of Hans Peter Meÿ
The adventures of
Boone's first cousin, Gale Hill, shared some of his adventures
The primary research done
within the May family regarding
It has been written of Daniel Boone May [reputedly the "fastest gun in the Dakotas] that "his corpses were invariably those of undesireable citizens, never of the law abiding." In at least one instance a jury believed that the corpse was of an undesireable, Curly Grimes, so called for his dark, shoulder length locks. May and William H. H. Llewellyn, a government agent had taken Grimes, a suspected road agent into custody. Grimes' body was found frozen in the snow near Hogan's Ranch. When tried for the murder of Grimes, the jury believed Llewellyn and May's version that Grimes had attempted to escape and found the two "not guilty." May ultimately, himself, became a fugitive from justice and disappeared, allegedly to South America where it is believed he died of yellow fever.
With the stages carrying gold, the danger from road agents was always present, indeed, to such an extent that the line used a ironclad coach named the "Monitor" for transporting gold. The coach, specially constructed in Cheyenne, was lined with iron plate with a "treasure box" bolted to the floor on the inside. Regular passengers were not permitted and extra guards known as "messengers" would be on board. Among those who were employed at various times as messengers were D. Boone May and Wyatt Earp. The line used both smaller coaches drawn by four horses and larger 18-passenger coaches pulled by six horses. The drivers often in arriving at their final destination would make "a show of it", thundering into town with the red or yellow Concord coaches "licky-cut", pulled by a matched team of six horses.
During one two-month period the Deadwood stage was held up four times by the Sam Bass Gang, consisting of Bass, Joel Collins, Tom Nixon, Bill Heffridge and Jim Berry. The first driver killed was Johnny Slaughter on March 25, 1877, driving a stage bearing eleven passengers and $15,000. The stage was delayed by spring snow and mud and a breakdown five miles north of Hill City. Two miles outside of Deadwood road agents led by Sam Bass attempted to rob the stage a fifth time. In the process Slaughter was killed, the horses bolted, running off toward town only to be stopped when the lead horses became entangled in the leads. Slaughter's body was returned by special coach to Cheyenne, where his hearse was drawn by six dappled grays matching the team he had driven in Deadwood.
The gang fled to Nebraska where they robbed the Union Pacific train at Big Spring of $60,000 in freshly minted double eagles from the San Francisco Mint, $450.00 from the mail car safe and $1,300.00 from the passengers. Following the robbery Collins and Heffridge were killed by a sheriff's posse near Buffalo Station, with $25,000 being recovered. Berry was captured at Mexico, Missouri and Nixon disappeared carrying, according to Berry, $10,000, never to be seen again. Another alleged member of the Bass Gang, Frank K. Towle, was killed later the same year while attempting to rob the stage.
One of the guards on the stage, Boone May, upon his return to Cheyenne discovered that there was a price upon Towle's head. May then returned to the scene of the attempted crime, found Towle's remains, cut off the head, and returned with his gory proof to Cheyenne in order to collect the reward. Unfortunately, word had already gotten out about Towle's demise and the reward had been cancelled. Thus, May's trip was for naught and all he had for his efforts was a rather unusual souvenir. Ultimately, May disposed of Towle's head by burying it outside of Cheyenne. It was dug up by prairie dogs that used it as a toy.
An "iron-cladded" coach called "The Monitor" was held up by road agents on September 26, 1878, at the Canyon Springs Station. The coach was driven by Gene Barnett with Galen "Gale" Hill riding "shotgun" next to the driver. Galen Elliott Hill was a folk hero in South Dakota before heading to Deadwood, SD. He was a guard on the treasure coach that transported gold from the mines to the railway station. During the 1878 robbery, he was wounded but apparently fired shots and killed at least one of the culprits.
Gale Hill and Daniel Boone May were first cousins.
Photo is from Adams Museum and House in Deadwood, S.D.
See web site telling more about the
exploits of Daniel Boone May and Galen Hill on the
Accounts of the Deadwood stage and
related photos credited to Wyoming
Tales and Trails