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Charles A. Coakley. The open range of Indian Territory that for over thirty years was common to the early cattlemen, developed among a certain class a passion for theft, the inspiration for which was furnished by the comparative ease with which a man could round up cattle, place his mark and brand upon them and count them for his own. There have been times when this passion, which frequently led to murder, placed disfiguring black spots upon the fair and romantic history of this region, but as the open range became smaller through the establishment of more ranches and the building of fences, this business diminished to the stage of larceny and then followed an era in which men of small caliber vied with each other in the business of cattle theft. Some made a bare living and escaped prosecution; others made small fortunes and with a part of the proceeds of their crimes escaped prison sentences. The accessibility of Texas was an important factor–a small band of thieves could gather up a few cattle here and a few there, between suns, and drive them into Texas and dispose of them without being apprehended. This practice was still common even down to the year of statehood, under which, however, a regime of law and order was established and the men elected to office in the Indian Territory country faced many grave crises in attempting to enforce some stringent laws to which the people of this region had not as yet been subjected.
Charles A. Coakley, who was the second county attorney of Marshall County, found soon after he entered upon the duties of his office that one of his principal duties was the suppression of cattle theft. This was not easy, for the thieves had a thorough mastery of their game. Among them were five men in the southeastern part of the county who had transferred their booty regularly over Red River to Denison where the cattle were sold to a local slaughter-house manager. There was a sort of underground route and along it were men who shared in the proceeds for helping in the transportation of the cattle. Attorney Coakley, when he had advanced far enough in his investigations, caused the arrest of a number of men. He was as courageous as they were “ game” and his methods were equally as shrewd. They were “caught with the goods” and one of their number was induced to turn state’s evidence, which resulted in the conviction of several of his companions. The result was that Marshall County was rid of systematic thievery for the first time in nearly half a century. This much, and more, Mr. Coakley has contributed to the history of the great commonwealth of Oklahoma.
Charles A. Coakley was born at Farley, Iowa, in 1884, and is a son of C. C. and Annie (Coleman) Coakley, his father a native of Wisconsin, a farmer and stockman, an early settler of Iowa and now a highly regarded resident of Flandreau, South Dakota. There were six sons in the family: Raymond, Lee and Harold, who are engaged in farming operations in Iowa; Walter, who is a student at Creighton University at Omaha, where in 1914 he was manager of the athletic association of that institution; Manning, who is private secretary to the manager of the Soo Lines at Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Charles A., of this review. Mr. Coakley’s maternal grandfather was a soldier during the Mexican war, and during the gold rush to California during 1849 made the long and dangerous trip across the plains in search of the yellow metal.
Charles A. Coakley received his early education in the public schools of Iowa, following which he attended the state university there and later the University of Minnesota, his degree of Bachelor of Laws being secured from the latter institution in 1906. His higher education was acquired with funds which he had earned himself while going through school. In 1908 Mr. Coakley became a stenographer and court reporter in Oklahoma, and in 1909 was admitted to the bar, receiving the highest grade of the class before the Oklahoma State Bar examiners. At the beginning of his practice, Mr. Coakley formed a partnership with F. E. Kennamer, which association has continued to exist save for the two years he served in the capacity of county attorney, an office to which he was first elected on the democratic ticket, and in which he served until 1915. Prior to that time he had established an excellent reputation as city attorney of Madill, where he continues to make his home and practice his vocation. Mr. Coakley is a member of the Marshall County Bar Association and of the Oklahoma State Bar Association, and aside from his profession is identified with the Madill Commercial Club and the Madill Library Association. With his family, he holds membership in the Catholic Church. Not only is Mr. Coakley well known in professional circles, but as a business man and influential democrat, being president of the Democrat Publishing Company which publishes the Marshall County News-Democrat at Madill.
Mr. Coakley was married in 1910 to Miss Elizabeth Langley, of Madill, who is well known in literary and social circles of this city. The inception of the movement at Madill for the establishment of a public library probably was due in greater degree to the efforts of Mrs. Coakley than to those of any other person in the city. Mrs. Coakley, Mrs. J. P. Rierdon and Mrs. M. Scott formed a committee that investigated plans for the library movement, and their efforts put about 600 volumes in the new courthouse as a nucleus. The county commissioners set aside two rooms for library purposes and there became available in 1916 a source of public revenue that assures the library being a permanent institution at Madill.