Chuck Parsons

COE, PHILIP HOUSTON (1839–1871). Philip Houston Coe, gambler, son of Elizabeth (Parker) and Philip Haddox Coe, was born in Gonzales, Texas, on July 17 or 18, 1839. On March 24, 1862, in Gonzales County he enrolled in William L. Foster's Company, which subsequently became Company D of Peter C. Woods's Thirty-sixth Texas Cavalry. He served without distinction in several companies and rose to the rank of lieutenant in Capt. William G. Tobin's Company F of Charles L. Pyron's Second Texas Cavalry. His service to the Confederacy ended on April 30, 1863. Coe may have later served with Ben Thompson under Emperor Maximilian in Mexico.

During the Civil War and Reconstructionqqv he learned to be a professional gambler, probably in Austin working with Thompson and Thomas Bowles. In late 1869 he was in Brenham, where his sister, Delilah, and her family lived. He met and gambled there with such notorious individuals as James Madison Brown, John Wesley Hardin, and William P. Longley.qqv Coe probably left Brenham for Kansas not long after; it was reported that he was in Saline, Kansas, during the summer of 1870. By May 1871 he was again with Ben Thompson, and the pair were partners in the operation of the Bull's Head Saloon in Abilene, Kansas, where James B. (Wild Bill) Hickok was city marshal. Although a number of incidents can be identified as probable causes of hard feelings between the gambler and the lawman, it is almost certain that the real base of their animosity involved a woman. On the night of October 5, 1871, Hickok shot Coe, who had been recklessly shooting in the street. Hickok's deputy was accidentally shot and killed-by the marshal himself-in the confusion. Immediately after the shooting Hickok drove the riotous Texas cowboys out of his town.

Coe lingered in agony for days and finally died on October 9. He was Hickok's last known victim. His body was transported back to Brenham and buried in Prairie Lea Cemetery. The following season the city fathers of Abilene, Kansas, chose peace and order over money and insisted that the Texas drovers take their cattle to other shipping points.

Chuck Parsons, Phil Coe, Texas Gambler (Wolfe City, Texas: Henington, 1984). Joseph G. Rosa, They Called Him Wild Bill (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964; rev. ed. 1974). Floyd Benjamin Streeter, Ben Thompson (New York: Fell, 1957). W. M. Walton, The Life and Adventures of Ben Thompson (Austin, 1884; facsimile, Austin: Steck, 1956).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Chuck Parsons, "COE, PHILIP HOUSTON," accessed July 16, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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