~ February 11, 1880 • Weekly Pioneer-Times ~

Was It Murder?

A Citizen of Sturgis who Thinks That is the Name for the Killing of “Curly.”

To the Editor of the Pioneer.

Last Monday, Feb. 2, Detective Lewellyn and Boone May arrested a young man known by the nickname of “Curly,” two miles northwest from Morrison’s ranch, on Elk Creek, on the Fort Pierre road. They brought him to the Bull Dog Ranch, which is about five miles south of Fort Meade, about half-past 7 o’clock in the evening.

The prisoner was handcuffed when they came there. They took the handcuffs off and they all drank liquor at the bar. They asked the prisoner to drink the second time, but he refused. They then got a bottle of whiskey, put the handcuffs on the prisoner and helped him on his horse. They reached James McFarland’s ranch about 8 o’clock. I heard no more of the prisoner till last Saturday. I saw him lying dead about two rods from the road, two and a half miles south of Fort Meade, on the reservation. I found fifteen buckshot in his left side and a charge of buckshot in the small of his back. He was laid out and his hat drawn over his face. He made no resistance and had no fire-arms when they arrested him. “Curly” has been driving a team on the Fort Pierre line all last summer and fall, and was known by a good many of the people of Sturgis City as a sober, industrious young man. Those who knew him, myself among the number, believe they have murdered an innocent man. —James McFarland.

~ February 18, 1880 • Weekly Pioneer-Times ~

The Killing of Curley.

Was It Murder, or Was It Justifiable?

A Strong Article from Boone May’s Brother.

To the Editor of the Pioneer.

SIR: I arrived from Sidney yesterday, the 16th, and find in the Pioneer of the 10th a communication dated Elk Creek, Feb. 8, from some party who fails to sign his name, and substitutes “Justice” instead.

He makes, I think, a very correct statement so far as the arrest is concerned, but when he gets to the portion of his story where the parties reached the Bull Dog Ranch he begins a string of falsehoods blacker, if possible, than the crimes of the man he attempts to defend.

He says the officers tried to make him drunk—“asked him to take more liquor and he refused peremptorily.” That assertion I presume was intended to impress the reader with the idea that they wished to make him drunk, so that his courage might rise to the point of trying to escape, when they could get a fair opportunity to kill him, which, by the way, is false. And I will here ask the question, would it have been any more dishonorable to have shot him dead when he was sober than it would have been to have made him drunk and then killed him? The story of the attempt to get him drunk is therefore evidently a falsehood. If there was no other proof than that contained in the assertion itself, that would be sufficient to condemn it.

The writer goes on to say that the next seen of them was at McFarland’s ranch, where as they passed Llewellyn and May were trying to aggravate the prisoner. I wonder why. I suppose they wanted to get him to run by aggravating him, as he would not get drunk and do so.

He goes on to say that, instead of going the direct and main traveled road to Deadwood, they took the less traveled and longer road via Fort Meade, again attempting to convey the impression that they were tying to escape into some secluded locality, where they might commit the “bloody deed.”

I will here ask whether, out in that unsettled country at 10 or 11 o’clock on a stormy night, one place is not as secluded as another, unless it is near some station; and where did this killing take place? Answer: Not to exceed 500 yards from the Hogan station. If they were hunting a secluded place, why did they not go at lease one mile further, instead of committing the “bloody deed” so near this ranch, where lived several persons, or why did they not do their work before reaching the main road at all?

Here I will state that the officer, Llewellyn, with Boone May, left Deadwood Feb 1, went to Fort Meade, remained over night, and next morning presented an order, that he obtained before leaving Deadwood, for two horses which were delivered to him and May, and leaving their Deadwood horses at Meade, mounted the government horses early on the morning of Feb. 2, and proceeded on to the place where they found the robber “Curley,” in the guise of a bull-whacker, the disguise which is nearly always used by his kind in this country when their band or comrades have most all been gobbled and they are themselves hunted by detectives, in whose hands an exact description of the criminal is to be found (as in this case); and this is a specially good disguise in winter, when robbing is at a discount, and they come into civilization only once in about two months, perhaps not so often.

