By Jim Harmon/for MISSOULA CURRENT
He was known alternately as Fred Briscoe, K. F. Baskvo, K. E. W. Beeskove, J. F. W. Berkove, W. K. S. Beeskove, K. F. W. Beesskove, William Beeskove, Karolus William F. “Coyote Bill” Beeskove, and Colonel Coyote Bill.
Most people just knew him as “Coyote Bill,” the old guy who lived up the Rattlesnake Valley.
He was a hunter, trapper and miner, who claimed to have been a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer. He was married five times; in one case, placing an ad in a matrimonial publication before his latest divorce was finalized.
He was characterized as “the sneakin’est man that ever was.” He certainly wasn’t very neighborly.
One man had him arrested on an insanity charge, but it didn’t stick. Another had him arrested for blocking a bridge with a rifle. The disputes escalated to the point a couple of men beat him severely and burned his cabin to the ground.
In 1894, Coyote Bill made local headlines for what he didn’t do; failing to search for a missing teenage.
Young Bonner Newton, the son of a well-known local carpenter, was in the habit of hunting up the Rattlesnake, where he had befriended “Bill.” When Newton didn’t return to the cabin one night, Bill claimed he searched for a while but didn’t find any sign of the teen.
Days later a search party was organized and Newton’s body was found. The Missoulian gave Coyote Bill Briscoe a journalistic tongue-lashing, “The inconsistency of (his) statements clearly stamps the man as one bereft of ordinary reason. Certainly that is the most charitable construction to place on conduct so unbecoming a human being.”
Well, as you might imagine, that didn’t go over well.
“Mr. ‘Coyote Bill’ Briscoe takes exception to the Missoulian’s reference to his conduct in the matter of the disappearance of his comrade, Bonner Newton, from the Briscoe shack near the Rattlesnake river and has threatened to wipe out the entire staff and all the other beautiful things to be found within the four walls of the Missoulian building.”
Coyote Bill’s irascible nature finally got the best of him. In a 1905 confrontation, he murdered William Burrig for cutting firewood on what he claimed was his property.
After seven years in prison Coyote Bill relocated to Dixon where he established an orchard and did some mining. In 1916, after claiming to have struck gold, he was found dead, face down in a creek with his throat cut.
Some said it was suicide; others weren’t so sure. He was 72.
Jim Harmon is a retired journalist whose 50-year career included nearly three decades at KECI-TV, Missoula in roles ranging from news anchor to weather forecaster. In retirement, Jim is a landscape gardener and history buff who’s spent years reading historical micro-film newspapers. You can read his weekly history column at the Missoula Current.