kansas County Sheriff's to the Centropolis Hotel in Kansas City. An attempt is to be made to run down the dastardly murderer of Montgomery. Because these sheriffs are known to be men of daring and know the case and the field well they were asked to join in the man hunt.
That same day the Wichita Eagle published a story that a detective told them. He stated that cowboys in the territory are suspected of the crime by the public but the Santa Fe detectives have other suspicions to which they are giving more attention.
A prominent citizen of Winfield also intimated to a reporter that it was his belief that the cowboys at ranch 101 had no part in the matter, although they had made threats.
Mrs. Baird who lives on East Eleventh street reported that about 7:30 on the night of the murder, a young man, probably 25 years old, called at her house and inquired where George Montgomery lived. The man was sturdy and well built and the thing she noticed most was the fancy vest he wore. It was a large check in gaudy colors. She stood in the doorway and held a light, but could not describe his features other than in a general way. When he asked about Montgomery, she said; "I don't know such a man. He doesn't live on Eleventh Street." "No, he lives on Loomis street." the visitor replied.
Mrs. Baird then explained that he was a block too far east for Loomis street. The stranger seemed anxious to leave and when he left the house she noticed that he went across the sidewalk. She first supposed that he had a bicycle but the heavy rain made that improbable. There was a clump of bushes which would have hidden a buggy if he had one. If he had a companion, he would probably have driven far enough to be in the shadow.
As Mrs. Baird says, the man called about fifteen or twenty minutes before Montgomery was shot. The Baird home is three blocks east of Main street and still further south than the Montgomery home. Opposite the Baird house there in a house that in many respects resembled Montgomery's. It stands in the northeast corner of the block, is shaded by trees, has a fence around it, has a bay window in the east and is painted green. This much of the description applies to both houses, but on other material points they differ. The Montgomery house is a cottage. This house is full two stories. The trees are larger than those around the Montgomery house and the fence is of wood, while Montgomery's was of woven wire.
It is possible that the murderer was directed to Montgomery's house and finding this one, believed his directions to be in error and went to Mrs. Baird's to make sure. Nobody has been found who was looking for the Montgomery home at that hour so it is possible that Mrs. Baird really saw the murderer. This gives color to the belief that he rode away in a buggy or on horseback and might have had an accomplice with him. In this country, where everybody rides a horse, it would seem improbable that a man who would come from any distance to commit a crime would undertake to walk all the way to Arkansas City, nearly 12 miles, on a dark, rainy night alone. The vest and the chunky man are described in Arkansas City, but the boy at Hackney who says he was forced to stay in the telegraph office by a man who struck a revolver under his nose, did not give a description of the man nearly accurate enough to show that he was the one who was seen in Winfield and at Arkansas City. If, in fact, it demonstrated that the murderer actually did walk half of the way to Hackney and from Hackney to Arkansas City, it will be strong evidence in favor of the cowboys who are said to have made threats. It is hardly reasonable to figure that a cowboy would have made the walk.
It later developed that the visitor at the Baird home that Saturday night whose inquiry was supposed to have such an important bearing on the Montgomery case, had nothing whatever to do with the matter.
Apparently the only person who inquired of Mrs. Baird concerning the location of Montgomery's house was Art Dow, one of the boys who delivers papers for Capt. S. G. Gary. Immediately after the murder Deputy Sheriff Dick Kruger, accompanied by young Dow, started to drive to the Montgomery home. As neither of them knew exactly where it was, Kruger sent Dow to the Baird's house to make inquiries while he remained in the buggy. Mrs. Baird had not heard of the murder at that time and when she did hear of it naturally thought of the inquiry which had been made.
The visitor was said to answer the description of "Ben" Cravens, who is described as five feet ten inches in height and of heavy build, and was further said to have worn a very loud plaid vest. Dow wore a plaid vest and while he does not answer the description otherwise, the discrepancy may be laid to the excitement of the occasion and the imperfect view which was obtained of the visitor.
A deputy United States marshall in Kay county, told a reporter that "Ben" Cravens, who has a criminal record is a enemy of Montgomery, and is sought by cattlemen interested in the capture of Montgomery's murder. In the country south of the "101" ranch there is a disposition to find out where Cravens was Saturday night. He will be hard to trace.
Cravens is remembered as one of the three men who used a dummy gun at the Lansing penitentiary, "held up" a guard and made their escape. One of the three, Smith, was killed and another, Estell, was shot. Cravens told in the territory that he had helped Estell to a hiding place in a ravine and kept watch over him until he died, then he covered him with brush.
In March of 1901, so it is charged, Cravens and Bert Welty went into a store at Red Rock, Oklahoma and held up the cashier. While they were robbing the cash box, Alvin Bateman, an employe of the company that owned the store, came in and started to shoot. Both Cravens and Welty fired on him, and one of them killed him.
The next day Deputy Sheriff Johnson, tried to arrest Cravens at Pawnee. Cravens drew a six shooter and killed the lawman instantly. Efforts to locate Cravens failed, but Montgomery took up the case as an incidental piece of work, and it is now said that he knew something of Craven's haunts and was watching for him. Cravens could not have ridden on a Santa Fe train without recognition, and though he was a dangerous man, Montgomery would have taken him, dead or alive, on sight. He has taken some of the worst criminals captured in this country, and the marshals who have to work among the tough characters and criminals in the Indian country mourn his loss as much as the railroad men do.
There was motive enough for Cravens, if he had known, as he must have, what Montgomery had been doing lately. An important fact is that Cravens comes nearer fitting the incomplete description given by Mrs Baird at Winfield as the man who called at her house than any of the cowboys who are said to have threatened Montgomery. He is about five feet and ten inches tall and heavily built.
Saturday afternoon, October 12, Cal Ferguson and John Skinner arrested and brought Will C. Johnson up from the south. After a through sweating process lasting all day Sunday and Monday forenoon, placed him in jail. He is thought to be connected with the Montgomery murder. Cal Ferguson was asked if he was a detective. He replied "No." but that he had been asked by County Attorney Torrance to help.
Johnson lived in Winfield in the south part of town and prior to the murder was working in the Evans stone quarry for Mat O'Connor. He went down to the territory to work on the 101 ranch, again, breaking horses for the Millers. His father is the man who drove the mail wagon.
George W. Miller and a number of his men came up from the south. Mr. Miller went into consultation with county attorney Ferguson, Cal Ferguson, and others. Mr. Ferguson says the arrest of Johnson has nothing to do with the 101 Ranch. Mr. Miller further said that Johnson came down to work for him on his invitation and that he had been in his employ before.
Will C. Johnson was bound over for preliminary hearing on the charge of murdering George C. Montgomery.
JOHNSON PRELIMINARY HEARING
The preliminary hearing began Thursday October 31, 1901 before Justice Webb. County Attorney Torrance is prosecuting and S. E. Fink is defending Johnson.
Mrs. Montgomery testified as to seeing the shoe tracks which were introduced by the prosecution, and said they were brought to her house a few days after the murder and that when a certain shoe was fitted into them it fit exactly. She did not know whose shoe it was. The tracks referred to were the ones gathered up, boxed and taken to her house a few days after the murder by her brother-in-law, Scott Esdale, who with A. S. Lewis got them. They were secured in the road a block north of Montgomery's house; and the shoe was the one secured from Johnson when arrested.
Dr. S. K. Williams testified that he was present when Cal Ferguson and County Attorney Torrance brought a shoe down to fit in the track and that it fitted perfectly on one side, but on the other it did not fit so well, because the dirt was crumbled away. The shoe belongs to the right foot.
A. S. Lewis of South Fuller Street helped take up the tracks introduced as evidence. He said they were taken from the middle of Loomis and Seventeenth, ten or twelve feet from the sidewalk crossing and put in a box and taken to Mrs. Montgomery's residence. One track was a shoe and the other of a shoe heel, but both seemed to have been made by the same shoe.
Cal Ferguson took the stand and testified that he got to the Montgomery home shortly after 8 o'clock, went into the house, sized up the situation and went outside to examine the ground. He found a buggy track near the sidewalk east of the house and after examining it, decided it was an old track made during the day or previous. He took a lantern and went south of the house into the street where he found running tracks going south. These tracks were found just one block south of the Montgomery home on Loomis street. The tracks ran diagonally across Loomis street, and then south to within a few steps of the Jenning road where they cut across and were lost. He also testified as to finding other running tracks in a small patch of wheat immediately below the Jackson house on the same street. These ran south across the patch to the next corner, where they swerved into Loomis street for a half block and then ran into a cane patch. After making a detour,these tracks came together with the other tracks where they were lost. This would convey the idea that there were two parties and they were both running.
Mr. Ferguson testified that Johnson's shoe exactly fit the track, when it was first tried. He also testified that he, John Skinner and Will Johnson's father were together when the arrest was made at Bliss, Oklahoma, and that Johnson's shoe was secured at that time.
Ferguson testified that Johnson told him that he had gone down to Bliss Sunday morning, in response to a card he had received from George L. Miller dated September 29, postmarked Bliss, and reading as follows: "I am going south with two cars of mules soon: if you want to go with me, write me by letter at once. -- George L. Miller." Johnson gave this card to Ferguson after his arrest. In conversations after the arrest, Johnson stated that he had worked for Miller before, but had not heard of the Miller-Montgomery troubles.
Allen Brown was called to the stand and testified to finding a brass shotgun shell which he turned over to Cal Ferguson. He found it one block south of Montgomery's in one of the shoe tracks already described. He also picked up three buckshot by the shell but lost them. The shell had a charge of powder in it but no shot.
J. G. McGregor testified that he sold the same size buckshot to Will Johnson earlier in the week of the murder.
Cy Roberts, baggageman at South Winfield, was at the Montgomery house and saw the shoe fitted into the track. He said it fit exactly. He testified to not seeing Johnson board a south bound train Sunday Morning.
Charles Barker, city policeman, testified that he had charge of Johnson for awhile after he was brought up from the territory; that in conversation with Johnson he claimed to know little about the murder, and that the first Johnson said he knew of it was at his father's breakfast table Sunday morning. Barker quoted Johnson as saying that he went down to Bliss Sunday morning by train.
Mat O'Conner, of the Winfield Stone company testified that Johnson worked for him a month or so and had quit Friday evening, October 4. O'Conner said he was down to the Santa Fe depot Sunday morning, but did not see Johnson there.
Two witnesses J. E. Everett and Frank Rogers, who worked at the same quarry, heard Johnson talking about the Miller-Montgomery affairs, but did not remember any details.
A. Rau, ticket agent at the South Winfield station, testified that he did not sell Johnson or anyone else a ticket to Bliss on Sunday; but he did sell one to Johnson on Monday morning, October 7, and he brought tickets and stubs into court to prove it. He said he was absolutely positive from records and memory that he sold Johnson a ticket.
D. M. Burge, of Topeka, Santa Fe claim adjuster, testified that he went south on the Santa Fe from Winfield to Perry the morning of October the 7th. Upon his arrival at Perry he met with Mr. Hamilton, claim agent of the Santa Fe. Hamilton had received a telegram from the agent at Bliss reading: "A party named Johnson just arrived from Winfield."
County Attorney Torrance announced that the state would rest.
Attorney S. E. Fink announced that the defense would call its first witness, J. M. Johnson, father of the accused. He testified that he was out of town at the time of the murder and knew nothing about it or his son going down to the Miller's ranch.
The accused, Will C. Johnson, took the stand. Will Johnson was born in Ireland in 1876 and came with his parents to this country, settling about twelve miles north of Winfield. At one time he lived in Udall with his father who ran a livery stable. He married at Bartlesville, Indian Territory, where he now had a wife and child, but he and his wife are separated. He was arrested once in the Cherokee nation for selling whiskey but was acquitted.
Will Johnson told about his work on the Miller ranch and at the rock quarry. Said he wrote a postal to Miller October 4 saying he would go with them and asking them to let him know two days before they started. He took the 9:14 south train at South Winfield Sunday (Oct. 6) morning, bought the ticket of ticket agent Rau, boarded the train five minutes after and arrived at Bliss about 11:55 a.m. There he telephoned over to the ranch and got word that a wagon would be over shortly and he could ride out. He did not wait, but went out with another man. Here he told of his work at the ranch during the week. He testified that he went home the night of the killing at about 5:30 o'clock and took supper with his sister and brother and Barney Patterson. After supper he stayed about the house. At about 7:46 Ben Brown came in with some medicine for his mother, who was sick. At about 8 o'clock he laid down on the couch and rested there all night, and did not hear anything of the murder until at breakfast next morning.
In answer to the question, "Did you have anything to do with the killing of Montgomery?" he said "No;" that he was not at the Montgomery house that night, and the evening of the murder was not wearing the shoes introduced as evidence. In answer to the question: "Did Miller hire you to kill Montgomery?" he said "No."
Will Johnson testified that after he arrived at Bliss he heard the storekeeper mention the murder of Montgomery. He went to the Miller ranch and during the whole day Sunday no one there said anything about the murder until Joe Miller read it to the boys from a paper in the evening. Notwithstanding the fact that he had just arrived from the scene of murder no one on the ranch inquired particulars about it.
After he was taken in custody by Ferguson and Skinner he had a talk with Frank Potts at Bliss and borrowed $5 of the store-keeper which Potts agreed to stand good for. Later he met George L. Miller and his foreman, Dick Chase, at Ponca City and had a talk with them. George W. Miller was on the platform with a Winchester.
Fred Baldruff, the merchant at Bliss, and W. H. Sapp, a cowboy on the Miller ranch, both testified that they saw Johnson Sunday morning.
Rufus Scott, the fellow who was with Johnson at the Santa Fe depot in Winfield, said he saw him get on the south train Sunday morning.
Worthy Johnson, a brother of the accused, said that he first heard of the murder about 9 o'clock Saturday night at Mooso's livery barn. He went home and found his brother asleep in his room. He said his brother did not own a gun.
Mrs Moore, a younger sister of Will Johnson, Maggie Brown and a neighbor Della Reed each testified to seeing Will Johnson downtown between 7:00 and 9:30 the evening of the murder.
James Hicks, J. Mayfield, Will Allen and O. M. McRoberts testified to seeing Will Johnson the evening of the murder.
George W. Miller testified that he first heard of the murder Sunday evening while he was at Red Rock.
Monday November 18, 1901 Justice Webb gave his decision to hold Johnson for trial in the district court.
