Fred Colley, Coler or Colter

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Palo Pinto County, Texas

    The surviving old timers interviewed by the author, were not in accord concerning the name of Fred Colley or Coler. One individual called him Cola, another Fred Coler, and others, Fred Colter, and Dutch Fred. But several others referred to the young German and called him Fred Colley. Mrs. Lizzie Chriswell, a daughter of James Walker, stated that Fred Colley worked for her father before the Civil War, and she several times asked him to state his correct name. He replied that his name was Fred Colley.

    Fred Colley was a very valuable ranch hand, and generally made his home in the southern and southwestern part of the county. At one time he worked for James Walker, who then lived on Palo Pinto Creek. At another, for E.F. Springer, who lived near Springer's gap, eight or ten miles north of the present town of Gordon. But, prior to his death, for some time, he had been making his home with Wm. and Benjamin Harris and the Edward brothers who lived three or four miles north of the present city of Strawn.

    It seemed that Fred Colley was destined to suffer many vicissitudes on the West Texas frontier. While working for James Walker, he made his pallet near the door, on a dirt floor. His bed was partly protected from the outside rains by a large box which stood near his head. One night when young Colley lay down to sleep, he was bitten on the head by a rattlesnake that had, also, concluded the box offered ample protection from the rain.

    Mrs. H.B. Smith, a daughter of Nathan P. Dodson, stated that Fred Colley was not working for her father at the time of his death, but it seems he had been staying there a short time before. The day preceding his death, Fred Colley and John Henderson returned from Stephensville, where they had been moving cattle. They took the noon day meal with Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Mingus, for whom the present town of Mingus was named.

    The several old timers interviewed by the author were not in accord concerning the date of young Colley's death. Some stated that it occurred before the Civil War, and others as late as 1864, but the overwhelming majority are of the opinion that it occurred during 1863, and judging from correlated events, we are quite sure the last date is very nearly correct.

    During the morning his death occurred, Fred Colley was searching for horses on the head waters of Wolf Branch, near the Big Gap, about six miles west of Palo Pinto. Colley was riding a splendid horse when suddenly charged by a large number of Indians. He started in a run toward the Dodson Ranch, which was on the head waters of Eagle, about one half mile south and west of the present home of Roy Hittson, Little's home was about five miles west of the present town of Nox - about two hundred yards south of the present Bankhead Highway. Fred Colley was successful in reaching the Dodson home, but during his dash for life an Indian with his bow and arrows, gave Colley a mortal wound. Fred Colley pulled the arrow from his body and used it to whip his horse. When he reached the fence of the Dodson Ranch, after running about two miles, young Colley fell dead. Mrs. Dodson and stepdaughters, Miss Lorenda Carolin Dodson and Mrs. Sarah Walter Watson. Some of the signs of this old ranch can still be seen and about the same distance west of the former home of Mr. and Mrs. Ann (Victoria) McGlothlin, and an African slave named Charlie were at the Dodson Ranch at the time. Miss Lorenda Croline Dodson grabbed a gun, a man's hat and hurried out into the yard to check the Indians. The old faithful African, Charles, was also standing out in the yard and although he stood his ground, after the savages circles and rode away, the old African was so badly frightened, he stood speechless and silent as a statue. The bravery of this frontier girl, not only prevented the savages from scalping Fred Colley, but, perhaps, saved the lives of others. Colley was buried in the Davidson graveyard about three miles southeast of Strawn.

    Note: It is but fair to state that the author made several unsuccessful attempts to gather the material for his section. Several persons were found who had always heard some one had been killed at the Dodson Ranch, but no little difficulty was experienced in obtaining the details. As a consequence, the author openly stated that he would spend two hundred dollars, if necessary, to obtain the facts for this story. The author interviewed and corresponded with Mrs. Sarah McGlothin, Mrs. William Smith Mingus, W.C. Cochran, Mrs. Lizzie Chriswell, A.W. Springer, Judge E.K. Taylor, J.C. (Bud) Jowell, Mrs. Wm. Metcalf, Charlie Hazlewood and others.

    Further Ref: Unpublished memoirs of Wm. E. Cureton; T.P. Hazlewood's account of the early days in Texas, as published in the Trail Drivers of Texas, compiled and edited by J. Marvin Hunter under the direction of Geo. W. Saunders.

The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.

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