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Billy Tate

Birthdate:
Death: 1860 (9-18)
Pony Express,express trail in Nevada near Ruby Valley. Killed During the Paiute uprising of 1860
Managed by: William Owen "Bill" Irwin
Last Updated:

About Billy Tate

Billy Tate was a 14 year old Pony Express rider who rode the express trail in Nevada near Ruby Valley. During the Paiute uprising of 1860 he was chased by a band of Paiute Indians on horseback and was forced to retreat into the hills behind some rocks where he killed seven of his assailants in a shoot-out before being killed himself. His body was found riddled with arrows but was not scalped, a sign that the Paiutes honored their enemy.

Pony Express From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia First riders: While there are no photographs of the start of the Pony Express, the old tin-type of Johnny Fry standing next to Johnson William Richardson in a sailor's hat and jacket, with Charlie Cliff and his brother Gus Cliff pictures the riders hired by Lewis for Russell, Majors and Waddell.

"Pony Express Rider, 1861" EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2008).

The Pony Express made its first run on April 3, 1860 and immediately captured the imagination of the nation. It had been established to provide a speedy method of delivering mail over a two thousand mile route that stretched between St. Joseph

Pony Express, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Billy Tate

Billy Tate was a 14-year-old Pony Express rider who rode the post trail in Utah and Nevada through the Ruby Valley. During the Paiute uprising of 1860, he was chased by a band of Paiute Warriors on horseback. At some point Billy was forced to retreat into the hills behind some rocks. Somehow this fourteen-year-old boy was able to hold out against the war party, even taking down seven of his assailants before being killed himself. His body was found riddled with arrows, but he was not scalped, which was a sign that the Paiutes honored their enemy. Wikipedia

Billy's route was from Egan Canyon Station in Utah to Dry Creek, Nevada and covered about 75 miles through Paiute Indian Territory, which he rode alone. Because of the Paiute Uprising(May-June 1860), Billy was given this particular route because he was considered among the fastest of the Pony Express Riders. Billy was riding his route when he was intercepted by 12 Paiute Braves and chased through the Ruby Valley in Nevada. No one realized anything was wrong until Billy's horse showed up at the next station with the mail, but without Billy. Not even the search party could determine exactly what happened to the boy until they saw a flock of circling birds of prey a few days into their search. When they found Billy, his body was riddled with arrows. Littered around Billy's body were the signs of a horrendous battle. Out of the 12 Braves who attacked Billy(from Paiute Sources), seven lay dead and there was evidence that some of those who escaped were wounded as well. Billy's empty gun was found still clutched in his hand, with spent shells littering the ground around him. Most amazing, Billy carried only one gun, most probably the .36 caliber Model 1851 Colt Navy pistol, which held six bullets and he would have carried an extra cylinder with six more shots. Billy obviously made every shot count. If Billy didn't have his own gun, he would have been issued one by his employer at a cost of $40.00.

Billy's story is sadder than just about any other pioneer tale. A fellow rider, Bronco(Broncho) Charlie Miller(1850-1955), who began riding as a volunteer fill-in at 11-years-old, himself, wrote about his friend Billy in his history of the Pony Express. Billy traveled with his Mother and Father as a part of the Baker-Fancher Wagon Train originating in Carroll County Arkansas. The wagon train was ambushed in southern Utah on September 10, 1857. Around 120 pioneers, including women and children, were killed in the massacre, which became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The investigation which followed determined that the massacre had been disguised as an Indian attack, but it was actually planned by settlers in that corner of Utah, who didn't want outsiders passing through or, more importantly, settling in the area. The Leader of the massacre, John D. Lee, was prosecuted and executed on the site of the massacre.

It is unclear whether Billy was the only survivor among his family, but he was only 10 when the massacre occurred. The few children who survived the massacre were taken in by settlers in the area and put to work as farm hands. The Territorial Governor ordered that the children be retrieved and sent back to Arkansas to relatives. Billy chose to run away and live on his own, eventually going to work for the Pony Express.

Bronco provides the only description of Billy "with his yellow hair soft as a child's, and his laughing blue eyes in a round childish face..." "Some time later a Bannock(Indian) told me all about it. He said: "Me no fight in tablelands. Me Hear. Braves no could touch the scalp of boy with hair like sun and eyes like water. He brave. He go happy hunting ground with his horse. He big brave there." Bronco said that Billy may have been a boy, but "he died the death of a brave man..."

Erskine, Gladys Shaw "Broncho Charlie Miller: A Saga of the Saddle" New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1934

"William Miller did not die at Mountain Meadows. He remained in Utah against his will by a family named Tate. He was 9 years old at the time of the killing. He was injured, however, with a deep cut below his right eye. He remained with the Tates for 3 years until up around late December of 1859. At the age of thirteen, William Miller, who by now went by the name of Billy Tate, joined the Pony Express in December of 1859. He told everyone that he would someday get revenge on the Mormons by killing the same amount of the "saints" that they killed at the meadows in 1857. His ambitions were cut short however, as in 1861(actually 1860) while delivering a saddle bag full of mail from Carson City to Camp Ruby, Nevada he was ambushed by a war party of Pah Ute Indians. His horse was struck from behind by a few arrows and could no longer take Billy any further. Billy jumped off his horse and took refuge behind a huge boulder and prepared to sell his life at a high price. Amazingly, his horse delivered its mail to the next relay station on its own. Alerted by the riderless mustang, station tenders took off in search of Billy Tate (William Miller). His body was discovered with several arrows in it. However, seven dead Indians were also laying around. He was not scalped, for the Indians that survived Billy's defense respected courage, even in the eyes of a foe. Billy Tate (William Miller) is buried somewhere in the Nevada desert between Carson City and the old historic Pony Express relay station that was called Camp Ruby."