The newspapers reported that there seemed to be very little evidence to connect Johnson directly with the murder, but there were abundant indications to show that he had knowledge of something of the sort, and the officers feel confident that they will be able to trace this down before the case comes to trial.
The worst evidence against Johnson was that given by his own witnesses whose testimony had a tendency to create a cloud of suspicion. There were only two points which indicated Johnson's presence at the time of the murder. His shoe fit the tracks found at the Montgomery house, and it seemed quite clear from J. G. McGregor's testimony that he bought buckshot a few days before the murder. A brass shell was found on the scene of the tragedy with shot of the same kind.
While Johnson could not be convicted on the evidence now obtained, there are a host of suspicious circumstances which cannot be explained and which may lead to the discovery of more important information.
O. W. Coffelt was arrested for the murder of George C. Montgomery on January 2, 1902 at Del Rio, Texas. Coffelt's capture in Texas is accredited to Sheriff Foster and Dr. Patton of Perry. W. C. Johnson is confined in the Cowley jail awaiting trial, charged with the same crime, and as to whether one of these men, or both, are guilty cannot be known until they have had a trial. One thing is certain, the community wants the murderer of Montgomery brought to justice whether it be Coffelt, Johnson or someone else; and the officers who have stood by the law, are making every endeavor to make the guilty party answer for the crime.
Coffelt was returned, by train, to Winfield, then for his own safety was taken to the Sedgwick county jail. Another reason was to keep the two accused murderer's from talking together.
January 8th, he was brought from Wichita to appear before Justice Webb. Coffelt met his wife and baby in Winfield, and they accompanied him to the court room where he held and caressed his child while the lawyers were fixing a date for his trial. His wife is the average looking woman and the child, which is about ten months old, is a very bright looking one.
Coffelt is a man somewhere near thirty years of age, of medium size, blue eyes and light moustache. His appearance was very rough. His uncombed hair was long and tangled, and on his face was a week's growth of beard. He wore a felt hat, a brown colored ragged coat, hickory shirt, canvass pants and cow hide boots. His appearance is that of a man who has been subjected to the rougher things of life, and there is an expression of countenance that does not convey the highest in intelligence. His actions are those of a man who does not seem to be much concerned over any thing. His preliminary hearing was set for Monday January 27 and he was returned to the Sedgwick County jail. The preliminary hearing was later delayed to February 4, 1902.
January 30, 1902, George W. Miller wrote the following letter to the Wichita Eagle. It was reprinted in the Winfield Courier.
"We are as anxious as any person for the truth regarding the killing to be known, but we do not care to be injured by unwarranted statements.
"The story from a Winfield man that Coffelt was once hangman at Fort Smith, Arkansas, is untrue. Coffelt never saw a man hanged in his life and was never at Fort Smith. The statement that the station agent at Winfield sold Johnson a ticket to Bliss on the Monday following the killing of Montgomery is also untrue. We believe that the station agent swore to a falsehood. It can be proved by reliable persons that Johnson came to Bliss Sunday and was not at Winfield at all Monday. Efforts have been made to get other persons to give false testimony, which will be shown at the proper time.
"I wish to correct other errors which I shall do by repeating a statement previously made in reply to an article written some time ago.
"Of the dead speak nothing but good" is a maxim we do not wish to violate. No one condemns the cowardly assassination of this man more than we do. A few facts, however, must be stated in justice to the living. There are four incidents cited which are a reflection on us.
"In the first place you speak of Montgomery whipping Joe Miller. Miller and Montgomery met in Perry, O. T., and had some words. Miller denounced Montgomery who made no effort to resent it. Miller turned around and was talking to another when Montgomery struck him one blow with his fist from behind. Miller was unarmed, except for a small pocket knife, which he pulled and started for Montgomery who ran through a door. He (Montgomery) remained in the company of an officer until the train left, fearing that Miller would do him some bodily harm. Miller was advised to have him arrested but declined saying that he would not settle his difficulties in that way, but would on the first chance meet Montgomery as man to man and settle the matter.
"Now, as to the cowboy incident that happened at Bliss. Three of our cowboys happened to be at the depot when the train came in, not one of them having a weapon of any kind. As the train stopped, Montgomery, who was on the rear platform, saw them and stepped off onto the depot platform, a pistol in each hand, covering these unarmed men and saying he had heard they were looking for him. One of the boys told him he was a coward and without nerve, and dared him to shoot. They told him they were unarmed, but that any one of them would whip him if he would put down his guns.
"On another occasion Montgomery got off the train at Bliss when the only person connected with the 101 ranch who was at the depot was myself, a man over 60 years of age, who was entirely unarmed; Montgomery and I had some words and just as the train was pulling out this brave man pulled out his ever ready six-shooter and struck me a savage blow on the head and jumped on the already moving train.
"Now for the facts about holding up a freight train. The very small basis for this charge occurred, during the strike on the Santa Fe, when there was no agent at Bliss. The 101 ranch always pays freight by check, but the conductor said he had no authority to accept checks and wanted cash. George L. Miller had tendered him a check and said that his brother would be there in a few minutes with the cash. At first the conductor said he would have to carry the cattle on to Arkansas City, but afterwards agreed to wait a short time for the arrival of Joe C. Miller who soon came and paid the amount in cash. There were no pistols drawn, the conductor was not 'stood up' and left satisfied, with no hard feeling. Oklahoma law imprisons a man for three months for drawing a pistol on another, and the railroad would have been very glad to enforce it had such an incident occurred.
"The statement that Zack Miller or any of the 101 ranch cowboys were off the ranch when Montgomery was killed is entirely false. The sheriff was at the ranch by daybreak the next morning and found everyone at home. A general round-up of cattle had been in progress and two very prominent commission men from Kansas City were present and know that everyone was at home the day before and days after the killing as well as the night it occurred. We are known to many of your readers and have done business with them, and do not wish these imputations to pass unnoticed by us. The fact of our having had trouble with the Santa Fe people and with Montgomery, accounts for these indirect charges. There has not been a shadow of evidence to justify any of them. The truth is that we are too busy attending strictly to our own affairs and if we ever had personal difficulties with people we never have and never will resort to cowardly methods to settle them."
COFFELT PRELIMINARY HEARING.
The preliminary examination of W. W. Coffelt, by Justice Webb, began Tuesday February 4, 1902. County Attorney Torrance is assisted in the prosecution by his deputy, C. W. Roberts, and Hackney and Lafferty are conducting the defense.
When the preliminary of O. W. Coffelt was commenced, Justice H. L. Webb enforced a ruling which he made some time ago. He ordered all the small boys and babies to be taken hence. Justice Webb claims to be unable to think right when there is a fretting child in the room. Two small boys, possibly nine and ten years of age were sitting on the front row, ready to soak in all the history of murder and evil doings they could hold. The under-sheriff told them to get out, giving as a reason "His Honor's" orders. They complied, but what was to be done with the baby? There was only one in the room, but it was already beginning to show signs of importance. It belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Coffelt. The judge ordered it to be taken out, but this could not be done without the mother going also. The defense attorney's Hackney & Lafferty objected to this. Someone suggested that Joe Lafferty nurse the child during the trial, but he objected on the grounds that he was not in the business, and thought anyway that Mr. Torrance could do a better job of it because of his having had recent experience. The child was about to be thrust on Mr. Hackney when Mr. Webb consented to allow it to remain in the room until noon if some provision would be made for it at that time. The provision was made and the baby did not attend court in the afternoon.
Coffelt was brought to the court room, accompanied by his wife and little child. His appearance was changed from his first appearance of January 8th. He had on a new suit of dark clothes, a new shirt and dark necktie, his face shaven and his hair trimmed and nicely combed. He did not look the same man of a month ago.
Mrs. Montgomery was the first witness. Andy Smith, colored, was the next witness. Cal Ferguson was then called. He told of finding two sets of tracks, one of which matched exactly to Johnson's shoe. The others were of a shorter foot, with a small heel. The two tracks ran south on different sides of the street and met in the southeast corner of a cane field north of 19th street. He produced a stick which he had used in measuring the second tracks found near the Montgomery home. He said he fitted it in a track made by Coffelt's shoe in the alley near Lambrecht's blacksmith shop and said it fitted exactly.
Deputy Sheriff Guy Marsh and County Attorney Torrance testified to the making and measuring of Coffelt's tracks.
Allen Brown, Ed Donnelly and S. F. Onstot testified as they had in Johnson's hearing. A. P. Johnson, Henry Kirk, L. J. West also testified.
George A Foster, sheriff of Noble, County, Oklahoma, took the stand. He said he had known Coffelt for about three years by sight. He had seen Coffelt at Miller's ranch working as line rider, and some times taking care of stock, but not lately. He said that Coffelt had told him that he had taken a horse to the Ponca City livery barn, but was not sure of the time. Mr. Foster saw Coffelt at Del Rio, Texas, where he was going under the name of Maxwell. He said Coffelt told him that he had got to Del Rio by wagon and team which he had gotten at Mr. Miller's. Sheriff Foster and Dr. Patton brought Coffelt up from Texas. Dr. Patton was Coffelt's bondsman in Noble county, where Coffelt was charged with a crime. In cross examination W. P. Hackney tried to get Sheriff Foster muddled by accusing him of being in cahoots with the Santa Fe and trying to fix up a case on the accused, but Foster kept his equilibrium fairly well.
Tom Hawkins, of Winfield, saw Coffelt on the morning of the 5th of October at the Santa Fe depot in Winfield and again saw him with Will Johnson in the afternoon at the same depot. They were talking together. He also saw Montgomery up town in the evening of the same day at the corner by Mr. Dauber's store and saw a man on the same corner which he took to be Coffelt. He had on a short, brown coat.
Dr.Jacobus, James North and C. R. Peeden testified as before at the Johnson hearing.
N. W. Busch of Kansas City, assistant superintendent of the Pinkerton agency testified that Coffelt told him he was at the headquarters ranch Sunday morning after the murder. He said Coffelt told him he went from the headquarters ranch to Joe Miller's house at 4:30 in the morning of October 6. At this juncture the state rested.
The defense offered no testimony.
Justice Webb announced that he would hold Coffelt for trial without bail, but later changed his decision and made it $5000 bail on suggestion of the county attorney.
George W. Miller, proprietor of Ranch 101 in Oklahoma, called at the Winfield Courier office Thursday morning, Feb. 6, 1902, and offered publicly some statements regarding the Coffelt preliminary held in this city this week.
Mr. Miller said an endeavor was made at the preliminary hearing to drag the Miller ranch into the murder, and that because Coffelt had worked for them and had been on their ranch, was deemed sufficient evidence that they were parties to the crime; that newspaper reports published from time to time dragging their name into the affair was the rankest kind of injustice, which they did not care to stand any longer.
In speaking of the testimony offered by the prosecution at the preliminary hearing he said "The evidence from start to finish was false. The evidence of the 13-year old 'nigger' about Miller threatening to kill Montgomery and carrying a gun to the Bliss station for that purpose was all bosh. The testimony of Mr. Hawkins about seeing Johnson the day he stated, was all wrong, for Johnson was at the stone quarry. It will be proven by good witnesses where Coffelt was at the time of the murder."
He said the people had no right to connect them with the crime in any way until more evidence was produced than was at the preliminary hearing the other day.
February 20, 1902, Will Johnson was docketed in District court, case number 1624, to be tried for the murder of George C. Montgomery. Trial date to be April 14, 1902.
February 20, 1902, O. W. Coffelt was docketed in the District court, case number 1626, to be tried for the murder of George C. Montgomery. Trial date to be April 8, 1902.
The Coffelt trial for the murder of Santa Fe detective Montgomery was commenced in district court Tuesday April 8, 1902.
On April 14, 1902, the Johnson case was continued to the next session of court.
Judge Lawrence presided. County Attorney J. E. Torrance was assisted in the prosecution by G. H. Buckman and C. W. Roberts. G. J. Wrightsman of Pawnee, Oklahoma conducted the defense assisted locally by H. S. Hines of Arkansas City and Emory Earhart of Winfield.
After examination of forty-seven men, the jury of twelve was selected. They are W. C. Churchill, B. F. Sadil, A. P. Hutchinson, W. M. Hooker, J. C. Powers, H. M. Hoop, J. S. Shorter, G. H. Dwyer, W. L. Wilson, C. W. Hanna, G. L. Shoup and E. F. Calender. Winfield had one representative on the jury, while Arkansas City had two, one of them William Hooker, a colored man.
O. W. Coffelt, the accused, is a man of peculiar make-up. He impresses one as being possessed with qualities rather above the ordinary individual. When arrested, he looked the rough western cowboy that he was; but to see him now in the court room leaves a different impression. He is neatly dressed in a dark suit, and is clean shaven. The jail confinement has filled out his face and added several pounds to his weight. He shows no anxiety about the charge on which he is being tried, and calmly sits hearing the proceedings that shall determine his future life, without even giving expression.
County Attorney J. E. Torrance gave the opening statement. He told of the trouble between the Millers and Montgomery in the territory, and said "by reason of this trouble, the state will endeavor to prove that a conspiracy was formed which resulted in the killing of Montgomery." He said the evidence will show that Coffelt made three attempts before he killed Montgomery: that he was in Winfield several times under different names and disguises for that purpose, and that the night of the murder, about fifteen minutes before Montgomery was killed, a responsible party saw Coffelt going toward Montgomery's house in company with a man who looked something like W. C. Johnson; and that the afternoon of the murder Coffelt was seen going west on West Ninth, and seen to enter George W. Miller's residence. He also said that witnesses would testify to seeing a man near the United Brethren church the night of the murder carrying a shot gun under his arm. This was a few minutes before the killing. A few minutes later a shot was fired which ended Montgomery's life.
Mr. Torrance told of the two tracks found below the Montgomery residence and of their fitting the shoes of W. C. Johnson and O. W. Coffelt. He said that the evidence would show that Coffelt got confused after firing the shot and did not carry out the plans for escape that had been arranged, and as proof would show that parties were looking for Coffelt at different places shortly after the killing; that Coffelt went south to the ranch that night. He said "We will show you that Coffelt got the shot at Elgin, Kansas, with which to kill Montgomery and that he had said to a certain party that he preformed the deed."
