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ROBBERS' ROOST

Located at the highest point in Oklahoma in the Black Mesa region on the western edge of the Panhandle, commonly known as "No Man's Land," Robbers' Roost boasts a history of majesty and myth. Situated four miles northeast of Kenton, Oklahoma, in Cimarron County where the Carrizo Creek meets the Cimarron River, the impenetrable, rock-like fortress served as a hideout for many outlaws. In its grandeur the thirty-five-foot by sixteen-foot cave, resting seven feet above ground, allowed easy escape through a north or south entrance, provided heat and cooking space with numerous grand fireplaces, and afforded ventilation and protection through twenty-seven strategically placed portholes.

According to legend, those who frequented the hideout entertained themselves with a full-sized bar, piano, and a plethora of girls. The Coe Gang, headed by William Coe, remain the Roost's most famous residents. Numbering between thirty and fifty members, the gang began forays to Fort Union, New Mexico, and Fort Lyon, Colorado, to steal army horses and mules in the late 1860s. The legend of Robbers' Roost resides in local accounts of an army attack on the hideout. In the fall of 1867 a spy from Fort Lyon joined the gang and informed his superiors of their location. A contingent of twenty-five U.S. Army regulars marched to the stronghold with a cannon in tow. At sunrise the bombardment began, and the walls of the stone structure soon crumbled. Some of the bandits put up a fight. A few were killed and others, including William Coe, fled to the surrounding hills. There is consensus that the end of the Coe Gang occurred following the final capture of William Coe. Without their fearless leader, the gang members simply dispersed and never raided the area again.

SEE ALSO: ANTI-HORSE THIEF ASSOCIATION, LAW ENFORCEMENT, NO MAN'S LAND, OUTLAWS, TERRITORIAL ERA.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Albert Cox Easley Interview, Kenton, Oklahoma, n.d., "Indian-Pioneer History," 74:73, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Richard M. Patterson, Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West (Boulder, Colo.: Johnson Publishing Co., 1985). Morris F. Taylor, "The Coe Gang: Rustlers of 'Robber's Roost,'" The Colorado Magazine 51 (Summer 1974). "Robbers' Roost," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Melissa Vincent

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