Perils of the Road.
"I'll read you matter deep and dangerous,
As full of peril and adventurous spirit,
As to o'erwalk a current, roaring loud,
On the unsteadfast footing of a spear." -SHAKS.
On the 14th day of November, 1863, Sam T. Hauser,* and N. P. Langford started. for the States, in company with seven or eight freighters. Owing to some delay in their preparations, they were not ready to start at the hour proposed (twelve o'clock m.), and after considerable urging, they prevailed upon one of the freighters to delay his departure till five o'clock p. m., representing to him that by driving during part of the night, they would be enabled to overtake the rest of the train at Horse Prairie, where they were to camp for the night. These arrangements were all made at the store of George Chrisman, where Plummer had his office, and consequently their plans for departure were all known to this arch-villain.
* Afterwards to become Governor of Montana During that afternoon it was reported in Bannack that a silver lode had been discovered, and Plummer, whose residence in Nevada had given him some reputation as a judge of silver ores, was requested to go out and examine it. Plummer had, on several occasions, been sent for to go out and make minute examinations, and it had never been surmised that his errands on these occasions were different from what they purported to be. This notice to Plummer that a "silver lode" had been discovered, was the signal that the occasion demanded the presence of the chief of the gang, who was needed to head some marauding expedit.ion that required a skillful leader, and promised a rich booty as the reward of success. Plummer always obeyed it, and, in this instance, left Bannack a little while after noon, taking a northerly direction towards Rattlesnake; but, after getting out of town, he changed his course and went south, towards Horse Prairie.
Before leaving Bannack, he presented Mr. Hauser with a woolen scarf, telling him that he would "find it useful on the journey these cold nights."
The two gentlemen did not complete their arrangements for starting till half past seven in the evening; and, as they were about leaving Hauser's cabin, a splash, caused by the fall of some heavy body in the water, and calls for assistance were heard from the brow of the hill, south of Bannack. Upon going to the spot, it was found that Henry Tilden, in attempting to cross the Bannack Ditch, had missed the bridge, and his horse had fallen upon him in the water. On being relieved from his dangerous situation, he went to the house of Judge (now Governor) Edgerton, and reported that he had been robbed by three men -one of whom was Plummer -between Horse Prairie and Bannack. After he had detailed the circumstances, the greatest anxiety was felt for the safety of Messrs. Langford and Hauser, who, it was generally supposed, had started at five o'clock on the same road.
The unconscious wayfarers, however, knew nothing of the matter, but they were, nevertheless, on the alert all the time. Hauser had that morning communicated to his friend Langford, his suspicion that they were being watched, and would be followed by the road agents, with the intention of plundering them, and while Langford was loading his gun with twelve revolver balls in each barrel, George Dart* asked him why he was "filling the gunbarrel so full of lead;" to which Langford replied, that if they had any trouble with the road agents, it would be on that night. So well satisfied were they that an attack upon them was contemplated, that they carried their guns in their hands, ready cocked, throughout the whole journey to Horse Prairie, a distance of twelve miles, but they saw nothing of the ruffians who robbed young Tilden.
* Later to become the first hardware merchant in Dillon. His sons succeed him.
It is supposed that Plummer and his gang had concluded that the non-appearance of the party was owing to the knowledge of what had happened in the afternoon and that they were not coming out at all, that night. This is the more probable, from the fact that Tilden arrived home in time to have communicated the story of his robbery to them before they started, and the freighter with whom they took passage had told them that morning, in the presence of Plummer, that he would leave them behind. if they were not ready to start by five o'clock p. m. It is not to be thought that Plummer would have risked a chance of missing them, by robbing Tilden of so small an amount of $10, unless he had felt sure that they would start at the time proposed. It is also likely that, as his intended victims did not make their appearance, he feared that the citizens of Bannack might turn out in search of the road agents who had attacked Tilden, and that it would be prudent to return home by a circuitous route, which he did. One thing is certain, when they missed them, Plummer went, in hot haste, to Langford's boarding house, to inquire whether he was gone, and on receiving an answer in the affirmative, rode off at once in pursuit.
In the wagon with Langford and Hauser was a third passenger -a stranger to the rest of the party -who had sent forward his blankets by one of the vehicles which left at noon, and on his arrival at camp, be found them appropriated by some of the party, who had given up all ideas of seeing the others before morning and had lain down for the night.
Rather than disturb the sleepers, Langford directed his fellow traveler, who was in delicate health, to occupy the wagon with Hauser, while he himself took a buffalo robe and made a bedstead of mother earth.
The night was a cold one, and becoming chilled through Langford arose and at first walked up and down by the camp, in order to warm himself. After awhile, he turned his steps towards the creek, which was about one hundred and fifty yards distant, but with the instinctive caution engendered by a residence in the mountains, he armed himself with his trusty "doublebarrel," and then, with his thoughts wandering to other scenes and other days, he slowly sauntered by the rippling waters.
His musings were brought to a sudden close by the murmur of voices, borne on the breeze, accompanied by the well-known tramp of horses at speed. The banks of the rivulet were lined with willows, and lay in deep shadow, except where an opening in the thicket disclosed the prairie that lay beyond, sleeping peacefully in the moonlight. Drawing aside the bushes he saw three mounted men in the act of passing one of these avenues at the gallop. Roused to a sense of danger, he cocked his gun and followed them down stream, to a place where an interval between the thickets that lined both sides of the creek gave him a good sight of the night rangers, and stood in full view, his piece lying in the hollow of his hand, ready for instance service.
As soon as he emerged from the shelter of the willows, and the horsemen became aware of his presence, they stopped for a few minutes, and then bore away down the valley. Determined to see the end of the matter, and having the brush for cover, while his friends were still within hail, if needed, the watcher pushed on for two hundred yards and wading to the other bank, he had no sooner reached the top, than he saw four men at that moment mounting their horses. No sooner did they observe him than they drove their spurs into their horses' flanks, and started on a run for Bannack. These men were Plummer, Buck Stinson, Ned Bay and George Ives, who, on their return to the town by another road, after the robbery of Tilden, having found, as before related, that Langford and Hauser had really gone, followed at once upon their track.
But for the providential circumstances connected with the chance appropriation of the blankets, and the consequent sleeping of Langford on the ground, together with his accidental appearance with his gun in his hand, as if on guard -- the whole party would have been murdered, as it was known to their pursuers that they had a considerable amount of treasure with them.
The scarf which Plummer presented to Hauser was given for the purpose of enabling the cunning robber to identify his man by night.
It is a somewhat singular coincidence that Plummer was hung on the next birthday of Hauser (the 10th of January, 1864).
The party proceeded on their journey without interruption, and on their arrival at Salt hake City they were besieged by their acquaintances with inquiries concerning several parties who were known to have preceded them on the road thither by about a week; but the unfortunate objects of their solicitude never reached their destination, or were afterwards heard of. They sleep in bloody graves; but where, how, and when they met their death, at the hands of the road agents, will probably never be known. The fate that could not be avoided was nevertheless avenged.