Those who have merely read the account given in these pages of the execution of Ives, can never fully appreciate the intense popular excitement that prevailed throughout the Territory during the stormy and critical period, or the imminent peril to which the principal actors in the drama were exposed. As an instance of the desire for murder and revenge that animated the roughs, it may be stated that Col. Sanders was quietly reading in John Creighton's* store, on the night of the execution of Ives, when a desperado named Harvey Meade -the individual who planned the seizure of a Federal vessel at San Francisco -walked into the room, with his revolver stuck into the band of his pants, in front, and walking up to the Colonel, commenced abusing him and called him a ----,etc. Col. Sanders not having been constituted with a view to the exhibition of fear, continued his reading, quietly slipping his hand out of his pocket in which lay a Derringer, and dropping it into his coat pocket, cocked his revolver as a preparative for a little shooting. Raising his eyes to the intruder, he observed. "Harvey, I should feel hurt if some men said this; but from such a dog as you it is not worth noticing." A doctor who was present laid his hand on a pick handle, and an "affair" seemed imminent; but John Creighton quietly walked up to the man and said, "You have to get out of here -quick!" All men fond of shooting, otherwise than in self-defense, unless they take their victim at an advantage, never care to push matters to extremities, and Meade quietly walked off -foiled. He admittrd afterwards to Sanders, that he had intended to kill him; but he professed a recent and not unaccountable change of sentiment.
All the prominent friends of justice were dogged, threatened and watched by the roughs; but their day was passing away, and the dawn of a better state of things was even then enlivening the gloom which overspread society like a funeral pall.
Two sister towns -Virginia and Nevada -claimed the honor of taking the first steps towards the formation of a Vigilance Committee.** The truth is, that five men in Virginia and one in Nevada** commenced simultaneously to take the initiative in the matter. Two days had not elapsed before their efforts were united, and when once a beginning had been made, the ramifications of the league of safety and order extended in a week or two all over the Territory, and, on the 14th day of January, 1864, the coup de grace was given to the power of the band by the execution of five of the chief villains in Virginia City. The details of the rapid and masterly operations which occupied the few weeks immediately succeeding the execution of Ives, will appear in the following chapters.
* Later of Omaha, a prominent man in early Montana.
** Wilbur F. Sanders in Virginia City, and John Lott in Nevada.
The reasons why the organization was so generally approved, and so numerously and powerfully supported, were such as appealed to the sympathies of all men who had anything to lose, or who thought their lives safer under the dominion of a body which, upon the whole, it must be admitted, has from the first acted with a wisdom, a justice and a vigor never surpassed on this continent, and rarely, if ever, equalled. Merchants, miners, mechanics and professional men alike, joined in the movement, until, within an incredibly short space of time, the road agents and their friends were in a state of constant and well-grounded fear, lest any remarks they might make confidentially to an acquaintance might be addressed to one who was a member of the much-dreaded Committee.
The inhabitants of Virginia had especial cause to seek for vengeance upon the head of the blood-thirsty marauders who had, in addition to the atrocities previously recounted, planned and arranged the murder and robbery of as popular a man as ever struck the Territory -one whose praise was in all men's mouths, and who had left them, in the previous fall, with the intention of returning to solicit their suffrages, as well as those of the people of Lewiston and Western Idaho, as their delegate to Congress.
His address, in the form of a circular, is still to be seen in the possession of a citizen of Nevada.
Lloyd Magruder, to whom the above remarks have special reference, was a merchant of Lewiston, Idaho. He combined in his character so many good and even noble qualities, that he was one of the most generally esteemed and beloved men in the Territory, and no single act of villainy ever committed in the far West was more deeply felt, or provoked a stronger desire for retaliation upon the heads of the guilty perpetrators, than the murder and robbery of himself and party, on their journey homeward.
In the summer of 1863, this unfortunate gentleman came to Virginia, with a large pack-train, laden with merchandise, selected with great judgment for the use of miners, and on his arrival, he opened a store on Wallace street, still pointed out as his place of business by "old inhabitants."