J. M. Bradley, county surveyor, was the first witness and described maps of the area.
George A. Foster, of Perry, Oklahoma, sheriff, was the next witness. He testified that he had known Coffelt for three years and saw him on the headquarters ranch previous to the murder. He testified to being in the court house at Perry when it was purported that Joe Miller and Montgomery had trouble. He said Miller had declared that he would get even with Montgomery for hitting him. Witness testified to securing Coffelt at Del Rio, Texas, and of bringing him to Pawnee and lodging him in jail. He went after him in company with Dr. Patton of Pawnee. Foster said he went with Coffelt when he enquired for a package which he was expecting.
C. R. Peeden, who lives three miles east of Winfield, testified that he saw Coffelt on west Ninth going east September 2 on horseback and agreed to buy his horse, telling him to take same to Mooso's livery barn. He gave his name as Maxwell and said he had been working with a threshing machine. Someone at the barn said the mare was "wet" or stolen. Peeden saw Coffelt on south Main street the next day.
Ira S. Brecount of Arkansas City was a brakeman on the Santa Fe, from Arkansas City to Purcell last October. On the night of the killing he was in Arkansas City awaiting his train to go out on the road. He went out about 1 o'clock, south. He got a message from the night operator before going, to be on the lookout for a certain man that had been seen at Hackney. Witness examined the train before leaving Arkansas City and found three men, one of whom was Coffelt. He had a large calibre revolver with a white handle. All three of the men got on at Arkansas City and Coffelt got off at Ponca City. The train made no stops between the two places. In cross examination, gave a minute description of the clothes of Coffelt and the other two men.
"Shorty" McFarland was the next witness. His testimony was that Zack Miller gave a revolver to Coffelt and that he had ornamented the handle with shells for Coffelt.
Ed. Walker, colored, was the next witness. He lives at Guthrie Oklahoma. Last October he was a porter on a Santa Fe train between Newton and Purcell. He was in Perry last May attending a trial in the case of the State vs Zack Miller and Frank Potts. He was in the room when Joe Miller and Montgomery had an altercation, and heard Miller say that if he had his gun Montgomery could do it over again. He was porter on the train when it was flagged at Bliss and the Millers, Frank Potts and others got on to look for Montgomery. Witness was on the train in July when Montgomery was called for. Coffelt and others of the 101 ranch were there. Montgomery got off the train and drew two guns. He testified that about a week after the occurrence at Bliss he saw Coffelt on the train near White Eagle and that Coffelt told him that Montgomery would never attend another trial at Perry; also that it would be better for him (Walker) to not stop at Bliss. (Walker had been a witness in the trial at Perry, and had incurred the enmity of some of the ranchmen.)
H. J. James, a Santa Fe conductor between Newton and Purcell, was called to the stand. He said in the early part of last July he had George W. Miller and a small colored boy as passengers to Bliss. George Montgomery was on the train. The train stopped at Bliss and just as it was pulling out he saw Miller and Montgomery on the platform, the former with a knife and the latter with a revolver. They seemed to be in a hostile mood toward each other, but he was not close enough to hear what was being said.
Henry Kirk, of Grouse Creek, this county, made a trip south on the Santa Fe last July on the 10th. Returning home the afternoon of the 11th, at Bliss he poked his head out of the car window and saw several men on the platform, some one of whom said "Get off of there you Son-of-a-B---." The man got off with two revolvers in his hands. Witness did not recognize Coffelt in the crowd. On cross examination Kirk said he did not see any fire arms on the fellows on the platform.
A. P. Johnson made a trip from Winfield to Guthrie July 11th on the Santa Fe. He saw George W. Miller get on the train at Winfield and saw him again at Bliss; also he saw Montgomery at Bliss. He saw Miller out on the platform with blood streaming down his face, waving his arms and seemed to be somewhat disturbed. Montgomery was on the platform with a gun in his hand. Johnson returned to Bliss the evening of the same day. Zack Miller and five or six men were on the platform, Montgomery was on the car platform. Zack was talking to him loudly and speaking threatening words. While the controversy was going on a man was seen hiding behind some boxes on the platform, his left hand on a gun and his right hanging at his side. Witness could not describe him.
Michael Monahan a section foreman, of Bliss, was acquainted with Coffelt. Said Coffelt went by the name of "Colorado" on the ranch. He was at the Bliss depot in the evening of July 11 when the trouble occurred. The fellows asked Montgomery to get off the train, lay down his guns and fight, at the same time calling him a coward for hitting an old man over the head with a six shooter. Coffelt was on the platform.
James North, a small colored boy of this city, went to the Miller ranch with George W. Miller last summer and saw the trouble at Bliss. He was at the Miller ranch in the evening and George Miller told him to get a shell for his shot gun, that he was going to Bliss to kill Montgomery. They started for Bliss in a buggy but before they got there the train had pulled out. Afterward they came up to Winfield on the train. Miller getting off at Arkansas City. On the train, witness testified that Miller had said again he would kill Montgomery. On cross examination the defense brought out the fact that North was part negro and part Indian, and that he had been staying with Cal Ferguson.
N. M. Sellers, of Guthrie, was the next witness. He saw George W. Miller on the depot platform at Arkansas City in September last year, and saw him write on a brick in the depot wall. The brick was presented and he said it was the same wording and, he thought, the same brick. The writing on it was: "101 ranch will get even with the son-of-a-B----."
Charles Brown, of Arkansas City, attorney for the Santa Fe, said he saw George Miller at Arkansas City about the middle of September on the depot platform. It was in the morning. He was talking to some men on the platform. It was nearly time for the train to start, and he heard Miller say that if "he hadn't had his artillery they would have strung him up with a rope."
John Law, of Arkansas City, was the next witness. He identified the brick and writing taken out of the Arkansas City depot. Law in the man who removed the brick, wrapped it up and delivered it to the authorities. Norman Barker also identified the brick and writing.
M. J. Wilson, a carpenter of Winfield was next. He testified to seeing Coffelt the day of the murder, at the corner of Main street and Tenth avenue, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. Between five and six o'clock he saw him again on West Ninth avenue in front of George Miller's residence. Witness was going east and Coffelt west. After passing, Wilson looked back and saw Coffelt going in at the Miller gate.
H. L. Miles, of Wichita, traveling freight agent of the Santa Fe, was in Perry after that trial and had a conversation with Joe Miller in which he said he would fix Montgomery, and at another time was on the train with him when he said that Montgomery and him could not ride on the same train together.
Bert Colby was the next witness. He was arrested a few weeks ago at Enid charged with complicity in the murder of Montgomery. Colby was under arrest at Enid charged with several counts of horse theft. He was brought to this city and placed in the same cell with Coffelt. For the past nine months, with the exception of a few weeks, he was an employee of the 101 ranch. He and Coffelt were intimately acquainted. He told what he had learned from Coffelt's lips while in jail with him. In substance Coffelt said he had killed Montgomery with a shot gun the night of October 5th at his home in the south part of the city. After the deed had been committed he hid the gun under a culvert (which he did not designate) and struck out for Arkansas City on foot. At Arkansas City he got into a box car where two bums were riding, shortly after midnight and rode to Ponca City. From there he went to the 101 ranch on foot, arriving about daybreak. On cross-examination Colby admitted that he had been arrested at Enid for the theft of three mules and had three indictments hanging over him. He was in jail prior to being brought here. Sheriff Porter and the county attorney there, promised him that if he would come here and testify in this case the charges there would be dismissed against him. The charge of the murder of Montgomery by him was simply made to hold him until he testified.
Tom Hawkins told about being with Peeden on West Ninth avenue in the early part of September when Coffelt sold a horse to the latter and received a check in the name of Maxwell. On the morning of October 5th he testified to seeing Coffelt at the Santa Fe depot after the north bound train pulled in; also to seeing him in the evening on the corner by Dauber's store when Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery passed by.
J. B. Wernet, of Del Rio, Texas, sheriff, saw Coffelt December 27 and arrested him by Sheriff Foster's orders. He was going under the assumed name of Maxwell, but admitted that his name was Coffelt.
Cal Ferguson testified. One block south of Montgomery's house he found tracks which fit the shoes of W. C. Johnson; and another half block south he found tracks fitting the shoes of O. W. Coffelt. Both tracks were running in a southerly direction. Defense showed however, that one was a running track and the other a walking track. He produced the 10 gauge shot gun wads that Mr. Rogers found. he also had a 10 gauge brass shell, which Allen Brown had picked up in the tracks a block and one-half south of the home. Cross examination tried to bring out the fact that Ferguson was working up the case for a reward, but the attempt was unsuccessful. Allen Brown and E. E. Rogers were each called and identified the wads and shell respectively.
Guy Marsh testified to taking Coffelt up the alley back of Lambrecht's blacksmith shop where the defendant left tracks. Those tracks were afterward measured by Messrs Torrance and Ferguson. Testimony showed that these tracks corresponded in measurement to those found below the Montgomery residence.
Witnesses were introduced to show that two men were seen walking south on Church (Millington) street a few minutes before the murder carrying a gun, and that they were Coffelt and Johnson.
County attorney Torrance announced that two witnesses which he had expected had not arrived and as he could use them just as well in rebuttal, the state would rest.
The jury was retired while the defense made a motion that nine items be excluded from the consideration of the jury. Judge Lawrence made a hit with the lawyers as well as the spectators when he said he never believed much in withdrawing evidence from the consideration of a jury as it usually tended to more forcibly impress the portion not wanted considered, on their minds. He denied the motion.
C. J. Wrightsman made his opening statement for the defence. He said they would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the statement of Bert Colby as to how Coffelt told him he had killed Montgomery and made his escape were unworthy of belief and absolutely false; that Coffelt was here the day of the murder; but not at the time of the killing, that the testimony of Tom Hawkins was untrue, the check said to be given Maxwell was given Coffelt in his own name. In speaking of the conspiracy he said he would show that there was none in this case; also he would show three attempts were not made by the defendant to kill Montgomery.
Miss Emma Fulton testified to taking shorthand notes and making a transcript of same in the Coffelt preliminary hearing.
Col. S. E. Fink testified that he heard a conversation between Tom Hawkins and several men in which Hawkins said he saw Coffelt following Montgomery about fifteen minutes before he was killed, and that Coffelt had no gun on him that could be seen.
James Lorton produced a book containing a bank record of the Winfield National bank for the day of September 2, 1901. The entry showed that a check of $42.50 on the National Bank of Commerce, Wichita, made by Pendleton & Boyd, payable to O. W. Coffelt, had been cashed. Mr. Lorton thought Will Johnson was the party who cashed it.
E. W. Callahan, John C. Moore and Joseph Perine, all of Arkansas City, testified separately that Ira S. Brecount was a Pinkerton detective as well as a brakeman on the Santa Fe.
S. A. Daniels, sheriff of Cowley county, testified that he had known Brecount for several years and that he visited the jail about three weeks ago.
The next witness was J. D. Bass, colored, of Arkansas City. He was in a cell adjoining Coffelt's in the county jail two or three weeks ago. He said he saw Brecount at Coffelt's cell the latter part of March and overheard a conversation between them. What he overheard in the conversation was not allowed to reach the jury on account of the state's objection.
George L. Miller, was the next witness. He is the bookkeeper and assistant secretary of the 101 Live Stock company.
He told of the size of the 101 ranch, the volume of business done by it and the volume done with the Santa Fe railway. He said the company transacted between twenty-five and thirty-five thousand dollars of business with the Santa Fe each year, but for the past five years there had not been a very friendly relation existing between them. He told of the trouble at Bliss the evening of July 11, last year, and said he and some of the boys were returning from a trip branding cattle and had stopped at the depot to enquire for mail, etc. He thought Charles Colby, Zack Miller, Frank Potts, O. W. Coffelt and himself were in the crowd. The train had pulled into the depot. Montgomery was standing on the platform. He (George L. Miller) addressed Montgomery and told him he ought to be ashamed for striking an old man of 66 years over the head. Montgomery came down off the car with two revolvers in his hands, one of which was leveled at him. Some words were exchanged, from which there were no results. None of the gang were armed.
He thought that Coffelt was not on the train the day he and others went to Ponca City, where it was purported Coffelt and others went through the train looking for Montgomery. He said Montgomery's or the porter's names were not mentioned on the train, to the best of his recollection, and none of them were armed. Coffelt first went to work on the 101 ranch in 1895, and had worked there on and off ever since. The witness said, to the best of his recollection, Coffelt was not working for the ranch in May or June, 1901. The witness was asked by Mr. Hines if he in any way conspired with Coffelt or anybody else to kill Montgomery. The answer was made in clear audible tones. "I did not." George L. Miller saw Coffelt on the ranch the evening of October 4 when he asked for a leave of absence to sell a team of ponies, stating that he was going to Winfield. He next saw him Sunday morning, the 6th, on the ranch with the same team which he bought of him for $40.
On cross examination George L. Miller said he did not know of Coffelt going to Texas until he heard it at the trial. He knew nothing about a package containing $85 being sent to Coffelt at Del Rio, Texas.
Mrs. O. W. Coffelt, wife of the accused, was placed on the stand. She said her home was in Pawnee county the winter, spring and summer of 1901; that her husband was arrested in 1900 on the charge of assaulting his brother. Her husband was placed under bond with Dr. Patton, of Perry, being one of his bondsmen. She said they went to Texas in the hope of benefiting her health and to avoid the $50 bond which they understood Dr. Patton was unwilling to stand good for any longer. They went under the name of Maxwell. Coffelt was arrested there and brought back without requisition. In answer to the question on cross examination, "Did you tell Dr. Patton that you did not go away to avoid the bond, but to escape worse trouble than that?" She said "I did not." Before they went to Texas, witness testified that her husband came home from the Miller ranch about October 8. In a few days they left, going by way of the ranch where they stopped three or four days. In Texas they sold one of their ponies branded "ETC" or something like that. the state offered a copy of the brand as evidence. The brand was made on a bill of sale which had been given with the horse, but which Mrs. Coffelt denied as having been given.
H. E. Braden, Ed. Flagner, and J. Temple gave testimony.
J. B. McMillen of Enid testified about the poor character of Bert Colby. Joseph Brown of Enid testified that Colby's reputation for truth and veracity was not very good.
D. H. Lunceford, of the 101 ranch was at Bliss the evening of the murder and took Coffelt from town out to the ranch. He met him in Bliss between the grocery store and depot. On the way out Coffelt said nothing to him about Montgomery's murder. He was not acquainted with Montgomery. When asked how he remembered it was October 5th, he said because he had got a lamp chimney at the Bliss Mercantile Company's store to take out to the ranch to Mrs. Joe Miller. P. C. Veering, of the Bliss Mercantile Co. was placed on the stand. He had a daily account book of sales of October 5th, showing that such an article had been sold to the ranch by telephone order from Mrs. Joe Miller.
