As a matter of course, after the failure of justice in the case of the murderers of Dillingham, the state of society, bad as it was, rapidly deteriorated, until a man could hardly venture to entertain a belief that he was safe for a single day. We have been repeatedly shown places where bullets used to come through the chinks between the logs separating one of the stores in town from a saloon. Wounded men lay almost unnoticed about the city, and a night or day without shooting, knifing or fighting would have been recognized as a small and welcome instalment of the millennium. Men dared not go from Virginia to Nevada or Summit after dark. A few out of the hundreds of instances must suffice. A Dutchman, known as Dutch Fred, was met by one of the band, who ordered him to throw up his hands, as usual. Finding he had $5 in Treasury notes with him, the robber told him he would take them at par, and added with a volley of curses, "If ever you come this way with only $5 I'll shoot you; -you, I'll shoot you anyhow," and raising his pistol he shot him in the arm. Another man was robbed of two or three dollars, about two or three miles below Nevada, and was told that if ever he came with as little money again they would kill him.
George Ives was a young man of rather prepossessing appearance, probably twenty-seven years old. His complexion and hair were light, his eyes blue. He wore no whiskers. His height was nearly six feet, and he wore a soldier's overcoat and a light felt hat. The carriage of this renowned desperado was sprightly, and his coolness was imperturbable. Long practice in confronting danger had made him absolutely fearless. He would face death with an indifference that had become constitutional, and the spirit of reckless bravado with which he was animated made him the terror of the citizens. He would levy blackmail under the guise of a loan and as a matter of sport, and to show the training of his horse he would back the animal into the windows of a store, and then ride off laughing. In looking at Ives a man would, at first sight, be favorably impressed; but a closer examination by any one skilled in physiognomy would detect in the lines of the mouth, and in the strange, fierce, and sinister gleam of the eye, the quick spirit which made him not only the terror of the community, but the dread of the band of ruffians with whom he was associated.
As before mentioned, he was with Henry Plummer when he started, to rob Langford and Hauser; he assisted at the robbery of the coaches in October and November, and, after that, he figured as a highwayman with Aleck Carter, down on Snake River, under the alias of Lewis.
In company with a friend he visited his comrades, Hunter and Carter, at Brown's Gulch, and on their way back, among the hills which form, as it were, the picket line of the Ramshorn Mountains, the two met Anton M. Holter,* now a citizen of Virginia. They politely invited him to replenish their exchequers by a draft on his own, which, under the circumstances, he instantly did; but he was able at the moment to honor only a small check. They read him a lecture upon the impropriety of traveling with so small a sum in his possession, and then, as an emphatic confirmation of their expressed displeasure, George drew his revolver, and, aiming at his head, sent a ball through his hat, grazing his scalp. A second shot, with more deliberate aim, was only prevented by the badness of the cap. After this failure, this "perfect gentleman" went his way, and so did Holter, doubtless blessing the cap-maker.
*Mr. Holter died July 16th, 1921, at Helena, Montana.
Tex was a frequent companion of Ives, who was also intimate with Plummer, and George used frequently to show their letters, written in cipher, to unskilled, if not unsuspecting citizens. He spent a life of ceaseless and active wickedness up to the very day of his capture.
Perhaps the most daring and cold-blooded of all his crimes was the murder which he committed near the Cold Spring Ranch. A man had been whipped for larceny near Nevada, and to escape the sting of the lash he offered to give information about the road agents. Ives heard of it, and meeting him purposely between Virginia and Dempsey's, he deliberately fired at him with his double-barreled gun. The gun was so badly loaded, and the man's coat so thickly padded that the buckshot did not take effect, upon which he coolly drew his revolver, and, talking to him all the time, shot him dead. This deed was perpetrated in broad daylight on a highway -a very Bloomingdale Road of the community -and yet, there, in plain view of Daley's and the Cold Spring Ranch, with two or three other teams in sight, he assassinated his victim in a cool and business-like manner, and when the murdered man had fallen from his horse, he took the animal by the bridle and led it off among the hills.
Ives then went to George Hilderman and told him that he should like to stay at his wakiup for a few days, as he had killed a man near Cold Spring Ranch, and there might be some stir and excitement about it.
In about half an hour after, some travelers arrived at the scene of murder. The body was still warm, but lifeless, and some of the neighbors from the surrounding ranches dug a lonely grave in the beautiful valley, and there, nameless, unconfined and unwept, the poor victim,
''Life's fitful fever over,
The passer-by may even now notice the solitary grave where he lies, marked as it still is by the upheaved earth, on the left side of the road, as he goes down the valley, about a mile on the Virginia side of the Cold Spring Ranch.
All along the route the ranchmen knew the road agents, but the certainty of instant death in case they revealed what they knew enforced their silence, even when they were really desirous of giving information or warning.
Nicholas Tbalt had sold a span of mules to his employers, Butschy & Clark, who paid him the money. Taking the gold with him, He went to Dempsey's Ranch to bring up the animals. Not returning for some time they concluded that he had run away with the mules, and were greatly grieved that a person they had trusted so implicitly should deceive them. They were, however, mistaken. Faithful to his trust, he had gone for the mules, and met his death from the hand of George Ives, who shot him, robbed him off his money, and stole his mules. Ives first accused Long John of the deed; but he was innocent of it, as was also Hilderman, who was a petty thief and hider, but neither murderer nor road agent. His gastronomic feats at Bannack had procured him the name, the American Pie-Eater.* Ives contradicted himself at his execution, stating that Aleck Carter was the murderer; but in this he wronged his own soul. His was the bloody hand that committed the crime. Long John said, on his examination at the trial, that he did not see the shots fired, but that he saw Nicholas coming with the mules, and George Ives going to meet him; that Ives rode up shortly after with the mules, and said that the Dutchman would never trouble anybody again.
