* May 26th, not June.
** See Fairweather's story of Discovery of Alder
Tom Cover and some others of the party returned to Bannack for provisions, and for the purpose of communicating the discovery to their friends. A wild stampede was the consequence.
One poor fellow, while in the willows at Beaver Head, being mistaken for a beaver, was accidentally shot by his comrade. He lived several days, and was carefully nursed by his slayer, who was greatly grieved at the occurrence. The stampeders came in with pack animals. Colonel McLean brought the first vehicle to the Gulch. The stampede reached the Gulch on the 6th of June. The course of the stream was marked by the alders that filled the Gulch so densely as to prevent passage in many places. Some people camped on the edge of the brush, about three fourths of a mile above the town, accidentally set it on fire, and, with a tremendous roar, the flames swept down the creek, and burned up the entire undergrowth.
Almost immediately after the first great rush from Bannack -inaddition to the tents, brush wakiups and extempore fixings for shelter -small log cabins were erected. The first of these was the Mechanical Bakery, now standing near the lower end of Wallace street. Morier's saloon went up at about the same time, and the first dwelling house was built by John Lyons. After this beginning houses rose as if by magic. Dick Hamilton, Root I Davis, J. E. McClure, Hall k Simpson, N. Story and O. C.
Matthews, were among the first merchants. Dr. Steele was first President of the Fairweather District. Dr. G. G. Bissel was the first judge of the Miners' Court. The duty of the Recorder's Office was, we believe, performed by James Fergus.* * Henry Edgar was elected as Recorder, but Fergus did the work as deputy.
Among the citizens were R. S. Short, Sweney and Rogers (discoverers), Johnny Green, Nelson Ptomey, Judge Potter of Highland, Jem Galbraith, Judge Smith (afterwards banished), W. F. Bartlett, C. Crouch, Bixter & Co., Tom Conner, William Cadwell, W. Emerick, Frank Heald, Frank Woody, Marcellus Lloyd, Washburne Stapleton, John Sharp, Jerry Nowlan, E. C. Stickney, Frank Watkins, T. h. Luce (Mechanical Bakery), Robinson and Cooley, the first bakers (open air), Hugh O'Neil, of fistic fame, Jem Vivian, Jack Russel, the first man who panned out ''wages'' in the Grasshopper Creek, Sargent Tisdale, W. Nowlan, of the Bank, Tom Dufiy, John Murphy, Jem Patton, Jno. Kane, Pat Lynch, John Robertson, Worcester Wymans and Charley Wymans, Barney Gilson, and many others.
The first name given to the present capital of Montana was "Varnia,"* in honor of Jeff. Davis' wife, but it was soon changed to "Virginia.'' Dr. (Judge) G. G. Bissel was the first man that wrote it Virginia. Being asked to head a legal document with "Varnia," he bluntly said he would see them d d first, for that was the name of Jeff. Davis' wife; and, accordingly, as he wrote it, so it remained. From this little circum stance it will be seen that politics were anything but forgotten on the banks of Alder Creek; but miners are sensible men, in the main, and out in the mountains a good man makes a good friend, even where political opinions are widely diferent. The mountaineer holds his own like a vice, and he extends the same privilege to others. The theory is, "You may drive your stake where you darned please, only, if you try to jump my claim, I'll go for you sure."
That is the basis of the mountain man's creed, in love, law, war, mining, and, in fact, in everything regulated by principle.
Of course a number of the roughs came over when the Gulch was settled, prominent among whom was Cyrus Skinner. Per contra, "X"* was among the early inhabitants, which fact reminds us of the line in Cato's soliloquy,
* J. X. Beidler.
"My bane and antidote are both before me."
The celebrated "Rogues Antidote," aforesaid has, however, survived all the renowned road agents of the period alluded to. The true Western man is persistent, tough, and hard to abolish. Fierce, flighty spirits, like Lord Byron -when they get into trouble -say,
' 'Better perish by the shock,
Than moulder piecemeal on the rock."
The motto of the mountaineer, put into similar shape, would read,
' 'Never say die, but brave the shock
While there's a shell-fish on the rock.''
Which sentiment, though equally forcible, we reluctantly admit is, perhaps, a shade less poetical; but it is, nevertheless, good philosophy, which, with all respect for his lordship, is the reverse of what should be said of the teaching derivable from the beautiful lines of that erring genius.
