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Eyewitness Account of Amanda Cofer's
Murder By Comanches Surfaces

By Jeff Clark

The Coffer Family

The Coffer Family. Lewis is the older man on the left, perhaps near the time of his visit to mark Amanda's grave. Sarah Gordia, biological daughter of Lewis and Amanda, is the second woman from the left, on the back row. Sarah Gordia, also in her twenties at the time of the photo, and unlike her father in facial appearance, might resemble what Amanda Cofer looked like at the time of her murder. (Photo donated by Bruce and Betty Coffer).

January 15, 2008 -- I am about to delete twenty pages of our book. Jana and I have dug around Texas, finding many diverse accounts of Alameda's most enduring claim to fame, the Comanche kidnapping and murder of Amanda Cofer. In the last couple of months, we have begun dialogue with the Cofer/Coffer family, hoping for more details or even a photo of Amanda. The plan was to sift through the accounts, gleaning the most likely events, based upon proximity and reliability of witness.
I became saddened that one magic bullet had already whistled past our heads when I learned that Bruce Coffer, Amanda's great grandson, had passed away before the project began. Bruce was said to have dug deeply into "what really happened," and we could tell from other relatives that he had been hot on the truth's trail. Sadly, we added Mr. Coffer to our too-long list of "we arrived too late" sources.
There is no way to know exactly what happened to twenty-six-year-old Amanda Cofer that fateful day. Though Jana and I were aware of the corrections Mrs. Langston later made, the first hand testimony of Bruce's ancestors, people who were eyewitnesses to what happened, and to its terrible aftermath, are as far as I know new information.
Though this bright, diligent Coffer descendant has left this Earth, the fruit of his labors fell beneath our feet last week. He blessed our project, and the history of the Alameda Community by checking, rechecking, then writing it down. He didn't realize the value of his ancestor's oral tradition, because he had heard it all his life.
I believe Bruce is closest to the truth, of all of the accounts that I've seen. Finding this tale, after so much searching, reminds my wife and I to keep checking, and rechecking our traps. Assume that things are out there. Don't assume stories are gone, just because the storyteller is. I have included Bruce's story, written painstakingly by him, unedited except to omit certain lengthy genealogical information, or aspects of the family's story that doesn't directly flow to that fateful day in 1866 when the Alameda Cemetery got its tragic start. A complete version of Mr. Coffer's work will be placed with the work papers from the Alameda - Cheaney Project at the Eastland County Museum, once the project is complete. For Mr. Coffer's faith to his family's past I am grateful.

