Leoti-Coronado County Seat Fight


The following are two accounts detailing the Leoti-Coronado county seat fight.

Account taken from the Coronado Herald, June 16, 1887

"During the time one Gerow was taking the wishes of the voters of this county in regard to the temporary county seat, certain parties in Leoti sent to Wallace to secure the services of one Charles Coulter and his six-shooter, both too well known in western Kansas to the sorrow of many good people. Coulter came and for the promise of $750 undertook the job of making Leoti the county seat. His first appearance was at the polls north of Coronado with about 150 imported toughs to receive $4 per day. Coronado voters dared not go near the polls. Again on the day of registration he, with his companion, Rains, stood at the polls with guns and dictated who should register and who should not. Coronado men left the place of registration to avoid bloodshed. During the time they were at the polls the unarmed Coronadoites were covered with rifles in the hands of Coulter’s friends, stationed in the town of Leoti. Later that day Coulter and Rains held up tow Coronado men with guns and killed a valuable horse belonging to them.

Up to this time not a single Coronado man had exposed a weapon, or lost his temper. On Sunday morning, February 27, while the people of this town were at church, William Rains and A.R. Johnson came to Coronado from Leoti and asked a druggist here for a bottle of beer. They were informed that there was not any beer in town. Not seeing anybody on the street they remarked that it would be a good time to round up the d–n town. They returned to Leoti and recruited their forces with Charles Coulter, Frank Jenness, A.N. Boorey, Emmet Denning, George Watkins, and a case of beer. When they arrived at Coronado they proceeded to make everybody they met drink with them, and tried to make a sick man get out of bed and dance at the muzzles of pistols. Later Coulter commenced to knock men down with his pistol, while Frank Jenness would single out men to cover with his pistol. But such sport was too timid for drunken desperadoes so Coutler opened the ball by shooting Charles Loomis twice, while Rains shot him (Loomis) in the arm. Up to this time not a single weapon was drawn by a Coronado man, but after these three shots were fired by Coulter and Rains, it seemed for thirty seconds from pistol reports, that every man in and near the crowd was shooting. When the smoke cleared away the old maxim was verified: Death loves a shining mark, and in Coulter and Rains it certainly had struck two daisies."


Account taken from the Leoti Standard, March 2, 1887

"On Sunday morning the town of Coronado was the scene of one of the most cowardly and dastardly crimes ever perpetrated in any community that had any pretense of being civilized, it being the shooting from the back of seven of our best and most respected citizens. The victims were Charles Coulter, instantly killed; Wm. Rains, instantly killed; George Watkins, fatally wounded; Frank Jenness, shot six times; A.R. Boorey, shot three times; Emmet Denning, leg broken by shot.

The bitter fight caused by the county seat fight and the way Leoti has beaten her opponent by might of right, and right of might, is well known. Coronado had been satisfied until Sunday to carry on the fight by trickery, fraud, lies, and forgery, and in this way had managed to make the town and people despised by all who had the slightest insight into the matter. A note was placed in Mr. Coulter’s hands on Sunday, inviting him over that afternoon and telling him to bring a friend or two with him and have a good time. It had been customary to visit back and forth, so in the afternoon the crowd of seven went over. They arrived there about two o’clock, and after a couple of hours of pleasant chatting with their friends and acquaintances, they all got in the buggy and started off. As they drove by the bank building Frank Lilly, standing in front of the bank, applied some foul name to Mr. Rains, at the same time making a motion as if to draw a gun. Rains sprang from the buggy and said that Lilly would have to fight for that. Lilly replied that he had no gun, whereupon Rains handed his gun to one of the party in the buggy and offered to fight with his fists. Lilly refused and Rains took his revolver and returned it to his pocket. Meantime Coulter, Denning, and Johnson had gotten out of the buggy. Charles and ‘Red’ Loomis, and John Knapp were standing near the bank at the time. As Rains put up his gun he remarked that he could easily whip Lilly. Lilly retaliated by calling him a liar, at which Rains drew his revolver and struck him over the head, mashing his hat, but not knocking him down. The men in ambush who were awaiting the signal, now opened a volley of some sixty or seventy-five guns on the unsuspecting crowd (from Leoti). Every man was shot; shot from the back. The four men on the ground were brought down and of the three in the buggy, Watkins and Jenness fell out. The horses were shot and started to run away, with Boorey still in the buggy.

After falling from the buggy Jenness got on his feet and started toward Leoti on a run. A number of shots were fired at him, five taking effect. The men of Coronado now ran out and commenced shooting at closer range, and after Coulter and Rains both were dead, put the muzzles of their guns against them and fired."


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