Charles Henry Billman

Born: 1839 in Fostoria, Ohio

Died: January 14, 1910. (Proof, Idaho Register newspaper dated Jan 20, 1910)* in Bonneville, County, Idaho

*Information provided by Bev Curtis, June 2001.

According to information in the St. Joseph Museum files, Charles Henry Billman was a Pony Express rider in Utah. In the 1860 census for Ruby Valley Station, Utah Territory, he is listed as Hy Bilman, 21 years old, Express Rider, born in England. Ruby Valley Station was on todays Utah-Nevada border.

The following account was written by a descendent, Hazel Jane Billman Clegg. It is a reminiscence of stories Billman had told her and appeared in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers journal of November 1950:

In about the year of 1857 my grandfather, Charles Henry Billman, a stalwart man of medium build, carried the mail. He was 18 years of age at the time and a very brave and fearless man. He never had any trouble with the Indians since he was honest and friendly with them. The Indians respected him very much. They even named him "Toko Witts," which means wild cat, as he was always active and lively.

Grandfather's route was a sixty-mile ride, one way from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Willow Springs, Utah. One very moonlight night as grandfather was carrying the mail from Willow Springs to Salt Lake City he heard someone following him. Supposing the rider to be up to no good, he urged his horse to a faster gait but the faster he rode the faster the rider pursued him. After a time the rider nearly overtook grandfather. Even though the moon was very bright he could not make out the features of the rider following him. This began to worry grandfather so he called the rider to stop. When the rider neither answered nor stopped grandfather drew his pistol from his holster which lie carried for his own protection. The handle of the pistol was silver-plated and when grandfather drew it out it glistened brightly in the moonlight. On seeing this the rider answered grandfather readily. He explained that he was tile owner of a freight wagon which was going through to Salt Lake City and while they were camping the horses had strayed away. He mistook grandfather for the driver of the freight wagon. Sometime later the stage line came through and grandfather accepted the position of tending one of the stations, Point Look Out, which was earlier managed by Mr. Foss.

Grandfather had the misfortune of having infection in his hand and one of his friends. George Wright, persuaded him to go to Salt Lake City with him. On their way they stopped in at William Barne's home. His daughter, Elizabeth Barnes, took care of grandfather's hand and later became his wife. After their marriage he took his wife to live with him at the station.

One day two men entered grandfather's station and were talking about their past experiences. One of them began telling of an experience he had had one night while looking for one of his men who drove a freight wagon. During the conversation grandfather learned that it was the same man that followed him that night when he was carrying the mail and both men were very glad to see each other.

The Indians very often became restless and attacked the outlying settlements. The Chief was a very good friend because grandfather had saved the life of an Indian boy at one time. So, if he ever heard of trouble coming to grandfather's station by the Indians, he would send word secretly so he could get his wife and child to safety.

Grandfather kept a large dog at his station for a watch dog. One night the dog began to bark. He barked continually so grandfather took his gun, went outside, and hid behind a large pile of dirt out in back. He couldn't see anything but the dog continued to bark until dawn showed in the sky. Grandfather stayed hidden behind the dirt pile most of the night. Towards dawn he harnessed the horses for the stage coach that was due soon. When the stage arrived the driver quite excitedly told grandfather that about six hundred Indians had crossed the road just a mile and half south of his station.

The Indians frequently came to grandfather's station to talk. One day an old Indian came to the station and was talking with a white man. The Indian began boasting about how he had come upon two young white boys gathering wood for their use during the winter. He also told how he had attacked and killed one of these boys who had fought very bravely and fiercely for his life. When grandfather heard this he became very angry and left the room. Upon seeing him leave the white man told the Indian he had better go, which the Indian did, because Charles Billman had gone for his gun.

This information was provided by Shirley Billman. Her husband, Vernon Billman, was Charles Billman's grandson. She states further:
"One of our stories is that Elizabeth Barnes (Charles' wife) did nursing. She lanced boils for the pony express riders and also did some wagon train nursing. Another story is that Charles Henry Billman had a great liking and caring for the Indians. He saved a whole band of Indians from the U.S. Calvary by hiding them in the Grand Canyon so they wouldn't be killed.

"The name Billman was originally Bellman. There were several brothers who came to this country from Germany and were silver smiths. The story is they made the Liberty Bell."

Additional inormation has been provided by Deborah Collier Fotopoulos, August 2001. She writes:

"While the journal account is acurate Charles Henry Billman's father was Conrad Billman (Bielmann) of Hans Bielmann from Germany.

"Charles Henry Billman and Elizabeth Barnes were the the parents of Zilpha Billman Great grandparents of my husband Angelo Fotopoulos. Zilpha was born in Idaho Falls Idaho and has all her family history and a hand written family tree of Hans Bielmann from Germany. There is a Billman family Association and Clegg family is one of the historians. Listing Hans Bielman and his children and one of the other brothers lines.

"Just wanted to clear up the real spelling of Charles Henry Billman and his forefathers."

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