Hat Creek Dateline: 1880/03/31
Messenger, agent criticized for shooting road agent
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
After shotgun messenger Boone May and Special Agent Llewellyn killed Curley Grimes on Feb. 3 as he attempted to escape, there has been a lot of ugly criticism raised against the pair. Grimes' friends also did their share of fanning the fires of discontent about his death.
The "Cheyenne Daily Leader" on Feb. 19 bitterly complained that "the citizens of Sturgis and that vicinity are a little too fast in the matter of condemning Boone May and Detective Llewellyn for the killing of Curley, the reputed road agent. The people want to see every bandit in the country fixed, but as soon as one is planted in any particular locality the people...generally succeed in creating sympathy for the dead robber."
Llewellyn assured his superiors that he wanted to be tried for the killing, so that he would be cleared of any wrongdoing. One of his predominate reasons for this request was that the death had taken place on the Fort Meade military reservation. Boone May, likewise, wanted to stand trial so he could clear his name.
At their hearing in mid March, Judge Campbell set bail at 10,000 each. Their appearance bonds were signed by men who represented more than $500,000.
A while after Grimes' death Boone May found himself in the uncomfortable position of being the hunted instead of the hunter. Thinking that May was on board, eight of Grimes' avengers stopped a Sidney bound coach and inquired, "if perhaps Boone May was aboard?" The coach was allowed to proceed after they had determined to their satisfaction that he was not there. However they would have found the fearless outlaw hunter if they would have stopped the Deadwood bound coach. As it worked out, the clever May simply changed coaches upon their meeting and proceeded on his way to Sidney.
While he was awaiting trial, May spent part of his time as a messenger for the Black Hills Placer Mining Company. When the company's General Agent, Ambrose Bierce, placed Boone May on the payroll, it's eastern board expressed displeasure for hiring a man under indictment for murder. The feisty Bierce then listed May on the payroll as "Boone May - Murderer."
On a drizzly night trip, carrying company treasure, Bierce and May were traveling in a wagon alongside a roaring stream. Bierce was driving, and he thought May was a trifle off his guard as he sat hunched up with a rubber poncho over his shoulders and a Winchester rifle in its leather scabbard between his knees. Suddenly they heard hoof beats behind them and the command to "throw up your hands." Bierce pulled the team up and reached for his revolver but there was no need to, for in what Bierce describes as the quickest movement he had ever seen made by man, May had thrown himself backwards over the seat, face upward and disposed of the horseman almost before the words were out of his mouth.
May and Llewellyn will be tried in Deadwood for the murder of Curley Grimes on Aug. 23.
(Information source: "Empty Saddles and Forgotten Names," by Doug Engebretson).