The defence rested on April 16, 1902. The state put up a good case of circumstantial evidence, while the defense reasonably met it with the time honored alibi. In the trial of Coffelt the state has worked on the theory of a conspiracy, the Miller ranch of Oklahoma being brought into it at the beginning. If the jury decides that Coffelt is guilty then it will be the decision of this court that a conspiracy did exist of which the Millers were a part, but if he is acquitted the Millers will be exonerated.
When court reconvened the state offered in rebuttal the testimony of F. B. Hodgson and C. F. Cook, of Enid, about Colby's good character and reputation for truth and veracity.
The attorneys gave their closing arguments.
The court then gave its instructions to the jury. The life of O. W. Coffelt was given into the hands of the jury at 11:45 Saturday morning April 19, 1902. Under the instructions the jury either has to find Coffelt guilty of murder in the first degree, or acquit him. If guilty he will hang or sent to the penitentiary for life; if innocent, he will be free to join his anxious wife and baby. If by chance it is a hung jury the whole proceedings will have to be gone over again.
The jury was called into court at 10:30 a.m. Monday morning April 21, 1902. The defendant O. W. Coffelt, was brought in. Judge Lawrence asked the jury if they had arrived at a verdict. B. F. Sadil as foreman responded that they had not and there was absolutely no hope of their ever arriving at one. The judge then asked each individual juror if this was his opinion, to which was responded a hearty "Yes." 7 jurors voted guilty and 5 voted for acquittal.
The jury was then discharged and the court announced the case would be called for trial in the June term of court.
By this decision, the first chapter in the Montgomery murder case is closed. The case will cost the county several thousand dollars, but that's not allCit will all have to be gone over again.
GEORGE W. MILLER ARRESTED.
May 19, 1902, George W. Miller was arrested for the Murder of George Montgomery by constable Cal Ferguson. His hearing was set for May 29 before Judge L. H. Webb. On May 29, G. W. Miller, represented by J. T. Lafferty, waived examination and was bound over for trial. $5000 bond was set and the bondsmen were M. A. Miller, James Lorton, J. T. Lafferty and Grant Stafford. On June 10, a restraining order was granted protecting the Millers from arrest by all authorities during the trial.
SECOND COFFELT TRIAL.
The work of securing a jury was commenced June 16, 1903 and a jury secured on Thursday June 19. .
Thursday June 19, 1902 the trial was started for the second time. For nearly two weeks the court listened to motions and petitions of the defense. They then selected a jury of nine Cowley county farmers and three Arkansas City residents. W. P. (Bill) Hackney was handling the defense and County attorney Torrance the prosecution. The weather was hot and muggy to the point that the palm leaf fans were in use. The court announced that gentlemen desiring, could remove their coats.
The opening statement of the County attorney was given.
He said he would show that the beginning of this trouble dated to 1900, when several parties had trouble with a newsboy on a Santa Fe train, throwing some of his wares out the window; that George C. Montgomery, as an employee of the railroad was required to look into this matter, that arrests followed and a trial was held at Perry, Oklahoma Territory, in July 1900. That Zack Miller, and one Frank Potts, an employe of 101 ranch were the parties arrested, that at the court house at Perry, where this trial was held a controversy was had between Joe Miller and Montgomery in which blows were exchanged. The bad feelings began to crop out between the 101 people and Montgomery; threats were made and this really was the beginning of a conspiracy. That this feeling of hatred on the part of 101 people toward Montgomery had grown and widened; possibly more people being drawn into it.
The prosecutor continued that soon after Montgomery and George W. Miller were on the same train. Both stepped off the train onto the platform at Bliss, Oklahoma Territory, had words; Mr. Miller took off his coat and vest, and had a knife; Mr. Montgomery pulled out his revolver and during the scuffle struck Miller over the head with this revolver, not injuring him much but making him very angry. Montgomery then stepped back onto the train. The state will not attempt to show who was to blame but simply would introduce it to show the motive for the crime.
Torrance said that on the day of the trouble at Bliss a little colored boy by the name of James North was at the Miller ranch, that before they started in a buggy to drive to Bliss. Mr. Miller sent him to the cook house to get a shell for his shot gun, and said that he was going to Bliss to kill Montgomery. They got into the buggy, started for Bliss, but the train pulled out before they arrived. Miller was angry. When the train pulled up at Bliss, Zack Miller, Frank Potts, Coffelt and others were there. That Montgomery was on the train, that they called for Montgomery and he stepped from the train with a revolver in each hand. Mr. Torrance said evidence would show Coffelt's being hidden behind a box and an endeavor was made to get Montgomery away from the train so he could be injured or killed.
That next morning after the trouble at Perry, when the train pulled in at Bliss, parties went through the train from smoker to sleeper, looking for Montgomery. That a colored porter on the train, who was a witness against the parties arrested and tried at Perry, had a conversation with Coffelt on the train, in which Coffelt Said Montgomery would never attend another trial at Perry, and he (the porter) had better not get off the train at Bliss.
The County attorney said that W. C. Johnson was working at the ranch at that time, that about the first of September he came to Winfield and went to work in a stone quarry. Coffelt came to Winfield a little later and was seen with Johnson. When Coffelt first came to Winfield, he had a horse which he wanted to sell. The parties whom he was talking to about selling the horse though it might be a stolen animal but Johnson came along and said that he (Coffelt) was alright. Coffelt told some of the parties to whom he talked that his name was Maxwell, but to the man who bought the horse; the sale being consummated in a stable; the others not being present, that his name was Coffelt, and received a check payable to that name. He went to the Winfield National bank to have the check cashed. It was drawn on Wichita parties, and James Lorton telephoned to that place to find out if it was all right. Johnson was seen hanging around the front of the bank during this transaction. The check was cashed.
He would show that on the night of September 4, Coffelt appeared at the Exchange hotel in Winfield and engaged a room for the night, telling that he was a U. S. detective from Pawhuska, Indian Territory, and was looking for two men who had killed a woman and child down there. He had overtaken one of them at Arkansas City and was now looking for the other. He deposited his gun, a six-shooter with the landlord, stayed all night and was not seen in Winfield any more at this time. The state would introduce the hotel register as evidence; that further the state would prove that Coffelt was here about September 9th, 8 or 10 days before the murder; that he did work on the ranch up to the evening of October 4th. On the morning of October 5th he got a pony, rode to Ponca City; turned his pony over to a livery barn at Ponca City and said someone from the Miller ranch would call for it. Took the morning train and came to Winfield. On arriving here went to the mail wagons, (which were being run at that time by the Johnson family), and later disappeared at the rear of the depot.
COLBY ARRESTED FOR MURDER.
NOTE -- Bert Colby was arrested for the murder of George C. Montgomery, a preliminary hearing was held, and he was also bound over to the District Court. June 25, 1902, he was docketed with case number 1627, and was held for trial.
In the afternoon about 2 o'clock of the same day Coffelt was seen around Winfield & Miller's hardware store. On the same evening he was seen going west on Ninth avenue, to turn and go into the gate of the Miller residence and later was seen coming up town again along Eighth avenue. The state said that Montgomery had been doing work for the railroad company at Wichita that week, where a street fair was being held. He returned to Winfield on the 5th and that evening he and his wife came up town. They passed Dauber's store where Coffelt was standing in a dark nook of this building. When these parties passed he stepped out and looked at them. Later in the evening Johnson and Coffelt were seen coming out of the Johnson home on South Main with Coffelt carrying a shotgun under his coat. They walked south to the railroad track and turned west on Riverside (now called 14th Street). On going west they parted company, each taking opposite sides of the avenue, and when this division of company was made the party having the gun transferred it from one side to the other, showing that it was a shot gun. They were going toward the Santa Fe depot, so the state gives it, with the intention of Montgomery passing their way on his way to take a train.
About 7:30 o'clock of the night, says the county attorney, members of the U. B. church, which is located on South Church street (Millington), were sitting on the vestibule of that edifice waiting for the calling of a church meeting. There is a gas lamp near here. Two men passed this building, one of them carrying a gun. A few minutes after a shot was heard by the people of the church; this shot, says the state, was afterward proven to be the one that killed Montgomery. That Coffelt wore on the 5th, the day of this tragedy as far as cam be remembered by witnesses, a slouch hat and duck coat; these are the only bits of wearing apparel noticeable to people who saw him. Mr. Torrance stated that Mr. Montgomery was shot while sitting at a table writing, a short distance from a bay window at his residence. The shot was fired a few feet from outside the window. His wife was in her room and the little boys in theirs. He said that tracks would be shown in court that corresponded with both Coffelt's and Johnson's shoes. In one of these tracks was found a 10 gauge shell, buckshot and wad, and in the Montgomery yard wads were picked up that are used in a 10 gauge shell. Further he says Johnson quit his work at the stone quarry Friday evening and drew his pay. He left Winfield Sunday morning and appeared on Ranch 101 at noon the same day. That Johnson talked to parties in Ponca City. The state further claims that Coffelt fired the shot, became confused, lost his way and wandered west of town. That parties had been stationed along the railroads and roads to pick him up, but he got lost and as a consequence missed him.. He says that Coffelt then walked to Arkansas City. A party answering Coffelt's description bought a half pint of whiskey in Arkansas City between 12 and 1 o'clock on the night of the murder, went to the Santa Fe yards, got into a box car behind a double-header, rode to Bliss. That between 4 and 5 o'clock he knocked at Joe Miller's door. The cook answered the rap. He said to the cook, I want to see Joe, and want to see him quick. The cook said Joe was asleep and wanted to know who it was that Mr. Miller was to be told wanted to see him. Tell him "Colorado" (the name by which Coffelt was known on the ranch). Mr. Miller came out, they had a conversation in which Coffelt is purported as saying; "We have fixed that fellow." Joe said "all right, go tell the old man." Coffelt then went over to the elder Miller's house. The state said that somebody appeared Monday night and got the pony that Coffelt had left in the barn at Ponca City on Saturday morning. Several days later Coffelt went into a store at Pawnee, after writing paper, said he had in his crops and was now going over to "101" ranch to see if he could get work. Instead he went back to where his wife and child were, gathered his corn, and engaged a team to move him. About this time Frank Potts, an employe of 101 arrived at Basin, had conversation with Coffelt; he and Coffelt then went to the ranch where Coffelt was fitted out with a team and wagon. He camped at the ranch about two days and then disappeared.
He was next heard from, said the county attorney, at Del Rio, Texas, a town near the Mexican border where he was working in the railroad shops and going under the name of Maxwell. He had left Pawnee under a $50 bond for trouble occurring between himself and his brother-in-law. A Dr. Patton of Pawnee had gone his security. This Dr. Patton and Sheriff Foster of Noble county, Oklahoma Territory, went after him. When arrested Coffelt or Mrs. Coffelt are purported as saying that they did not leave Oklahoma on account of the bond, but that they had worse troubles than that. The state said that Coffelt said the time he left Ponca City he did not go to Winfield but to Red Rock after bridle bits.
The county attorney reminded the jury of the stranger at the Hackney depot. He said a Mr. Onslott and his wife , living north of Winfield, on the night of October 5th, were driving north from Arkansas City in a single buggy. That they stopped a half mile below Hackney, and a man came up to the buggy and said "I'm ready to go.'and then after a moment said; "I guess I have struck the wrong parties." and left. The state further advanced the theory that parties had been stationed along the roads south to pick up Coffelt and Johnson, but that Coffelt became confused and went west, was missed, and walked into Arkansas City, and Johnson stayed all night at his own home.
The County attorney said evidence would disclose the fact that George W. Miller had scratched on a brick in the wall of the depot at Arkansas City, "101 ranch will get even with the son---." and would introduce the brick as evidence; that the defense would contend that this writing was "san" instead of "son." Mr Torrance said that Mr. Miller had remarked in speaking of the Bliss episode "If he hadn't produced his artillery, they would have roped him."
Mr. W. P. (Bill) Hackney made his opening statement for the defense. This is something out of the ordinary for testimony of witnesses for the state usually follow the county attorney's statement.
Mr. Hackney first said that while the defendant, O. W. Coffelt, was being tried, the Millers were really the ones on trial. And while the prosecution was supposed to be the state it was in reality the Santa Fe, a railroad corporation who were trying by all their means to persecute the Millers. Mr. Hackney then gave a little history of the Millers, their long residence here, business reputation, etc. That they in their business dealings had no trouble with none except the Santa Fe company. He then described the 101 ranch, the vast interests involved; told of the causes of the MillerCSanta Fe rupture over charges, neglect, side-tracking of stock. Of the establishment of a dead line north and south of Bliss. How they (101 people) had to ship cattle over other roads, etc. That all they could do was to go to the courts when they had sufficient evidence. But that they were at the mercy of the Santa Fe.
He said the attorneys for defense thought the railroad finally wanted to get evidence of a criminal nature against the Millers, and as a consequence threw several boxes of cigars out of the car window into the ranch pasture, where they were trampled upon and picked up by the out-riders. That the railroad then had Zack Miller (who had nothing to do with these cigars) and Frank Potts arrested. Their preliminary hearing was held at the U. S. Court at Perry, that the train bearing Zack Miller to Perry was late, 5 or 6 hours, defense thinks this delay was caused by the Santa Fe company, and the U. S. court refused to continue the case. Mr. Hackney stated that these officials were working in conjunction with the railroad. Court would not continue the case and Mr. Joe Miller was required to pay costs. Here Joe Miller met Montgomery, who was the railroad's detectives on the case and had trouble; that Montgomery told Joe the railroad had it in for them, and they had no business to fight the railroad company; that they intended to break the Millers up. These men had other words and Montgomery knocked Miller down; that the Millers were not cowards; they were not afraid, and Miller being angry, naturally made threats.
A short time after this, Montgomery and George W. Miller were on the same train and got off on the platform at Bliss. Miller called Montgomery's attention to the way the railroad was abusing the Millers; that trouble followed, and Montgomery knocked Miller down and if the old man had a gun he would not have been knocked down. The old man may have said some foolish things and made some threats while angry. He said it was absurd for a man to send after one shell when he intended to kill an man armed with two revolvers.
