Frank Coe (Lincoln County War)

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For the American government official and Soviet agent, see Frank Coe.

Frank Coe (1851–1931) was an Old West cowboy and for a time gunman in the company of Billy the Kid, as a member of the Lincoln County Regulators.


Benjamin Franklin Coe was born in Missouri, and ventured to New Mexico Territory in 1871 with his cousin, George Coe, where they would work on the ranch of a cousin. For a time during this period, they lived near Raton, New Mexico. In July, 1876, Coe and Ab Saunders tracked down and killed outlaw Nicas Meras in the Baca Canyon, it is believed due to the latter rustling cattle. On July 18, 1876, Doc Scurlock, Charlie Bowdre, Frank and George Coe, and Ab Saunders broke into the weak Lincoln jail and freed horse thief Jesus Largo from Sheriff Saturnino Baco, then they took Largo outside of town and hung him.

When the Lincoln County War broke out, Coe joined the Alexander McSween Faction, following the murder of John Tunstall, facing off against Sheriff William J. Brady, and hired gunmen from the Jesse Evans Gang and the John Kinney Gang. He would be present in the Gunfight of Blazer's Mills in which Buckshot Roberts was killed by the Regulators, and had attempted to convince Roberts to surrender before the shooting started. His cousin George supposedly fired the fatal shot, although that has been disputed. Charlie Bowdre, John Middleton, Billy the Kid and Scurlock were wounded in that shootout, with the Regulators leader, Richard "Dick" Brewer being killed.

Frank Coe was captured on April 29, 1878, by a posse led by Jesse Evans, and including members of both the Evans Gang and the Seven Rivers Warriors. During that capture, Regulator Frank McNab was killed and Ab Saunders badly wounded. It is unknown for certain as to when he escaped, but it was prior to the Battle of Lincoln.

After the Lincoln County War ended, Coe left New Mexico for Colorado, and Nebraska, but later returned, in 1884, buying a ranch where he would live the remainder of his life. He was arrested between his departure and return, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the murder of Buckshot Roberts, but it was later determined he'd been mistaken for his cousin George. In 1880 he was suspected of having taken part in a lynching, but never charged. He and his wife, Helena Anne Tully, would remain together for fifty years, raising six children.

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