When Franklin Coleman saw Charles Dow and Jacob Branson coming up, Dow for the second time, on the morning of November 27, 1855, he noticed the gun in Branson’s hand and possibly mistook a wagon skane in Dow’s for another. Coleman didn’t need more of a sign than that to suspect they meant him harm, given past difficulties. Coleman told George Brewerton that he made at once for the home of Mr. Hargis. (Hargous in the Howard Report.) There Coleman
informed him of my being ordered off, and begged him, as I did not wish to trespass upon my neighbors, to come to my house that afternoon and assist me in establishing the dividing lines between his (Hargis) and my claim; this he promised to do. I then armed myself with a double-barrelled fowling-piece, loaded with buckshot, intending upon going back to my work, to defend myself if again interfered with
Coleman then returned to Hargis’ house, where he hoped to join up with a proslavery man called Buckley and a few others. Coleman told Brewerton that he aimed to resolve the line between his claim and Hargis’. He gives the strong impression that if he had a few dependable proslavery men on hand should Dow and Branson appear, Coleman would be glad of it. On his return to the Hargis house, Coleman got word from Buckley that Hargis had gone off “to a whisky-store” half a mile away.
Buckley suggested that he and Coleman not wait, since Hargis would know to come up to Coleman’s house. Buckley then took his own advice, leaving Coleman on his own. Coleman doesn’t phrase things as clearly as one might hope here, but it seems he let Buckley go off out of sight and then realized that left him alone with people who might mean him harm in the area. So he took off after Buckley. His path took him past the home of William McKinney. They had a chat about how McKinney’s would soon have his house finished. With Buckley not in evidence, Coleman turned around for home. He
continued on for about a hundred and fifty yards, or thereabouts, when I entered the Santa Fe trail; as I did so, I came most unexpectedly upon Dow, who was walking along the road, in the same direction as that in which I was going.
Italics in the original. I don’t know if we should believe them. McKinney has Dow clearly visible on the trail when Coleman left him:
As Mr. Dow got opposite the house, Mr. Coleman was standing at the corner of the house. He left and went out towards the road where Dow was passing. I called to Mr. Coleman to hold on a little, that I wanted to see him. He observed, I will see you again this evening. They both went off down the road together towards Coleman’s house.
It sounds more like Coleman went out to meet Dow than came on him by surprise. Either way, it seems Dow saw Coleman and waited for him to watch up. Coleman says Dow
was unarmed, with the exception of a wagon-skien-a piece of iron some two feet in length, and a most dangerous weapon in the hands of so powerful and determined a man as Dow is represented to have been.
Coleman would not require accounts of Dow’s build, since he knew the guy. Brewerton must have added that on his own. A two foot length of iron, however thin, could do considerable damage even if wielded by a person of modest build.
Dow then entered into conversation with me about the claim difficulty, and continued to use hard language upon this subject until we had walked together as far as my house, which stands off the Santa Fe road about 75 yards. We must have gone side by side for some 400 or 500 yards. During this conversation I urged him to compromise the matter, as I did not wish to hav eany trouble with my neighbors. When we got opposite my dwelling, I moved off the road to go towards home. Dow walked on his way for a few paces, and then turned around and re-commenced quarrelling, high words passed, and Dow advanded upon me with the wagon-skien, which he was carrying in his hand, raising it as he did so, in an attitude to strike. I levelled my gun as he came on, brought it to bear upon him, and pulled the trigger; the cap exploded but not the charge. Dow then paused, and turned as if to go away. Seeing this, I put my gun upon the ground, which Dow had no sooner perceived than he faced towards me, and again advanced upon me with the skien, at the same time crying out, with an oath ‘You’ve bursted one cap at me, and you’ll never live to burst another;’ hearing this, and believing that my life was in danger, I again levelled my gun and fired upon him, as he came rushing on; the shot struck him (as far as I have since ascertained) in the neck and breast, and he fell-dead.