* Langford tells the story of this Pie-Rater. See that.
The body of the slaughtered young man lay frozen, stiff and stark, among the sage brush, whither it had been dragged, unseen of man; but the eye of Omniscience rested on the blood-stained corpse, and the fiat of the Eternal Judge ordered the wild bird of the mountains to point out the spot, and, by a miracle, to reveal the crime. It was the finger of God that indicated the scene of the assassination, and it was His will stirring in the hearts of the honest and indignant gazers on the ghastly remains of Tbalt that organized the party which, though not then formally enrolled as a Viligance Committee, was the nucleus and embryo of the order -the germ from which sprang that goodly tree, under the shadow of whose wide-spreading branches the citizens of Montana can lie down and sleep in peace.
Nicholas Tbalt was brought into Nevada on a wagon, after being missing for ten days. William Herren came to Virginia and informed Tom Baume, who at once went down to where the body lay. The head had been pierced by a ball, which entered just over the left eye. On searching the clothes of the victim, he found in his pocket a knife which he had lent him in Washington Gulch, Colorado, two years before, in the presence of J. X. Beidler and William Clark.
The marks of a small lariat were on the dead man's wrists and neck. He had been dragged through the brush, while living, after being shot, and when found lay on his face, his right arm bent across his chest and his left grasping the willows above him.
William Palmer was coming across the Stinkingwater Valley, near the scene of the murder, ahead of his wagon, with his shotgun on his shoulder. A grouse rose in front of him, and he fired. The bird dropped dead on the body of Tbalt. On finding the grouse on the body, he went down to the wakiup, about a quarter of a mile below the scene of the murder, and seeing Long John and George Hilderman there, he told them that there was the body of a dead man above, and asked them if they would help him to put the corpse into his wagon, and that he would take it to town, and see if it could be identified. They said "No; that is nothing. They kill people in Virginia every day, and there's nothing said about it, and we want to have nothing to do with it."
The man lay for half a day exposed in the wagon, after being brought up to Nevada. Elk Morse, William Clark and Tom Baume got a coffin made for him; took him up to the burying ground above Nevada; interred him decently, and, at the foot of the grave, a crotched stick was placed, which is, we believe, still standing.
The indignation of the people was excited by the spectacle. The same afternoon three or four of the citizens raised twenty-five men,* and left Nevada at 10 p. m. The party subscribed an obligation before starting, binding them to mutual support, etc., and then travelled on, with silence and speed, towards the valley of the Stinkingwater. Calling at a ranch on their way, they obtained an accession to their numbers, in the person of the man who eventually brought Ives to bay, after he had escaped from the guard who had him in charge. Several men were averse to taking him with them, not believing him to be a fit man for such an errand; but they were greatly mistaken, for he was both honest and reliable, as they afterward found.
* See Oath and names in back of book.
Avoiding the traveled road, the troop rode round by the bluff, so as to keep clear of Dempsey's Ranch. About six miles further on they called at a cabin, and got a guide to pilot them to the rendezvous.
At about half-past three in the morning they crossed Wisconsin Creek, at a point some seven miles below Dempsey's, and found that it was frozen, but that the ice was not strong enough to carry the weight of man and horse, and they went through one after another, at different points, some of the riders having to get down, in order to help their horses, emerging half drowned on the other side, and continuing their journey, cased in a suit of frozen clothes, which, as one of them observed, "stuck to them like death to a dead nigger." Even the irrepressible Tom Baume was obliged to take a sharp nip on his "quid," and to summon all his fortitude to his aid to face the cold of his ice-bound "rig."
The leader called a halt about a mile further on, saying, "Every one light from his horse, hold him by the bridle, and make no noise till daybreak." Thus they stood motionless for an hour and a half. At the first peep of day the word was given, "Boys mount your horses, and not a word pass, until we are in sight of the wakiup." They had not travelled far when a dog barked. Instantly they put spurs to their horses, and breaking to the right and left, formed the "surround," every man reining up with his shot-gun bearing on the wakiup. The leader jumped from his horse, and seeing eight or ten men sleeping on the ground* in front of the structure, all wrapped up in blankets, sang out, "The first man that raises will get a quart of buckshot in him, before he can say Jack Robinson." It was too dark to see who they were, so he went on to the wakiup, leaving his horse in charge of one of the party, half of whom had dismounted and the others held the horses. "Is Long John here?" he asked. "Yes," said that longitudinal individual. "Come out here; I want you." "Well," said he, "I guess I know what you want me for." "Probably you do; but hurry up; we have got no time to lose." "Well," said John, "wait till I get my moccasins on, won't you?" ''Be quick about it, then,'' observed his captor. Immediately after he came out of the wakiup, and they waited about half an hour before it was light enough to see distinctly. The captain took four of his men and Long John, and walked to the place where the murder had been committed, leaving the remainder of the troop in charge of the other men. They went up to the spot, and there Long John was charged with the murder. Palmer showed the position in which the body was found. He said, "I did not do it, boys." He was told that his blood would be held answerable for that of Nicholas Tbalt; for that, if he had not killed him, he knew well who had done it, and had refused to help to put his body into a wagon. "Long John," said one of the men, handling his pistol as he spoke, "you had better prepare for another world. The leader stepped between and said, ''This won't do; if there is anything to be done, let us all be together." Long John was taken aside by three of the men, and set down. They looked up, and there, in the faint light -about a quarter of a mile off -stood Black Bess, the mule bought by X. Beidler in Washington Gulch. Pointing to the animal, they said, "John, whose mule is that?" "That's the mule that Nick rode down here," he answered. "You know whose mule that is, John. Things look dark. You had better be thinking of something else now." The mule was sent for, and brought before him, and he was asked where the other two mules were. He said he did not know. He was told that he had better look out for another world, for that he was played out in this. He said, "I did not commit that crime. If you give me a chance, I'll clear myself." "John," said the leader, ''you never can do it; for you knew of a man lying dead for nine days, close to your house, and never reported his murder; and you deserve hanging for that.