Jeff Trimm on an Ancestry Website in reference to descendants of victims of the Massacre. http://www.mtn-meadows-assoc.com/Comments_Our_Guests_Have_Made/2001_archived_guest_book.htm

If you've ever read Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, "A Study In Scarlet", then you know that it was this massacre which prompted the murder of Enoch Drebber of Cleveland, Ohio at an empty house located in Lauriston Gardens, London. The only clue was a mysterious message, "RACHE", left at the scene of the crime. Rache is German for revenge, as Inspector Lestrade soon learned.

Billy's story was an exception. Officials of the Pony Express bragged that only one rider was killed in the line of duty. In fact, the riders main weapon of self-defense was their horse, which were bred for speed and toughness. And maintaining your employment with the Pony Express depended on your speed along your route. Otherwise, you would have been let go. Considering the times and the danger, very few riders faced danger and almost always their horse allowed them to get away.

Billy couldn't get away from the War Party that he ran into in the Ruby Valley

Billy's death was truly extraordinary. It was the result of a ferocious firefight. The Paiute Braves were truly shocked when they found that their relentless, courageous opponent was only a boy of 14. The warriors chose not to scalp, mutilate or castrate Billy out of respect for a fellow brave. Out of respect for his courage they sent him to the Happy Hunting Ground as he died on the field of battle. Normally mutilation was done out of fear that a dead warrior would come back as a ghost warrior and be invincible. The Paiute let Billy's horse go free to go to the next station. Normally, horses were too precious a commodity to pass up, but out of respect for Billy and his courage, his horse was set free and continued on to the next way station, which alerted the company and friends of his fate. The Paiute Warriors wanted Billy to be buried by his compatriots. Following the arrival of his horse, a search party was organized and began looking for him. It is unclear whether Billy was the only survivor among his family, but he was only 10 when the massacre occurred. The few children who survived the massacre were taken in by settlers in the area and put to work as farm hands. The Territorial Governor ordered that the children be retrieved and sent back to Arkansas to relatives. Billy chose to run away and live on his own, eventually going to work for the Pony Express.

Bronco provides the only description of Billy "with his yellow hair soft as a child's, and his laughing blue eyes in a round childish face..." "Some time later a Bannock(Indian) told me all about it. He said: "Me no fight in tablelands. Me Hear. Braves no could touch the scalp of boy with hair like sun and eyes like water. He brave. He go happy hunting ground with his horse. He big brave there." Bronco said that Billy may have been a boy, but "he died the death of a brave man..."

Erskine, Gladys Shaw "Broncho Charlie Miller: A Saga of the Saddle" New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1934

"William Miller did not die at Mountain Meadows. He remained in Utah against his will by a family named Tate. He was 9 years old at the time of the killing. He was injured, however, with a deep cut below his right eye. He remained with the Tates for 3 years until up around late December of 1859. At the age of thirteen, William Miller, who by now went by the name of Billy Tate, joined the Pony Express in December of 1859. He told everyone that he would someday get revenge on the Mormons by killing the same amount of the "saints" that they killed at the meadows in 1857. His ambitions were cut short however, as in 1861(actually 1860) while delivering a saddle bag full of mail from Carson City to Camp Ruby, Nevada he was ambushed by a war party of Pah Ute Indians. His horse was struck from behind by a few arrows and could no longer take Billy any further. Billy jumped off his horse and took refuge behind a huge boulder and prepared to sell his life at a high price. Amazingly, his horse delivered its mail to the next relay station on its own. Alerted by the riderless mustang, station tenders took off in search of Billy Tate (William Miller). His body was discovered with several arrows in it. However, seven dead Indians were also laying around. He was not scalped, for the Indians that survived Billy's defense respected courage, even in the eyes of a foe. Billy Tate (William Miller) is buried somewhere in the Nevada desert between Carson City and the old historic Pony Express relay station that was called Camp Ruby."

Jeff Trimm on an Ancestry Website in reference to descendants of victims of the Massacre. http://www.mtn-meadows-assoc.com/Comments_Our_Guests_Have_Made/2001_archived_guest_book.htm

If you've ever read Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, "A Study In Scarlet", then you know that it was this massacre which prompted the murder of Enoch Drebber of Cleveland, Ohio at an empty house located in Lauriston Gardens, London. The only clue was a mysterious message, "RACHE", left at the scene of the crime. Rache is German for revenge, as Inspector Lestrade soon learned.

Billy's story was an exception. Officials of the Pony Express bragged that only one rider was killed in the line of duty. In fact, the riders main weapon of self-defense was their horse, which were bred for speed and toughness. And maintaining your employment with the Pony Express depended on your speed along your route. Otherwise, you would have been let go. Considering the times and the danger, very few riders faced danger and almost always their horse allowed them to get away.

Billy couldn't get away from the War Party that he ran into in the Ruby Valley

Billy's death was truly extraordinary. It was the result of a ferocious firefight. The Paiute Braves were truly shocked when they found that their relentless, courageous opponent was only a boy of 14. The warriors chose not to scalp, mutilate or castrate Billy out of respect for a fellow brave. Out of respect for his courage they sent him to the Happy Hunting Ground as he died on the field of battle. Normally mutilation was done out of fear that a dead warrior would come back as a ghost warrior and be invincible. The Paiute let Billy's horse go free to go to the next station. Normally, horses were too precious a commodity to pass up, but out of respect for Billy and his courage, his horse was set free and continued on to the next way station, which alerted the company and friends of his fate. The Paiute Warriors wanted Billy to be buried by his compatriots. Following the arrival of his horse, a search party was organized and began looking for him.

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Billy Tate's Timeline

1846
1846
1860
1860
Age 14
Pony Express,express trail in Nevada near Ruby Valley. Killed During the Paiute uprising of 1860