BOONE MAY – We ring down the curtain on another Frontierado holiday with this look at neglected gunslinger Daniel Boone May, better known as just Boone May.
Daniel Boone May was born in Missouri in 1852 and raised on the family farm in Kansas following a move around 1860. In the early 1870s Boone headed west with his brothers Jim and Bill. By some accounts Boone drifted into bounty hunting as a way of making a living while his brothers were into more sedate and settled livelihoods.
With the Black Hills Gold Rush raging in 1876 the three May Brothers headed to Deadwood, SD to seek their fortunes. Bill tried his hand at prospecting while Boone and Jim invested some of Boone’s bounty money in a series of horse-team changing stations between the gold fields and the railroad in Cheyenne, WY.
Boone earned a solid reputation for being able to use his guns to keep the changing stations safe from bandits AND from bands of Sioux warriors. Before long he had made enough money to buy a home and land near the Platte River outside Deadwood.
In 1877 Boone was hired as an armed escort by the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Coach and Express Company. He hired managers for his and Jim’s changing stations and embraced this additional way of bringing in money.
Between August of 1877 and July 1878 May ‘s duties found him involved in at least 8 shootouts with road agents and almost as many with hostile Sioux. Shortly after July 2nd of 1878 he was among 10 company men who were sworn in as U.S. Deputy Marshals to give them hardcore legal authority in the performance of their job.
In September Boone shot it out with the Frank Towles Gang when they tried robbing a stage coach under his protection near Old Woman’s Creek in Wyoming. Later that same month a stage that May was waiting to escort somewhere between Dakota Territory and Wyoming Territory failed to show. Investigating the situation he found the stage had been robbed and a passenger killed. Boone joined a posse to pursue the bandits but ultimately they escaped.
October found May taking on outlaws Archie McLaughlin, Billy Mansfield and their fellow gang members. Capturing the men outside Cheyenne, Boone and his allies turned them over for transport but after that they were intercepted enroute by vigilantes who lynched McLaughlin and Mansfield.
In November of 1878 Boone May shot and wounded the highway robber Tom Price while bringing him in. The year 1879 brought more of the same with our hero safeguarding stage coach runs, tracking down bandits who DID pull off a robbery and now facing the new angle of revenge-minded friends and relatives of some of his dead or imprisoned foes.
Around this time Boone May shot down frequent stage robber Curley Grimes. On another occasion THE Ambrose Bierce, in his days as a stage coach guard, was riding with May when the pair saved a $30,000 gold shipment from outlaws. Later, Bierce would memorialize the events in the tale A Sole Survivor.
Early 1880 saw Boone having to withstand a flurry of attacks, ambushes and death-traps from would-be avengers of Curley Grimes. By that summer he was on temporary assignment with the Black Hills Placer Mining Company and clashed with at least one gang of stage robbers during that time.
In September our gunslinger saw that the writing was on the wall for the slowdown of the Black Hills Gold Rush and he resigned from his various jobs. Boone May headed for South America in search of new adventures and from this point on accounts of his activities are as vague and varied as the legends of the Apache Kid’s ultimate fate.
At some point in 1881 the gunman was in Chile, by some accounts serving as a mounted guard again, this time for Chilean gold mines. By other accounts, however, Boone was serving in some capacity as a mercenary for Chile’s army in the War of the Pacific.
That conflict pitted Chile against Peru and Bolivia, and there’s even speculation that Boone May was with the Chilean forces for their decisive victory at the Battle of Huamachuco in July of 1883. Some of the fighting in that campaign took place in and around some ancient Inca ruins in the Andes Mountains so if Boone was indeed there that would be quite a tableau: an Old West gunman slinging lead amid Inca ruins.
Depending on which rumors or legends you go by, after that war ended in 1884 Boone May was back working for Chilean gold mines OR he was an entrepreneur trying to establish in Chile his own version of what Wells-Fargo was back in the States. Contracts with the Chilean army resulted in our protagonist having close relations with the officer corps by the time the Chilean Civil War started on January 18th, 1891.
That conflict ended in September of that same year and at some point in between Boone May shot a Chilean officer to death when the man discovered Boone was having an affair with his wife. May fled the country with a price on his head.
In 1892 Boone resurfaced in Brazil, either working as a mounted guard for Brazilian gold mines or still trying to succeed with a South American version of Wells Fargo. (Boone May Meets Burden of Dreams) Other accounts claim he was serving as a mercenary in Brazil’s various wars of the time period.
It is known for sure that Daniel Boone May died of yellow fever in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the year 1910. +++
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