8: Bannack Summer 1863
Henry and Electa arrived in Bannack during the last few days of June, having left Sun River in the ambulance wagon on the day of the wedding, June 20, 1863. It would be a shock for both of them. For Henry because half the population had left for the huge rich gold strike discovered on Alder Gulch during his absence, for Electa because she had never seen a mining camp. There may have been 400 houses, as the Sacramento Union correspondent claimed, but many were shacks, and most were log cabins, such as her new home. There was no church, no school, no courthousenot much to remind her of her old home town in Ohio. You can get an impression of what it was like from this 1865 photo, Courtesy Montana Historical Society.
Electa stayed in Bannack only two months. You might want to take a look at a plat of the town of Bannack. This town map was constructed by Mabel Ovitt from records available to her. However, Mather and Boswell have shown that the cabin Henry bought and Electa came to live in was on Yankee Flat. It was very likely the cabin shown as the Vail's.
During Henry's month-long absence at Sun River, 200 miles away, his best deputy sheriff, D. H. Dillingham, was gunned down in Virginia City by one or more of the trio: Charley Forbes, Buck Stinson, Haze Lyons. There is no first hand account of this murder, nor the circumstances leading up to it. Dimsdale reports it in great detail, although he hadn't arrived in the Territory at the time. In his book, The Montana Vigilantes, written as a series of paid newspaper articles in the summer of 1865, he stated that Dillingham was murdered by order of Henry Plummeran impossibility since Henry was in Sun River at the time of shooting. A lot of what Dimsdale has to say will not stand up under clear logic and known facts.
Henry went about the business of being Sheriff that summer, mostly dealing with civil cases, but one murder case. He took up a subscription to build a jail (there is first hand evidence of this); he conducted sheriff's sales of houses left behind by their owners; he gained the support of the Union League, a sort of bi-partisan organization supporting the Northern side of the Civil War; he asked for membership in the Masons, but there was no Lodge in Bannack at the time.
By the end of August Francis Thompson, Joseph Swift, and Henry and Electa were all boarding with James and Martha Vail, who had quit the Government Farm and moved to Bannack. In his reminiscences Thompson notes, "I find this entry in my diary, 'Sept 2nd, 1863, Mrs. Plummer left by overland stage for the States.'" On a later page he has one of the few first hand references to why Electa left:
The Vails having taken up their residence at Bannack, they pressed me to make my home with them, and Mr. Swift and I consented to take our meals with them. Mr. and Mrs. Plummer also boarded there. Mrs. Plummer told me that Mr. Plummer was away from home so much attending to his duties as sheriff that she with his consent had concluded to go to her home in Iowa, and he was to meet her there in the fall. The second day after my arrival she took the overland stage for Salt Lake on her way east.
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