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This article is from the January 2002 issue of "The Kansas Cowboy."     This old-West history newspaper of some 20 pages is published six times a year for $19.     Write to Publisher Jim Gray,     119 North Douglas,     Ellsworth,   Kansas   67439.      785-472-4703      His email is     KansasCowboy@kans.com      Sometimes he writes of the good guys and sometimes of the bad guys.     And of Chisholm Trail drives of Texas Longhorns to the Kansas railroad towns.     Other articles on Karnes County Texas have also been published.


Gun Battle at Daileyville, Texas

Monday, September 6, 1886, was to be a day to participate in the government of Karnes County, Texas.    It was a local option Election Day in Daileyville.   The question before the voters was whether the county (or maybe this was for Precinct 4 only) should be "dry" (no saloons) or "wet" (legalized drinking in public saloons).

The Sheriff, Fate Elder, supported the "dry" side. Bill Butler was on the "wet" side. That only served to bring to a head the hard feelings that already existed between the two factions.

Firearms were not allowed in town on Election Day, except for Peace Officers. The Sheriff was on hand with several deputies. Someone had noticed the butt of a rifle on a saddlehorse at the edge of town. It belonged to Deputy Jack Bailey. That was a little odd, as it was customary to pull the rifle from the scabbard when dismounting in town.

The day was warm and comfortable. Men were lounging about the front of the Dailey Store, the only significant building in Daileyville. A wagon, known as a hack, was parked near some mesquite trees across the Goliad Road, some 25 to 30 paces to the southwest of the store. The bed of the hack was covered with three empty feed sacks. Two blankets covered the seat.

Men were loafing around the hack. Just to the east of the store, Bill Butler and Monroe Choate were in conversation under the shade of a live oak tree. The saddlehorse carrying the rifle had strangely been moved next to the store.

Two Mexicans, known as pistoleros, quietly rode across the grounds. They were known to work for Bill Butler, occasionally serving as bodyguards. They reined in their horses to a tree near the hack, dismounted, and pulled their rifles from the saddle scabbards. Someone noted they were the longest guns they had ever seen. The guns were illegal on Election Day.

Comments were overheard that trouble was brewing. "Let's get out of here."

Sheriff Fate Elder was sitting in front of the store whittling, but he could not ignore this infraction of the law. By this time the Mexicans, Juan Coy and Epitacio Garza, had reached the hack.

Sheriff Elder stood up and began walking in the direction of the Mexicans. Deputy Jack Bailey followed suit. The Sheriff folded his whittling knife, put it away and pulled his holster and pistol around to his left side. He then jerked his pistol, and raising it, continued marching toward the Mexicans.

Juan Coy was a dangerous man. He had recently killed a man in a nearby county. His look was vicious and he was described as ". ..one of the ugliest men living at the time, strongly resembling a lion." There is no doubt he was intimidating.

Coy called to the Sheriff to "Stop." Elder continued. Coy once again demanded "Stop!" Elder spoke but no one else heard what he said. Juan Coy quickly raised his rifle to his hip and fired. Elder may have been hit in his belt buckle. He backed around the hack to the safety of two mesquite trees. All the while Coy and Garza advanced while firing.

Jack Bailey turned and ran for cover to the east of the store. The Sheriff himself tried to return fire but his pistol only snapped.

Bill Butler's son, Sykes Butler, pulled a pistol and ran toward the Sheriff on his blind side. There, he put a gun to the back of Sheriff Elder's head and pulled the trigger. Elder's hat blew to the wind.

Inside the store, Deputy Bud Elder, a brother to the Sheriff, heard the shots and responded quickly.

As Deputy Bud Elder stepped out of the store, the rifle fire turned toward him. But now four men were firing rifles. Bud was hit several times.

Deputy Jack Bailey tried to get clear of the fight. He ran toward the yard on the east side of the store. As he ran he cried out, "0 Lordy, Lordy, don't shoot me. I never done nothing." By then he was down on his back. He repeated the plea, but he was shot again in the knees.

