A Decent, Orderly Lynching: The Montana Vigilantes by Frederick Allen

By Frederick Allen

The deadliest crusade of vigilante justice in American historical past erupted within the Rocky Mountains throughout the Civil battle while a personal military hanged twenty-one troublemakers. Hailed as nice heroes on the time, the Montana vigilantes are nonetheless respected as founding fathers.

Combing via unique resources, together with eye-witness debts by no means earlier than released, Frederick Allen concludes that the vigilantes have been justified of their early activities, as they fought violent crime in a distant nook past the succeed in of government.

But Allen has exposed proof that the vigilantes refused to disband after territorial courts have been in position. last energetic for 6 years, they lynched greater than fifty males with out trials. Reliance on mob rule in Montana grew to become so ingrained that during 1883, a Helena newspaper editor encouraged a go back to “decent, orderly lynching” as a sound device of social control.

Allen’s sharply drawn characters, illustrated via dozens of images, are woven right into a masterfully written narrative that would switch textbook money owed of Montana’s early days—and problem our pondering at the essence of justice.

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During the afternoon, as the men rode, they literally engaged in horseplay. They staged impromptu races, testing the speed of their horses, joshing each other and making wagers. At one point, Ives pitted his mount, a spotted Indian pony, against two of his captors’ larger horses and won, outdistancing the others easily. 27 The only way to reconcile the carelessness of the ride home with the deadly purpose of the night before may be to remember that these were 16 INTRODUCTION mostly adventuresome men, highly spirited, and not, perhaps, the most judicious of their generation (or they likely would not have brought themselves to the gold-camp frontier in the first place).

A sensible man knew that even if he managed to draw his pistol and shoot first, he could still be killed, because a fatally wounded enemy might well live long enough to fire back. Yet there was another category of crime involving the gold camps that conformed quite closely to the stereotype conveyed by popular literature and later the movies. This was the stagecoach holdup, and while these encounters were not as epidemic as we like to remember, nonetheless there were numerous bands of “road agents” who lay by the roadside in wait for passengers laden with pouches of gold dust.

He would have picked wild blueberries in the hills above town. 6 In 1840, a federal census taker found Moses Plummer III, aged seventytwo, serving as head of a large household in Addison that included adult children and grandchildren. His son, Moses IV, was away at sea much of the time and could not afford to maintain a home of his own, so the old man provided room and board at his farm for his son’s wife, Nabby, and her children, among them eight-year-old Henry. In all, there were ten mouths to feed.

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