Lewis Tolton Cofer Family
By Bruce Coffer
"Lewis Tolton Cofer, his wife Amanda, and their four children play a significant role in the history of Eastland County. Yet, theirs is a story still untold. They were of the few who made the frontier their home. They accomplished no great feat, nor did they leave anything of great value. Yet, they were part of the beginning. They came, they worked, they died. They paid the price. They earned the right to be remembered.
Their story is not much different from that of hundreds of other pioneers who, for a thousand different reasons, pushed westward in the early 1860's, and made their stand on the Texas Frontier. These were, by and large, poor people, the "Have Nots" from the southern states, who came in search for land, for freedom and a new beginning. When there was talk of a Civil War, many of these people came to the frontier, rather than remain to be conscripted into a war in which they were outsiders, fighting for a cause which had rejected them, and left them poor. These people were workers, not owners. They owned no land, no slaves; nothing more than what they brought with them, and sometimes they didn't even own that. Some remained to work the land, while others, by reason of fate or circumstance, moved on, leaving only a tiny mark on the pages of history.
Such was the case of the Lewis Cofer family, who came to the Eastland County frontier in 1863. On August 20, 1866, near their home by Mansker Lake on the Leon River, an event took place that would change their destiny, set it apart from that of others. It remains, today, as it has been for 121 years, a topic of discussion, a mystery, a story; a tale, a tragedy.
Lewis Cofer was born in 1833 in Tennessee, the only son of James and Eliza Clark Cofer, who were married June 10, 1827, in Roane County, Tennessee. Eliza was the second wife of James Cofer, the first being a lady named Abergill. They had two children, but nothing more is known of them. Abergill died when the children were small, leaving James a widower alone with them "for some time". Lewis had six sisters, all of them born of Eliza {biographic info omitted}. James Cofer was a veteran of the War of 1812, and had been a member of Capt. William Neilson's Company of Militia from Roane County, Tennessee. In this unit, he was out about four months against the Indians around Lookout Mountain. After this enlistment, he was in the regular army for a period of five years. James Cofer was born in 1768 {omitted}.
Lewis left home at an early age, understandably {his father was an alcoholic and behind on some bills}, and went to live with his uncle Brewer in Chicago, who was a beekeeper. It is not known when he came into Texas, but it was said that he was married to a woman, possibly in East Texas, and had a couple of children. There are no records to indicate that this is true, to my knowledge. Nothing more is known of him until February 17, 1856, when he married Amanda E. Henshaw, 16 years old, in Smith County, Texas.
Amanda was the daughter of Jesse and Nancy Miller Henshaw, who were married December 26, 1836, in Cass County, Missouri. Nancy Miller was the second wife of Jesse. The name of his first wife is not known, but they apparently married in Tennessee c. 1819, having a daughter, Celia, born there. Their next child, James Madison, was born in Missouri, probably Grayson County, in 1834.
The next child of Jesse Henshaw, Jane, was born in 1838, in Missouri, being born of his second wife, Nancy Miller. Their next child, and the subject of our story, was Amanda E., who married Lewis Cofer. She was born in Illinois in 1840, as was the next child, Margaret, born in 1842. There is no known explanation for Jesse taking "the long way" in getting to Texas, but again, people were searching in those days. There was more searching than there was finding. It was said that he once fell into a frozen river in Illinois, and almost froze to death. He said then that he'd never be caught in that cold country again. That could very well have been the winter of 1842, because their next daughter, Pernina, was born in 1844, in Smith County, Texas, as were all the remaining children. {Omitted}.