Having disposed of his goods, from the sale of which he had realized about $14,000, he made arrangements for his return to Lewiston, by way of Elk City. This becoming known, Plummer and his band held a council in Alder Gulch, and determined. on the robbery and murder of Magruder, C. Allen, Horace and Robert Chalmers, and a Mr. Phillips, from the neighborhood of Marysville. During the debate, it was proposed that Steve Marshland should go on the expedition, along with Jem Romaine, Doc Howard, Billy Page, and a man called indifferently Bob or Bill Lowry. The programme included the murder of the five victims, and Marshland said he did not wish to go, as he could make money without murder. He was, he said, "on the rob, but not on the kill." Cyrus Skinner laughed at his notion, and observed that "dead men tell no tales." It was accordingly decided that the four miscreants above named should join the party and kill them all at some convenient place on the road. Accordingly they offered their services to Magruder, who gave them a free passage and a fat mule each to ride, telling them that they could turn their lean horses along with the band.
Charley Allen, it seems, had strong misgivings about the character of the ruffians, and told Magruder that the men would not harm him (Allen), as they were under obligations to him; but they would, likely enough, try to rob Magruder. His caution was ineffectual, and Mr. McK. Dennee, we believe, fixed up for the trip the gold belonging to Magruder.
It is a melancholy fact that information of the intention of the murderers had reached the ears of more than one citizen; but such was the terror of the road agents that they dared not tell any of the party.
Having reached the mountain beyond Clearwater River," on their homeward journey, the stock was let out to graze on the slope, and Magruder, in company with Bill Lowry, went up to watch it. Seizing his opportunity, the ruffian murdered Magruder, and his confederates assassinated the four remaining in camp, while asleep. Romaine said to Phillips, when shooting him down, "You, I told you not to come." The villains having possessed themselves of the treasure, rolled up the bodies, baggage and arms, and threw them over a precipice. They then went on to Lewiston, avoiding Elk City on their route, where the first intimation of foul play was given by the sight of Magruder's mule, saddle, leggins, etc., in the possession of the robbers. Hill Beechey, the Deputy Marshal at Lewiston, and owner of the Luna House, noticed the cantinas filled with gold, and suspected something wrong, when they left by the coach for San Francisco. A man named Goodrich recognized Page, when he came to ranch the animals with him.
* This is a mistake. Magruder was killed in Montana, on the east side of the Bitter Root mountains.
The murderers were closely muffled and tried to avoid notice.
Beechey followed them right through to California, and there arrested them on the charge of murdering and robbing Magruder and his party. He found that they had changed their names at many places. Every possible obstacle was interposed. that the forms of law allowed; but the gallant man fought through it all, and brought them back, on requisition of the Governor of. Idaho, to Lewiston. Page turned state's evidence, and the men, who were closely guarded by Beechey all the time, in his own house, were convicted after a fair trial, and hanged. Romaine, who had been a barber, and afterward a bar-keeper, was a desperate villain. At the gallows, he said that there was a note in his pocket, which he did not wish to be read until he was dead. On opening it, it was found to contain a most beastly and insolent defiance of the citizens of Lewiston. Before he was swung off, he bade them "Launch their -old boat," for it was "only a mud-scow any way."
A reconnaissance of the ground, in spring, discovered a few bones, some buttons from Magruder's coat, some fire-arms, etc. The coyotes had been too busy to leave much.
Page, at the last advices, was still living at the Luna House. Even a short walk from home produces, it is said, a feeling of tightness about the throat, only to be relieved by going back in a hurry. He was not one of the original platters, but not being troubled with too much sense, he was frightened into being a tool.
The perpetration of this horrible outrage excited immense indignation and helped effectually to pave the way for the advent of the Vigilantes. Reviewing the long and bloody lists of crimes against person and property, which last included several wholesale attempts at plunder of the stores in Virginia and Bannack, it was felt that the question was narrowed down to ''kill or be killed." "Self-preservation is the first law of nature," and the mountaineers took the right side. We have to thank them for the peace and order which exist today in what are, by the concurrent testimony of all travelers, the best regulated new mining camps in the West.
The record of every villain who comes to Montana arrives with him, or before him; but no notice is taken of his previous conduct. If, however, he tries his hand at his trade in this region, he is sure of the reward of his crimes, and that on short notice; at least such is the popular belief.