Mr. Hackney then paid his respects to the United States court officials and their kind, who he claimed were greatly influenced through passes, etc., granted by the railroad company. He then described the interior of the Montgomery room, where the detective sat when killed, the bay window, etc., and said a short time before the shooting, the wife went out on the porch and called the little boys in; they had been out on the east side playing. One child went into the kitchen and the other went into the room with her. A little while later her husband was shot. She came out into that room, and instead of immediately going to her husband's side went to extinguishing flames, the result of a broken lamp that had been hit by some of the shot. These flames had ignited rugs, etc.; that her mother was the one who went to the side of the dead man and took his head in her hands; that Mrs. Montgomery never shed a tear over the death of her husband, was talking the next day of going into the millinery business; collected life insurance and left town as soon as possible. That at the preliminary, she had been smirking and smiling, also did the same thing at the first trial until stopped by the court.
Mr. Hackney said there was a gang of outlaws in Oklahoma headed by one Ben Cravens. Just before the Montgomery killing a man supposed to be this Ben Cravens, accompanied by another party, this second party being a large handsome man, light complexion and wearing a derby hat and having birth marks on his person, arrived at the house of a lone woman who lived in Oklahoma a short time before the day of the Montgomery murder in Winfield. That they demanded from her their horses which she gave them. But it develops that before this time one of the Craven's gang, (Bert Welden) had been shot through the hand by a railroad detective and they wanted revenge. Mr. Hackney said that this woman would testify that the morning while these men were at her house she heard them say they would go up and kill that s-- - --- who shot Bert Welden. They then talked about, after doing this job, of holding up a bank in Ponca. Mr. Hackney said that she would state that on Sunday, (this was the day after the Montgomery murder) the same two men again arrived at her home, and called for food for both horse and man. The horses were covered with sweat and looked as if they had traveled extensively. In conversation again she heard one of them say that we got that d-- s-- b--, he will never bother us any more.
Mr. Hackney said they would show that a man coming into town was nearly run over by two men in a buggy on a road near the south bridge on the night of the murder. He said that on the night of murder a man who was evidently a telegraph operator, inquired of the Hackney agent about murder at Winfield. When the agent received an answer to the question he had asked, the man evidently caught click of the telegraph and the drift of the message and told agent to go back in depot and stay there. That on the same night there was a man coming north on Hackney road who had stopped to feed his horse. Another man came up to him and said he was ready, but seeing he had made a mistake, stepped away in the darkness. Soon after, the man feeding his horse, heard a buggy and clatter of horses feet crossing a small bridge or culvert a short distance away.
Mr. Hackney said that immediately after the murder, Cal Ferguson went down to the Montgomery house and began looking for clues. That afterward he and the county attorney got together on this case and finally arrested Johnson; that the state, county commissioners, railroad, railroad organization, etc., had offered rewards for capture and conviction in this case; that a crowd of detectives swept down on Winfield and Pinkerton detectives were employed. It was said as soon as the amateur detectives at Winfield got through the professionals would bring in the men who killed Montgomery. Newspapers took up the stories in regard to the killing and it was laid at the door of the Millers. The county attorney went to Topeka finally and consulted the Santa Fe. Mr. Hackney told of Johnson being out on $500 bond, he said that Johnson had been taken to the county attorney's office and asked to implicate Millers and Coffelt in the Montgomery case. He said the witnesses in the last case were paid by individual checks from county attorney, that these checks came through the Santa Fe; that the associate counsel in this case were evidently being paid by the same people. The Santa Fe offered a job to a man who would be a good witness in this case.
Mr. Torrance then made a counter statement. He said what Mr. Hackney had stated in regard to the county attorney and Johnson was false. That he had gone to the Santa Fe people after a consultation with Mrs. Montgomery, in which she had said she had no rich friends or relatives to furnish money to push the case; that the enmity existing between the Millers and Santa Fe as told by Mr. Hackney would show a motive for the crime; that when Coffelt was first brought here he had no money or friends, but when he said to a county officer, "If I go to the peniten-tiary, I will not go there alone." and soon after he was aided and friends hovered around him. That the checks to which Mr. Hackney alluded, the ones given by Mr. Torrance, to witnesses had been allowed him by the county commissioners as the records in the county clerk's office would show. He spoke of the shoes and clothes said to have been worn by the party who was supposed to have been seen at Hackney, and stated if Mr. Joe Miller was brought on the stand the state would show that those clothes were in the Joe Miller house during the previous trial.
Mr. Hackney then further said the Santa Fe was inter-ested in this case, that the counsel was furnished by the Santa Fe. They, the defense, was here defending the Millers, as well as the man who had no friends. That the Santa Fe had employed one of the best lawyers in Oklahoma to come here as counsel in this case; but the county attorney said it would never do; they would have to conceal from the jury the Santa Fe's connection with this case. That they had notified the railroad detectives to keep away from this place because it might injure the case. The Santa Fe had sent two men into Texas after Coffelt. That defendant did not say to them he was worried about the criminal case, but did say he was worried over the family affair in which he was mixed up. All the episodes in Texas up to his incarceration in Wichita showed the hand of the Santa Fe. That while Coffelt was in the Wichita jail a man by the name of Bush, came in the cell where Coffelt was, and said if he would show where the Millers' were connected with the Montgomery case, he (Coffelt) would get off easy; on Coffelt's refusal to comply with his threats he said he would break every bone in Coffelt's body if he did not tell him what he wanted.
Hackney continued to say the Bert Colby episode was part of this conspiracy. Colby was in jail in Oklahoma under charges which would have sent him to the penitentiary. These conspirators went there, got him; county attorney promised he should go free. He is out on bond, with the state furnishing the bond. He was to perjure himself in Kansas to free himself in Oklahoma.
The witnesses for the state were then introduced. The first witness called on the stand was J. M. Bradley, county surveyor, who exhibited and explained a plat of the ground at and surrounding the scene of the murder. The next was J. W. Quick, a lawyer at Perry. He told of the fight between Joe miller and George Montgomery.
Sheriff Foster, of Noble County, was the third witness and told of Coffelt's arrest at Del Rio and the subsequent events. In cross-examination Mr. Hackney asked Mr. Foster if he was not trying to play a two-handed game with George W. Miller since this trouble came up by attempting to trap Miller in a reported hide stealing affair. Foster said he had not and redirect cross-examination divulged the fact that he had information from a man on the ranch that such business was going on. And that he had made arrangements with the man to put him next to any crookedness of this character. Nothing further was divulged except that Foster had learned the name of a man in St. Louis who was receiving bribes from a man by the name of Snapp, and had written him. The facts about the hide shipping and stealing business were not fully brought out. Foster claimed he was on friendly terms with the Millers. Cross-examination further attempted to show that the Santa Fe was furnishing the money for expenses in this case.
H. L. Miles of Wichita, freight agent of the Santa Fe, testified to what he heard and saw at the Perry trial and said Joe Miller said he would fix Montgomery.
Ed Walker, a colored porter on the Santa Fe at the time of the episode, testified to the threats the Miller's had made on Montgomery's life at different times.
William Watson, A. P. Johnson, John Adams, Mike Monahan and James North, the small colored boy, each testified about the fight and subsequent matters. On cross-examination it was brought out that James North was staying with Cal Ferguson, tending the furnace, because the state was afraid he would be kidnapped so he could not be a witness in this case.
Norman Baker, Arkansas City, testified in regard to brick taken from Santa Fe depot at Arkansas City; first saw brick in October; John Law and himself cut out brick; took it to freight office where it was sealed up, took it up to his office; stayed in his safe until called for by John Law. On cross-examination he admitted that removal of brick was caused by the theory of it being a possible connection of Millers with the murder.
Charles Brown, L. J. West, H. J. Jones and C. R. Peeden each testified.
There were several other witnesses before Tom Hawkins was called. After his examination and testimony, Mr. Hackney cross-examined and brought out the fact that witness had been brought here to testify by Jake Harmon, a Santa Fe man. The witness had served a jail sentence in this county. Hawkins placing of time that he had seen Coffelt conflicted with his testimony in the first trial. Witness denied ever saying in front of Col. Fink, that he had seen Coffelt with a long coat on and carrying a shot gun near Dauber's store the evening of the murder.
William Fox next gave testimony. On cross-examination he denied being a detective in this case or being paid to give testimony. He admitted that he was the party who had told the county attorney about the additional witness the state had asked to introduce yesterday morning. He had told his wife and Dr. Pugh what he knew about actions in this case. He had not said anything about it during first trial was that he did not want to get tangled up in this affair. The county attorney and Cal Ferguson drove to his place and saw him in a cornfield and talked to him about this matter. The reason he had noticed Coffelt and Johnson the evening of the murder when they had shotgun was that their actions were very peculiar. He had gone to the county jail, seen Coffelt there and said it was same party he had noticed on October 5th.
Dr. Jacobus, M. E. Brane and Mrs Brane were the next witnesses.
Mrs. Montgomery, wife of the deceased, was called to the stand and gave the same testimony as previous. She further
testified that Joe Miller had been to her house once. George W. Miller had also driven by her house. On cross-examination she said she did not immediately leave town after her husband's death. She did not laugh and smirk at preliminary and was not reprimanded by the court for the same. The Santa Fe had furnished her transportation. Mr. Montgomery had told her he was gathering evidence against parties who killed an operator at the Santa Fe depot. She did not talk about going into millinery business when her mother was dying. (Mrs. Montgomery's mother died in Winfield shortly after the murder.) In redirect examination she admitted to always trying to treat her friends politely and pleasantly when she met them in the court room.
Several witnesses from the previous trial were examined before the new witness Harrison Carter was called. He lived south of town and on the night of the murder, he and his wife and two sons were sitting in their house near a table on which was a lamp. This table was located a short distance from the window where the blinds were up. About 9 o'clock somebody tapped on window and he looked up and saw a man with his face pressed against the window pane, so much so that the brim of his hat was pushed back. The man asked him the way to Arkansas City and the witness told him.. Said the man wore a light hat, coat, (did not notice color of coat) complexion was tanned. Mrs. Carter and the two boys were examined and gave approximately the same tale.
S. F. Onstott, Ira Brecount, E. W. Eatsmonger, Mrs Mary Hutchins, Henry Hutchins, W. M. Hurst, Mrs Elmira Johnson, Lottie Johnson, Guy Marsh, Ed Donnelly and Sheriff Foster, of Noble County were called and examined. The state then rested its case.
Defense introduced their witnesses. The were then sworn, and a ruling made by the court allowing the Miller family, Mrs. Coffelt and Will Johnson (all witnesses) to stay in the court room.
The first defence witness called was Charles Roberts, one of the attorneys for the state. Mr. Hackney interrogated Mr. Roberts in regard to who the party was that was nearly run into by two men in buggy near the south bridge on the night of Montgomery murder. Mr. Roberts did not know.
Will Johnson, C. L. Brown, Henry Carson, Rufus Scott, W. J. Nevins, Mrs Lydia Johnson (mother of Will Johnson), Mrs. Myrtle Layman, Nellie Taft, C. H. Scantlin and Albert Layman all testified to Will Johnson's being at the Johnson home in Winfield at time of murder.
H. E. Braden, James Lorton, Will Allen, Cal Ballard, Henry Hutchins, Mary Hutchins, Col. Fink, E. H. Lunceford, Robert Jackson, William Gum, Oscar Taylor, Henry Anderson, William Foutch, J. D. Chase, W. J. Nevins, and C. D. Roberts testified to the whereabouts of O. W. Coffelt at the time of the murder.
S. H. Harris, a prominent attorney of Perry, O. T., also a local attorney for the Santa Fe at that point, was the next. Mr. Harris is the gentleman who was mentioned previously, by the attorneys for the defense, as the one who was to aid the county attorney in prosecuting this case; but was not sent here on account of being connected with the railroad; he is also the gentleman whom Mr. Wrightsman telephoned to from Pawnee and asked to get out a habeas corpus when Coffelt was being taken from Oklahoma to Kansas. Here followed what had been said over the phone that day between Mr. Harris and Mr. Wrightsman in which witness admitted he had said to Mr. Wrightsman the he wanted to keep out of the affair as he thought he might be employed in the case by the prosecution; Mr. Harris further stated that Mr. Wrightsman had desire to secure his service for the defense and had mentioned the fee that he would possibly get, that he, the witness was a personal friend of George C. Montgomery and could not defend the man charged of his assassination unless he was positive of his innocence.
The defence then called Robert Jackson, Charles Eskridge, C. W. Sowers, Joe Perrins, Guy Marsh, J. D. Crout, J. M. Moore, H. W. Herrick, George A. Blakey, Mrs Joe Miller, Mrs. George W. Miller, Miss Alma Miller, Rilla D. Atkins, J. E. Torrance, Col. Fink, Col. G. W. Jackson, H. C. Hargis and Constable M. M. Scott and they each testified.
Lizzie Bryant, who conducts a farm ten miles west of Ponca City was called the stand. She said she knew a man supposed to be Ben Cravens. (The jury was retired, and Mr. Hackney told what he intended to prove; the same thing that he went into detail about in his opening statement.) The state objected as incompetent, irrelevant and having no direct bearing on the defendant in this case. The court sustained the objection, the witness Bryant was withdrawn from the stand.
Judge Lawrence stated that he had been informed that Mrs. A. L. Post, wife of one of the jurors in the Coffelt case, was ill at her home in Pleasant Valley township, and that the thought it would be the best thing for Mr. Post to go home and see about her condition, the attorney's for both sides being of the same opinion, so Mr. John W. Skinner was made special bailiff to take charge of Mr. Post and take him to his home, this case being postponed until the ringing of the court house bell tomorrow morning. Court was reconvened the next morning at 9 o'clock.
Guy Marsh, Sheriff Daniels, Ed Gray, C. J. Wrightsman, and Elmer E. Brown were called and examined.
