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O. W. Coffelt

                                            [Employee of Miller, 101 Ranch.]
                   [Possibly Murderer of G. C. Montgomery, Santa Fe Detective.]
The following are rough notes taken by RKW from various papers relative to the murder of George C. Montgomery, a Santa Fe Detective, killed in his home at Winfield. George W. Miller was sought at murderer by Santa Fe detectives with one trial after another taking place. At one time they began to think O. W. Coffelt was the guilty party.
                                                      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 Employee 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.
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.

                                                         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 indictment 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.

                                                   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 handcuffed 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 Foster, 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.

                                             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.

                                               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.
                                                             THE CRIME.
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 clue which they 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 roust-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 passed, 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.

George Miller, of the 101 ranch, was in the city last night on his way to Winfield.

                                                COFFELT'S PRELIMINARY.
                             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.

                                                      EARL UNDERWOOD
                                     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.
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.
                                                               Yours truly,
                                                     EARL UNDERWOOD.

                                                            WITH SONGS.
                                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.

                                                          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 taken 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 man 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.

                                                 COFFELT'S PRELIMINARY
                                        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.

                                                 COFFELT'S PRELIMINARY
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 field 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 6½.
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.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum