Henry Plummer, the chief of the road agent band, the narrative of whose deeds of blood has formed the ground-work of this history, emigrated to California in 1852. The most contradictory accounts of his place of birth and the scene of his early days are afloat; upwards of twenty different versions have been recommended to the author of this work, each claiming to be the only true one. The most probable is that he came to the West from Wisconsin. Many believe he was from Boston, originally; others declare that he was an Englishman by birth, and came to America when quite young. Be this as it may, it is certain, according to the testimony of one of his partners in business, that in company with EIenry Hyer, he opened the "Empire Bakery," in Nevada City, Calif'ornia, in the year 1853.
Plummer was a man of most insinuating address and gentlemanly manners under ordinary circumstances, and had the art of ingratiating himself with men and even with ladies and women of all conditions. Wherever he dwelt, victims and mistresses of this wily seducer were to be found. It was only when excited by passion that his savage instincts got the better of him and that he appeared -in his true colors -a very demon. In 1856 or 1857, he was elected Marshal of the city of Nevada, and had many enthusiastic friends. He was re-elected and received the nomination of the Democratic party for the Assembly near the close of his term of office; but as he raised a great commotion by his boisterous demeanor, caused by his success they "threw off on him" and elected another man.
Before the expiration of his official year, he murdered a German named Vedder, with whose wife he had an intrigue. He was one day prosecuting his illicit amours, when Vedder came home, and on hearing his footsteps, he went out and ordered him back. As the unfortunate man continued his approach, he shot him dead. For this offense Plummer was arrested and tried, first in Nevada, where he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary; and second, in Yuba County, on a re-hearing with a change of venue. Here the verdict was confirmed. and he was sent to prison.
After several months' confinement his friends petitioned for his release on the alleged ground that he was consumptive, and he was discharged with a pardon signed by Governor John P. Weller. He then returned to Nevada, and joined again with Hyer R Co. in the "Lafayette Bakery."
He soon made a bargain with a man named Thompson, that the latter should run for the oBice of City Marshal, and if successful, that he should resign in Plummer's favor. The arrangement became public and Thompson was defeated.
Shortly after this, Plummer got into a difficulty in a house of ill-fame with a man from San Juan, and struck him heavily on the head with his pistol. The poor fellow recovered, apparently, but died about a year and a half afterward from the effect of the blow according to the testimony of the physician.
Plummer went away for a few days, and when the man recovered he returned, and walked linked with him through the streets. Plummer went over to Washoe and joining a gang of road agents, he was present at the attack on Wells & Fargo's bullion express. He leveled his piece at the driver, but the barrels fell off the stock, the key being out, and the driver lashing his horses into full speed escaped.
He stood his trial for this, and for want of legal proof was acquitted. He then returned to Nevada City.
His next "difficulty" occurred in another brothel where he lived with a young woman as his mistress, and quarreled with a man named Ryder, who kept a prostitute in the same dwelling. This victim he killed with a revolver. He was quickly arrested and lodged in the county jail of Nevada. It is more than supposed that he bribed his jailer to assist him in breaking jail. Hitherto, he had tried force; but in this case fraud succeeded. He walked out in open day. The man in charge, who relieved another who had gone to his breakfast, declared that he could not stop him for he had a loaded pistol in each hand when he escaped.
The next news was that a desperado named Mayfield had killed Sheriff Blackburn, whom he had dared to arrest him, by stabbing him to the heart with his knife. Of course Mayfield was immediately taken into custody, and Plummer, who had lain concealed for some time, assisted him to get out of jail, and the two started for Oregon in company. To prevent pursuit, he sent word to the California papers that he and his comrade had been hanged in Washington Territory, by the citizens, for the murder of two men.
All that he accomplished in Walla Walla was the seduction of a man's wife. He joined himself in Idaho to Talbert, alias Cherokee Rob, who was killed at Florence, on account of his connection with this seduction. Plummer stole a horse and went on the road. In a short time he appeared in Lewiston, and after a week's stay he proceeded with a man named Ridgley, to Orofino, where he and his party signalized their arrival by the murder of the owner of the dancing saloon during a quarrel. The desperado chief then started for the Missouri, with the intention of making a trip to the States. The remainder of his career has been already narrated, and surely it must be admitted that this "perfect gentleman" had labored hard for the death on the gallows, which he received at Bannack, on the 10th of January, 1864.
As one instance of the many little incidents that so often change a man's destiny, it should be related that when Plummer sold out of the United States Bakery to Louis Dreifus, he had plenty of money and started for San Francisco, intending to return to the East. It is supposed that his infatuation for a Mexican courtesan induced him to forego his design and return to Nevada City. But, for this trifling interruption, he might never have seen Montana, or died a felon's death. The mission of Delilah is generally the, same, whether her abode is the vale of Sorek or the Rocky Mountains.