Why didn't you come to Virginia and tell the people?" He replied that he was afraid and dared not do it. "Afraid of what?" asked the captain. "Afraid. of the men round here." "Who are they?" "I dare not tell who they are. There's one of them round here." "Where?" "There's one of them here at the wakiup, that killed Nick." "Who is he?" "George Ives." ''Is he down at the wakiup?" "Yes." "You men stand here and keep watch over John, and I'll go down." Saying this he walked to the camp.
* Though it was in December, these men were used to roughing it.
On arriving at the wakiup, he paused, and picking out the man answering to the description of George Ives, he asked him, "Is your name George Ives?" "Yes," said that worthy. "I want you," was the laconic query. "To go to Virginia City," was the direct but unpleasing rejoinder. "All right," said George, "I expect I have to go." He was at once given in charge of the guard.
So innocent were some of the troop, that they had adopted the "Perfect gentleman" hypothesis, and laid down their arms in anger at the arrest of this murderous villain. A little experience prevented any similar exhibition of such a weakness in the future.
Two of the party went over to Tex, who was engaged in the highly necessary operation of changing his shirt. "I believe we shall want you too," said one of them; Tex denuded himself of his under garment, and throwing it towards Tom Baume, exclaimed, ''There's my old shirt and plenty of greybacks. You'd better arrest them too." He was politely informed that he himself, but neither the shirt nor its population, was the object of this "unconstitutional restraint," and was asked if the pistols lying on the ground were his, which he admitted, and was thereupon told that they were wanted also, and that he must consider himself "under arrest" -a technical yet simple formula adopted by mountaineers, to assure the individual addressed that his brains will, without further warning, be blown out, if he should attempt to make a "break." Tex dressed himself and awaited further developments.
There appeared to be a belief on the part of both Tex and Ives that they should get off; but when they saw the party with Long John, they appeared cast down, and said no more.
The other men who were lying around the wakiup, when the scouting party rode up, were Aleck Carter, Bob Zachary, Whiskey Bill, Johnny Cooper, and two innocent strangers, whose prolonged tenure of life can only be accounted for by the knowledge of the circumstance that they were without money at the time. Of the fact of the connection of the others with the band the boys were ignorant, and were drinking coffee with them, laying down their guns within the reach of the robbers, on their bedclothes. Had the road agents possessed the nerve to make the experiment, they could have blown them to pieces. One of the party, pointing to Aleck Carter, said to the leader, "There's one good man among them, any way. I knew him on the 'other side'," (west of the mountains). The captain's view of the state of things was not altered by this flattering notice. He sang out, in a tone of voice that signified "something's up," ''Every man take his gun and keep it." In after expeditions he had no need to repeat the command. Five men were sent into the wakiup, and the rest stood round it. The result of their search was the capture of seven dragoon and navy revolvers, nine shot-guns and thirteen rifles. These were brought out, and in laying them down one of them went off close to Tom Baume's head. Leroy Southmayde's pistol -taken from him at the time of the robbery of the coach -was one of the weapons. It was recognized at the trial of Ives, by the number upon it. About half an inch of the muzzle had been broken off, and it had been fixed up smoothly.
All being now ready, the party started for Dempsey's, and George, who was mounted on his spotted bob-tailed pony, went along with them. He had determined to escape, and in order to carry out his design he expressed a wish to try the speed of his horse against the others, and challenged several to race with him. This was foolishly permitted, and, but for the accidental frustration of his design to procure a remount of unsurpassed speed, a score of names might have been added to the long list of his murdered victims.
At Dempsey's Ranch there was a bridge in course of construction, and two of the men riding ahead saw George Hilderman, standing on the center, at work. He was asked if his name was George Hilderman, and replied "Yes," whereupon he was informed that he was wanted to go up to Virginia City. He inquired whether they had any papers for him, and being told that they had not any, he declared that he would not leave the spot; but the leader coming up, told him to go "without any foolishness," in a manner that satisfied him of the inutility of resistance, and he prepared to accompany them; but not as a volunteer, by any means. He said he had no horse. Tom Baume offered him a mule. Then he had no saddle. The same kind friend found one, and he had to ride with them. His final effort was couched in the form of a declaration that the beast would not go. A stick was lying on the ground, and he received an instruction, as the conventions word it, either to "whip and ride," or "walk and drive." This, practically speaking, reconciled him to the breach of the provisions of Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights involved in his arrest, and he jogged along, if not comfortably, yet, at all events, in peace.
