June 1, 1871, John Coffee, Nep Hammonds, Napoleon Lemons and Daniel Arnold were "loose herding" about 1020 head of cattle that belonged to Rich Coffee, W.A. Beddoe and Buck Johnson. The cattle were being held about two miles north and west of "Old Flat Top", and about twenty-five miles southwest of Coleman in Coleman County. Preparations were being made to move the cattle June 4, following, to Colorado or some western point, not yet definitely determined. John Coffee and Dan Arnold were on a little hill about eleven o'clock in the morning and Napoleon Lemons was across Elm Creek and a considerable distance to the east. Nep Hammonds was about one-fourth mile further south of Arnold and Coffee when several Indians charged the four cowboys simultaneously. After Coffee and Arnold had run about one-fourth mile side by side, they struck Elm Creek where a large band of Indians were on an opposite bluff. Here Dan Arnold was killed instantly when the Indians shot him in the head. An Indian grabbed John Coffee's bridle rein. When Coffee jumped to the ground, the savage thought he had been killed and ran for his scalp. But Coffee jumped up and the Indians dodged behind their shields and fell back. John Coffee then ran about two hundred yards due west and crawled in a little washout behind two elm trees and near a little bluff where he was partly protected and hidden by roots. He also piled rocks around himself and here he remained for about an hour. Coffee was wounded three times. The savages apparently did not know where he was. About one hour later, however, while the Indians were holding the horses and driving the cattle away, Coffee started for water, the first thing a wounded man always wants. He was discovered by the Indians so he retreated back to his same fortification where he had remained during the preceding hour. The country surrounding was more or less open and Coffee could see the cowmen in one direction and the Indians in another. But he thought the Indians were the white citizens, and the citizens, the Indians, so he threw up his gun to the savages and yelled, for he thought they were the cowmen. When he did, the savages charged again. When the opportunity presented itself, Coffee started toward the camp. He had only gone about two hundred yards when he met Wm. Beddoe, James Halcomb, John Ferguson, Dick and Sugg Robertson and Charlie Hammonds, who came to Coffee's rescue. There were also other cowmen coming to his relief. Nep Hammonds, who happened to be nearest the ranch quarters, successfully reached camp but was pursued by several Indians. Napoleon Lemons was killed across the creek about the same time that Arnold was killed. The Indians drove away the cattle and horses. According to reports, some of the cattle driven away by the Indians on this occasion were later located in the state of Colorado.
John Coffee recovered from his wounds, and today, is a noted ranchman in Kimble County. It was the author's pleasure to visit and interview him at his ranch, about fifteen miles northwest of Harper.
Note: Author personally interviewed John Coffee, mentioned above, and L.V. and Asa Arnold, brothers of Dan Arnold. Also interviewed others.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.