Code Young – Cowboy Outlaw

Code (or Cole) Young, aka: Cole Estes, Bob Harris, Tom Harris

Code (or Cole) Young, aka Cole Estes, Bob Harris, Tom Harris

Code (or Cole) Young, aka Cole Estes, Bob Harris, or Tom Harris, was a cowboy outlaw who operated in New Mexico and Arizona, robbing stores, banks, and trains.

Hailing from Texas, Young was working as a cowboy near RoswellNew Mexico, when he hooked up with the likes of George Musgrave and Bob Hayes, who were also wrangling in the area. After a while, the three drifted down the line, taking jobs in southeastern Arizona Territory, where they met Black Jack Christian and his brother Bob. With all having outlaw inclinations, the men soon formed the High Fives Gang, named after a popular card game of the time. The gang would rustle cattle and rob banks, trains, and post offices.

Code was with the gang when they robbed a general store and post office in Separ, New Mexico, on July 20, 1896. He was also with the gang when they attempted to rob the International Bank in Nogales, Arizona, on August 6, 1896.

However, on the night of October 2, 1896, when the gang attempted a train robbery in Rio Puerco, New Mexico, luck would run out for Young. The gang intended to rob the eastbound Atlantic and Pacific train and hid behind the water tank when the train briefly stopped to attend to an overheated crank pin. As the train started forward again, three of the outlaws drew their pistols, aimed them at engineer Charles Ross and fireman Abe Reed, and ordered them to stop the train again. A shot was then fired, which struck the brakeman’s lantern, and a second shot put out the light. Engineer Ross was then marched back to uncouple the Express Car. Unfortunately, one of the train’s passengers was U.S. Deputy Marshal Will Loomis, who was returning from serving subpoenas in Gallup, New Mexico. After hearing the shots, he went to investigate.

While the engineer was working to uncouple the Express Car, Loomis approached from the rear and fired upon the robbers, hitting Code Young. The rest of the bandits immediately fled. Conductor Sam Heady would later say that he heard Young cry out, “I am shot, I can’t come, I’m done for.” But his weak response went unheard by his sidekicks. Code Young died shortly after making his plea. Loomis had been chasing the gang since mid-August, following their trail from Santa Fe via Deming to Skeleton Canyon and Mexico.

Lawmen were quickly brought in to investigate, and Marshal Will Loomis remained with Young’s body at Rio Puerco when the train continued east to Isleta Junction. The marshal then took another train and accompanied Code Young’s body back to Albuquerque. Several people viewed Young’s remains in the undertaking rooms of O. W Strong. A. H. Jones and A. G. Stocket of the Atlantic and Pacific machine shop identified that it was Young’s, claiming to have known the outlaw when he lived in Trinidad, Colorado. Albert V Read, a cowboy from Deming, New Mexico, identified the body as Cole Estes from West Texas.

Young was buried on October 5 in the public ground at Albuquerque’s Fairview Cemetery.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2024.

Also See:

High Fives Gang

Will “Black Jack” Christian – Leading the High Fives Gang

Outlaws on the Frontier

Outlaw Gangs


Find a Grave
High Fives Gang of the Southwest
Tanner, Karen and John D.; Last of the Old-Time Outlaws: The George West Musgrave Story, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.