The effect of the executions noticed in the foregoing chapters was both marked and beneficial. There was much to be done, however, to ensure anything like lasting peace to the community. Ives, Yager, Brown, Plummer, Stinson, Ray, Pizanthia and Wagner were dead; but the five villains whose names head this chapter, together with Bunton, Zachary, Marshland, Shears, Cooper, Carter, Graves, Hunter and others were still at large, and were supported by many others equally guilty, though less daring and formidable as individuals.
Threats of vengeance had been made, constantly, against the Vigilantes, and a plot to rob several stores in Virginia had nearly matured, when it was discovered and prevented. Every man who had taken part in the pursuit of the criminals whose fate had been recorded, was marked for slaughter by the desperadoes, and nothing remained but to carry out the good work so auspiciously begun, by a vigorous and unhesitating severity, which should show no relaxation until the last blood-stained miscreant that could be captured had met a felon's doom.
On the evening of the 18th of January, 1864, the Executive Committee, in solemn conclave assembled, determined on hanging six of them forthwith. One of the doomed men -Bill Hunter -suspecting danger, managed to crawl away, along a drain ditch, through the line of pickets that surrounded the town, and made his escape. He was badly frozen by exposure to the cold, and before his capture, was discovered by J. A. Slade, while lying concealed under a bed at a ranch, and told that the Vigilantes were after him, which information caused him to move his quarters to Gallatin Valley, where he was caught and executed soon after, as will appear in the course of this narrative.
While the Committee were deliberating in secret, a small party of men who were at that moment receiving sentence of death, were gathered in an upper room at a gambling house, and engaged in betting at faro. Jack Gallagher suddenly remarked, "While we are here betting, those Vigilante sons of ____ arepassing sentence on us." This is considered to be the most remarkable and most truthful saying of his whole life; but he might be excused telling the truth once, as it was entirely accidental.
Express messengers were sent to warn the men of the neighboring towns in the gulch, and the summons was instantly obeyed.
Morning came -the last on earth that the five desperadoes should ever behold. The first rays of light showed the pickets of the Vigilantes stationed on every eminence and point of vantage round the city. The news flew like lightning through the town. Many a guilty heart quaked with just fear, and many an assassin's lip turned pale and quivered with irrepressible terror. The detachments of Vigilantes, with compressed lips and echoing footfall, marched in from Nevada, Junction, Summit, Pine Grove, Highland and Fairweather, and halted in a body in Main street.
Parties were immediately detailed for the capture of the road agents, and all succeeded in their mission, except the one which went after Bill Hunter, who had. escaped.
Frank Parish was brought in first. He was arrested without trouble, in a store, and seemed not to expect death. He took the executive officer to one side, and asked, "What am I arrested for?" He was told, "For being a road agent and thief, and accessory to the murders and robberies on the road." At first he pleaded innocent; but at last he confessed his complicity with the gang, and admitted being one of the party that robbed the coach between Bannack and Virginia, and that he was guilty of stealing horses and stock for them. He used to butcher stolen cattle, and attend to the commissariat business. He gave some directions about articles of clothing belonging to him, and the settlement of some debts. Until his confession, it was not known that he had any share in the robbery of the coach.
Club-Foot George* (George Lane) was arrested at Dance & Stuart's. He was living there, and working at odd times. He was perfectly cool and collected, and inquired the reason for his arrest, as Parish had done previously. On receiving the same answer, he appeared surprised, and said, "If you hang me you will hang an innocent man." He was told that the proof was positive, and that if he had any preparation to make he must do it at once, as his sentence was death. He appeared penitent and sat down for some time, covering his face with his hands. He then asked for a minister, and one being immediately sent for, he talked. and prayed with him till the procession to the gallows was formed. In his pocketbook was found an extract from a Western newspaper stating that George Lane, the notorious horse-thief, was Sheriff of Montana. Lane was a man of iron nerve; he seemed to think no more of the hanging than a man would of eating his breakfast.
