Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1879/01/30

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 10/02/1991

Counties say man's head not proof
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

D. Boone May came riding through here a couple of weeks ago with a gruesome bundle tied on the back of his saddle. He had Frank Towle's (Toll) head in a gunnysack and was riding to Cheyenne to collect his reward.

Towle had been killed by May during a stage holdup on Sept. 13. May and John Zimmerman, guards for the coach had been riding about 200 yards behind the coach. They fell back even further after they had been warned that robbers were along Old Woman Creek. About four miles from the mouth of the creek the coach was commanded to halt.

The robbers had "gone through" the passengers and put the mail sacks on the ground when they realized that the shotgun messengers were closing in on them. The outlaws opened fire, May and Zimmerman instantly returned it, Towle fell, fatally wounded. The outlaws retreated a short distance and the guards joined the coach.

The next morning when the mail was retrieved, there was a pool of blood in the road beside the rifled sacks. They searched for, but couldn't find the body of Towle. The Black Hills Daily Times even questioned if one of the robbers had actually been killed.

It was some three months later before May learned the whereabouts of Towle's body. John Irwin, who had been sentenced for life, confessed to N.K. Bosell while in jail in Laramie, that he had taken part in the September robbery when Towle was killed. Irwin also went on to describe where he and another confederate had buried their pal.

Boswell relayed the story to D. Boone May, who located the grave. Believing that he was the one who had killed Towle and hoping to collect the $200 reward money, May amputated the outlaw's head and (rode) 178 miles to Cheyenne. Once there he presented the "evidence" to our county commissioners.

May's claim was delayed by the Laramie County Commissioners because they felt they would not be able to identify Frank Towle "as presented." Boone then carried his trophy to Carbon County in an attempt to collect the reward offered for the murderers of Widdowfield and Vincent.

(Note: Carbon County never paid its reward, and on March 5, Laramie County Commissioners refused May's claim on the grounds that "he had failed to produce sufficient evidence that he had killed highwayman James F. (Frank) Towle".)

(Information sources: "Empty Saddles, Forgotten Names," by Doug Engebretson; "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Zimmerman, John (11/29/1906 - 01/10/1964) View Record