Sarah Elizabeth Kelsey Billingsley lived a true “Wild West” lifestyle. She later ran a stage coach company, along with her husband James Billingsley, often through dangerous Native American territory. A likely dramatized stagecoach experience comes to my mind when imagining Sarah’s life, Tarentino’s violent “The Hateful Eight” movie. My main source is a family ancestry book titled, ”True Grit” by Gary Grosswiler.
This story is the stuff of legends, and also personal. Sarah Kelsey Billingsley is my son Samuel’s 4th Great Grandmother on his father’s side.
Sarah and her beloved Stepfather were spared by William Hickok during the first infamous shootout at Rock Creek Station involving the Mccanles Gang. What happened that day is still up for debate, but the account below is according to first hand experience told by 15 year old Sarah, who was working as a waitress and caretaker of the station.
Sarah had befriended Bill, whom was scouting for the military while staying at the station. Bill, nortoriously a loner, had a soft spot for Sarah, likely because he admired how tough and independent she was at such a young age in such a dangerous part of the country.
Legend has it, a lead member of the gang came into the dining hall, demanding owe money owed from the manager of Rock Creek, whom was also a friend of Bill’s. The manager was not present that day, so the gang decided to wait for his arrival.
A quarrel was brewing, Bill eager to defend his friend, shot the trouble-making gang member with a double barrel shotgun. A shootout commences, and Bill threatens Sarah’s stepfather, perhaps in wrongfully assuming he was part of the gang. Sarah steps in between her stepfather and Bill, pleading for his life. Bill let’s Sarah and her Stepfather go, which was extremely rare behavior for Wild Bill.