Max K Fraughton aka Barney McCoy


This project began as I was reading Nell Pauly’s book, The Day Before Yesterday one fall afternoon while sitting outdoors at The Hub sipping a cup of coffee. It was a beautiful September day with the aspen in full color. The temperature was perfect and Mia, my springer spaniel, was foraging for crumbs and handouts at the other tables.

Nell’s book is about Who’s Who in the Grand Lake Cemetery and is copyrighted in 1972 and can be purchased in the Kaufmann House Museum. Nell (1905-1981) also credits much of the material in her book to her one time mother-in-law Josie Kalsay Young Langley, who for forty-six years was proprietress of the Rustic Inn, on the west shore of Grand Lake.

The story I read that day delt with the life of Little Bill Lehman, his cousins Big Bill Lehman, Art Lehman and friend Barney McCoy.

Nell’s description of Little Bill went something like this. Little Bill was born aboard a ship while his mother was on her way from Germany and spent his childhood traveling between the several Lehman families living in Grand County. He was slight of build compared to his two cousins and struggled at making a living, performing menial labor jobs in the Grand Lake area. He was very shy with women and as he grew older his temper grew with him. When you did see Little Bill he usually was caring his small .22 caliber rifle.

National prohibition had started in 1920 but that did not curb a man’s thirst for liquor. Eventually Little Bill found his niche making white lightening and distributing it in the county.

His two larger cousins teased their smaller, younger cousin terribly. To make matters worse, after he had strained the bugs out of his hooch and bottled it, his cousins would make off with it and have themselves a good night of drinking with friends.

Eventually Little Bill threatened to shoot cousin Art if he took any more of his product. Of course, that did not stop Big Bill, Art and Barney. In June of 1932 Little Bill’s stash of hooch once again disappeared so he went looking. He knocked on J.B’s cabin door with rifle at the ready. When Art opened the cabin door, Little Bill fired. He missed Art and managed to shoot poor Barney McCoy in the heart. He died there on the spot. Little Bill fled and hid out in the snowy hills north of Grand Lake but eventually turned himself in to the law. Little Bill was tried, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the criminal insane at Canon City State Prison.

In Defense of Barney McCoy, page 139
US Military – 1st World War 1884-1932

“Barney McCoy and his wife Josephine came to Grand Lake in the early 1930. No one ever knew just what brought them. It was widely speculated that they were running from something.”…… During their initial stay they spent time with different families and even rented from Nell and Jake Young for three weeks before renting their own little place along the Tonohoota Creek Trail. Nell and Jake found them to be a very delightful couple, congenial and friendly.

Once the couple was established in their own place they started associating with Art and both Little and Big Bill Lehman. Because Art and Little Bill were into bootlegging whisky it was assumed that Barney was too. Then that fateful day in June 1932, when Little Bill came hunting his cousin Art for stealing his hooch, stopped by J. B’s cabin to do him in but missed and drilled poor Barney through the heart ending his life. Barney went to boot hill and Little Bill to prison for life.

After Barney’s demise more bad rumors started going around town and it seemed that Barney had been the cause of all the crimes in town. Jake and Nellie defended Barney since they had known him as a good, kind and gentle man.

At the funeral, and most folks had left, Jo McCoy, looking lovely in a black satin gown, bent down, kissed Barney on his large white brow and said “It was wonderful while it lasted, Darling.”

Some years later a new marble headstone arrived and replace the worn out white wooden cross, which had marked his grave.

I had been intrigued by Nell’s story of Little Bill Lehman, Barney and Josephine McCoy. It became a personal challenge to me to see if I could learn more about Max K Fraughton aka Barney McCoy. So, as I usually do in mysteries like this one, I went online, typed in and away I went.

First I went looking for Max. In the 1920 US census it showed him living in Heber City Utah with his mother, Eliza and two younger brothers and had been born in 1895. His father was born in English Canada and his mother in Sweden. He was a laborer and worked for wages on a farm.

The next entry indicated he sailed from New York City on June 28th 1918 on the ship Justicia for France and that his service number was 1640081. He was an automatic replacement draft – Artillery. Then a little further down on the list it showed he departed St. Nazaire, France on June 20 1919 aboard the ship Pocahontas bound for Fort Hill, Newport News, VA.  Other document shown on were 1) War Service Questioner (with a wrong birthdate on it), 2) Military Service Card showing he received no wounds and was not in any engagements (did not see action), his 3) WW I Military Draft Registration card indicated he was medium build, medium height, light hair and blue eyes. His family shows up in the 4) 1910 Federal Census but his name was Mode Graughton but all the other facts about him match the 1920 census. The 1900 US census showed him listed as Mode Fraughton, same family and to show he was born in 1894 or 95.

Then I went searching for Barney McCoy and Josephine. What appeared first was the 1929 Denver City Directory and – McCoy, Barney (Josephine) cook and they resided at 4845 Irving St.. They also appeared in the 1930 US Census records for Grand Lake, CO with a few notable exceptions. He gave Alabama as his birthplace, age 40 and both of his parents were from Ireland. Josephine was born in Washington and her parents were Canada – English.