Having left their horses at Fort Meade, as above stated, it was necessary for them to go that road, which is as much of a public road as the other and, moreover, it would have been necessary for the officers to have gone to Fort Meade in order to find a place of safety to leave their prisoner during the night. So far as the horses were concerned, Curley had an excellent horse, while the horses ridden by the officers had traveled 80 or 85 miles during the day and were consequently played out.

Next he says: “For five days the body of the poor victim lay where it had fallen or was dragged.” Whose fault was it that the body lay so long without being buried? Llewellyn and May noticed the officer of the day at Fort Meade that the body was there; on arriving in Deadwood, Mr. Manning, sheriff of Lawrence County, was notified, and a full statement of the whole affair was published in the daily papers of Deadwood; and both Llewellyn and May were in town for two days or more after the thing was published. As to Curley’s body having been dragged to the spot where it lay, such a presumption is ridiculous and could only be made by one who is in sympathy with the outlaws who have ravaged this country for years.

He also claims that Curley was well and favorably known; that is false. That he drove a team on the Pierre road since last summer; false again. He had come to Mr. Appel’s train two or three weeks before his arrest, according to the statement of Mr. Appel himself; came to his camp at Cheyenne river on horseback, and gave his name as Curley; had a rifle and a revolver; had the same when he was arrested; had the pistol on his person.

I would like to ask, if Curley was an inoffensive, good man, why should these officers wish to take his life? Both May and Llewellyn are widely known and stand well wherever they are known. No one but a coward could commit a murder, and they are both well known to be brave men and men of character. This is not the first time that a kick has been made in this community. You will remember the case of Frank Tole, who, for two years, was one of the leading robbers in this country, and was the only one who escaped when the citizens of Rapid City, about three years ago, lynched the other three, Tole alone escaping. He was afterwards a member of the McKenna gang, and was killed while he was robbing a stagecoach on the Cheyenne road. Nevertheless this case was agitated through the papers and seemed awful to contemplate. So also in the case of Ton Price, alias Jack Smith, who was for years a notorious character, his deviltry extending from Dakota to Utah. He was shot and captured ten miles above Deadwood on Whitewood Creek, Oct. 13, 1878. It was said publicly on the streets of Deadwood that we had committed a crime in shooting him regardless of all surrounding circumstances.

This man Curley was at old Red Cloud’s a part of last winter and was regarded as a hard case, and would, and did, threaten to kill men on the slightest provocation. Leaving there he fell in with Jack Nolan and Johnson, and was continually stealing from that time until they were arrested last fall—I do not know the exact date.

Their stealing was not kept a secret by them or any attempt made at it. They passed down the Running Water in the month of June 1878, with 18 head of horses, passing along by ranches in daylight regardless of who saw them. They rode up to a post office in northwest Nebraska and robbed it in daylight, and told the postmaster if he told who did it they would kill him, and so alarmed the postmaster that he would not tell for several months. When the three were arrested—Curley, Johnson and Nolan—Curley made his escape while five men were shooting at him.

What if they had killed him then? “Bloody deed.” He was also wanted in Nebraska for the murder of two ranchmen last summer, and I understand that marshal or officer Llewellyn had two warrants for him, one for the post office robbery last July, and one for murder. He was known by more people in this country than his friends around Sturgis City. No thief in the country was better known. And, now in conclusion, I think that any fair-minded person, after reading this article in connection with the evidence obtained at the inquest of Curley, will be satisfied.

—Wm. J. May.

P.S. Some gentlemen in talking to me seem to take it for granted that Boone May is staying away on account of this affair; and here I will say, most emphatically, that he is not, and will return to Deadwood when he is ready to do so, which will be very soon.

—W. J. M.


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