In the mean time, the arch villain in custody of the main body was playing his role with much skill and with complete success. He declared his entire innocence of the awful crime with which he was charged, and rather insinuated than expressed his wish that he might be taken to Virginia, where his friends were, and that he might be tried by civil authorities (Plummer to empanel the jury), and incidentally remarked that he should not like to be tried at Nevada, for that he once killed a dog there which had scared his horse, and for that reason they had prejudices against him, which might work him serious injury in the event of his trial at that place.
There is no doubt that the seeming alacrity with which he apparently yielded to the persuasions of his captors threw them off their guard, and he was permitted to ride unarmed, but otherwise unrestrained"along with the escort.
So large a troop of horsemen never yet rode together mounted on fleet cayuses, on the magnificent natural roads of Montana, without yielding to the temptation presented to try the comparative merits of their horses, and our company of partisan police were no exception to this rule. Scrub races were the order of the day, until, in one of them, Geo. Ives, who was the winner, attracted the attention of the whole party, by continuing his race at the top of his horse's speed; but not until he was at least ten rods ahead of the foremost rider, did the guard (?) realize the fact that the bird had flown from the open cage. Twenty-four pairs of spurs were driven home into the flanks of twenty-four horses, and with a clatter of hoofs never since equalled on that road, except when the deluded cavalry of Virginia rode down the valley
''To see the savage fray."
or at the reception given to the Hon. J. M. Ashley and party, they swept on like a headlong rout.
For a while, the fugitive gained gradually, but surely, on his pursuers, heading for Daley's Ranch, where his own fleet and favorite mare was standing bridled and saddled, ready for his use (so quietly did intelligence fly in those days). Fortune, however, declared against the robber. He was too hotly pursued to be able to avail himself of the chance. His pursuers seeing a fresh horse from Virginia and a mule standing there, leaped on their backs and continued the chase. Ives turned his horse's head towards the mountains round Biven's Gulch, and across the plain, in that race for life, straining every nerve, flew the representatives of crime and justice. Three miles more had been passed, when the robber found that his horse's strength was failing, and every stride diminishing. That the steeds of Wilson and Burtchey were in no better condition; but the use of arms might now decide the race, and springing from his horse, he dashed down a friendly ravine, whose rocky and boulder-strewn sides might offer some refuge from his relentless foes. Quick as thought, the saddles of his pursuers were empty, and the trial of speed was now to be continued on foot. On arriving at the edge of the ravine Ives was not visible; but it was evidence that he must be concealed within a short distance. Burtchey quickly "surrounded" the spot, and sure enough, there was Ives crouching behind a rock. Drawing a bead on him, Burtchey commanded him to come forth and with a light and careless laugh he obeyed. The wily Bohemian was far too astute, however, to be thus overreached, and before Ives could get near enough to master his gun, a stern order to "stand fast" destroyed his last hope and he remained motionless until assistance arrived, in the person of Wilson.
Two hours had elapsed between the time of the escape and the recapture and return of the prisoner. A proposition was made to the captain to raise a pole and hang him there, but this was. negatived. After gayly chatting with the boys, and treating them, the word was given to "Mount," and in the center of a hollow square Ives began to realize his desperate situation.
Tidings of the capture flew fast and far. Through every nook and dell of the inhabited parts of the Territory, wildly and widely spread the news. Johnny Gibbons, who afterward made such sly and rapid tracks for Utah, haunted with visions of vigilance committee, joined the party before they reached the canyon at Alder Creek, and accompanied them to Nevada. At that time he was a part owner of the Cottonwood Ranch (Dempsey's),* and kept the band well informed of all persons who passed with large sums of money.
The sun had sunk behind the hills when the detachment reached. Nevada, on the evening of the 18th of December, and a discussion arose upon the question whether they should bring Ives to Virginia, or detain him for the night at Nevada. The "conservatives" and "radicals" had a long argument developing an "irrepressible conflict;" but the radicals, on a vote, carried their point -rejecting Johnny Gibbons's suffrage on the ground of mixed blood. It was thereupon determined to keep Ives at Nevada until morning, and then to determine the place of trial.**
* first ranch recorded on the Stinking Mater.
** Judge Lott's story.
The prisoners were separated and chained. A strong guard was. posted inside and outside of the house, and the night came and went without developing anything remarkable. But all that weary night, a "solitary horseman might have been seen" galloping along the road. at topmost speed, with frequent relays of horses, on his way to Bannack City. This was Lieut. George Lane, alias Club-foot, who was sent with news of the high-handed outrage that was being perpetrated in defiance of law, and with no regard whatever to the constituted authorities. He was also instructed to suggest that Plummer should come forthwith to Nevada, demand the culprit for the civil authorities, enforce that demand by what is fitly called hocus pocus as habeas corpus, and see that he had a fair (?) trial.
As soon as it was determined that Ives should remain at Nevada, Gibbons dashed up the street to Virginia, meeting a lawyer or two on the way -
''Where the carrion is, there will the vultures, etc.''
At the California Exchange, Gibbons found Messrs. Smith and Ritchie, and a consultation between client, attorney and proch ein ami, resulted in Lane's mission to Bannack, as one piece of strategy that faintly promised the hope for rewards. All of Ives' friends were notified to be at Nevada early the next morning.
The forenoon of the 19th saw the still swelling tide of miners, merchants and artisans wending their way to Nevada, and all the morning was spent in private examinations of the prisoners, and private consultations as to the best method of trial. Friends of the accused were found in all classes of society; many of them were assiduously at work to create a sentiment in his favor, while a large multitude were there, suspicious that the right man had been caught; and resolved, if such should prove to be the case, that no loophole of escape should be found for him, in any technical form of the law.