So I surmised that the two were hiding out under the alias of McCoy but why choose the name, Barney McCoy? So now I switched over to google search for the name Barney McCoy in the 1920s. And after over looking all the still living Barney McCoy names I found an entry titled “Ernest Stoneman & Uncle Eck Dunford-Barney McCoy – YouTube.” When I clicked on the link I was listening to an old song by the two men. The original song was written in 1881 and now in 1925 was making a come back. It was about a couple of young lovers wanting to migrate out of Ireland and the young lass needing to choose between leaving with Barney or staying with her family. It rather sounded like what was happening with the Grand Lake Barney and Josephine. My thought was that they just used the information in the song to hide themselves in the Denver City Directory and the 1930 US Census in Grand Lake.

I attempted to use to locate a news article that might indicate what crimes Max had supposedly committed. The only newspaper articles I located on Max had to do with is being in the Utah National Guard during the war to end all wars.

It looked to me that my search for Max K. Fraughton, aka Barney McCoy, had come to an end. Well, I might have been a little hasty in my conclusion.

Several months later, I was using to do some of my own family research. I was using the information I found to make my Family Tree when I searched Max K. Fraughton and found a LifeStory timeline on him.

It showed that he had married one Mattie Josephine Whitworth and they had a girl child by the name of Cleo McCoy. In the timeline it stated that they had married in 1913 in Somervell, TX. All of the information in his timeline was correct except for Cleo and his marriage to Josephine. It was all confusing to me until I stopped by the SWN Genealogy Society office in McCook.

It was explained to me that LifeStory timelines were manufactured by from entries found on family trees. Some how Mattie Jo and Max were shown as married. A computer program did the rest.

In further searching I found that Mattie Jo had married Barney C. McCoy in 1913 in Somervell, Texas. They had four children then divorced. She had moved to Wichita, Texas and died in 1961.

I was able to learn the owner of the family tree that contained Max and his family. Thinking she, the owner, might have additional information on Max and Josephine I could use in this article, I tried to contact her. I was even able to find where she and her husband are living but no phone number. I’ve emailed her four times and written her a snail mail letter with no replies.

So, I’ve decided there might be two possible ending to his story. The one about how they used the song to come up with aka Barney McCoy. And the one where he actually hooked up with Mattie Josephine Whitworth McCoy and used her ex husbands name to hid under.

The choice is yours. At this point in my investigation, I can believe either one but at this moment I’m leaning toward them borrowing her ex’s name.

Little Bill Lehman eventually died at Canon City State Penitentiary in 1951 and is buried under a rusty metal marker showing his location.

Along my journey to learn more about Max K. Fraughton aka Barney McCoy I found lots of material using and I would like to share some of my findings as jpg images:

Note 1) I shared this blog with Jane Kemp and here is her reply.

“Great story! Here’s an interesting note about Billy Lehman which I found in our safe. There is an affidavit signed by James Cairns, my grandfather,  that the still which the Sheriff found on his North Inlet property did not belong to him and that he had no knowledge of it. There is also an affidavit signed by Billy Lehman that the still belonged to him and that James Cairns had no knowledge of it.”

James Cairns was an early Grand Lake settler, land owner and business leader. I believe he owned a quarter section up the north inlet surrounding Tonahutu creek. James Cairns died in 1925 so the affidavits had to be dated prior to is death.

Note 2) The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited making, transporting and selling alcoholic beverages. The Volstead Act spelled it out and law enforcement began in 1920. The 21st amendment to the Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment.  The Volstead allowed Little Bill Lehman to go from laborer to entrepreneur. It was too bad for both Barney and Little Bill that he could not have kept his anger in check for another eighteen months.

Note 3)ADDED 2/22/2020
The following letter was received from Barney’s’ or should I say, Max’s’ grandnephew the summer of 2019. Evidently Josephine McCoy had written it from Lusk, WY and mailed it to Max’s brother, whom she believed was the sheriff of Heber City, UT. According to what the society learned there has never been a Fraughton who was the sheriff of that town.It looks like Max might have assumed his Barney McCoy alias from the song after all.

I called the very small town of Lusk, WY but they had no record of her living there and the 1940 census did not include her name in the WY census. I also looked for Mrs. Aster in the GL 1930 US census but did not locate her name.

Lusk, Wyoming
August 1932

Mr. Fraughton
Sheriff, Heber City, Utah

My dear Mr. Fraughton

Tonite I received a phone call from Mrs. Aster at Grand Lake informing me that you had been in Grand Lake checking up on your brother.  The man I have been living with as his wife since December 24th, 1928.  I knew him as Barney McCoy.  But I knew little of his history.  He was fair to me in so much as he told me McCoy was not his correct name.  Before we decided to make our arrangement permanent, he told me he had been in a “jam”, and that he was an escaped convict.  But that made no difference to me.  I never pressed him for particulars because I knew the horror he had of having to go back, and if I didn’t know his name or the location in which his crime was committed I couldn’t ever tell, and cause him any trouble.  He told me tho, that he did not commit the crime that he plead “guilty” to.