As a proof of the address and tact of Plummer, and of the terrible state of society, it may be mentioned that he got himself elected Sheriff at Bannack, despite his known character, and immediately appointed two of his road agents, Buck Stinson and Ned Ray, as Deputies. Nor did he remain contented with that; but he had the effrontery to propose to a brave and good man in Virginia that he should make way for him there, and as certain death would have been the penalty for a refusal, he consented. Thus Plummer was actually Sheriff of both places at once. This politic move threw the unfortunate citizens into his hands completely, and by means of his robber deputies -whose legal functions cloaked many a crime -he ruled with a rod of iron.
The marvelous riches* of the great Alder Gulch attracted crowds from all the West, and afterward from the East, also; among whom were many diseased with crime to such an extent that for their cure the only available prescription was a stout cord and a good drop.
* Probably $100,000,000.
Plummer had appointed as his Deputies, Jack Gallagher, Buck Stinson and Ned Ray. The head Deputy was a man of another stripe entirely, named Dillingham, who had accurate knowledge of the names of the members of the road agent band, and was also acquainted with many of their plans, though he himself was innocent. He told a man named Dodge, who was going to Virginia with Wash Stapleton and another, that Buck Stinson, Haze Lyons and Charley Forbes intended to rob them. Dodge, instead of keeping his counsel, foolishly revealed the whole affair to the robbers, who, of course, were much struck at the news. Haze ejaculated " ! is that so?" The three men at once concluded to murder Dillingham.
At Rattlesnake, Haze Lyons came to Wash Stapleton, who was on the road between Bannack and Virginia, and asked him if he had heard about the intended robbery, adding that he had followed Dillingham that far, and that he had come to kill him, but he said that he feared that he had heard about it, and had got out of the country. Wash, who says he has felt more comfortable, even when sleeping in church -at once replied, "No; this is the first I've heard of it. I have only $100 in greenbacks, and they may as well take them, if they want them, and let me go." The other swore it was all a d d lie, and they separated.
The robbers went on to Virginia. Jack Gallagher came to X, and wanted a pony for his friend Stinson to ride down the Gulch. At first his request was refused, the owner saying that he wanted to ride it down the Gulch himself. Jack insisted, and promising that he would be back in half an hour, X lent it to him. He was away for two hours, and the proprietor was "as hot as a wolf," when he came back. The truth was that they had been consulting and fixing the programme for the murder which was arranged for the next day, they having discovered that Dillingham was in the Gulch.
In the morning Buck Stinson, Haze Lyons and Charles Forbes might be seen engaged in a grand "Medicine Talk," in the neighborhood of a brush wakiup, where Dr. Steele was holding court, and trying the right to a bar claim, the subject of a suit between F. Ray and D. Jones. Dillingham was standing close by the impromptu Hall of Justice, when the three road agents came up. "We want to see you," said Haze; Stinson walked a pace or two ahead of the others. Haze was on one side and Forbes was behind. "Bring him along! Make him come!" said Buck Stinson, half turning and looking over his shoulder. They walked on about ten paces, when they all stopped, and the three faced towards Dillingham. " you, take back these lies," said Haze, and instantly the three pulled their pistols and fired, so closely together that eyesight was a surer evidence of the member of shots discharged than hearing. There was a difference, however. Haze fired first, his ball taking effect in the thigh. Dillingham put his hand to the spot, and groaned; Buck Stinson's bullet went over his head; but Charley Forbes' shot passed through his breast. On receiving the bullet in the chest, Dillingham fell like an empty sack. He was carried into a brush wakiup, and lived but a very short time.
Jack Gallagher, being Deputy Sheriff, settled the matter very neatly and effectively (for his friends). He rushed out as per agreement, and took their pistols, putting them together and reloading Buck Stinson's, so that no one knew (that would tell) whose pistol fired the fatal shots.
The men were, of course, arrested. Red tape is an institution not yet introduced among miners. A captain of the guard, elected by the people, and a detail of miners, took charge of the prisoners, who were lodged in a log building, where John Ming's store now stands.
A people's court was organized and the trial commenced. It was a trial by the people en masse. For our own part, knowing as we do the utter impossibility of all the voters hearing half the testimony; seeing also that the good and bad are mingled, and that a thief's vote will kill the well-considered verdict of the best citizen, in such localities and under such circumstances verdicts are as uncertain as the direction of the wind on next Tibb's Eve. We often hear of the justice of the masses -"in the long run;" but a man may get hung "in the short run" -or may escape the rope he has so remorselessly earned, which is, by a thousand chances to one, the more likely result of a mass trial. The chances of a just verdict being rendered is almost a nullity. Prejudice, or selfish fear of consequences, and not reason, rules the illiterate, the lawless, and the uncivilized. These latter are in large numbers in such places, and if they do right it is by mistake. We are of Tenterden's opinion in the matter of juries (in cases like these). "Gentlemen of the jury," said his Lordship, to eleven hard-looking followers of a consequential foreman, in an appalling state of watch-chain and shirt frill, "allow me to congratulate you upon the soundness of your verdict; it is highly creditable to you." "My Lord," replied the pursy and fussy little bald-pated and spectacled foreman, "the ground on which we based our verdict was --" "Pardon me, Mr. Foreman," interrupted the Judge, ''your verdict is perfectly correct; the ground on which it is based is most probably entirely untenable." The favors of the dangerous classes are bestowed, not on the worthy, but on the popular, who are distributed like sailor's prize money, which is uautically supposed to be sifted through a ladder. What goes through is for the officers; what sticks on the rounds is for the men.