Although on the eve of "Forefather's Day," there was in the atmosphere the mildness and the serenity of October. There was no snow and but little ice along the edges of sluggish streams; but the sun, bright and genial, warmed the clear air, and even thawed out the congealed mud in the middle of the streets. Little boys were at play in the streets, and fifteen hundred men stood in them, impatient for action, but waiting without a murmur, in order that everything might be done decently and in order.
Messrs. Smith, Ritchie, Thurmond and Colonel Wood. were Ives' lawyers, with whom was associated Mr. Alex Davis, then a comparative stranger in Montana.
Col. W. F. Sanders, at that time residing at Bannack City, but temporarily sojourning at Virginia, was sent for to conduct the prosecution, and Hon. Charles S. Bagg was appointed. his colleague, at the request of Judge Wilson, Mr. Bagg being a miner, and then little known.
* Ives was tried before Judge Byam.
In settling upon the mode of trial, much difference of opinion was developed; but the miners finally determined that it should be held in the presence of the whole body of citizens, and reserved to themselves the ultimate decision of all questions; but lest something should escape their attention, and injustice thereby be done to the public, or to the prisoner, a delegation composed of twelve men from each district (Nevada and Junction) was appointed to hear the proof, and to act as an advisory jury. W. H. Patton, of Nevada, and W. Y. Pemberton, of Virginia, were appointed amanuenses. An attempt to get on the jury twelve men from Virginia was defeated, and, late in the afternoon, the trial began and continued till nightfall. The three prisoners, George Ives, George Hilderman and Long John. (John Franck) were chained with the lightest logging chain that could be found -this was wound round their legs, and the links were secured with padlocks.
In introducing testimony for the people, on the morning of the 21st, the miners informed all concerned that the trial must close at three p. m. The announcement was received with great satisfaction.
It is unnecessary to describe the trial, or to recapitulate the evidence. Suffice it to say that two alibis, based on the testimony of George Brown and Honest Whiskey Joe, failed altogether. Among the lawyers, there was, doubtless, the usual amount of brow-beating and technical insolence, intermingled with displays of eloquence and learning; but not the rhetoric of Blair, the learning of Coke, the metaphysics of Alexander, the wit of Jerrold, or the odor of 0berlin, could dull the perceptions of those hardy mountaineers, or mislead them from the stern and righteous pursuit of all this labor, which was to secure immunity to the persons and property of the community, and to guarantee a like protection to those who should cast their lot in Montana in time to come.
The evidence was not confined to the charge of murder; but showed, also, that Ives had been acting in the character of a robber, as well as that of a murderer; and it may well be doubted whether he would have been convicted at all, if developments damaging to the reputations and dangerous to the existence of some of his friends had not been made during the trial, on which they absented themselves mysteriously, and have never been seen since. There was an instinctive and unerring conviction that the worst man in the community was on trial; but it was hard work, after all the proof and all this feeling to convict him.
Prepossessing in his appearance; brave beyond a doubt; affable in his manners; jolly and free among his comrades, and with thousands of dollars at his command; bad and good men alike working upon the feeling of the community, when they could not disturb its judgment -it seemed, at times, that all the labor was to end in disastrous failure.
The crowd which gathered around that fire in front of the court is vividly before our eyes. We see the wagon containing the Judge, and an advocate pleading with all his earnestness and eloquence for the dauntless robber, on whose unmoved features no shade of despondency can be traced by the fitful glare of the blazing wood, which lights up, at the same time, the stern and impassive features of the guard, who, in every kind of habiliments, stand in various attitudes, in a circle surrounding the scene of justice. The attentive faces and compressed lips of the jurors show their sense of the vast responsibility that rests upon them, and of their firm resolve to do their duty. Ever and anon a brighter flash than ordinary reveals the expectant crowd of miners, thoughtfully and steadily gazing on the scene, and listening intently to the trial. Beyond this close phalanx, fretting and shifting around its outer edge, sways with quick and uncertain motion the wavering line of desperadoes and sympathizers with the criminal; their haggard, wild and alarmed countenances showing too plainly that they tremble at the issue which is, when decided, to drive them in exile from Montana, or to proclaim them as associate criminals, whose fate could neither be delayed nor dubious. A sight like this will ne'er be seen again in Montana. It was the crisis of the fate of the Territory. Nor was the position of prosecutor, guard, juror or Judge, one that any but a brave and law-abiding citizen would choose, or even accept. Marked for slaughter by desperadoes, these men staked their lives for the welfare of the society. A mortal strife between Colonel Sanders and one of the opposing lawyers was only prevented by the prompt action of wise men, who corralled the combatants on their way to fight. The hero of that hour of trial was avowedly W. F. Sanders. Not a desperado present but would have felt honored by becoming his murderer, and yet, fearless as a lion, he stood there confronting and defying the malice of his armed adversaries. The citizens of Montana, many of them his bitter political opponents, recollect his actions with gratitude and kindly feeling. Charles S. Bagg is also remembered as having been at his post when the storm blew loudest.
The argument of the case having terminated, the issue was, in the first place, left to the decision of the twenty-four who had been selected for that purpose, and they thereupon retired to consult.
Judge Byam, who shouldered the responsibility of the whole proceeding, will never be forgotten by those in whose behalf he courted certain, deadly peril, and probable death.
The jury were absent, deliberating on their verdict, but little less than half an hour, and on their return, twenty-three made a report that Ives was proven guilty; but one member -Henry Spivey -declined to give in any finding, for unknown reasons.