Inside the store, Deputy Vivvy Barefield was brandishing a shotgun. Storekeeper Kit Dailey ran out the door just as Barefield fired. Buckshot hit Dailey in the foot, convincing him to return to the store. Legend has it that once inside, he jumped into a flour barrel for safety, but Dailey testified at the murder trial that he crouched behind a sugar barrel.

Deputy Bud Elder had been known to say on several occasions that in a show-down with the Butlers, he would go for the "Old Man." As Bud looked about, with bullets flying, he saw 52-year-old Bill Butler coming through a gate next to the store. Bud opened fire, shooting twice. The two men advanced toward one another, firing nearly point blank. Smoke whirled about them. One bullet severed Butler's ear. The faces of both men were powder burnt.

The injured Bud Elder dropped to his knees. His bullets were all spent but so were Bill Butler's. An unidentified man walked up and shot Elder at close range. Elder was still trying to work his pistol. He died with his pistol cocked and his finger on the trigger.

Two brothers, Henry and Hiram Pullin, had been sitting on boxes next to the gate, east of the store, before the shooting erupted. Hiram's son, Tom, was leaning against the fence nearby. When it was all over Henry was lying by the gate shot through the breast. Hiram tried to run for cover, but was hit in the back by a stray bullet when he was just inside the gate. Tom had made it safely to the back of the Dailey Store.

The Mexicans calmly walked to the fence, stopped and looked down to where Jack Bailey was lying. As they returned to their horses they again stopped to look at Sheriff Fate Elder's body. They appeared to be checking on the results of their work.

Bill Butler's son-in-law Andy Nichols walked out to one of the Mexicans, Epitacio Garza, and shook hands with him. Coy and Garza replaced their rifles in the saddle scabbards, mounted up, and rode out.

The Pullin brothers appear to have been innocently caught in the barrage of bullets. Henry Pullin had died instantly while his brother Hiram lasted a few hours.

A telegram to San Antonio brought Dr. Amos Graves on a special train to tend to Jack Bailey. Bailey's left knee was shattered. Drs. Graves and S.G. Dailey amputated that leg the next day.

Bailey would not speak about his assailant. When his wife asked about who had shot him, he whispered something in her ear. Bailey died shortly after the amputation. His wife never revealed the words he had privately murmured to her.

In the end, five men were dead and several were wounded. Accounts vary, but it is estimated that from 60 to 75 shots were fired, mostly from men who were not allowed to have firearms in town on Election Day.

Which brings as back to the hack. It had been driven to town by Bill Butler's son-in-law Andy Nichols. Those feed sacks and blankets that covered the seat and bed of the hack were suspected of covering the weapons used in the fight.

Tom Pullin claimed that he had been in the hack earlier in the day and that no guns were to be seen. Thomas Nolan Pullin is the great-grandfather of baseball great Nolan Ryan. Tomís brothers Daniel and William Pullin, also sons of Candace Ware Butler Pullin 1835-1916 and the deceased Hiram Rand Pullin 1828-1886, went away in search of their fatherís killers. They must have been looking for Juan Coy and Epitacio Garza. Had they suspected a Butler, a ranch hand, or Bud Elder, they would have remained in Karnes County. The brothers never returned home.

No one will ever know for sure the truth of the Gun Battle at Daileyville, Texas. Bill Butler and Sykes Butler were acquitted of murder charges.

As for the Mexican, Juan Coy, it was said of him that when trouble was brewing down in Mexico he would go there "just to be in on the killing." He finally met his end in San Antonio. Coy was unarmed at the time. The story was that after being shot he advanced on his assailant shouting, "Shoot me again you S.O.B." A second shot rang out as Coy continued to advance. "Shoot me again you S.O.B." The third shot was answered by silence.

Today, Daileyville is gone. Prairie grasses have returned to the site that saw the "Daileyville Difficulty," one of the West's most dramatic gun battles.

Information for this article comes from "Karnes County Texas Gunfights" by Archie B. Ammons, and a phone interview with Archie B. Ammons December 11, 2001.


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