James Brown and H. P. A. Smith were in favor of a trial by twelve men; but E. R. Cutler opposed this, for he knew that the jury would have been empanelled by a road agent sheriff. A vote was taken on the question, by "Ayes" and "Noes;" but this failing, two wagons were drawn up with an interval between them. Those in favor of a trial by a jury of twelve went through first. Those who preferred a trial by the people traversed the vehicular defile afterward. The motion of a jury for the whole prevailed.
Judge G. G. Bissell was appointed President by virtue of his office. He stated that it was an irregular proceeding, but that if the people would appoint two reliable men to sit with him, he would carry it through. This was agreed to, Dr. Steele and Dr. Butar being chosen as associates. Three doctors were thus appointed Judges, and naturally enough directed the "medicine talk" on the subject.
K. R. Cutler, a black-smith, was appointed Public Prosecutor; Jem Brown was elected assistant; Judge H. P. A. Smith was for the defense, and the whole body of the people were jurors. We may add that the jury box was Alder Gulch, and that the Throne of Justice was a wagon, drawn up at the foot of what is now Wallace street.
The trial commenced by the indictment of Buck Stinson and Haze Lyons, and continued till dark, when the court adjourned. The prisoners were placed under a strong guard at night. They were going to chain them, but they would not submit. Charley Forbes said he "would suffer death first." This (of course) suited the guard of miners, and quick as a flash down came six shot-guns in a line with Charley's head. The opinion of this gentleman on the subject of practical concatenation underwent an instantaneous change. He said mildly, "Chain me." The fetters were composed of a light logging chain and padlocks.
All was quiet during the rest of the night; but Haze sent for a "leading citizen," who, covered by the guns of the guard, approached and asked him what he wanted. "Why," said he, "I want you to let these men off. I am the man that killed Dillingham. I came over to do it, and these men are innocent. I was sent here by the best men in Bannack to do it." Upon being asked who they were, he named some of the best citizens, and then added, "Henry Plummer told me to shoot him." The first half of the statement was an impossible falsehood, many of the men knowing nothing of the affair for several days after. The last statement was exactly true.
After breakfast the trial was resumed, and continued till near noon. The attorneys had by this time finished their pleas, and the question was submitted to the people, "Guilty or Not Guilty?" A nearly unanimous verdict of "Guilty," was returned. The question as to the punishment to be inflicted was next submitted by the President, and a chorus of voices from all parts of the vast assembly shouted, ''Hang them." Men were at once appointed to build a scaffold and to dig the graves of the doomed criminals.
In the mean time Charley Forbes' trial went on. An effort was made to save Charley on account of his good looks and education, by producing a fully loaded pistol, which they proved (?) was his. It was, however, Buck Stinson's, and had been "set right" by Gallagher. The miners had got weary, and many had wandered offwhen the question was put; but his own masterly appeal, which was one of the finest efforts of eloquence ever made in the mountains, saved him.
Forbes was a splendid looking fellow -straight as a ramrod; handsome, brave and agile as a eat in his movements. His friends believed that he excelled Plummer in quickness and dexterity at handling his revolver. He had the scabbard sewn to the belt, and wore the buckle always exactly in front, so that his hand might grasp the butt, with the forefinger on the trigger and the thumb on the cock, with perfect certainty, whenever it was needed, which was pretty often.
Charley told a gentleman of the highest respectability that he killed Dillingham, and he used to laugh at the "softness" of the miners who acquitted him. He moreover warned the gentleman mentioned that he would be attacked on his road to Salt Lake; but the citizen was no way scary, and said, "You can't do it, Charley, your boys are scattered and we are together, and we shall give you, if you try." The party made a sixtymile drive the first day, and thus escaped molestation. Charley had corresponded with the press, some articles on the state and prospects of the Territory having appeared in the California papers, and were very well written.