* Quite a number of years after, there was a desire on the part of the people in Virginia City to locate correctly the graves of the five highwaymen. A. B. Davis said that he knew, and pointed out the grave of Lane, as the fifth one. Mr. Walker, the mayor, et al., dug this grave and found that it was Club-Foot George. They removed the foot, and it is one of the sights in the Old Capitol.
Boone Helm was brought in next. He had been arrested in front of the Virginia Hotel. Two or three were detailed for his capture of whom he would entertain no suspicion, and they played their part, apparently, so carelessly and well, that he was seized without being able to make any effort at resistance. A man at each arm, and one behind, with a cocked revolver, brought him to the rendezvous. He lamented greatly that he "had no show" when taken, as he said, "They would have had a gay old time taking me, if I had known what they were after." His right hand was in a sling. He quietly sat down on a bench, and on being made acquainted. with his doom, he declared his entire innocence. He said, "I am as innocent as the babe unborn; I never killed any one, or robbed or defrauded any man; I am willing to swear it on the Bible." Anxious to see if he was really so abandoned a villian as to swear this, the book was handed to him, and he, with the utmost solemnity repeated an oath to that effect, invoking most terrific penalties on his soul, in case he was swearing falsely. He kissed the book most impressively. He then addressed a gentleman, and asked him to go into a private room.
Thinking that Boone wanted him to pray with him, he proposed to send for a clergyman; but. Boone said, "You'll do." On reaching the inner room, the prisoner said, "Is there no way of getting out of this ?" Being told that there was not, and that he must die, he said, ''Well, then, I'll tell you. I did kill a man named Shoot, in Missouri, and I got away to the West; and I killed another chap in California. When I was in Oregon I got into jail, and dug my way out with tools that my squaw gave me." Being asked if he would not tell what he knew about the gang, he said, 'Ask Jack Gallagher; he knows more than I do.'' Jack, who was behind a partition, heard him, and burst out into volley of execrations, saying that it was just such cowardly sons of and traitors that had brought him into that scrape.
Helm* was the most hardened, cool and deliberate scoundrel of the whole band, and murder was a mere pastime to him. He killed Mr. Shoot, in Missouri (as will be afterward narrated) and testimony of the most conclusive character showed that his hands were steeped in blood, both in Idaho and since his coming to the Territory. Finding that all his asservations and pleas availed him nothing, he said, "I have dared death in all its forms, and I do not fear to die." He called repeatedly for whiskey, and had to be reprimanded several times for his unseemly conduct.
* There is an exceedingly interesting chapter in Langford's book about Helm.
The capture of Lyons, though unattended with danger, was effected only by great shrewdness. He had been boarding at the Arbor Restaurant, near the "Shades." The party went in. The owner said he was not there, but that they might search if they liked. The search was made and was ineffectual. He had left in the morning. During the search for Lyons, Jack Gallagher was found, in a gambling room, rolled up in bedding, with his shot-gun and revolver beside him. He was secured too quickly to use his weapons, if, indeed, he had had the courage; but his heart failed him, for he knew that his time was come. He was then taken to the place of rendezvous.