The crisis of the affair had now arrived. A motion was made, "That the report of the committee be received, and it discharged from further consideration of that case," which Mr. Thurmond opposed; but upon explanation, deferred pressing his objections until the motion should be made to adopt the report, and to accept the verdict of the committee as the judgment of the people there assembled; and thus the first formal motion passed without opposition.
Before this, some of the crowd were clamorous for an adjournment, and now Ives' friends renewed the attempt; but it met with signal failure.
Another motion, "That the assembly adopt as their verdict the report of the committee," was made, and called forth the irrepressible and indefatigable Thurmond and Col. J. M. Wood; but it carried, there being probably not more than one hundred votes against it.
Here it was supposed by many that the proceedings would end for the present, and that the court would adjourn until the morrow, as it was already dark. Col. Sanders, however, mounted the wagon, and having recited that Ives had been declared a murderer and a robber by the people there assembled, moved "That George Ives be forthwith hung by the neck until he is dead'' -a bold and business-like movement which excited feeble opposition, was carried before the defendant seemed to realize the situation; but a friend or two and some old acquaintances having gained admission to the circle within which Ives was guarded, to bid him farewell, awakened him to a sense of the condition in which he was placed, and culprit and counsel sought to defer the execution. Some of his ardent counsel shed tears, of which lachrymose effusions it is well to say no more than that they were copious. The vision of a long and scaly creature, inhabiting the Nile, rises before us in connection with this aqueous sympathy for an assassin. Quite a number of his old chums were, as Petroleum V. Nasby says, "weeping profoosly." Then came moving efforts to have the matter postponed until the coming morning, Ives giving assurances, upon his honor, that no attempt at rescue or escape would be made; but already Davis and Hereford* were seeking a favorable spot for the execution.
Our Legislative Assembly seem to have forgotten that Mr. A. B. Davis** had any of these arduous labors to perform, but none who were present will ever forget the fearless activity which he displayed all through those trials. A differentlv constituted body may yet sit in Montana and vote him his five hundred dollars.
* Hereford put the rope around Ives' neck.
** Died in Helena, at the Masonic Home, in 1915. Davis always went by the nickname of Lazy Davis, as he never did like to work.
The appeals made by Ives and Thurmond for a delay of the execution were such as human weakness cannot well resist. It is most painful to be compelled to deny even a day's brief space, during which the criminal may write to mother and sister, and receive for himself such religious consolation as the most hardened desire, under such circumstances; but that body of men had come there deeply moved by repeated murders and robberies, and meant ''business." The history of former trials was there more freshly and more deeply impressed upon the minds of men than it is now, and the result of indecision was before their eyes. The most touching appeal from Ives, as he held the hand of Col. Sanders, lost its force when met by the witheringly sarcastic request of one of the crowd,* "Ask him how long a time he gave the Dutchman." betters were dictated by him and written by Thurmond. His will was made, in which the lawyers and his chums in iniquity were about equally remembered, to the entire seclusion of his mother and sisters in Wisconsin. Whether or not it was a time for tears, it was assuredly a time of tears; but neither weakness nor remorse moistened the eyes of Ives. He seemed neither haughty nor yet subdued; in fact, he was exactly imperturbable. From a place not more than ten yards from where he sat during the trial he was led to execution.
* J. X. Beidler.
The prisoner had repeatedly declared that he would never "die in his boots," and he asked the sergeant of the guard for a pair of moccasins, which were given to him; but after a while he seemed to be chilled and requested that his boots might again be put on. Thus George Ives "died in his boots."
During the whole trial, the doubting, trembling, desperate friends of Ives exhausted human ingenuity to devise methods for his escape, trying intimidation, weak appeals to sympathy, and ever and anon exhibiting their abiding faith in "Nice, sharp quillets of the law." All the time the roughs awaited with a suspense of hourly increasing painfulness the arrival of their boasted chief, who had so long and so successfully sustained the three inimical characters of friend of their clan, friend of the people and guardian of the laws.
Not more anxiously did the great captain at Waterloo sigh for ''Night or Blucher" than did they for Plummer. But, relying upon him, they deferred all other expedients; and when the dreaded end came, as come it must, they felt that the tide in the affairs of villains had not been taken at its flood, and not without a struggle they yielded to the inevitable logic of events, and because they could not help it they gave their loved companion to the gallows.
Up to the very hour at which he was hanged they were confident of Plummer's arrival in time to save him. But events were transpiring throughout the Territory which produced intense excitement, and rumor on her thousand wings was ubiquitous in her journeying on absurd errands.
Before Lane reached Bannack news of Ives' arrest had reached there, with the further story that the men of Alder Gulch were wildwith excitement, and ungovernable from passion; that a vigilance committee had been formed; a number of the best citizens hanged, and that from three hundred to five hundred men were on their way to Bannack City to hang Plummer, Ray, Stinson, George Chrisman, A. J. McDonald and others. This last "bulletin from the front" was probably the offspring of Plummer's brain. It is also likely that Lane and perhaps Ray and Stinson helped in the hatching of the story. Suffice it to say that Plummer told it often, shedding crocodile tears that such horribe designs existed in the minds of any as the death of his, as yet, unrobbed friends, Chrisman, McDonald and Pitt.
His was a most unctuous sorrow, intended at that crisis to be seen of men in Bannack, and quite a number of the good citizens clubbed together to defend each other from the contemplated assault, the precise hour for which' Plummer's detectives had learned, and all night long many kept watch and ward to give the attacking party a warm reception.
