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  • Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

    The Revenge of
    'Devil John' McCoy

    by Murray Montgomery
    Murray Montgomery

    Back in the days of early Texas, the local newspaper was the major supplier of news for the citizens. Second only to “word of mouth,” the newspaper was the only source for people to learn what was going on in their area and around the state.

    It was the custom back then for out-of-town folks to drop by the paper, when they came to town, and share a yarn or two with an editor or reporter. Those stories usually found their way to the printed page for all to read.

    Such was the case when E.G. McCoy, of Blanco, came to Gonzales and had a chat with the local editor. McCoy’s narrative of an event involving his father was published in the Inquirer way back in 1879. His father, John, was a pretty tough ol’ boy and had a natural dislike for Indians. I think you will find by reading the following article, that John McCoy wasn’t one to forgive and forget.


    The Gonzales Inquirer – Saturday, Feb. 15, 1879

    We met in town last week Mr. E.G. McCoy, of Blanco city, from whom we learn the following incident which happened near this place in 1843.

    His father John McCoy, called “Devil John” because of his bravery and daring, lived near Concrete in DeWitt County. One of his neighbors was killed and horribly mutilated. Suspicion rested upon a tribe of friendly Lipan Indians in the neighborhood.

    Mr. McCoy determined to ferret out the perpetrators, and laid his plans accordingly. Coming to Gonzales one day he met one of the shrewdest Indians of the tribe, furnished him an abundance of “fire water,” and soon had him drunk. McCoy proposed to go to the tribe and buy hides.

    Taking the Indian up behind him on his horse he started for the old Matthis ford, and when near the river mentioned that a mean, bad white man had been killed. The Indian replied, “Yes, me help kill him; me tomahawk and scalp him,” and proceeded to mock the victim’s agonies of torture.

    This was all McCoy wanted. “You helped kill him, did you?” asked McCoy. “Yes, me scalp him,” said the Indian. “Well,” said McCoy, “I’ll settle your hash.” Reaching around behind him he seized the Indian and pulled him off the horse. The Indian had a white bone-handled bowie knife in his leggings. This McCoy seized and cut off a scalp lock from one side of the Indian’s head, with a small portion of the skin adhering, and placed it in his belt.

    He then cut off a similar piece from the other side and placed it in the Indian’s belt. This was fair division, and significant of friendship. He then released the Indian. As the latter rose he said to McCoy, “Me kill you and your family before three moons.” Thereupon McCoy knocked him down and, running the point of his knife under the skin just below the hair clear around the Indian’s head, jerked his scalp off.

    Releasing the Indian McCoy told him to run, telling him if he caught him before he reached a certain clump of trees he would kill him. The Indian fled. McCoy mounted his horse and pursued, but the Indian distance him.

    News of it got abroad, and McCoy was arrested and brought to trial. The judge asked him if he had not admitted the deed, McCoy answered, “Yes, but I now deny it, and you must prove it.” No proof being produced he was discharged. He then said, “Judge, you can’t try a man twice for the same offense can you?” Being answered in the negative, he declared: “Well, judge, I did scalp that Indian, but you failed to prove it.”

    Mr. McCoy was half brother to Jesse McCoy, who was the only man who went out and returned to the Alamo after it was besieged. He fell in that siege.

    Mr. E.G. McCoy is here looking after the McCoy estate.

    © Murray Montgomery

    Lone Star Diary
    June 3, 2011 column
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