In the mean time the other party went after Haze Lyons, and found that he had crossed the hill, beyond the point overhanging Virginia, and, after making a circuit of three miles through the mountains, he had come back to within a quarter of a mile of the point, from which he started to a miner's cabin, on the west side of the gulch above town. At the double-quick, the pursuers started, the moment they received the information. The leader threw open the door, and bringing down his revolver to a present, said, "Throw up your hands." Lyons had a piece of hot slapjack on his fork; but dropped it instantly, and obeyed the order. He was told to step out. This he did at once. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and asked for his coat which was given to him. He was so nervous that he could hardly get his arms into it. A rigid search for weapons was made; but he had just before taken off his belt and revolver, laying them on the bed. He said that that was the first meal he had sat down to with any appetite for six weeks. Being told to finish his dinner, he thanked the captain, but said he could eat no more. He then inquired what was going to be done with him, and whether they would hang him. The captain said, "I am not here to promise you anything; prepare for the worst." lie said, "My friends advised me to leave here, two or three days ago.'' The captain asked why he did not go. He replied that he had "done nothing, and did not want to go." (He was one of the murderers of Dillingham, in June, '63, and was sentenced to death, but spared, as before related.) The real reason for his stay was his attachment for a woman in town, whose gold watch he wore when he died on the scaffold. He was asked if he had heard of the execution of Plummer, Ruck Stinson and Ned Ray. He replied that he had but that he did not believe it. He was informed that it was true in the following words, "You may bet your sweet life on it." He then inquired, "Did they fight'.'' and was informed that they did not; f.or that they had not any opportunity. By this time they had arrived at the rendezvous, and Lyons found himself confronted by some familiar faces.
Jack Gallagher came in swearing, and appeared to be inclined to pretend that the affair was a joke, asking, "What the is it all abouts" and sayin'g, "This is a pretty break, ain't it?" Being informed of his sentence, he appeared much affected, and sat down crying; after which he jumped up, cursing in the most ferocious manner, and demanded who had informed on him. He was told that it was "Red, who was hung at Stinkingwater." He cursed him with every oath he could think of. He said to himself, "My God! must I die in this way?" His general conduct and profanity were awful, and he was frequently rebuked by the chief of the executive.
Haze Lyons was last fetched in, and acquainted with his sentence. He, of course, pleaded innocent, in the strongest terms; but he had confessed to having murdered Dillingham, to a captain of one of the squads of the guard, in the presence of several witnesses; and he was a known road agent. He gave some directions for letters to be written, and begged to see his mistress; but, warned by the experiment of the previous year, his request was denied.
The chief dispatched an officer, with fifteen men, who went at the double quick to Highland District, where two suspicious looking characters had gone, with blankets on their backs, the evening before, and making the "surround" of the cabin, the usual greeting of "throw up your hands," enforced by a presented revolver, was instantly obeyed, and they were marched down after being disarmed. The evidence not being conclusive, they were released though their guilt was morally certain. The Vigilantes rigidly abstained, in all cases, from inflicting the penalty due to crime, without entirely satisfactory evidence of guilt.
After all was arranged for hanging them, the prisoners were ordered to stand in a row, facing the guard, and were informed that they were about to be marched to the place of execution. Being asked if they had any requests to prefer, as that would be their last opportunity, they said they had none to make. They were then asked if they had anything to communicate, either of their own deeds or their comrade road agents; but they all refused to make any confession. The guard were ordered to pinion their prisoners. Jack Gallagher swore he would never be hung in public; and drawing his knife he clapped the blade to his neck, saying that he would cut his throat first. The executive officer instantly cocked his pistol, and told him that if he made another movement, he would shoot him, and ordered the guard to disarm him. One of them seized his wrist and took the knife, after which he was pinioned cursing horribly all the time. Boone Helm was encouraging Jack, telling him not to ''make a fool of himself," as there was no use in being afraid to die.
The chief called upon men that could be depended upon, to take charge of the prisoners to the place of execution. The plan adopted was to march the criminals, previously pinioned, each between two Vigilantes, who grasped an arm of the prisoner with one hand, and held in the other a "navy" -ready for instant use. When Haze Lyons heard the order above mentioned, he called out, "X, I want you to come and stay with me till I die," which reasonable request was at once complied with.
The criminals were marched into the centre of a hollow square, which was flanked by four ranks of Vigilantes, and a column in front and rear, armed with shot-guns and rifles carried at half present, ready to fire at a moment's warning, completed the array. The pistol men were dispersed through the crowd to attend to the general deportment of outsiders, or as a good man observed, to take the roughs "out of the wet."
