Phil Coe

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Phil Coe (1839–1871), was a soldier, Old West gambler, and businessman from Texas. He became the business partner of gunfighter Ben Thompson in Abilene, Kansas. He was killed by marshal Wild Bill Hickok in a street brawl.

Early life[edit]

Phillip Houston Coe was born to Texas parents, Phillp Haddox Coe and Elizabeth Parker Coe on July 18th 1839, in Gonzales, Texas, one of the earliest Anglo-American settlements and the first west of the Colorado River.


In March 1862, Coe at age 23 joined the 36th Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He later served in the 2nd Texas Cavalry, ending his service in the army in April 1863. He is believed to have served in Mexico under Emperor Maximilian following the Civil War's end.

After the war, Coe drifted through Texas, meeting gunman Bill Longley, and learning the art of gambling from gunman Ben Thompson, with whom he'd served in the military in Mexico. For a time he settled in Salina, Kansas. He was known as a saloon owner and talented gambler. In May 1871, Coe became a business partner with Ben Thompson in Abilene, running the Bullshead Saloon. It was the center of male town life, and he became associated with many Old West figures, to include John Wesley Hardin and Abilene town marshal Wild Bill Hickok.

Coe and Hickok disagreed on numerous topics. Coe greatly disliked Marshal Hickok, but Thompson generally got along with him; the two seemed to respect each other's reputations. At one point, Coe and Hickok passed words, during which Coe bragged of his shooting expertise. Hickok's retort to Coe, who supposedly stated he could "kill a crow on the wing", became famous (though possibly apocryphal): "Did the crow have a pistol? Was he shooting back? I will be." [1]

On October 5, 1871, Hickok was standing off a crowd during a street brawl. From the crowd Coe fired two shots at Hickok, and missed. Hickok returned fire, hitting Coe. Due to the chaos of the crowd, Hickok also accidentally shot and killed his deputy, Mike Williams, who was coming to his aid.[2] This haunted Hickok for the rest of his life.[citation needed]

Coe lingered for several days, dying on October 9, 1871. He was Hickok's last known gunfight fatality. Coe's body was taken to Brenham, Texas, where he had family, and was buried in Prairie Lea Cemetery.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Phil Coe", Texas Handbook of History Online, accessed 30 Aug 2010
  2. ^ "Mike Williams", Officer Down Memorial, accessed 30 Aug 2010

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