George L. Miller, assistant manager of 101 ranch, was called to the stand. He described the workings of that corpora-tion. He told what he knew of the early troubles relating to Montgomery and Millers around the ranch. He described the war of words between himself and Montgomery on the depot platform at Bliss. He declared he was not armed, had no rope on his saddle and no inclination of roping Montgomery. He had been branding cattle that day and stopped at station to inquire about freight. Said he was angry and so was Montgomery. He told Montgomery he was a coward to strike an old man sixty years of age on the head with a gun, and to come out and fight a man his own age or size. He did not remember who addressed the other first. When he first saw Montgomery he had his hands in his pockets but when he came down on the platform there were two guns in his hands and they were pointed at him (Miller). That he (the witness) was not armed nor the other men in his company. He had never entered in any conspiracy to kill Montgomery; hardly knew him; only seen him once or twice and had never talked about killing him. He told of Coffelt quitting work at the ranch on Friday night, October 4th, of paying him his wages and their having conversation in regard to ponies. Coffelt had a team of ponies he wanted to sell and the witness offered him $40 for them. Coffelt said he thought he could get what he wanted for them at Winfield, $60. He said he had sold a horse there in September and witness understood he was going to Winfield to see about selling the ponies. That he again saw Coffelt on Sunday morning, October 6th, and defendant told him the horse buyer at Winfield was not there and he had inquired and found he would not buy those colored horses, (man was buying horses for army in South Africa) so Miller bought ponies and paid Coffelt. Witness then understood that Coffelt went to work on the line fence. Witness stated that on night of October 5th, he slept at Joe Millers' house and was called by Joe between 5 and 6 o'clock on the morning of the 6th. That he went down stairs where Mrs. Hutchins was getting breakfast, went out to the stable and found that the horses had not been fed; went to Hutchins' house and found him (Hutchins) in bed asleep. Witness had told the little colored boy (North) to get on cattle train going toward Winfield and saw him get on the cars. His father was not around the railroad at the time. Witness and Dick Chase were in Florida when witness received letter from Joe Miller containing newspaper clipping dated from St. Joe, Mo. telling of arrest of Coffelt in connection with Montgomery murder. The letter he received was an ordinary business letter, no comment being made about Coffelt. Witness said he had never entered trains at Bliss, by himself or with others, armed looking with hostile intent for Walker (colored), Montgomery, or any other people. Said Frank Potts was not working at the ranch and did not know where he was at present. A lengthy cross-examination by Judge Buckman followed.
Ed F. Nelson, district clerk, was examined.
Perry Keller, employee of the 101 ranch, remembered the Kansas city commission men being at the ranch on Oct. 5th. They rounded up cattle and had dinner in the pasture that day. Bert Colby was there at the time of round-up.
Joe C. Miller, superintendent of the 101 ranch, said he was at the Montgomery home in this city shortly after the arrest of his brother Zack. Had never seen Montgomery to know him until he went to his home that day. Zack Miller had a preliminary hearing before U. S. Commissioners and Montgomery represented the railroad company and the witness represented the defense. At the time of the trial Zack was coming home from California (where he had been buying mules), the train was late and the case was postponed until the next term but the defense protested and wanted it called for the next day. It was finally agreed that Joe should pay the costs and then the trouble between Montgomery and witness happened. Joe was in the marshall's office figuring up costs; there were quite a number of fees for detectives, to which Joe objected as unnecessary and mentioned such fact to Montgomery. Montgomery said "He didn't steal the cigars from me, talk to the man he stole them from." Joe then said to Montgomery that if he said Zack stole those cigars he was a dirty, lying scoundrel. Montgomery then struck Miller, knocking him against the wall. Miller then went out to wash blood from his face. He met Quick but he did not say what Quick claims, probably Quick got his conversation with Foster mixed. Foster told him he better go and swear out a warrant. Miller said no but it was probably a good thing he did not have a pistol. Never said remarks attributed about Frank Potts taking gun and killing s-n - b-h. Had conversation with Miles on train, he had asked how Montgomery looked and was told alright. Miller asked if he was on train; said suppose not, evidently thought train was not long enough for both of us. Remembered Coffelt and Dick Chase coming to his house about 5:30 on morning of Oct. 6th. He heard Chase knock, went to door and Chase asked about sowing wheat, then Coffelt came around from the back door and wanted to know if he could get a horse to ride to Ponca City to get his animal. Told him to go over the river, thought they would want him to ride the line fence that day. Bert Colby was at the round-up on the 5th. No conversation about "fixed him" or telling "father about it" was had.
He (Joe C. Miller) had never conspired with his father, brothers or others to do Mr. Montgomery bodily harm, was not at the depot at Bliss when trouble occurred between his brother and Montgomery. Did not see Henry Hutchins that morning he was talking to Coffelt and Chase. Knew North boy was at the ranch once. Here a letter was introduced purported to be written by Henry Hutchins from Tarkio, Mo., to Joe. State objected and court sustained objection and letter withdrawn. Stated that the Hutchins left the ranch two or three weeks after the murder, witness said he did not tell them that Santa Fe detectives were looking for them and for them to leave. That he did not state to John Skinner, Dr. Emory or others during last trial, that he knew where derby hat, plaid suit, tan shoes and blue shoe strings were and would tell county attorney if he would let up on him. Did not remember saying to parties during last trial that Coffelt was in Red Rock on October 5th and he could prove it by forty witnesses. Was in his office part of day, October 6th, and there first heard of the death of George C. Montgomery, read it in State Capital, read it out loud; made no comments, or heard no comments made by those around. First mentioned this matter to his uncle.
The county attorney interrogated Mr. Miller about his arrest, conviction and pardon several years ago. The defense here attempted to show that his arrest and conviction was a part of a conspiracy on the part of the A. T. & S. F. to secure their leases (the Millers) of Indian lands. The Santa Fe did secure them while he (Joe) was in penitentiary. The jury was withdrawn and question argued, state objected and court sustained objection.
Witness had talk with Henry Hutchins before the Johnson preliminary. He, Hutchins, wanted to come up here as a witness, said he would be a good witness. In regard to Skinner conver-sation witness said he and Skinner were talking in regard to Bert Colby and he (witness) said, he (Colby) used to wear plaid vest, tan shoes and blue shoe strings, and for that matter they might be in Colby's trunk on the ranch now; did not say they were at his house. In regard to Dr. Emory conversation, he said that during last trial Emory had asked him about the case and he (witness) said, he did not think they would stick the man, as there were forty men who would testify to his (Coffelt) not being in Winfield at time of killing, said nothing about Coffelt being at Red Rock.
Zack Miller, of 101 ranch was called. He is the assistant manager of the live stock department. He stated he is the Zack Miller who was arrested for stealing cigars. Knew Ed Walker, had never made any threats by himself on in company with his father, brothers, or any one else against either Walker or Montgomery. Said that on day of trouble at Bliss, they had been branding cattle at stockyard and stopped at depot to see who got on or off the train and ask about freight or express. Did not know Montgomery was on train. The first that the witness saw of him was on the platform addressing his brother George. (He, the witness, was the man leaning behind pop boxes.) Said they had no ropes or guns at this time. Heard George Miller and Montgomery quarreling and swearing at each other. George said to Montgomery to lay down his guns and fight like a man. Did not remember just what Montgomery said - he was swearing and seemed to be addressing the whole crowd - calling them cowards, etc. Witness said he said to Montgomery he was a scoundrel, and a coward, and there wasn't a man in the crowd but what could lick him if he would lay down his guns. Frank Potts also addressed remarks to Montgomery. Saw Bert Colby at the round-up on the 5th. Witness stated he had never went on the cars looking for anybody.
On cross-examination, Zack Miller stated he first heard of the death of Montgomery from the lips of a cowboy about three miles out from Red Rock, where they were with the cattle. This man did not know any of the particulars but had simply learned the fact of his death at Red Rock a short time before. Zack said the first time he read of it was in a paper at camp on Sunday evening, when one of the boys called his attention to the article. That no comments passed between himself, father and brothers relative to the death of Montgomery. Witness did not have very good memory in regard to dates, and was rather mixed in his answers to Mr. Buckman, about placing of events happening. He told of Potts and his (Millers) experience from Ponca City (this is time that they are credited with looking for the colored man Walker.)
Zack Miller said he had been told by railroad men and newsboys that they (the railroad employees) had been joshing Walker about what Miller and Potts would do if they should catch him. These same railroad men had said the colored porter would go in the baggage car, lock himself in closet, or get on back platform of sleeper when ever these boys from the ranch got on the train. Being asked again about the affair on night of July 11th at Bliss, he said the first he noticed of Montgomery he had one gun trained on him and the other on George, and that Montgomery afterward switched the gun he had on the witness, to Potts, Coffelt, Hunter and Colby. Witness said more or less profanity accompanied remarks on either side. He thought the revolvers were about 38 calibre. He said the case at Perry was still pending against him.
Joe Miller was recalled, stated he went out to the stable on the morning of the 6th of October and found that Hutchins had not fed the horses, and that they wanted to get an early start, so he went to hunt Hutchins up, he finally found him and wanted to know why he had not fed animals. Hutchins said he would feed and have them ready by the time breakfast was finished at Joe's house. Mr. Miller stated he had written a letter to his brother George, in Florida and enclosed the newspaper clipping mentioned heretofore by other witnesses.
George W. Miller was called to the stand and related the trouble between Mr. Montgomery and himself on depot platform at Bliss morning of July 11th, which in substance is about as follows; He, (G. W. Miller) got off train at Bliss, and Montgomery followed him, the witness notices the detective looking threateningly at him, and so asked him if it was the Millers he was looking for, and Montgomery said yes, trot them out, and witness told him he guessed he was man enough for him. Mr. Miller said Montgomery pulled his gun and hit him twice with it, and he drew his knife but could not get it open. That his head bled from the blows and they left a scar. Remembered the little colored boy North being at ranch, but had never sent him after shell, or said he would kill Montgomery. That he, witness, had never had Will Johnson carry shot-gun from ranch to Bliss station, and he (witness) had never taken gun and with little colored boy rode to Arkansas City. The North boy left Bliss in caboose attached to cattle train. He said he had no shotgun in his Winfield residence last October.
George W. Miller stated he had never conspired with his wife, daughter, sons or Coffelt to kill Montgomery. That he had never discussed killing Montgomery with anybody. Mr. Miller further stated that he did not know where Mr. Montgomery resided, until after his death, and had never to his knowledge drove by or close to house looking in by himself or with wife and daughter; had not sent Coffelt to kill Montgomery; was not here at previous trial, but had attended the Coffelt Preliminary hearing. Knew L. G. West, but did not tell him that Coffelt had come to Ponca City on the 5th of October, left his horse in a barn there and then went to Red Rock after bridle bits. Did not say to parties that Coffelt was at cow-camp on 5th and such could be proven by a number of witnesses. Said he was arrested once in Oklahoma in connection with other party on charge of killing beef and convicted, but appealed the case to U. S. court and case was thrown out of court.
J. L. Jackson, Winfield, walked behind Rev. Botkin and George C. Smith on night of October 5th from Christian church south toward Montgomery home soon after the shooting; passed U. B. church, light on corner was burning; noticed man and woman sitting in church vestibule, had seen the man twice since then, once in witness chair, and was informed he was a Mr. Brane. The time of going by U. B. church was placed by Mr. Jackson at about 8 p.m.
H. C. Hargis, was recalled and said he had been one of the attorneys for the defense in previous trial. He said he remembered Mrs. Montgomery laughing and giggling at that trial, and also Mr. Wrightman calling the attention of the court to mirth prevalent in the room. He said that when she was in witness chair at one time and he was cross-examining her she smiled. Here witness was cross-examined by Judge Buckman; and it was brought out that the question had been propounded to Mrs. Montgomery, where she lived previously to coming here, and she said Topeka, she was then asked name of county and could not remember it, so a smile under such circumstances might be one of nervousness or embarrassment.
Rev. George C. Smith, was in this city on evening of October 5th attending meeting at his church (Christian) when he received word of Montgomery shooting, he and Rev. Botkin started there, going down Church street. The witness did not remember the third party (Jackson) being along or did not recollect the street lamp on the corner adjacent to the U. B. church being lighted or noticing any lights in that church. He placed the time at about 8 o'clock.
William Allen and Amos Becker were examined about William Fox's reputation for truth and veracity.
Mrs. Lillie Coffelt, wife of the defendant, said they moved from their home in Pawnee county to 101 ranch about Oct. 19. 1901. Heard at Pawnee that the men who had been on Coffelt's bond (for shooting at his brother-in-law) were going to give him up, that and the state of witnesses's health, were the cause of their deciding to go to Del Rio, Texas. Had changed their name to Maxwell when they went to Del Rio. Heard conversation over telephone at Mr. Wrightsman's office Sunday morning. Heard Mr. Wrightsman phone to Mr. Sam Harris at Perry, and tell him that Coffelt had been spirited away and asked for him to get out a habeas corpus. Was at Mr. Wrightsman's office to see him in regard to her husband. Mr. Coffelt was not in Pawnee at that time. Cross-examination by Mr. Buckman in regard to how they traveled from Pawnee county to 101 ranch. Saw Mr. George Miller when they got to ranch; stayed there 3 or 4 days. Were not hiding there. Did not say anything to Mr. Miller about going to Texas, left the ranch on Friday morning. Had been sleeping in wagon and cooking their own meals. Husband did not work at ranch this time. Did not know exact point in Texas they were going when they left the ranch. Took them about 5 or 6 weeks to go to Del Rio; got there about the first of December. Went to housekeeping there. Witness stated that she did not make a statement to Dr. Patten or Sheriff Foster on the way from Del Rio to Pawnee that they did not leave Pawnee on account of that bond but that they had worse troubles than that. Had never at any time or place made such a statement to the above named parties and had never heard her husband make such a statement.
On redirect examination Mrs. Coffelt stated she had never said to Foster Patton or anyone else that her husband had any connection with Montgomery murder. Did not have any relation in Del Rio. Had sister in the adjoining county. Did not tell Dr. Patton at any time or place that they went to 101 ranch without going through in Pawnee.
The defense rested its case after Mrs. Coffelt's testimony.
At this time the state had introduced about 53 and the defense 57 witnesses; of these, twenty had been recalled for examination, 9 by the state and 11 by the defense. This making a total of about 110 witnesses.
The state then introduced their rebuttal testimony.
Harold Herrick, the official court stenographer was the first witness. He was questioned by Mr. Hackney as to the possibility and probability of a court stenographer ever being in error in taking testimony.
John W. Skinner was next called. He stated that at the previous trial of Coffelt, that he had a conversation with Joe Miller in which Mr. Miller said in substance that the plaid suit, derby hat, blue shoe strings and tan shoes referred to in testimony were at the 101 ranch, and that Mr. Miller further stated in substance that if the county attorney would let up on us (the Millers) they would produce them. Witness knew George W. Miller and at preliminary examination of Coffelt witness overheard a conversation between George W. Miller and J. J. West in which Mr. Miller said you were right when you said Coffelt came to Ponca City on that day but that Coffelt did not come to Winfield but went south to Red Rock. Witness said that next day in conversation, J. C. Miller stated that 40 witnesses could be introduced to show that Coffelt was at or near Red Rock on the afternoon of October 5th. Witness saw Deck Chase and George W. Miller, at depot at Ponca City when he (witness) with other parties were bringing Will Johnson to Kansas. Witness said he had not been very active in this case but acknowledged having been quite interested in the Johnson case.
