Bit His Lip Off

The following is an account of an event involving my second great grandfather (or his brother-in-law, see below) assembled from a series of articles in Laramie and Cheyenne newspapers. Links to sources appear below.

Laramie, Wyoming (July 24, 1889) — At 9 p.m on July 23, Mike Coughlin, a rolling mill man who is really a responsible citizen, having committed the indiscretion of drinking more than was good for him, ventured into Dan Doran’s deadfall* where he found the usual gang of “ho-boes” and it was not long before he was engaged in a violent quarrel with Doran himself.

A man named John Moore then took the argument off the proprietor’s hands, inviting Coughlin to go out and settle their disputes on the sidewalk, an invitation Coughlin accepted with alacrity.

On his way out the door someone tripped Coughlin and he fell forward. Moore then struck Coughlin repeatedly using a closed jack knife in lieu of brass knuckles.

No effort was made to separate the men until Moore was chased off by some railroad men (friends of Coughlin) who happened along.

The men picked up Coughlin and brought him to Dr. Harris’ office, where it was discovered Moore at some point had caught Coughlin’s lower lip between his teeth had bit out a good portion of the center of it.

As soon as it became known on the street that the injured man was Mike Coughlin, a large  party procured a rope and started for Doran’s place with the avowed intention of lynching John Moore. (!!! -Ed.)

The Deputy Sheriff, City Marshal, and two officers arrived on the scene and demanded Moore be released to them, which was not resisted by Doran, who claimed that he was trying to protect the man from the mob.

The Doran place has long had the reputation of being an exceedingly hard hole. It is the last resort of “ho-boes” and the scum of humanity and in any other decent city the size of Laramie would have had its license revoked long ago. It ought to be revoked now.

Coughlin was doing well today but will be somewhat disfigured by his injury. The piece of flesh which was bitten from his lip was found yesterday in front of Doran’s.


Moore went to jail for a year for committing “mayhem.” A white accomplice was acquitted. According to later reports, Mike Coughlin’s lip healed well and he was not terribly disfigured.

Wild wild West, indeed.


Notes: I am fairly sure this story is about my second great grandfather, but it is actually hard to be completely sure because there were two men named Michael J. Coughlin in Laramie at this time. They were not blood relations (my Coughlin is from County Cork, Ireland and the other one is from County Clare) but they were brothers-in-law, having married daughters of fellow rolling mill man Joseph Strobel.

*A “deadfall” is slang for a cheap dive bar.  Doran’s place was located at  227 Front Street, near the old New York House (hotel) owned by John Humpfner, across the tracks from the Pacific Hotel. Presumably, the Pacific Hotel is the Union Pacific Hotel & Depot, pictured above.

Laramie Boomerang 16 Sept. 1889Apparently Doran wasn’t happy with the Boomerang’s coverage of the unsavory goings on in his establishment, of which this was just one. Snip is from 16 Sept 1889:

You can read the actual accounts of the event in the Laramie Boomerang, 24 July 1889 and the Cheyenne Daily Leader, 25 July 1889. It’s fascinating stuff.

FYI: You will encounter antiquated vernacular now considered offensive,  just keep in mind it was the late 19th century when these were written.