There is no doubt that Plummer believed that such a body of men were on their way to Bannack City after him, Ray, Stinson and company. The coupling of the other names with theirs was his own work, and was an excellent tribute paid in a back-handed way to their integrity and high standing in the community.
''Conscience doth make cowards of all."
and Lane found Plummer anxious to look after his own safety rather than that of George Ives. The rumors carried day by day from the trial to the band in different parts of the Territory were surprising in their exactness, and in the celerity with which they were carried; but they were changed in each community by those most interested into forms best suited to subserve the purposes of the robbers; and, in this way, did they beguile into sympathy with them and their misfortunes many fair, honest men.
Ives' trial for murder, though not the first in the Territory, differed from any that had preceded it.
Before this memorable day citizens, in the presence of a welldisciplined and numerous band of desperadoes, had spoken of their atrocities with bated breath; and witnesses upon their trial had testified in whispering humbleness. Prosecuting lawyers, too, had in their arguments often startled the public with such novel propositions as "Now, gentlemen, you have heard the witnesses and it is for you to say whether the defendant is or is not guilty; if he is guilty you should say so, but if not, you ought to acquit him. I leave this with you, to whom it rightfully belongs." But the counsel for the defense were, at least, guiltless of uttering these last platitudes; for a vigorous defense hurt no one and won hosts of friends -of a certain kind. But on Ives' trial there was given forth no uncertain sound. Robbery and honesty locked horns for the mastery, each struggling for empire; and each stood by his banner until the contest ended -fully convinced of the importance of victory. Judge Byam remained by the prisoner from the time judgment was given, and gave all the necessary directions for carrying it into effect. Robert Hereford was the executive officer.
An unfinished house, having only the side-walls up, was chosen as the best place near at hand for carrying into effect the sentence of death. The preparations though entirely sufficient, were both simple and brief. The butt of a forty-foot pole was planted inside the house at the foot of one of the walls, and the stick leaned over a cross beam. Near the point was tied the fatal cord, with the open noose dangling fearfully at its lower end. A large goods box was the platform. The night had closed in with a bright, full moon, and around that altar of vengeance the stern and resolute faces of the guard were visible under all circumstances of light and shade conceivable. Unmistakable determination was expressed in every line of their bronzed and Weatherbeaten countenances.
George Ives was led to the scaffold in fifty-eight minutes from the time his doom was fixed. A perfect babel of voices saluted 'the movement. Every roof was covered, and cries of "Hang him!" "Don't hang him!" "Banish him!" "I'll shoot!" " their murdering souls!" "Let's hang Long John!" were heard all around. The revolvers could be seen flashing in the moonlight. The guard stood like a rock. They had heard the muttered threats of a rescue from the crowd, and with grim firmness -the characteristic of the miners when they mean "business" -they stood ready to beat them back. Woe to the mob that should surge against that living bulwark. They would have fallen as grass before the scythe.
As the prisoner stepped on to the fatal platform, the noise ceased, and the stillness became painful. The rope was adjusted, and the usual request was made as to whether he had anything to say. With a firm voice he replied. "I am innocent of this crime; Aleck Carter killed the Dutchman."
The strong emphasis on the word "this" convinced all around that he meant his words to convey the impression that he was guilty of other crimes. Up to this moment he had always accused Long John of the murder.
Ives expressed a wish to see Long John, and. the crowd of sympathizers yelled in approbation; but the request was denied, for an attempt at a rescue was expected.
All being ready, the word was given to the guard,* "Men, do your duty." The click of the locks rang sharply, and the pieces flashed in the moonlight as they came to the "aim." The box flew from under the murderer's feet with a crash, and George Ives swung in the night breeze, facing the pale moon that lighted up the scene of retributive justice.
* Charles Beehrer was the man that used those words.
As the vengeful click! click! of the locks sounded their note of deadly warning to the intended rescuers, the crowd stampeded in wild affright, rolling over one another in heaps, shrieking and howling with terror.
When the drop fell, the Judge, who was standing close beside Ives, called out, ''His neck is broken; he is dead." This announcement and the certainty of its truth -for the prisoner never moved a limb -convinced the few resolute desperadoes who knew not fear that the case was hopeless, and they retired with grinding teeth and with muttered curses issuing from their lips.
It is astonishing what a wonderful effect is produced upon an angry mob by the magic sound referred to. Hostile demonstrations are succeeded by a mad panic; rescuers turn their undivided attention to their own corporal salvation; eyes that gleamed with anger, roll wildly with terror; the desire for slaughter gives way to the fear of death, and courage hands the craven fear his sceptre of command. When a double-barreled shot-gun is pointed at a traveller by a desperado the feeling is equally intense; but its development is different. The organ of "acquisitiveness" is dormant; "combativeness" and "destructiveness" are inert; "caution" calls "benevolence" to do its duty; a very large lump rises into the wayfarer's throat; cold chills follow the downward course of the spine, and the value of money, as compared with that of bodily safety, instantly reaches the minimum point. Verily, "All that a man hath will he give for his life." We have often smiled at the fiery indignation of the great untried when listening to their account of what they would have done if a couple of road agents ordered them to throw up their hands; but they failed to do anything towards convincing us that they would not have sent valor to the rear at the first onset, and appeared as the very living and breathing impersonations of discretion. We felt certain that were they "loaded to the guards" with the gold dust, they would come out of the scrape as poor as Lazarus, and as mild and insinuating in demeanor as a Boston mamma with six marriageable daughters.