I don’t know what the people of G.L. said about us, the way we lived or anything else.  But I am sure that if you could have known our home life you would have seen that we were all to one another.  He made me happy, and I know he was happy with me.

During the years we were together he spoke some of his early life, and told me disconnected things about his war record.  Last winter, as you have probably been told, we were snowed in at the cabin we called “Trails End”.  Perhaps some one took you up to our little home, I hope so.  He spoke so much of Utah and the Mormon people this winter.  He also, I planned a trip over there thru that state and he said he would gather up the threads, and then I would know all about him.  Also he said we would be married in “his” church.  But something bigger than we were stopped all that.  He died so suddenly.  One thing he always told me to remember and get his finger prints if something did (happen to him.)

I asked the corner to make a list of all the marks of identification anywhere on his body, together with his fingerprints, but when I asked for this I was told the original had gone in thru the American Legion to the War Office in Washington, D.C. and that there was no duplicate or copy.  You see I had no money and my job here was waiting.  I couldn’t stick around and wait or fight.  So I had to be content with writing what I know to the genealogy Dept of his church and wait for the Legion to make their investigation.  I imagine you have been told how the whole business as the time of Barney’s killing was messed up.  When I got to the morgue 36 hrs after he was killed his face hadn’t even been washed.  Then I couldn’t have any of the things he had in …..  (maybe half of the page was not recorded)

…a sherriff somewhere but never said where.  He said you were like his father.  Big – not a little runt like him.  He also spoke of a sister who had some pretty children.  I thot someway that you lived in Wyoming.  Barney told me that the place he escaped from had “contract labour” and he had to work in a shirt factory.  I knew Wyoming had such an arrangement in Rollins.  I made inquiries at Cheyenne for a sheriff by the name of Fraughton, but Mr. Carroll said there had been none in any county by that name for the past 12 years.  I found Barney scribbling “Max K Fraughton” over and over on a piece of paper one day, and when I asked him what he was doing he said “Just writing a name I like”

You know I suppose the identifying marks on his body – if not I can send you a list.  He had M.K.F. on his left leg just above the knee and he once told me that was the oldest of his tattoos.  That’s what made me connect the name he had written with the initials.

Now I was and am very anxious to make a contact with any of Barney’s people, and naturally if I am entitled to any govt. compensation I need and want that, but I would rather do without a dime from that source than to drag his name thru the mud, and blacken it by going thru the Dept of Justice to establish his identity.  I suppose everyone told you about his…. Know and understand that he was not a drunk.  He was the kindest and most loving and considerate man that ever lived.  All ways doing something for others.  I spent nearly six years of complete happiness with him.  We loved one another.  We never had a baby.  Once we thot we were, but the good God thot otherwise.  I was terribly sick and we lost it.  Mac was brokenhearted over it.  But as things are now it must have been all for the best.  The last 2½ years Barney had not been well.  Last summer he had a cancer removed from his jaw, and he never was the same.

Yes, he did everything they told you he did.  Illegal trapping and bootlegging, but he was not physically able to work.  And we had to live.  He made me a living and looking back on our life with each other I realize that our six years together mean more than some married people 60.  For he had no outside activities or interest, and I gave up any and all of mine, and he more than made up in his love for me.  We were happy – But he had that dread of something that kept getting bigger all the time and he wasn’t well; he was afraid of another cancer.  The shell-shocked condition of his made him brood over these things more all the time.  Brother mine, I have seen him lie with his eyes shut and the tears dripping from under the closed lids.  When I asked him “why”, he used to say “I am no good to myself and a …………………….

….thru Sunday nite Aug 22 at 9 o’clock and I’ll be at the phone office.  I do wish I could have met you.  But I have not the money to make the trip to Heber City.  I am going to G.L. with 5 people that want a weeks’ vacation, and they are paying my expenses for the use of my little cabin for 9 days.  I have to be here in Lusk, Wyo on my job the 1st of Sept.  Its only board and room, but thats something in this day and age of the depression.  Perhaps we could set a place midway of GL and Heber City, where we could meet and talk “our family” over.  Did you see the place where I put him?  Isn’t it beautiful?

If you have succeeded in establishing Barney’s identity, I suppose the next thing is to establish mine as his wife.  We lived as man & wife since 12 – 1928 and the couple that were with us that nite we claimed we were such for the first time, can be got at, and are more than ready to sign acknowledgments.

Its queer to think McCoy as a name does not belong to us.  But names don’t matter after all.  He was a man, the man that brot heaven nearer to me than it ever ever came before.  My own Barney –

This letter is long and disconnected but I want you to understand I’d rather never have a dime as long as I live than to think the memory our friends have of him should be replaced……….


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