Dr. Isaac Votaw was next examined.
J. W. Wise of Winfield, a cousin of Will Johnson, testified to seeing Johnson on the night of October 5th near Brady's store.
L. J. West, Frank Wise, John Mendenhall, G. A. Penny, were each examined in turn.
Arthur B. McFarland, town justice of Tonkawa, was examined. On cross-examination he strenuously denied locking himself in a room with a man and sentencing said man to jail without allowing him either a lawyer or a trial. He admitted that Santa Fe furnished him transportation.
W. H. Ward, A. T. Moore, S. F. Gould, A. M. Fritzie, A. B. Hutchinson and W. J. Nevins were called and examined. After these witnesses were examined, the state rested its case.
The defense called 12 witnesses for examination and then rested its case. Judge Lawrence gave the jury the case and the jury retired to consider the case. The evidence and arguments occupied all the time until 3:45 p.m., the day of July 4th. The jury then took the case and wrestled with it unceasingly for four days and four nights
Tuesday morning, July 8, 1902, the Coffelt jury was called in, and after individually asking the jurymen if there was a possibility of their reaching a verdict, to which they answered "There is not." they were discharged. Only two ballots were taken, and these on last Saturday. Both resulted in nine for conviction and three for acquittal.
County Attorney Torrance was seen by a newspaper reporter that morning. he said that he felt somewhat dis-appointed over the result, but not discouraged, and would try the case again. He believed that at the next trial he could secure a conviction. When asked if he would try the case at the next term of court, he said that he might take up the George Miller case before trying Coffelt.
Judge Lawrence does not seem so enthusiastic over trying the case in the November term of court. He said that there were other important cases pending in court that needed attention badly.
During the time that the jury was locked up it was publicly talked on the streets, and no doubt in the homes, that one of the jurymen had been bribed and would hang out for acquittal all summer if necessary. This talk was forever silenced when the jury was discharged and it was found that this man was one of the strongest for conviction.
If the attorneys had not agreed on the discharge of the jury, the chances are that it would have remained out all summer, for Judge Lawrence had made up his mind to let them stay out until they had reached some decision.
The court fixed Coffelt's bail at $5000.
On March 3, 1903, W. P. Hackney withdrew from the defense and Oliver P. Fuller was hired to replace him.
COFFELT'S THIRD TRIAL.
Friday March 27, 1903, the selection of jurors for the third trial of O. W. Coffelt for the murder of George Montgomery began. The court took over a week, and has summoned over 350 men for examination to serve on this jury of 12 men.
The attorneys for the state are County Attorney J. E. Torrance, G. H. Buckman, C. W. Roberts and Mr. Cruse of Ardmore, Indian Territory.
The attorneys for the defense are A. M. Jackson, A. L. Noble and O. P. Fuller.
A new witness C. B. Hunt, a deputy U. S. Marshall at Perry, Oklahoma, was introduced. He testified that he was present at the time of the trouble between Montgomery and Joe Miller. It was at the time of the trial of Zack Miller and Frank Potts for robbing the newsboy, when Zack Miller's bond had been forfeited because of failure to appear for trial. The Court had ordered the witnesses paid which it was Mr. Hunts business to do. While seated at his desk in his office, just off the court room, writing checks, Joe Miller entered very much excited and talking very fast. Mr. Hunt could not say as to whom he was addressing until Mr. Montgomery spoke up saying, "If the boys had not taken the cigars, there would have been no trouble." Joe Miller replied that "Whomever said the boys stole the cigars was a ---
liar." Mr. Montgomery hit him and Joe Miller fell against the wall and over Mr. Hunt's chair. All this occurred behind Mr. Hunt's back so that he couldn't say just how it occurred. As Miller fell, he (Hunt) jumped up to separate them and Miller had his hand in his pocket. Mr. Hunt grabbed his arm and said "Don't pull a gun here, Joe." Mr. Miller removed his hand and displayed a pocket knife which he immediately replaced in his pocket. Miller's face was bloody. Later in the day young George Miller was in his office on business and asked for Montgomery using rather severe language.
Another new witness was George A. Foster, Sheriff of Noble County, Oklahama, at the time of the trouble. He said he saw Joe Miller immediately after the fight and that Joe said Montgomery had hit him without cause, adding that "It was a good thing he didn't have his gun." Joe Miller also told the witness that Frank Potts said that "If he (Joe Miller) said so he (Frank Potts) would take his six shooter and kill Montgomery." The witness said he advised against such a course, suggested rather that Miller have Montgomery arrested, which he at first thought he would do, but a warrant was never sworn out.
George Foster further testified that Coffelt was called "Colorado" at the ranch. That the first time he saw him after the murder was at Del Rio, Texas about December 23, 1901. He located Del Rio on the Rio Grande, 450 miles south of El Paso, near the Mexican line and 1000 miles from Bliss. That he and Doctor Patten of Pawnee had gone together to Del Rio ostensibly to get Coffelt for a forfeiture of bond with Patten as his bondsman. Coffelt was willing to return. He told of the express package expected by Coffelt under the name of Maxwell.
The case was given to the jury April 10, 1903. It had taken eight days to get the jury out of a special venire of 350. The trial lasted fourteen days. The state introduced seventy eight witnesses and the defense fifty three. Tuesday morning April 14, the jury reported to Judge Swartz that they could not arrive at a verdict. They were six for acquittal and six for conviction.
There was much speculation as to whether the case will ever come to trial again. It seems almost impossible to get a jury to agree as to a verdict either one way or the other . County Attorney Torrance asked for a continuance of the case and also asked that Coffelt's $5000 bond be renewed at its expiration.
GEORGE W. MILLER DIED.
April 25, 1903, George W. Miller died of Pneumonia.
COFFELT'S FORTH TRIAL.
The Forth Trial began November 9, 1903
On November 12 State witness Cal Ferguson was examined as well as other witnesses. Bailiff Jake Harmon had been sent to Bliss yesterday for a witness who lives on the 101 ranch. He returned with the report that he had been stood off with guns and was unable to get his man.
State witness Bert Colby was called. He was held in jail since 6/25/1902 on the charge of Murder of G. Montgomery.
He was in the first trial, but evaded the second and third. Being one of the strongest witnesses for the state the defense subjected him to a searching cross examination. The defense thinks they have drawn from him stronger details as to the arrangements made for dismissing felony cases against him in the territory. The object is to show that he was induced by fear of the penitentiary to swear against Coffelt here. He insisted on redirect examination that tho prosecution had only required him to tell the truth, and he had told it.
The state introduced a new witness, Charles Colby. He swore that he saw Coffelt at the 101 ranch on the morning of the killing, that G. W. Miller, gave him a shot gun, and that he rode away. The defense cross examined him very closely, seeking to establish his connection with Bert Colby and the desire he would have of getting Bert clear of other charges by swearing against Coffelt in this case.
Frank Potts was examined on November 14. He gave his residence as Fort. Collins, Colorado. He was an employee on the 101 ranch for three or four years, ending in November 1901. He knew of the trouble between the Millers and Montgomery. A few days after the scene between them and Montgomery at Bliss, G. W. Miller called him aside and wanted him to kill Montgomery. It was urged upon him that he could do it and get away. He was then under obligations to the Millers and would not say no. Some time in August, G. W. Miller sent him to Winfield on horseback. He arrived late and went to Millers barn on West Ninth. There Miller brought him food and a shot gun. This gun was the one Zack Miller had won at a raffle in Bliss. Miller then left him with orders not to be seen on the street. The witness was in Winfield two days, but Miller being gone, he came up town and was seen several places, meeting and talking with people he knew. When Miller came back from Kansas City, they returned to Bliss. He was asked several times to do that job, there, and out in new country. The Millers told him they could hire Coffelt to do it. He had several conversations with Coffelt, who wanted to know what had been offered for the job and said he would not do it for less than five hundred collars. Witness knew when Coffelt came to Winfield the first time and when he came back to tell that he had changed his plan for the killing of Montgomery. He was at Bliss the day of the killing and knew of the presence of the two commission men from Kansas City. Two or three weeks, after the killing he carried a message from Miller to Coffelt, then on his farm near Sinnott, O. T. The message was that Coffelt should come to the ranch, and be careful as he was likely to be arrested for killing Montgomery. Other witnesses have testified in this and former trials as to the stranger coming to Coffelt's and this seems to be the man. While on a cattle inspecting trip he was told by Ed. Snyder that Coffelt had been or was to be arrested. Had no conversation with Snyder in which he stated that Coffelt didn't kill Montgomery and that Snyder would be surprised to know who did. He also denied that he had told Dick Chase that he had a chance to get $1000 for testifying against Coffelt, nor that he had attempted to get Sowers to leave the country. Nor that he had told Dick Chase that he would pay him $300 to leave the country, and not testify in behalf of Coffelt, and further that he would be arrested for perjury if he did so testify. He did not tell Charles Kellogg that he had a better thing than punching cattle; that after the Coffelt trial he would have plenty of money and was going to Colorado and run a saloon.
Potts further testified that G. W. Miller had told him that he (Miller) could kill Montgomery, play crazy and get out of it in a year. Potts also state that when Miller sent him to see Coffelt, he was instructed to tell him to leave at home "That damned yellow coat with the big buttons." This is the coat identified by so many witnesses. He said that the object of the trip from Ponca City was to see Joe Miller who had sent for him. He saw Joe Miller at the ranch before he was given up on his bond, was rearrested on the bond in the cigar stealing case in which Joe Miller was surety. On cross examination he stated that he had gone by the name of Frank Mann and had been in reform school for running away from home. Cross-examination was handled by Mr. Jackson for the defence.
County Attorney Torrance then testified that Frank Potts was not put on the stand at the third trial, because he (Torrance) had not considered Potts testimony proper rebuttal and it was not considered advisable for the prosecution to reopen the case.
The commission man, Deffendorff, from Kansas City, not being present, his testimony in a previous trial was read. In it he swore that he slept at the 101 ranch that night, and on the morning after the killing he heard some one waken Joe Miller and tell him that "Colorado" (meaning Coffelt) had come and wanted to see him.
The next witness called by the defence was Ed Snyder, who appeared in the case for the first time. Testified that he knew Frank Potts; that in Dec. 1901 or Jan. 1902 he in company with Inspector Noble and Frank Potts. They went below Bliss to inspect some cattle; that he had heard from Sheriff Foster that Coffelt had been arrested, or would be arrested, and while on the trip he asked Frank Potts if Coffelt had killed Montgomery, that Potts replied that Coffelt had not. That it was getting too hot for him (Potts) and he expected to leave the country, and that he (Snyder) would be surprised if he knew who did kill Montgomery. His testimony was not shaken by cross-examination.
Mrs. G. W. Miller took the stand. She was followed by her daughter Mrs. W. H. England. They both denied the presence of Frank Potts at the Miller home in Winfield during the month of July 1901, denied that Potts was hidden in the barn at the residence on West Ninth and that G. W. Miller had carried food to Potts. The effort of counsel to interrogate Mrs Miller in regard to the ante-mortem statement of G. W. Miller was overruled by the court. They left the stand without cross examination.
Friday November 27, 1903 the jury returned with no verdict. They stood 8 for acquittal and 4 for guilty. They were selected out of a venue of 190.
By March 1, 1904 all cases concerning the murder of George W. Montgomery were dismissed by the County Attorney.
After the death of her mother, in Winfield, Mrs. Montgomery moved to Denver, Colorado to be near other relatives. She returned for each trial.
TIMETABLE OF EVENTS.
Oct. 5, 1901 George Montgomery Murdered.
Oct. 12, 1901 Will C. Johnson arrested for murder
Oct. 31, 1901 Preliminary Hearing for Will C. Johnson
Nov. 18, 1901 Johnson bound over for Trial
Jan. 2, 1902 O. W. Coffelt arrested for murder
Feb. 4, 1902 Preliminary Hearing for O. W. Coffelt
Feb. 5, 1902 Coffelt bound over for Trial
Feb. 20, 1902 Johnson docketed for Murder Case #1624
Feb. 20, 1902 Coffelt docketed for Murder Case #1626
Apr. 8, 1902 Coffelt trial started.
Apr. 14, 1902 Johnson Trial scheduled - case continued
Apr. 21, 1902 Coffelt Jury hung.
May. 19, 1902 George W. Miller arrested for murder.
Jun. 19, 1902 Second Coffelt trial began.
Jun. 25, 1902 Bert Colby charged with murder Case #1627
Jul. 8, 1902 Second Coffelt jury hung.
Sep. 3, 1902 George W. Miller charged for murder Case #1669 Nov. 5, 1902 Johnson case dismissed by County Atty.
Mar. 19, 1903 Third Coffelt trial began.
Apr. 14. 1903 Third Coffelt jury hung.
Apr. 25, 1903 George W. Miller died.
Jun. 2, 1903 G. W. Miller case dismissed by County Atty.
Jun. 4, 1903 Johnson charged with perjury.
Nov. 9, 1903 Forth Coffelt trial began.
Nov. 25, 1903 Johnson perjury case dismissed by County Atty.
Nov. 27, 1903 Forth Coffelt jury hung.
Mar. 1, 1904 Colby case dismissed by County Atty.
IS COFFELT MONTGOMERY'S ASSASSIN?
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, DECEMBER 28, 1901.
MURDER WILL OUT.
IS COFFELT MONTGOMERY'S ASSASSIN?
Under Arrest in Texas. The Sheriff Has Gone for Him.
It is said That He Was an Employe of Millers on Ranch 101.
Coffelt is under indictment in Pawnee County, Oklahoma, on the charge of felonious assault, and forfeited his bond.
KANSAS CITY, Dec. 28. A special to the Star from Guthrie, Okla., says that the assassin who killed G. C. Montgomery, the Santa Fe detective, at Winfield, Kan., last summer, is believed to be under arrest at Del Rio, Texas. The man in custody is
O. W. Coffelt, who is under indictment in Pawnee county, Oklahoma, for felonious assault and who forfeited his bond of $5,000 by leaving the country.
Coffelt was employed at one time on ranch "101" at Bliss,
O. T., in the strip. Montgomery was killed at night while sitting in his home writing, the assassin firing through the window.