At the time of Amanda and Lewis' marriage, in 1856, the William Byston Temple family also lived nearby in Smith County. One of the sons, John David, married Amanda's sister, Margaret, on March 26, 1859. Another of the Temple boys, James A. (Jim) married yet another of Amanda's sisters, Pernina, three months later, on July 20, 1859. And still another element bears on the story. One of the Temple girls, Mary Jane, married Francis Marion Cadenhead (sometimes called F. M., sometimes called Frank) in Comanche County on March 24, 1864. The marriage license was actually issued to B. F. Cadenhead, Frank's brother, who had been dead two years. B. F. Cadenhead (Benjamin) died in 1862 while in the Confederate Army somewhere in the South. Frank had also been drafted into the Confederate Army, but while on his second hitch, he deserted, along with a friend, in 1863. He and his friend returned to Old Randolph, in Houston County, the home of his father, James Truitt Cadenhead, and hid out for several months in the woods. His friend left and went toward the frontier. Finally, in late 1863, Frank himself went to the frontier, and soon married Mary Jane Temple, in Comanche County on December 24, 1863, using the alias of his brother, B.F. Cadenhead, instead of his own name. Three months before that, however, one James B. Stubblefield, friend and distant relative of Frank Cadenhead, married Milly A. Temple, in Comanche County.
By 1864, all of the mentioned families were beginning to congregate around the Mansker's Lake area in the newly created county named Eastland. On June 1, 1864, the names of J. D. Temple, T. S. Cadenhead, J. Henshaw, T. M. Moore, and J. A. Temple were on the Muster Roll of Captain Singleton Gilbert's Company, 2nd Frontier, District T.S.T., mustered in at Mansker's Lake. Also on the roll was the name of J. M. Stubblefield, and his old friend, Frank Cadenhead, who again had used his brother's initials.
At this same time, Lewis Cofer, husband and father of three, on August 8, 1863, enlisted in Captain Nicholas M. Gillentino's Company, Co. B. Calvary for Frontier Protection (Rangers), T.S.T., in Erath City, now Stephenville, Texas. He enlisted again on February 1, 1864, for another six month tour of duty, under Captain E. B. Pugh. It was probable that his family lived at Mansker's Lake at that time, near Amanda's family. Also living in the area at that time were a few families who had been there for some time, including the Jones, McGoughs, Duncans, Blackwells, Keiths, Duvalls, Duffers and of course, the Manskers. All of these families have played a significant role in recalling the events of August 20, 1866.
So much has been written, with such little and varied information, that it has been impossible to separate actual fact from "imagination" or "tales". All of these people have written in good faith, after much research, and after having interviewed everybody who could recall the incident, or had information about it. The first was an imaginary story written by Mrs. George Langston, in her book, History of Eastland County, published in 1904. It was based on facts presented in interviews by two people who had either first or second hand information of the incident. Bear in mind, however, that this was 38 years later, and much had happened in the lives of all concerned.
Later articles by Edwin T. Cox (1950), Robert Yancy Lindsey, Jr., (1940), Helen Murrell, Star-Telegram Correspondent (June 29, 1961), Joyce Duggan, Eastland Telegram, and another article in the Abilene Reporter-News (Oct. 3, 1971) have also been as factual and well written as possible. They simply did not have all the facts, nor does anyone. We have just now, in September of 1987, been made aware of several facts, so we do have a broader view. But we are still not sure exactly what happened. We never will be. In writing about the incident, I must rely on facts as they have been reported. I merely add information that has been received since these articles were written, and add information from family sources, which was not available to those early reporters.
While going through some old files, either in August or September of this year. Mrs. Margaret H. Corbell, of the Centennial Memorial Library, Eastland, Texas, ran across a page of corrections that Mrs. Langston had written for her story. They had lain in those files for 83 years, unnoticed and unknown. Mrs. Corbell was gracious enough to contact family members, and let them know. The following is that page:
*On Aug. 1, 1904, Mr. Lewis T. Coffer, who lives with his daughter Sarah Gordia Williams at Straw's Mill, Coryell County, Texas, came to my house and gave me a true account of this attack by the Indians.
His wife was killed and buried Aug. 20-24, 1866. She emptied five chambers of the big navy revolver before she was overcome, placed behind an Indian and carried off. When they had gone only 100 yards from where her bonnet was found, and where the ground "was terribly torn up" proving how she had struggled for her life, Jim Temple, who had heard her screams overtook them. The woman sprang to the ground and was shot with her own revolver. The Indians fled. No braver woman than Amanda Coffer ever faced a treacherous Comanche."
Joseph William Coffer, his son, lives at Gholson, McClellan County, Texas" (Note: Should be McLennan County).