At the word "march!" the party started forward, and halted, with military precision, in front of the Virginia Hotel. The halt was made while the ropes were preparing at the unfinished building, now Clayton & Hale's Drug Store, at the corner of Wallace and Van Buren streets. The logs were up to the square, but there was no roof. The main beam for the support of the roof, which runs across the center of the building, was used as a gallows, the rope being thrown over it, and then taken to the rear and fastened round some of the bottom logs. Five boxes were placed immediately under the beam, as substitutes for drops.
The prisoners were, during this time, in front of the Virginia Hotel. Club-Foot George called a citizen to him, and asked him to speak as to his character; but this the gentleman declined saying, ''Your dealings with me have been right; but what you have done outside of that I do not know." Club-Foot then asked him to pray with him, which he did, kneeling down and offering up a fervent petition to the throne of grace on his behalf. George and Jack Gallagher knelt. Haze Lyons requested that his hat should be taken off, which was done. Boone Helm was cracking jokes all the time. Frank Parish seemed greatly affected at the near prospect of death. Boone Helm, after the prayer was over, called to Jack Gallagher, "Jack, give me that coat; you never gave me anything." "___ d sight of use you'd have for it," replied Jack. The two worthies kept addressing short and pithy remarks to their friends around, such as "Hallo, Jack, they've got me this time;" "Bill, old boy, they's got me sure,'' etc.
Jack called to a man, standing at the windows of the Virginia Hotel, "Ray! I'm going to heaven! I'll be there in time to open the gate for you, old fellow." Jack wore a very handsome United States cavalry officer's overcoat, trimmed with Montana beaver.
Haze begged of his captor that his mistress might see him, but his prayer was refused. He repeated his request a second time, with the like result. A friend offered to fetch the woman, but was ordered off; and on Haze begging for the third time to see her, he received this answer, "Haze! emphatically! by G-d, bringing women to the place of execution played out in '63." This settled the matter. The Vigilantes had not forgotten the scene after the trial of Dillingham's murderers.
The guard marched at the word to the place of execution, opened ranks, and the prisoners stepped up on the boxes. ClubFoot George was at the east side of the house; next to him was Haze Lyons; then Jack Gallagher and Boone Helm. The box next to the west end of the house was occupied by Frank Parish. The hats of the prisoners were ordered to be removed. Club-Foot, who was somewhat slightly pinioned, reached up to his California hat, and dashed it angrily on the ground. The rest were taken off by the guards.
The nooses were adjusted by five men, and -all being ready -- Jack Gallagher, as a last request, asked that he might have something to drink, which, after some demur, was acceded to. ClubFoot George looked around, and, seeing an old friend clinging to the logs of the building, said, "Good-by, old fellow -I'm gone;" and, hearing the order, ''Men, do your duty" -without waiting for his box to be knocked away -he jumped off, and died in a short time.
Haze stood next; but was left to the last. He was talking all the time, telling the people that he had a kind mother, and that he had been well brought up; that he did not expect that it would have come to that; but that bad company had brought him to it.
Jack Gallagher, while standing on the box, cried all the time, using the most profane and dreadful language. He said, "I hope that forked lightning will strike every strangling ---of you." The box flying from under his feet brought his ribaldry and profanity to a close, which nothing but breaking his neck would ever have done.
Boone Helm, looking cooly at his quivering form, said, ''Kick away, old fellow; I'll be in hell with you in a minute." He probably told the truth, for once in his life. He then shouted, "Every man for his principles -hurrah for Jeff Davis! bet her rip!" The sound of his words was echoed by the twang of the rope.
Frank Parish requested to have a handkerchief tied over his face. His own black necktie, fastened in the road agent's knot, was taken from his throat and dropped over his face like a veil. He seemed serious and quiet, but refused to confess anything more, and was launched into eternity. A bystander asked the guard who adjusted the rope, "Did you not feel for the poor man as you put the rope round his neck'!" The Vigilanter, whose friend had been slaughtered by the road agents, regarded his interrogator with a stern look, and answered slowly, "Yes, I felt for his left ear!"
