Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1880/02/13

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 12/11/1991

Grimes, alias Curly, ends up to be one less outlaw
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

There is one less outlaw in the area, thanks to shotgun messenger D. Boone May, and special agent William Henry Harrison Llewellyn of the Department of Justice. The captured Lee (Curley) Grimes about 35 miles from Deadwood a few days ago.

Grimes had several aliases, William Curley, Lew Curley and Lee Curley. Among other crimes, he was known to have driven 18 head of stolen horses from around the Rawhide Buttes area to the Black Hills. Grimes was suspected in the murder of two Missourians in the Niobrara Valley and one additional murder. He was also one of three outlaws who robbed the Bone Creek, Neb., post office on July 5, 1879, and threatened the post master Ed Cook’s life if he reported the robbery. He had been a member of Doc Middleton’s gang but fell out with him because Doc deemed Curly was too bad to belong to his band of horse thieves and cutthroats

His capture was unexpected because “Curly” was an extraordinary gunman. According to Postal Inspector Furay, Grimes had perfected the system of “rolling” the hammers of his guns with both hands and firing with tremendous rapidity and accuracy. He was a dead shot and evidently had invented the system on his own, which would shoot his guns more rapidly than the trigger would operate them. Those who have had the privilege to witness Grimes ‘ dexterity and marksmanship said that he could put all six shots from his revolvers in an oyster can at 100 yards if he took his time and did not “fan” his weapons.

Llewellyn had learned that Grimes was in the raid with Morris Appel’s freight outfit. Chief Postal Inspector John Furay advised Llewellyn to take Boone May along for safety in his pursuit of the outlaw. They requisitioned horses from Fort Mead and started on the trail of Appel’s bull train.

It was located on Elk Creek when they caught up with it. They found Grimes unarmed and he was arrested without incident. Many and Llewellyn soon started to take the prisoner to Ft. Mead near Sturgis. It was very cold, the thermometer read 20 below zero and the wind was blowing the snow into a bad blizzard. Some time after dark, Grimes asked if his handcuffs could be removed so his hands would not freeze. After he promised not to attempt to escape, May complied with his request.

However, it was not long until Curly made a dash for freedom. As his horses floundered in the two feet of snow along the trail Grimes was not able to make good his escape.

After he was ordered to halt, the fugitive continued to urge his horse on even after a warning shotgun blast over his head. Both officers then fired again, killing Grimes. His death occurred on the Ft. Mead military reservation.

The coroner from Deadwood was called but a question of jurisdiction arose and it was not until eight days later that an inquest was held on February 11.

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