At dusk, three horses were brought into town, belonging severally and respectively to the three marauders so often mentioned, Plummer, Stinson and Ray. It was truly conjectured that they had determined to leave the country, and it was at once settled that they should be arrested that night. Parties were detailed for the work. Those entrusted with the duty performed it admirably. Plummer was undressing when taken at his house. His pistol (self-cocking weapon) was broken and useless. Had he been armed, resistance would have been futile; for he was seized the moment the door was opened in answer to the knocking from without. Stinson* was arrested at Toland's, where he was spending the evening. He would willingly have done a little firing, but his captors were too quick for him. Ray was lying on a gambling table when seized. The three details marched their men to a given point, en route to the gallows. Here a halt was made. The leader of the Vigilantes and some others, who wished to save all unnecessary hard feeling, were sitting in a cabin, designing not to speak to Plummer, with whom they were so well acquainted. A halt was made, however, and at the door appeared Plummer. The light was extinguished; when the party moved on, but soon halted. The crisis had come. Seeing that the circumstances were such as admitted of neither vacillation nor delay, the citizen leader, summoning his friends, went up to the party and gave the military command, ''Company! forward -march!" This was at once obeyed. A rope taken from a noted functionary's bed had been mislaid and could not be found. A nigger boy was sent off for some of that highly necessary but unpleasant remedy for crime, and the bearer made such good time that some hundreds of feet of hempen necktie were on the ground before the arrival of the party at the gallows. On the road Plummer heard the voice and recognized the person of the leader.** He came to him and begged for his life; but was told, "It is useless for you to beg for your life; that affair is settled and cannot be altered. You are to be hanged. You cannot feel harder about it than I do; but I cannot help it if I would." Ned Ray, clothed with curses as with a garment, actually tried fighting, but found that he was in the wrong company for such demonstrations; and Buck Stinson made the air ring with the blasphemous and filthy expletives which he used in addressing his captors. Plummer exhausted every argument and plea that his imagination could suggest, in order to induce his captors to spare his life. He begged to be chained down in the meanest cabin; offered to leave the country forever; wanted a jury trial; implored time to settle his affairs; asked to see his sister-in-law, and, falling on his knees, with tears. and sighs declared to God that he was too wicked to die. He confessed his numerous murders and crimes, and seemed almost frantic at the prospect of death.
* Stinson was arrested by William Roe.
** Probably Colonel Sanders.
The first rope being thrown over the cross-beam, and the noose being rove, the order was given to "Bring up Ned Ray." This desperado was run. up with curses on his lips. Being loosely pinioned, he got his fingers between the rope and his neck, and thus prolonged his misery.
Buck Stinson saw his comrade robber swinging in the death agony, and blubbered out, "There goes poor Ed Ray." Scant mercy had he shown to his numerous victims. By a sudden twist of his head at the moment of his elevation, the knot slipped under his chin, and he was some minutes dying.
The order to "Bring up Plummer" was then passed and repeated; but no one stirred. The leader went over to this perfect gentleman, as his friends called him, and was met by a request to "give a man. time to pray." Well knowing that Plummer relied for a rescue upon other than Divine aid, he said briefly and decidedly, "Certainly; but let him say his prayers up here." Finding all efforts to avoid death were useless, Plummer rose and said no more prayers. Standing under the gallows which he had erected for the execution of Horan, this second Haman slipped off his necktie and threw it over his shoulder to a young friend who had boarded at his house, and who believed him innocent of crime, saying as he tossed it to him, "Here is something to remember me by." In the extremity of his grief, the young man threw himself weeping and wailing upon the ground. Plummer requested that the men would give him a good drop, which was done, as far as circumstances permitted, by hoisting him up as high as possible, in their arms, and letting him fall suddenly. He died quickly and without much struggle.
It was necessary to seize Ned Ray's hands, and by a violent effort to draw his fingers from between the noose and his neck before he died. Probably he was the last to expire of the guilty trio.
The news of a man's being hanged flies faster than any other intelligence in a Western country, and several had gathered round the gallows on that fatal Sabbath evening -many of them friends of the road agents. The spectators were allowed to come up to a certain point, and were then halted by the guard, who refused permission either to depart or to approach nearer than the "dead line," on pain of their being instantly shot.
The weather was intensely cold, but the party stood for a long time round the bodies of the suspend.ed malefactors, determined that rescue should be impossible.
Loud groans and cries uttered in the vicinity attracted their attention, and a small squad started in the direction from which the sound proceeded. The detachment soon met Madam Hall,* a noted courtesan -the mistress of Ned Ray -who was "making night hideous" with her doleful wailings. Being at once stopped, she began inquiring for her paramour, and was thus informed of his fate, ''Well, if you must know, he is hung." A volcanic eruption of oaths and abuse was her reply to this information; but the men were on "short time," and escorted her towards her dwelling without superfluous display of courtesy. Having arrived at the brow of a short descent, at the foot of which stood her cabin, stern necessity compelled a rapid and final progress in that direction.
* When Madam Hall saw the men coming back from the gallows, she asked: "Where is my Ned?" E. P. Eaton said: "Your Ned is all right." This man Eaton became Plummer's successor in the sheriff's office.
Soon after, the party formed and returned to town, leaving the corpses stiffening in the icy blast. The bodies were eventually cut down by the friends of the road agents and buried. The ''Reign of Terror" in Bannack was over.