It is truly amazing that this information has become available to us after all this time. It answers many important questions; questions that were unanswered for 121 years, and had been thought lost for all time. This page of corrections, ERATTA, is still written in the words and manner of Mrs. Langston, rather that an actual quote by Lewis Coffer. There are still many questions left unanswered, many things we wish we knew. But in this, we can be positive; it's the best we'll ever get.
Lewis T. Coffer, his wife Amanda, and their four children lived in a house on the J. L. Duffer place, where Lewis was employed as a ranch hand and general laborer. They were all at home on the evening of August 20, 1866. The oldest child was a daughter, Pernina, 11 years (1857). Next was a son, Samuel Sales, 7 years (January 13, 1859). He was my grandfather. Next was a son, Joseph William, 4 years (1862), and last was a little daughter, Sarah Gordie, almost 2 years old (1864).
Lewis had been very sick with a fever for about four weeks, and was now confined to his bed. All the housework and outside chores fell onto Amanda. Certain of the relatives and friends would come to sit with them at night, because there were still small bands of marauding Comanche Indians in the area. Their main activity was stealing horses, but they were quick to kill people if they got a chance.
On the evening of the 20th, right before dark, they got that chance. Amanda left the house by herself before the "sitters" arrived, and she went about 400 yards away, down into a ravine. She had staked out a filly there, because the grass was good, and it could be watched from the house. As she approached the filly, she was surprised and captured by Comanche Indians, who were in the process of stealing the horse. We do not know how many Indians were involved. Before she had left the house, however, she had strapped on Lewis's Navy revolver, for protection. As the Indians approached her, she fired five shots at them. Whether any of them were hit, we do not know. The pistol was taken from her, and she was placed behind an Indian on a horse, and they all quickly left, leading the filly.
In the meantime, a brother-in-law, Jim Temple, the husband of Amanda's sister, Pernina, had come to sit with Lewis. It was then that he heard the shots and screams, and rushed to her rescue, only to become a witness to her murder. It should be assumed that he also brought his wife to the Cofer house, because he certainly had with him his four year old daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, later to become Mrs. Stephen Wade Worrell. She recalled, on many occasions, seeing her daddy bring in the lifeless body of Amanda on his horse, and seeing her brains running out of her head.
Also present that day at the house was F. M. (Frank) Cadenhead, husband of Jim's sister, Mary Jane. It is not known if Mary Jane was present, for she had 15 days earlier given birth to her first child, a daughter they named Mary Josephine, born August 5, 1866. She was my grandmother. Frank Cadenhead later told many people how he remembered Jim Temple bringing in Amanda across his horse, and how her brains ran out of her head. My grandfather, Samuel, always told of his mother being scalped. However, Lewis Coffer makes no mention of Amanda having been scalped, nor does he say anything about her having been shot with arrows. Given the time element, and the haste of the Indians in getting away from Jim Temple, and the fact that she was shot with a large caliber revolver, doesn't it sound logical that she was shot in the head, causing severe damage, and not scalped at all?
A coffin was fashioned out of wood from an old wagon bed. Why, in those days, they waited three days before burying Amanda, we don't know, unless it had something to do with the health of Lewis, who was very sick. At any rate, she was buried on a grassy knoll near their house on August 24, 1866. This was the site of an old Comanche camp, and it later became the Alameda Cemetery. She was the first person to be buried there, and the last white woman in Eastland County to be killed by Indians.
It is not known exactly when the Cofer family moved away from Mansker's Lake, but it must have been only a short while after the tragedy. The Temples and Henshaws all moved away in a short while, also. We next find the entire Cofer family living in the Jesse Henshaw household in Bell County in the 1870 census. But this was after the marriage of Lewis to Mrs. Mary Jane Taylor in McLennan County, on October 27, 1868. Mary Jane apparently died either in childbirth, or shortly after in Bell County, in the Old Aiken Community on the Leon River. Death records show a six month old boy, John Cofer, who died in August of 1869, and Mary Jane had died before the census was taken in June of 1870. {Extensive data about the Cofer's children's later lives.}
It was, without doubt, at {the time of the 1904 interview with Mrs. Langston} that {Lewis} asked where his wife, Amanda, was buried. He visited her grave, and then left again, never to be seen in the area again. There are reports that Lewis was still living as late as 1914, yet, there are no records to verify this. Where or when he died, no one knows. He lies in an unmarked grave, in an unknown place. {Omitted)
On January 13, 1882, at the home of Frank Caddenhead (now spelling his name with two "D's") in Gholson, his daughter Mary Josephine was married to Samuel Sales Coffer (now spelling his name with two "F's"). As children, they both were veterans of the Eastland County frontier. Both were present at the time of Amanda's death. Yet, circumstances kept them apart until then were grown. They reared a family of two girls and five boys, one of whom, Walter William, was my father. They lived together for 58 years, and they are buried together in the Gholson Cemetery." -- Written October 18, 1987 - Bruce Coffer, Bay City, Texas

A cover letter, written by Bruce that day, closes with these two paragraphs. "I want to thank all those good neighbors responsible for erecting both of the markers on Amanda's grave, and for the diligence and respect they have shown her all these many years…One final thought. Amanda never had the opportunity to become a Coffer. Nor did she see her children grow into adults and fill their stations in life. I'm sure that both Lewis and she would like her to be remembered, finally, as

A Loving Mother

Jeff Clark -

Martha Coffee Marker

Martha Coffee Marker. Marble stone marking Alameda's first grave, placed by (left to right) Pat Moseley, Stella Blackwell and Walter Duncan, circa. 1961.

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