Charley was acquitted by a nearly unanimous vote. Judge Smith* burst into tears, fell on his neck and kissed him,'exclaiming, 'My boy! My boy!" Hundreds pressed round him, shaking hands and cheering, till it seemed to strike them at once that there were two men to hang, which was even more exciting, and the crowd "broke" for the 'jail."
A wagon was drawn up by the people to the door, in which the criminals were to ride to the gallows. They were then ordered to get into the wagon, which they did, several of their friends climbing in with them.
At this juncture Judge Smith was called for, and then, amidst tremendous excitement and confusion, Haze Lyons crying and imploring mercy, a number of ladies, much affected, begged earnestly to "Save the poor young boys' lives." The ladies admit the crying, but declare that they wept in the interest of fair play. One of them saw Forbes kill Dillingham, and felt that it was popular murder to hang Stinson and Lyons, and let off the chief desperado because he was good-looking. She had furnished the sheet with which the dead body was covered.
We cannot blame the gentle-hearted creatures; but we deprecate the practice of admitting the ladies to such places. They are out of their path. Such sights are unfit for them to behold, and in rough and masculine business of every kind women should bear no part. It unsexes them, and destroys the most lovely part of their character. A woman is a queen in her own home; but we neither want her as a blacksmith, a plough woman, a soldier, a lawyer, a doctor, nor in any such profession or handicraft** As sisters, mothers, nurses, friends, sweethearts and wives, they are the salt of the earth, the sheer anchor of society, and the humanizing and purifying element in humanity. As such they cannot be too much respected, loved and protected. But from Blue Stockings, Bloomers, and strong-minded she-males generally, ' ' Good Lord, deliver us."
* No doubt maudlin, as he was a drinking man.
** This was written fifty years ago.
A letter (written by other parties to suit the occasion) was produced, and a gentleman -a friend of Lyons -asked that "The letter which Haze had written to his mother might be read." This was done, amid cries of "Read the letter," " the letter," while others who saw how it would turn out shouted, "Give him a horse and let him go to his mother." A vote was taken again, after it had all been settled, as before mentioned -the first time by aye' and noes. Both parties claimed. the victory. The second party was arranged so that the party for hanging should go up-hill, and the party for clearing should go down-hill. The down-hill men claimed that the prisoners were acquitted, but the up-hills would not give way. All this time confusion confounded reigned around the wagon. The third vote was differently managed. Two pairs of men were chosen. Between one pair passed those who were for carrying the sentence into execution, and between the other pair marched those who were for setting them at liberty. The latter party ingeniously increased their votes by the simple but effectual expedient of passing through several times, and finally an honest Irish miner, who was not so weakkneed as the rest, shouted out, "Be, there's a bloody naygur voted three times." The descendant of Ham broke for the willows at top speed, on hearing this announcement. This vote settled the question, and Gallagher, pistol in hand, shouted, "Let them go," "Hurrah," etc., one of the men, seeing a horse with an Indian saddle, belonging to a Blackfoot squaw, seized it, and mounting both on the same animal, the assassins rode at a gallop out of the Gulch. One of the guard remarked to another -pointing at the same time to the gallows -"There is a monument of disappointed Justice."
While all this miserable farce was being enacted, the poor victim of the pardoned murderers lay stark and stiff on a gambling table, in a brush wakiup, in the Gulch. Judge Smith came to X, and asked if men enough could not be found to bury Dillingham.* X said there were plenty, and, obtaining a wagon, they put the body into a coffin, and started up the "Branch," towards the present graveyard on Cemetery Hill, where the first grave was opened in Virginia, to receive the body of the murdered man. As the party proceeded, a man said to Judge Smith, "Only for my dear wife and daughter, the poor fellows would have been hanged." A citizen, seeing that the so-called ladies had not a tear to shed for the victim, promptly answered, "I take notice that your dear wife and daughter have no tears for poor Dillingham, but only for two murderers." "Oh," said the husband, "I cried for Dillingham." "Darned well you thought of it," replied the mountaineer. A party of eight or ten were around the grave, when one asked who would perform the burial service. Some one said, "Judge, you have been doing the talking for the last three days, and you had better pray." The individual addressed knelt down and made a long and appropriate prayer; but it must be stated that he was so intoxicated that kneeling was, at least, as much a convenience as it was a necessity. Some men never ''experience religion" unless they are drunk. They pass through the convivial and the narrative stages into the garrulous, from which they sail into the religious, and are deeply affected. The scene closes with the lachrymose or weeping development, ending in pig-like slumbers. Any one thus moved by liquor is not reliable.
*"X" always means J. X. beidler.