Vigilantes of the Mining Days

Posted by PollyAnna Snyder on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 at 8:00am

From a recent Town Crier, an account of the Mining Days in Montana...
On March 10, 1864, vigilantes in the frontier mining town of Virginia City—which doubled as the Montana Territory’s capital beginning just a year later—hung a sometimes-lawless man in a controversial execution. Plagued by rampant looting by desperados and fringe riders of the region, a group of prominent men within Virginia City formed a posse of vigilantes, slaying known and suspected individuals causing terror and unrest throughout the area. They even went as far as to pin the numbers 3-7-77—the dimensions for a standard grave of 3 feet by 7 feet by 77 inches—to the bodies of such victims, as well as their cabins, tents and dwellings as a deterrent and message to leave, and quickly. By the end of February 1864, the vigilantes hung some 24 men in that year alone. The populous either condoned or was indifferent to the action—that is until Jack Slade, a local drunk who was by all accounts friendly when sober but would shoot guns in saloons and fight when drunk, was hung on March 10. Slade had committed no serious crime, and was even prevented from speaking to his wife before his hanging. Soon after, legitimate courts and lawmen became a reality in the region, quelling vigilantism and even provoking ire from the general public; laws began springing up calling for the killing of anyone participating in outside-the-law-justice.

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