Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society
1884 History of Callaway County



Anderson Coffman Killed

History of Callaway County, Missouri, 1884 - pages 297 - 300.

On February 14, 1878, "Boy" Oliver shot and killed Anderson Coffman in Cedar City, Callaway County. The Fulton Gazette of February 22, 1878, in speaking of that affair, said: ----

"On the counter, behind the open door of the store room of William T. Pullman, in Cedar City, was stretched the lifeless body of Anderson Coffman, who a few hours before was in the possession of robust health, in the prime of hale and hearty manhood. A white sheet was thrown over the body, and as we entered the room we felt a chill of horror at the thought of the tragedy, and of which we had gained a faint glimmering on our way thither. Shrinking away from the awfully still thing that lay there under the ominous white sheet, we neared the group of men around a stove in the rear end of the store. Their faces were none of them familiar; but it was not difficult to understand that he who sat half hidingly behind the old-fashioned box stove, with its high drum heater, and upon whom the eyes of all persons seemed to rest, was a prisoner.

Turning in the direction of the silent thing under the sheet, and turning our gaze upon the faces of the men standing there. We were told, as plainly as the glance of the eye could speak, that he who was sitting there and trying to appear so much unconcerned, was answerable for the deed that had been done, of which the lifeless body was a mute but impressive witness. From near midnight he had been sitting there under guard, keeping company with the man whose life he had taken. The scene was painfully oppressive. A dead silence pervaded the room, and the sound of one's footstep as it echoed through the long room was even startling. Noting our look of inquiry, one of the men present told us that the inquest would be held in about an hour, or as soon as 'Squire' Hughs had arrived. With this, we withdrew. At the doorway as we passed out we fell in with a group of men, who proved to be witnesses, waiting to be examined before a coroner's jury. From their conversation we learn most of the particulars. A note from J.L. Coumley had given us the main facts of a fatal shooting, and by moving on the double quick, as soon as we had received it, we managed to be early on the ground. But people were beginning to arrive from the country, and the group of witnesses soon had quite an audience. The affair was eagerly discussed on all sides, and all appeared to regret it deeply. Anything calculated to bring reproach upon the name of the community for peace and good order was earnestly deprecated. It was so hard to make people abroad believe that anything that happened in Callaway County could be other than a downright disposition of the people to devilment. It appears that a party was in progress at the Hughs House, the object of which was to raise money to aid the work of protecting the city against the encroachments of the river. The community are generally interested in the work, and the attendance was large from far and near. As a precaution against any disturbance during the progress of the party, the board of trustees of the town had appointed Mr. Anderson Coffman and Mr. Filmore Pasley a special police, and charged them with the duty of keeping order about the building where the party was in progress. Until about ten and a half o'clock everything passed off nicely. A few were drinking, and there was a crowd of men and boys on the porch outside, listening to the music and looking on. The ball-room was a vacant store across the hall from the sitting-room of the house, the windows of which look out into the porch. Attending the party were Henry T. Oliver and William Oliver, known respectively as 'Boy' and 'Bill'. The young men are cousins, and live at Holt's Summit. 'Boy' Oliver is about thirty years of age and unmarried. His wife, who was a Miss Stokes, died about two years ago. He is the son of Benjamin Oliver, deceased. His mother is now the wife of Ap. Epperson, at the Summit. Bill Oliver is the son of Henry C. Oliver. He is about twenty-three years of age, and lives at the Summit with his father.

"The young men were in the ball-room. Bill had requested the company of a young lady in the next dance. A colored boy was standing on the porch near the window where the young lady Bill had addressed was sitting, and made some offensive remark about the matter. Bill at once went outside to 'bounce' the colored boy, and was making some move to get hold of him and was apparently very angry. Being a little more demonstrative than the men on duty, to preserve order, Mr. Ed. Parker made the remark to him, to keep quiet. Continuing his loud talk and blustering manner, Mr. Anderson Coffman, of the special police, stepped up to him and directed him to keep quiet.

"Bill Oliver then turned on him, and asked what he had to do with the matter. Coffman answered that he was a policeman, and it was his duty to keep order. Oliver replied, he did not care a damn for any policeman in the town, or something to that effect. Coffman, it appears, moved towards Oliver and called to Pasley to come, and they would arrest him. Oliver then kicked Coffman, when Coffman drew his revolver and struck Oliver over the head with it, inflicting a scalp wound, which bled profusely. Coffman then took hold of Oliver, to pull him away, when Oliver caught hold of a post of the porch, and called for 'Boy' Oliver. In an instant, Henry, or 'Boy' Oliver, as he was called, came rushing out of the hall leading to the ball-room, and seeing Bill hanging to the post, his face covered with blood, turned upon Coffman with great fury, exclaiming, "You! Damn you! Did you strike him?" and seizing him by the shoulders, shoved him out into the street, Bill following close on to them. In the street Coffman stumbled, and 'Boy' Oliver was seen to wrench from him his revolver, saying, as he did so, "Do you know who has got hold of you now? Damn you! I'll let you know who I am; I am 'Boy' Oliver. As soon as his revolver was wrenched from his grasp, Coffman wheeled and ran across the street to Lynes' porch, and thence east towards Pullman's store, with the Olivers in pursuit. As he reached the porch, two shots were fired at him with the revolver by 'Boy' Oliver, the shots taking effect in the front of Lynes' store, on a line with the second story windows.

"On reaching Mr. Pullman's store, Coffman instantly closed the door and called for help, to keep his pursuers out. Mr. Thaddeus Collard stepped forward and put his hand against one of the doors (the doors were double), and Coffman put his shoulder against the other door, when the Olivers arrived and commenced to kick and push against the half of the door at which Mr. Coffman was pressing, and at one time partly opened it. At this, 'Boy' Oliver, stepped back a few paces, leveled his revolver and fired. Coffman instantly exclaimed: "I am shot; I am a dead man." Still pressing against the door, he gradually sank against the floor, and expired in a few seconds. Shortly afterward the door was pressed open, and the two Olivers entered, 'Boy' still having the revolver in his hand. Tr. Thaddeus Collard spoke to them and said: "Boys, you can't do him any more harm; he is dead." They at once quieted down, passed out of the store and returned to the ball-room. 'Boy' Oliver was immediately arrested and placed under guard. Next morning an inquest was held on the body of Coffman, when the facts above stated were elicted. The Olivers were held for trial at the circuit court, and were finally cleared, Bill soon after the murder, and 'Boy' after lying in jail more than a year."

History of Callaway County, Missouri, 1884 - pages 297 - 300.