Map Station 7: Sun River 1863
When Henry Plummer left Sun River Government Farm for Bannack in November of 1862, he had promised to return in the spring to marry Electa. Good as his word, Henry reappeared on June 2, 1863, according to Francis Thompson who had arrived there on May 20. In between, Henry had acquired good mining claims, been elected Sheriff, and bought a house in Bannack. As far as we know had been no communication between Henry and Electa during his absence. There was no postal service, and it was a trip of several days by horsebacka week by wagon.
During the time he was gone, Martha, aided by Francis Thompson, had convinced Electa to take the next boat downstream and forget Henry. But as soon as Henry appeared and explained his past and his fight with Jack Cleveland, Electa was resolved to go through with the wedding.
The Vails had been expecting Reverend Reed, the Indian Agent for the Dakota Territory who had hired them in Ohio in the spring of 1862. Some time in mid-June, they heard that the boat, which was to bring the Reverend with their year's salary and new supplies, would not make it up the Missouri due to low water. For this reason, Henry and Electa agreed to have a Catholic priest marry them, Father Minatre from the nearby St. Peter's Mission. The wedding ceremony took place on June 20, 1863, with James and Martha Vail, Francis Thompson, and Joseph Swift in attendance, as recorded in Thompson's Reminiscences.
Thompson says "the happy couple left in the government ambulance drawn by four wild Indian ponies, for Bannack City, the new metropolis." The ambulance wagon is mentioned before, but how it came to be at the government farm is not documented. It was very likely one of the US Army's four-wheeled, four horse ambulance wagons like the one shown here in an old photo. There is a bit of history of the ambulance wagon at the Tripler Medical Center site.
Bannack may have been the "new metropolis," but the roads leading to it were primitive at best. The Mullan Road was in places just some markers; the Little Prickly Pear canyon would have been difficult and dangerous in an ambulance wagon. Too bad neither Henry nor Electa kept a journal. It would make interesting reading for the modern traveler who speeds along almost the same path on the Interstate, taking only a few hours from Sun River to Bannack...
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