York Resident Was a Stage Coach Driver in the Wild West
I came across a July 9, 1946 Gazette and Daily article about D. Bentz Heilman. It says that Heilman left his native Pittsburgh in 1879, at age 15, for the West. In a few weeks he became a stage coach driver for the Northwestern Stage Lines, running from Rawlins to Rock Creek in Wyoming Territory. The position has suddenly opened up when the former driver was “shot in a saloon brawl.”
He said that the native Sioux took a liking to him, which was quite unusual. He also had an arrangement with a gang of stage robbers–he would make purchases for them in Rawlins, “where the young men were not popular, and they in turn never robbed his stage.” He notes that he always was careful to give them their correct change, and that most of them were eventually hung.
He carried a Colt revolver which he brought back to York. It is shown in the photo above that accompanied the Gazette article. The man he purchased it from said it was picked up on the field after Custer’s massacre. Heilman was skeptical of that story, but the writer of the article notes that it “does bear old U.S. Army markings.
He met “Buffalo Bill” Cody, “Wild Bill” Hickok and Calamity Jane, who Heilman said he saved from freezing, when she was down on her luck, by letting her come out of the cold into the stage coach office.
Heilman settled in York in 1912, keeping a hotel in Weiglestown and a cattle farm along the Conewago Creek. In 1946, at age 82, he was living with his daughter, Mrs. Michael Rupp, in York and sharing his memories of the old West.
Note: Although Calamity Jane is often associated with Deadwood, S.D., results of a Google finds her in Rawlins, Wyo. in the 1880s.
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