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Kent France (left) and Coral Hickman (right) taking care of a cow in early 1900. Both men were the sons of Kiowa County homesteaders and lived in Kiowa County from childhood until death. Hickman was later murdered by a gang of bank robbers in 1930.
Kiowa County Museum

Long Time Gone and It Was the Three Bandits, on the Highway, With Their Guns

By Rob Miller, EHS Junior Class of 2001

October 18, 2023

The following story was written 25 years ago as part of the series created by the Eads High School history project—Kiowa County: A Retrospective at the Dawn of a New Millennium. This series was written by EHS juniors and seniors in 1999—as the new century was about to come on to the scene. Each student chose a subject they were interested in and then through first-hand interviews and primary sources did the research and wrote the article. Each article was printed in the Kiowa County Press. The high school staff that guided this project included Pete Conrad, EHS English teacher, and Betsy Barnett, District Media Specialist. The project won a state history award in 2000.

Does this sound familiar? It may sound familiar if you have ever played Clue, a popular mystery board game. In this game, you have different players. Each player takes turns trying to figure out who committed the murder, where the murder took place, and what weapons was used to commit the murder. The first player to make the correct prediction of who, where, and what is the winner of the game. If this were a game of Clue, the following would be the winning prediction in the murder of Mr. Coral A. Hickman, Deputy Sheriff of Kiowa County: It was the Three Manter Bandits on the Kansas-Colorado Boulevard with their “six-shooters” and rifles.

It was March 14, 1930. The Kiowa County Sheriff’s office got notice from Manter, Kansas of a bank that had been robbed by three men, and they were to be on the lookout for the men coming through Eads. Coral Hickman and William Mosher, both Deputy sheriffs of Kiowa County, went out about four miles southeast of Eads on the Kansas-Colorado Boulevard. Hickman and Mosher were in a Durant Coupe car while the three bandits were in a Model A Ford Sedan. When the Ford drove by, the Durant Coupe went in pursuit until they got the Ford Sedan stopped. All the men got out of their vehicles, and bullets were fired. It was said that they had “six-shooters” and rifles.

It was during this exchange of bullets that Coral Hickman lost his life. The bandits got in their car and continued fleeing. They went northwest of Eads towards Wild Horse. On their way towards Wild Horse, they stopped and wanted to gain some information from two twelve-year-old boys who were out riding horses. The two boys were Edgar Jacobs and Chet Greenwell. In an interview with Edgar, he said the bandits asked them how to get north to Kit Carson from where they were. The boys, not knowing who the three men were, told the bandits how to get to the highway that led to Kit Carson. The two boys warned the men of a curve in the road ahead, but the men didn’t listen. The bandits were in such a hurry that they drove through a fence for a little way.

Then, the men got back on the road and headed for the highway. Once on the highway, they headed east, eventually ending up back in Kansas. They were finally captured about two miles south of Jetmore, Kansas. During the time they were fleeing, they used stolen vehicles, and part of the time, they fled on foot.

Back at the scene of the murder, Ed Hickman, brother of Coral Hickman, was on his way to a sheriff’s sale in Chivington. On his way to the sale, Ed came upon the scene of the murder. Ed didn’t know that it was his brother until he turned the body over. Soon after, a man named Noah Ross came to offer his assistance to Ed. Noah had seen and heard the shooting from a distance. After Noah came, Ed went straight into town to tell the family. The first place he went was to the Kiowa County Press office where Earl, Coral’s oldest son, was working for Jimmy La Velle, the editor. Coral and his wife, Mamie, had three children: Earl, Neva, and Cecil. This news had to have been devastating for all of them to hear.

In an interview with Neva, now an elderly woman, Coral’s daughter, she said that her dad always used to wear bib overalls, and in the chest pocket, he carried a watch. When he was shot, one of the bullets hit the watch and broke the glass on it. Her mom kept the watch. This shot wasn’t the one that killed him. After an examination of the body by Dr. L. R. Mitchell, he found that there were five bullet wounds. There was one bullet through the head, two breast wounds, one hip wound, and one wound to the leg. Dr. Mitchell said that any of the first three wounds could have been fatal because he didn’t know which one had entered first.

The three men found guilty of the murder of Coral A. Hickman were Claude Ray, John Walker, and Andrew Halliday. Ray was a twenty-four-year-old man from Joplin, Missouri. Walker was a forty-one-year-old man from Joplin, Missouri; and Halliday was a twenty-two-year-old man from Webb City, Missouri.

The men were held in Garden City, KS after their capture. Then they were held in Denver until their trial in Eads. The men were found guilty, and they were sentenced on April 29, 1930, to be hanged in the Canon City Penitentiary. On January 30, 1931, the three Manter bandits were hanged in Canon City. This was only ten months after they had committed their crime. Ray was the actual killer of Hickman and was hanged first. Halliday was the second bandit hanged, followed by Walker. In a Kiowa County Press article from 1931, Ray stated, “he hoped that their deaths would be a lesson to others.” The lesson that he wanted people to learn from this may have been that there are consequences for the actions that you take, and taking a wrong action won’t only affect you, but it will affect others as well. The consequence for their actions was their death, and their wrong action affected not only them, but Coral’s friends and family as well.

On the plains of southeastern Colorado, some Kiowa County residents, as well as others, will never forget March 14 in 1930 because of the events that took place that day. From a Kiowa County Press article written around the time that the murder took place is a quote that I would like to leave you with: “Such incidents as this (the Coral Hickman Murder) show that robberies and murders can be committed, but sooner or later such criminals are brought to justice.”