A large reward is offered by the Santa Fe Railroad company for the arrest of the murderer. Coffelt is said to have taken refuge in Mexico at the time and was tracked across the line into Texas. The sheriff left today with a requisition for him.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, MONDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1901.
T. W. ECKERT, Editor.
Should O. W. Coffelt, who is under arrest in Texas, prove to be the real murderer of G. C. Montgomery, it will strengthen the suspicion expressed by some at the time that an Arkansas City man had some knowledge at least of the criminal.
SAME EDITION OF PAPER...
IS HE THE MAN?
O. W. Coffelt Is Believed to Be Montgomery's Murderer.
Saturday afternoon the TRAVELER's associated press report contained a story of the capture of O. W. Coffelt at Del Rio, Texas, and it is believed that he is the murderer of George C. Montgomery.
Coffelt was under indicttment in Pawnee county, Oklahoma, on the charge of felonious assault and forfeited his bond of $5,000.
The Pinkerton detectives who had charge of this case had traced the crime to Coffelt, who was at that time in Pawnee county. The requisition was secured and they went after him, but when they reached Pawnee and talked with the sheriff, they found that his trial on the charge of assault was set for a few days later and that officer was sure he would be on hand, when he could easily be arrested.
For some reason he did not come into court and his attorney succeeded in having the trial postponed several days. Coffelt evidently learned that he was wanted and left the country, forfeiting his bond. When the day set for the trial came, no man to be tried put in an appearance and the detectives began a search for him which was unsuccessful. They were called off and the bondsman went after his man.
Coffelt, if he is the man wanted, was for several years the hangman at Fort Smith, Ark., and it is said that he thought no more of hanging a man than he did of eating a meal. He had plenty of the work to do and grew hardened to it.
John Law has placed the case before the Santa Fe company and it is likely that something will be done at once.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, DECEMBER 31, 1901.
COFFELT IN THE CITY.
Sheriff Foster, of Perry, Took the Man Through Last Nigh.
Last night on No. 405, Sheriff Foster, of Perry, took
O. W. Coffelt through Arkansas City, en route to Perry, where he will be lodged in jail to await trial. The presence of this man on the train was kept a secret and no one save the conductor knew that he was wanted for the most cold blooded murder ever committed in southern Kansas. The reason for this was the fear of the officer that if he is the guilty man and the people at 101 ranch are implicated that an attempt might be made to take him from the officer and give him his liberty. He was shackled and handciffed and occupied a seat in the chair car with his wife and small child. Just behind them sat Sheriff Foster.
Coffelt was arrested last week at Del Rio, Texas, a small place near the Mexican border, and a requisition placed in the hands of Sheriff Fosgter, to go after his man. He was brought around by the way of the main line of the Santa Fe and late last night lodged in jail at Perry.
The proof against Coffelt is said to be very strong and in the minds of the officers there is but little doubt of his guilt. Yesterday John Law wired to J. D. M. Hamilton, who has charge of the case for the Santa Fe, and asked him if Coffelt was arrested for the murder of Montgomery. He received an answer last evening stating that he was.
The prisoner will be kept in jail at Perry until the matter of his forfeited bond can be fixed up and then he will be brought to Cowley county for trial.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, SATURDAY, JANUARY 4, 1902.
COFFELT SENT TO WINFIELD
Where He is Charged with the Murder of G. C. Montgomery.
Governor Tom Ferguson yesterday honored the requisition issued by Governor Stanley, of Kansas, for the return of
O. W. Coffelt to Winfield, where he is wanted to answer to the charge of murdering Santa Fe Detective G. C. Montgomery about three months ago. E. G. Gray, deputy sheriff of Cowley county, Kansas, was here with the papers and went to Pawnee yesterday for Coffelt, who is there in custody.
Coffelt was arrested last week in Del Rio, Texas, as a fugitive from justice from Oklahoma, having skipped a bond at Pawnee. He was returned to Pawnee and the Oklahoma authorities have agreed to surrender him to Kansas. Guthrie Capital.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, MONDAY, JANUARY 6, 1902.
COFFELT BROUGHT BACK.
Is Now in the Sedgwick County Jail and Will Answer for the Murder of George C. Montgomery.
Yesterday O. W. Coffelt was brought from Pawnee county, Oklahoma, to Kansas to answer to the charge of killing George C. Montgomery.
On the evening of October 6 George C. Montgomery, special Santa Fe detective, was sitting at a table in his home in Winfield, busily engaged in making out his weekly reports. It was about 7:40 o'clock when a load of buckshot was fired through the window with fatal effect. Montgomery fell from his chair a dead man. So well was the murder planned and the traces covered up that the officers did not find a clew for several days. The hunt for the murderer is a well known story and the people are all familiar with it. Finally W. C. Johnson, a young man who left Winfield the following day for Bliss, was arrested and is now in jail on the charge of killing the detective. Owing to the fact that Montgomery had considerable trouble with the Millers, proprietors of the 101 ranch, suspicion very naturally fell upon them and the ranch was closely watched.
The Pinkerton men, who were put on the case by the Santa Fe company, finally got a clew which the followed out and found it pointed to O. W. Coffelt as the man who actually did the killing. He was under bond at Pawnee for his appearance for trial upon the charge of assault with intent to kill. He learned that he was wanted upon the other more serious charge and when all was ready to make the arrest he was not to be found.
To Sheriff Foster, of Perry, was instructed the work of locating the man, and he finally was successful. He watched the mail received by Mrs. Coffelt's mother and learned that they were in Del Rio, Texas, where Coffelt was working as a rout-about in the roundhouse in the Southern Pacific railroad. His arrest was ordered and Sheriff Foster brought him to Pawnee.
The Cowley county officers were notified at once and securing a requisition Under Sheriff E. G. Gray went to Pawnee, where he succeeded in getting the case against Coffelt postponed and started to Kansas with his man. Rumors were afloat in Pawnee to the effect that the Kansas officer would never bring his man out of Oklahoma and that the Millers would take Coffelt at Bliss.
Saturday morning Undersheriff Gray and Coffelt started to Guthrie, accompanied by Detective Bush, of the Pinkerton agency in Kansas City, who worked up the case, and Sheriff Foster, of Perry. Upon reaching Guthrie they got aboard the northbound Santa Fe and put their man in the baggage car. He was heavily ironed and the doors of the car barricaded. No one was allowed to see him and the utmost caution was used.
When Bliss was reached, the officers were more careful than ever. There was not a sign of the Millers or anyone from their ranch and the chances are that the rumors were pure fakes. The station safely pased, Coffelt was relieved of his shackles and handcuffs and when seen by a reporter, yesterday, he looked more like a farmer than a bad man.
All the way up he exhibited a desire to talk but the officers did not allow this, as they are not quite ready. He is very nervous and they believe he will ultimately confess all.
He was not stopped in Winfield, but was taken directly to the Sedgwick county jail, where he will be kept until he is brought down for his hearing. He will probably be taken before the justice court tomorrow and his hearing set.
The case against Coffelt is a very strong one and the officers believe they have the right man.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, MONDAY, JANUARY 6, 1902.
George Miller, of the 101 ranch, was in the city last night on his way to Winfield.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 8, 1902.
Judge Webb, of Winfield, Will Hear the Case January 27.
This morning O. W. Coffelt, the man charged with the murder of George C. Montgomery, in Winfield, was this morning brought from the jail in Wichita, where he is being held, to Winfield and taken before Justice of the Peace L. H. Webb. The preliminary hearing was set for January 27, and he was sent back to jail without bail.
Coffelt is still very nervous and realizes that he is up against a tough proposition. He was taken back to the Wichita jail, where he will be held until the date of his hearing.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, MONDAY, JANUARY 13, 1902.
Makes a Suggestion Worthy of Consideration.
Below will be found a letter from Mr. Underwood, on a subject very near to the heart of the people of the southwest. His suggestion that Mr. Bassett be used as a witness in the case of Kansas against Colorado, is respectfully referred to the Commercial club and to Attorney General Goddard:
KANSAS CITY, MO., Jan. 11, 1902.
T. W. ECKERT, ARKANSAS CITY, KAN.:
DEAR SIR: I have just read in the TRAVELER the item regarding William Bassett, as government water gauger. It occurs to me that the evidence of Mr. Bassett would prove valuable in your water suit against Colorado. His deposition taken by the attorney general would be more conclusive than the testimony of a dozen farmers living in the valley because his knowledge comes from actual measurements, while the farmers' comes from observation and guess work. The very fact that Mr. Bassett's office was discontinued on account of having no water to measure should be of some weight. This all may have occurred to you, but a friendly interest in Arkansas City prompts me to call it to mind.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, THURSDAY, JANUARY 16, 1902.
O. W. Coffelt Spends His Time in a Peculiar Manner.
O. W. Coffelt, the alleged murderer of George Montgomery, who is confined in the rotary cell of the county jail in solitary confinement is continually singing religious songs and praying. He will sing "Nearer My God to Thee" and then offer a prayer for his soul. Then he will sing "Hallelujah," and make another prayer and then sing another part of some old hymn. He does not know all of any of them but supplies the words and music to suit himself. He is rather a good singer with a baritone voice which he uses to good advantage. The inmates of the jail like to hear him sing as he renders the parts of the songs he knows in a very beautiful manner and puts his whole soul into the music.
He does not want to talk with anyone. When his dinner is brought to him he eats it without saying a word and hardly ever speaks to any one of the officers. He will answer questions and that is all.
He is evidently troubled about something as he spends his whole time in singing and praying. He kneels for hours on the floor and as soon as a prayer is finished he will start up some song and when he cannot think of any more of this he will wait a few moments and then resume praying. He repeats almost the same prayer each time. If he gets lost in some part of it, he will stop and mumble for a few moments and then commence again. His voice is high pitched and he can be heard all over the jail. At first his talking and singing bothered the other prisoners, but they have come to like his prayers and songs and some of them will listen for hours to his music and they seem interested and some few of them can be heard humming parts of the songs the man sings. Wichita Eagle.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 1902.
O. W. COFFELT
The Man Charged With the Murder of Montgomery, Back in Cowley County.
Yesterday O. W. Coffelt, the man who is charged with killing George C. Montgomery, was tken from the rotary cell in the Wichita jail and brought to Cowley county, where he will be confined until after he has had his preliminary hearing, which is set for January 27. He was taken into the county attorney's office yesterday and a long talk between him and the attorney was had.
Coffelt was then taken to a photography gallery and his picture taken. He did not object to this as the officers were afraid he would, but went along very quietly. The men who have worked up the case against Coffelt believe they have a chain of evidence against him that will certainly convict him.
Ed Donnelly, the operator at Hackney, was in Winfield and taken to see Coffelt to ascertain whether he is the same many who was at Hackney on the night of the murder. He says he is not the man and this is just what the officers wished for. They expect to show that there was another mixed in the murder and another arrest may be made in a short time.
Coffelt's demeanor is that of a man under a severe mental strain and try as he will to hide his nervousness, he is unable to do so.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 1902.
Postponed Until February 5 by Agreement.
Today was the time set for the preliminary hearing of
O. W. Coffelt, charged with the murder of George C. Montgomery, before Justice of the Peace L. H. Webb in Winfield. When the case was called the announcement of a postponement until February 5 was made.
This was done by agreement and for the purpose of allowing some of the attorneys and others interested in the case an opportunity of going to Topeka to attend the Kansas day banquet.
ARKANSAS CITY DAILY TRAVELER, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1902.
Considerable Damaging Evidence Against the Man Brought Out Yesterday.
Yesterday morning before Justice Webb began the Coffelt preliminary examination. County Attorney Torrance is assisted in the prosecution by his deputy, C. W. Roberts, and Hackney & Lafferty are conducting the defense.
Coffelt was dressed in a new suit of dark clothes and his appearance is very much changed from what it was a month ago. He sat by the side of his wife and just behind his attorneys. He was very nervous and had a habit of twitching his face that gives him a bad appearance. Besides, he sits and keeps continually rubbing his thumbs. It may be merely a habit and yet it made an impression upon all who saw him. Mrs. Montgomery was the first witness called to the stand and she related the particulars of the killing just as they have been told several times in the TRAVELER.
Andy Smith, colored, was the next witness. He testified that he was going home the night of the murder and was about a half block north of the Montgomery home on the same street. It was about 7:30 o'clock. He learned of the Montgomery murder, but did not stop as he went by. He saw the flash of the gun down by the east gate. He did not see anybody.
Cal Ferguson was called to the stand. He told of going to the Montgomery home after hearing of the murder and described things as he found them there. He found a running track south of the home and followed them for some distance. He afterward compared the track with W. C. Johnson's shoe and they were an exact fit. He found another running track and took a measurement of it. Rather a short foot, small heel. The two tracks ran south on different sides of the street and met in the southeast corner of a cane filed north of the main road running east and west. In cross examination the witness testified that the track which fitted Johnson's shoe was a broader and stubbier one than the other. The shoes that would fit the tracks would be a 6 or
Ed. Donnely, the operator at Hackney, related the incident of the depot but was not able to identify Coffelt as the man whom he saw there.
A. P. Johnson was on the train at the time of the trouble at Bliss between Montgomery and the Millers.
Henry Kirk, a farmer, was on the train and he also saw the trouble. He says there were 4 or 5 men on the platform and they told Montgomery to get off and they would "do" him. He got off but had two six shooters in his hands.
L. J. West, a farmer of Tisdale township, was in Ponca City, on the 4th of October and says Coffelt or a man answering his description was at a livery barn there and left a saddle horse, which he said would be called for by someone to go to the Miller ranch. He described the clothes worn by the man.
Sheriff Foster, of Noble county, was on the stand and told of the arrest of Coffelt in Texas.
Thomas Hawkins, a horse buyer, of Winfield, said he saw Coffelt first in Winfield early in September, when he bought a horse from him. Coffelt was at that time with Johnson. He said he again saw Coffelt at the Santa Fe depot on the day of the murder and then in the evening he saw him standing in a doorway uptown apparently watching Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery, who were passing. This was about 6 o'clock.
The court then adjourned until this morning when the hearing began again.
The prosecution finished its case this morning and the defense waived its preliminary. Judge Webb bound Coffelt over to the district court and fixed his bond at $5,000, which he will probably not be able to give.
Story compiled by Richard Kay Wortman
1400 North Third St. - Arkansas City, Ks 67005