At last the deed was done. The law-abiding among the citizens breathed more freely, and all felt that the worst man in the community was dead -that the neck of crime was broken, and that the reign of terror was ended.
The body of Ives was left hanging for an hour. At the expiration of this period of time it was cut down, carried into a wheelbarrow shop, and laid out on a work bench. A guard was then placed over it till morning, when the friends of the murderer had him decently interred. He lies in his narrow bed, near his victim -the murdered Tbalt -to await his final doom, when they shall stand face to face at the grand tribunal, where every man shall be rewarded according to his deeds.
George Ives, though so renowned a desperado, was by no means an ancient practitioner in his profession. In 1857-58 he worked as a miner, honestly and hard, in California, and though wild and reckless was not accused of dishonesty. His first great venture in the line of robbery was the stealing of government mules, near Walla Walla. He was employed as herder, and used to report that certain of his charge were dead every time that a storm occurred. The officer of the post believed the story,and inquired no further. In this way George ran off quite a decent herd, with the aid of his friends. In Elk City he startled his old employer in the mines of California by riding his horse into a saloon, and when that gentleman seized the bridle, he drew his revolver, and would certainly have killed him, but fortunately he caught sight of the face of his intended victim in time, and returning his pistol, he apologized for his conduct. When leaving the city he wished to present his splendid grey mare to his friend, who had for old acquaintance's sake supplied his wants; but the present, though often pressed upon this gentleman, was as often refused; for no protestations of Ives could convince him that the beautiful animal was fairly his property. He said that he earned it honestly by mining. His own account of the stealing of the government mules which we have given above was enough to settle that question definitely. It was from the "other side" that Ives came over to Montana -then a part of Idaho -and entered with full purpose upon the career which ended at Nevada so fatally and shamefully for himself, and so happily for the people of this Territory.
A short biographical sketch of Ives and of the rest of the gang will appear at the end of the present work.
The trial of Hilderman was a short matter. He was defended by Judge (?) H. P. A. Smith. He had not been known as a very bad man; but was a weak and somewhat imbecile old fellow, reasonably honest in a strictly honest community, but easily led to hide the small treasure, keep the small secrete, and do the dirty work of strong-minded, self-willed, desperate men, whether willingly or through fear the trial did not absolutely determine. The testimony of Dr. Glick showed him to be rather cowardly and a great eater. He had known of the murder of Tbalt for some weeks, and had never divulged it. He was also cognizant of the murder near Cold Spring Ranch, and was sheltering and hiding the perpetrators. He had concealed the stolen mules too; but, in view of the disclosures made by many, after Ives was hung, and the power of the gang being broken., such disclosures did not so much damage men in the estimation of the honest mountaineer. Medical men were taken to wounded robbers to dress their wounds; they were told in what affray they were received, and the penalty of repeating the story to outsiders was sometimes told; but to others it was described by a silence more expressive than words. Other parties, too, came into possession of the knowledge of the tragedies enacted by them, from their own lips, and under circumstances rendering silence a seeming necessity. To be necessarily the repository of their dreadful secrets was no enviable position. Their espionage upon every word uttered by the unfortunate accessory was offensive, and it was not a consolatory thought that, at any moment, his life might pay the penalty of any revelation he should make; and a person placed in such a "fix" was to some extent a hostage for the reticence of all who knew the same secret.
If stronger-minded men that Hilderman could pretend to be, had kept secrets at the bidding of the road agents, and that too in the populous places, where there were surely some to defend them -it was argued that a weak-minded man, away from all neighbors, where by day and by night he could have been killed and hidden from all human eyes, with perfect impunity -had some apology for obeying their behests.
Mr. Smith's defense of Hilderman was rather creditable to him. There was none of the braggadocio common to such occasions, and the people -feeling that they had caught and executed a chief of the gang -felt kindly disposed towards the old man.
Hilderman was banished from Montana, and was allowed ten days' time for the purpose of settling his affairs and leaving. When he arrived at Bannack City, Plummer told him not to go; but the old man took counsel of his fears, and comparing the agile and effeminate form of Plummer with those of the earnest mountaineers at Nevada, he concluded that he would rather bet on them than on Plummer, and being furnished by the latter with a pony and provisions, he left Montana forever.
When found guilty and recommended to mercy, he dropped on his knees, exclaiming, "My God, is it so?" At the close of his trial he made a statement, wherein he confirmed nearly all Long John had said of Ives.
Thus passed one of the crises which have arisen in this new community. The result demonstrated that when the good and lawabiding were banded together and all put forth their united strength, they were too strong for the lawlessness which was manifested when Ives was hung.
It has generally been supposed and believed that Plummer was not present at the trial of Ives, or at his execution. We are bound, however, to state that Mr. Clinton, who kept a saloon in Nevada at the time, positively asserts that he was in the room when Plummer took a drink there, a few minutes before the roughs made their rush at the fall of Ives, and that he went out and headed the mob in the effort which the determination of the guard rendered unsuccessful.
Long John having turned states' evidence was set free, and we believe that he still remains in the Territory.
One thing was conclusively shown to all who witnessed the trial of Ives. If every road agent costs as much labor, time and money for his conviction, the efforts of the citizens would have, practically, failed altogether. Some shorter, surer, and at least equally equitable method of procedure was to be found. The necessity for this, and the trial of its efficiency when it was adopted, form the ground-work of this history.