Haze Lyons seemed to expect a second deliverance from death up to the last moment, looking right and left at the swaying bodies of the desperadoes, his countenance evidently indicating a hope of reprieve. Finding entreaty useless, be sent word to his mistress that she should get her gold watch, which he wore, and requested that his dying regards might be conveyed to her. He expressed a hope that she would see that his body was taken down, and that it was not left to hang too long. Also he charged her to see him decently buried. He died apparently without pain. The bodies, after hanging for about two hours, were cut down, and carried to the street, in front of the house, where their friends found them, and took them away for burial. They sleep on Cemetery Hill, awaiting, not the justice of man, but the judgment of the last day.
The man who dug the graves intended for Stinson and Lyons -after their sentence of death, for the murder of Dillingham -received no pay, and the two murderers actually committed an offence revolting to all notions of decency, in those very graves, in derision of their judges, and in contempt for their power. The sexton pro tern was in the crowd in front of the gallows where Lyons paid the penalty of his crimes, and said to him, "I dug your grave once for nothing; this time I'll be paid, you bet." He received his money.
As Jack Gallagher has not been specially referred to, the following short account of a transaction in which he was engaged in Virginia City, is here presented:
Near the end of 1863, Jack Gallagher, who had hitherto occupied the position in Montana of a promising desperado -raised himself to the rank of a "big medicine man," among the road agents, by shooting a blacksmith, named Jack Temple, as fine a man as could be found among the trade. He did not kill him; but his good intentions were credited to him, and he was thenceforth respected as a proved brave. Temple had been shoeing oxen, and came up to Coleman & Loeb's saloon, to indulge in a "Thomas and Jeremiah," with some friends. Jack Gallagher was there. A couple of dogs began to fight, and Temple gave one of them a kick, saying to the dog, "Here, I don't want you to fight here." Jack said there was not a-----there that should kick that dog, and he was able to whip any man in the room. Temple, who, though not quarrelsome, was as brave as a lion, went up to him and said, "I'm not going to fight in here; but if. you want a fight so bad, come into the street, and I'll give you a 'layout," I'll fight you a square fight." He immediately went to the door. Jack Gallagher, seeing him so nicely planted for a shot, in a narrow doorway, whipped out his pistol, and fired twice at him. The first ball broke his wrist. "You must do better than that,'' said Temple. "I can whip you yet." The words were hardly out of his mouth when the second ball pierced his neck, and he fell. Gallagher would have finished him where he lay, but his friends interfered. The unfortunate man said, "Boys, carry me somewhere; I don't want to die like a dog in the street." He remained, slowly recovering, but suffering considerably, for several weeks, and, at the execution of Gallagher, he was walking round town with his arm in a sling, greatly grieved at the sudden end of his antagonist. "I wish," said he, "you had let him run till I got well; I would have settled that job myself."
Bill Hunter and Gallagher robbed a Mormon of a large amount of greenbacks, which he had been foolish enough to display, in a saloon, in Virginia. They followed him down the road, on his way to Salt Lake City, and it is presumed they murdered him. The money was recognized by several while the thieves were spending it in town. The Mormon was never heard of more. All the robbers whose death has been recorded wore the "Cordon knot" of the band, and nearly all, if not every one of them, shaved to the road agent patterns.
These executions were a fatal blow to the power of the band, and, henceforth, the right was the stronger side. The men of Nevada deserve the thanks of the people of the Territory for their activity, brave conduct and indomitable resolution. Without their aid, the Virginians could have never faced the roughs, or conquered them in their headquarters -their own town. The men of Summit, especially, and "up the Gulch," generally, were always on hand, looking business and doing it. Night fell on Virginia; but sleep forsook many an eye; while criminals of all kinds fled for their lives from the fatal city of the Vigilantes.